H. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) Lynch.

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building where the queen used to live, the rooms, although
smaller, presented a similar appearance ; they were maintained
in the same state of scrupulous cleanliness as though she in-
habited them still. The furniture had all been removed from
them ; but, in addition to the pots of beautiful flowers, there was
in each a dish of Easter eggs.

In the centre of the garden among the rose-bushes stands the
summer pavilion of the queen (Fig. 21). The kernel of the
structure may be described as consisting of two square boxes,
placed one above the other, and serving as living rooms. Each
side of the upper room is broken by a large window ; so that
the view from within embraces the whole settlement and all the
landscape around. The lower room contains a bed and a row
of pegs, on which, behind a light covering, hang the dresses of
the queen ; that above is bare of all furniture, and was always
used as a sitting-room. A broad wooden balcony with staircase
runs round this inner kernel, supported on pillars of wood. They
have lavished all their skill upon the decoration of this balcony,
enriching it with delicate fretwork traceries and with figures placed
at the angles of the roof. At each corner sits a dove with wines

iio Armenia

outspread, while on the summit of the roof a dove is just ah'ghting,
the wings just closing, the legs outstretched. In front of the
pavilion, on the side of the house, there is a large standard
lantern, a work of curious design and fancy, surmounted by an
image of St. George and the dragon, carved with much life and
vigour in wood.

By my side stood the man who had made these images, and
I asked him whether they had any religious meaning, peculiar to
their creed. I was loath to put the question, so obvious was
their purpose, so universal the symbolism they implied. He
answered good-humouredly that they were pure ornaments, and
that he was flattered by my appreciation of his skill.

In a room, removed from the part of the village in which
the queen lived, they showed us her furniture and effects, her
personal ornaments, and every detail of her attire. Everything
that belonged to her had been carefully kept and cherished, like
the relics of a saint. Her possessions had been those of a simple
peasant woman, verging on the middle class — a velvet chair or
two, some statuettes in plaster, a few chromo-lithographs. Many
trays of coloured Easter eggs were here collected — the offerings,
I suppose, of many happy Easters, when she had led their
congregations of prayer.

Seven years had elapsed, at the time of our visit, since they
had lost their beloved Lukeria Vasilievna, their leader both in
spiritual and in temporal matters ; they honoured and obeyed
her like a queen. ^ Her influence was supreme among the
settlers on these highlands ; and it appears to have extended to
all the colonists in Transcaucasia of the Dukhobortsy sect.
The traveller Radde, who visited Gorelovka in 1875, was
privileged to meet her in her home. He describes her as a
widow in the thirties, strong, tall, of full but still shapely forms.
Her features wore the imprint of beauty. He testifies to the
veneration in which she was held. That Lukeria was nothing
more to them than the contemporary holder of an office which
had been the outcome of their religious and social needs, would,
I think, be no less fallacious to suppose than to credit the
rumours current in the country that it had been in the character
of a divine personage that her people had submitted themselves
to her will. A childlike nature, at once the product of the
religious temperament and its peculiar pride, may find it difficult

' Lukeria I'asi/ieviia A'a/ma/co/fwas given to me as her full name.

Gorelovka and Queen Lukeria i 1 1

to discriminate between the emotions of worship and of love.
When I questioned them, they strongly disclaimed for Lukeria
any pretension to supernatural gifts, and they rejected as a fable
the imputation that they had paid her divine honours. They
had loved and revered in her a good and noble woman, who
raised their lives, relieved their sorrows, and led their aspirations
towards the higher life. The evidence of her work and example
is written in the appearance of this model village, and in the
demeanour of its inhabitants. All were well clothed and clean
and well nourished ; it was a pleasure to see them go about their
business in their quiet, earnest way. I saw no poor people in
Gorelovka, not a sign of the habitual squalor of the East.
Provision had been made for the orphans and the destitute, and
I understood that all the colonists of the neighbourhood contribute
to the funds. But what impressed me most, beside the evidence
of their affection in these dwellings and this enclosure maintained
in neatest order, as though in spirit she inhabited them still, was
the love of flowers which the queen appears to have developed
in her people and brought them to share with her. In the
decline of wealth and of the arts, the sight of garden flowers
becomes more and more rare in the East ; and, at best, they
are there little more than the ornament of luxury and the setting
of sensual delights. At Gorelovka one cannot doubt that these
geraniums and roses are cultivated for their own sake alone.

The religion of the Dukhobortsy resembles that of our own ex-
treme Protestants; it is the Government fans their zeal into destroy-
ing flames. That they are Christians there can, I think, be scarcely
any doubt ; they told me positively that they acknowledged and
worshipped Christ as God.^ But God is a spirit, and they that
worship God must worship Him in spirit and in truth. The
spirit of God dwells in the souls of His servants, who themselves
are sons of God. How therefore can a church, an image or an
eikon claim reverence as a holy thing? In these there dwells no
spirit, no effluence of Godhood ; the Church of God is the human
soul. Reasoning thus, the Dukhobortsy bow to one another after
prayer, saluting the divinity that resides in man. Scripture they

' Count Tolstoy's informant says : " To Christ, as to an historical personage, the
Dukhobortsy do not ascribe much importance" {The Times, loc. cit.). He goes on to
tell how, when the Quakers visited them in 1818 and heard their opinion about Jesus
Christ (that he was a man), these pious people exclaimed, " Darkness ! " I cannot
reconcile this account with what I learnt at Gorelovka, except by the reflection that the
Christian world itself holds many opinions upon this subject.

112 Armenia

accept ; but the book of God must be a living book, a book to
which there is never any end. Hence their rehgious conceptions
float about in the mouths of the people, in the form of psalms.
New psalms may be sung ; but the old psalms never perish — the
Word of God, old yet ever new. They reject priests and all the
apparatus of official religion, and themselves conduct whatever
simple ceremonies may be necessary upon birth, at marriage and
after death.

The moral ideas of the Dukhobortsy are such as might be
expected from a people who hold this lofty view of the nature of
man. Man, being the receptacle of the divinity, must not injure,
must not kill his fellow-man. Hence they do not see the necessity
of judicial tribunals ; for they do not wish to wrong any man.
Nor do they consider that one man should exercise authority
over another ; each one must do his duty, because it is his duty,
and no compulsion can be necessary from outside.

That from such peaceful surroundings there should issue fierce
dissensions, that a people trained to mutual love and forbearance
should be inflamed by the worst passions of an opposite nature,
and turn the hand which they had been unwilling to lift against
their fellow-men upon the brothers of their own creed, is a
melancholy example of the failure of purely emotional methods
to elevate permanently the nature of man. It seems there are
no short cuts to virtue ; the standards attained under the impulse
of religious enthusiasm have but an ephemeral life. With the
death of Lukeria was removed the personality and visible example
for which simple natures crave ; and the exaggeration of senti-
ment, of which she had been the object, brought with it its own
revenge. Although cut off at the early age of forty-three years,
the queen was already a widow when she died. Her marriage
had been childless, and, even had she possessed a natural successor,
the place which she occupied in the imagination of her people
v/ould perhaps have been impossible to fill. Yet scarcely a year
had elapsed from the time of her death when a pretended successor
arose — a boy, who, I believe, claimed relationship with her, and
who presumed to be worthy to wear the mantle which had hither-
to descended on none. The inhabitants of Gorelovka, whose
version of the story I am giving, were emphatic in their statement
that this youth was an impostor. " He told lies," was the ex-
pression which they used. His authority had never been acknow-
ledged by them, and he had stirred up their own brethren against

Gorelovka and Queen Liikeria 1 13

them. I gathered that they had not stopped short of actual
violence in the ardour of religious and partisan zeal. Gorelovka,
it appears, had been solid against the usurper ; but opinions had
been divided in the neighbouring villages and throughout the
community settled in Transcaucasia of the Dukhobortsy sect.
The Russian Government, as was natural, surveyed the situation
from the standpoint of hard-headed prudence ; they were not
anxious to see installed a successor to Lukeria and a revival of
the old religious flame. The weight of their authority was
thrown in the scale against the pretender ; he was suppressed
without delay and banished from the country to a remote exile
in the north.

At the time of our visit the feud was slumbering ; Count
Tolstoy informs us how it broke out anew. It would appear
that the pretender — his name was Peter Veriguin — was supported
by the large majority of the Dukhobortsy, who were incensed at
the action of the authorities in making over to the brother of
Lukeria, our friend Ghubanoff, the succession to the communal
funds. From his place of exile Veriguin corresponded with his
disaffected brethren ; Government, apprised of the fact, removed
him to Siberia during the winter of 1894-5. While he was in
Moscow on his way to the land of forgetfulness, he was visited by
his relations and by some of his spiritual allies. Them he charged
to convey a proposal to the brethren : that they should abstain
from participation in the violent acts of Government, should refuse
to serve in the capacity of soldiers, and should destroy all their
arms. This proposal was accepted by the whole of the larger
party ; and they prepared to translate it into action without

In the Government of Elizabetpol, on the first day of the
festival of Easter, eleven Dukhobortsy, who were performing
military service with a reserve battalion, refused to parade, and
formally signified that they intended to serve no more. At their
head was an individual who, in spite of his legal disability as a
sectarian, had been promoted to the rank of a non-commissioned
officer for his high qualities and the exceptional nature of his
deserts. Their example was followed in other provinces, in
Akhalkalaki, in Kars. No pains were spared by the authorities
to save them from their rashness ; when persuasion failed, fear
was tried. Five recalcitrants in Akhalkalaki were taken into the
prison yard and placed in line. A firing party of Cossacks was


114 Armenia

called in and ordered to load with ball ; the prisoners asked and
received permission to pray. The command " make ready " was
next issued, and a few minutes passed. The former soldiers
quietly awaited the word to fire. It was not given ; the muzzles
were lowered, and they were conducted to their cells. In other
places Cossacks charged the prisoners and made pretence to cut
them down. When the sectarians still persisted in their decision,
they were beaten with the lash. Asked how they justified their
action, they answered that they were Christians, endeavouring to
observe the precepts of Christ. Nor was their refusal to serve
in the army the only issue with Government into which they
were carried by their aversion to violence in human affairs. It so
happened that a certain prisoner, in course of transportation, was
brought to one of their villages. It was the duty of the elder of
the village to provide for his further escort and to hand him over
to a sure man. This charge had fallen by turn upon the brother
of the sergeant who had renounced service on the first day of
Easter. The man informed the elder that he could not escort
the prisoner because he would be unable to use force. He asked
him to report his refusal to the authorities ; but the elder answered
that he was not prepared to turn traitor ; he should bring the
prisoner to the house of his temporary warder, who would act as
he thought best. The man returned to his house ; the elder
brought the prisoner, and went away. The warder treated his
charge as though he were a pilgrim, warmed him, gave him to
eat and drink, gave him a bed. Next morning, observing that
the prisoner was a poor man, he supplied him with money and
offered to direct him on his way. When they had arrived outside
the village, he showed him two roads, of which he gave him the
choice. He told him that the one led to his destination as
prisoner and the other to liberty. The prisoner preferred the first
road, and came to the place of his destination. In this case no
evil consequences ensued.

In 1895 the prison of Elizabetpol contained no less than
120 members of the Dukhobortsy sect. All had been sentenced
for offences of the nature already described ; but the crown of
the people's offence was not yet come. In a country where the
holding of arms is regarded in the light of a civil duty, they
determined to burn every weapon in their possession of which the
purpose was to kill men. The night of the 28th of June, the eve
of the feast of Peter and Paul, was chosen for the simultaneous

Gorelovka and Queen LiLkeria 1 1 5

execution of this resolve. In Kars and in Elizabetpol the event
passed off without serious trouble ; but the case was different in
the province of Akhalkalaki. About three versts from the village
of Orlovka there is an excavation in the rock, which the people
call " The Cave." In this spot it was their habit to hold their large
prayer meetings ; it was now chosen as the tryst for the burning
of arms. On the appointed night about 2000 people were there
collected ; a pile was made, fuel and petroleum added, and the
whole ignited in due course. In the morning, when the flames
were exhausted, the assembly offered up prayer, and each man
returned to his home. The day passed quietly ; they returned in
the evening, and collected together the metal parts which had
escaped the fire. These the\^ melted into a mass, in the presence
of a still larger concourse, among whom were many women and
young children.

In Gorelovka, which was on the side of Government, the
restless symptoms among the opposite party, and the fact that
they were collecting arms, had not passed unobserved. Antici-
pating attack, the villagers had denounced their co-religionists
and had received a garrison of Cossacks and regular troops. On
the 30th of June an order came to all the settlements that the
Governor was about to arrive in Bogdanovka from Gorelovka
and that he required all the settlers to repair to that place.
Those who were at home obeyed the summons ; their absent
kinsmen, although apprised of the order, remained where they
were and engaged in prayer. A messenger arrived and repeated
the injunction. The old men answered that they were praying,
that their prayers would continue, and that, if the Governor
wished to see them, it was his part to come to them, the}- being
many and he one. \ second messenger was sent with no better
fortune. Then the watchers ran in with the news that the Cossacks
were close at hand. No sooner had the assemblage closed
together than the horsemen were upon them. An officer rode at
their head and cried " Oura ! " The crowd was ridden down and
mercilessly beaten with the sharp lashes which the Cossacks use.
A man was seen to brandish his whip in the air for shame of
striking. The officer approached him, shouted to him that he was
deceiving the Tsar, and struck him in the face with his lash.
Bruised and covered with blood, the people were taken to the
Governor ; the women followed, although the Cossacks tried to
whip them away. Approaching Bogdanovka, they the

ii6 Armenia

carriage of the high ofificial, and the officer shouted "Hats off!"
The old men answered him that they would know how to do
their duty when the Governor passed and saluted them. Again
" Whips, Oura ! " and a second pitiless beating, until the grass
was red with blood. The Governor stopped the whipping and
proceeded to Bogdanovka, where he collected the brethren who
had remained behind. When he began to upbraid them, a man
stepped forward with a military certificate in his hand. This
document he handed in to the Governor, announcing that in
future he refused to serve. The Governor lost command of his
temper and beat him with a stick. Then the people declared
that they would no longer obey Government or comply with any
of its demands. The Governor retaliated by ordering them to be
whipped, and even threatened to shoot them down. The next
measure was to quarter Cossacks in their villages, who lived at
free quarters and violated the women. Four hundred and sixty-
four families were expelled from the district and sent to starve in
Georgian villages. These became labourers to the Georgians
and continued to maintain their high character.^

Reflecting upon this story after reading these accounts, the
mind travels back to the dawn of Christianity and to the annals
of the early Church. The famous letter of Pliny appears fresh
and modern, while the grave language of the London Times in the
leading article which it publishes mingles naturally with the spirit
of a pre-Christian age : " The first principles of their creed lead
straight to social anarchy, tempered only by the whims of the
' sons of God.' They are doubtless sincere fanatics, and as such
must be looked upon with a measure of pity and respect." It is
interesting to place by the side of this paragraph in a modern
newspaper the words of the great historian of the world :
" The Christians were not less averse to the business than to the
pleasures of this world. The defence of our persons and property
they knew not how to reconcile with the patient doctrine which
enjoined an unlimited forgiveness of past injuries and commanded
them to invite the repetition of fresh insults. Their simplicity

1 As a sequel to these events, the Dukhobortsy have emigrated in large numbers
from their seats beyond Caucasus. Once the flower of the peasantry in Russia, and
afterwards the special pride of Russian Governors in their seats of exile, they have now
lost their hardiest spirits in afresh exodus. And it is the British Empire which receives
them ! Their choice was at first bestowed upon the island of Cyprus ; but the warm
climate was un[)ropitious, and they lost some lOO souls in about eight months. The
bulk of the emigrants appear to have taken ship from Cyprus for Canada and British
North America during the spring of 1S99.

Gorclovka and Queen Lttkeria 1 1 7

was offended by the use of oaths, by the pomp of magistracy,
and by the active contention of pubh'c Hfe ; nor could their
humane ignorance be convinced that it was lawful on any occasion
to shed the blood of our fellow-creatures, either by the sword of
justice or by that of war, even though their criminal or hostile
attempts should threaten the peace and safety of the whole
community ; . . . while they inculcated the maxims of passive
obedience, they refused to take any active part in the civil ad-
ministration or the military defence of the empire. . . . This
indolent, or even criminal disregard to the public welfare exposed
them to the contempt and reproaches of the pagans, who very
frequently asked. What must be the fate of the empire, attacked
on every side by the barbarians, if all mankind should adopt the
pusillanimous sentiments of the new sect ? "

Have the Christians of the present day become pagans, or
did the pagans only change their name ?




To-NIGIIT we are to sleep on the banks of the Arpa, by the
waters which swell the flood of the Araxes and sweep the base of
Ararat ! This was the reflection which lightened the mood of
sorrowful meditation that our visit to Gorelovka had inspired.
Our grave hosts, for whom one felt a vivid sympathy, a warm
affection, conducted us in their spacious waggons to the posting
station of Efremovka, a few versts' distance along our road. It is
a Russian settlement with some ninety houses and a population
of 860 souls, besides a collection of huge and formidable dogs.
The station is a stage of 16 versts (10^ miles) from Bogdanovka,
and of 21 versts (14 miles) from the succeeding post house of
Shishtapa, which was our destination for the afternoon. At
Efremovka we took leave of our companions, and, at the same
time, of the solid villages of this Russian zone.

A country of elevated uplands, a natural carpet of springy
turf, broken here and there by patches of cultivation which
struggle upwards from the plainer levels to the hillsides. Grey
lights descending from a grey heaven upon a surface swelling
and falling like the sea. In the east the near reliefs of the
mountains of the meridional border, their base checkered with
plots of fallow and stubble, their summits veiled with cloud. At
their foot the lake and marsh of Madatapa, with the Russian
village of Troitskoy upon its shore. In the west the vague downs,
rising to a distant horizon of loftier shapes, similar to themselves.
Such were the opening phases of the scene through which we
passed to the scarcely perceptible water-parting between the
Araxes and the Kur. After less than an hour's drive from
Efremovka we could see the village of Korakhbur (Armenian
Catholic) on the hillside, about a mile away on our left hand ; on

To Aiexandropol 1 19

our right was an Armenian hamlet, which was named to us Jaila ;
both are situated in the southern watershed. The height of the
parting between the basins, at the point where we crossed it, is
placed by the Russian map at ^jyj feet, a figure which, if it errs,
is below the truth. And now for the first time were disclosed
the gleaming peaks which we had seen from Abul — beyond a line
of hummock hills the group of snowy teeth which break the
horizontal outline of Alagoz.

Tazaken, a Turkish settlement ; Khancharli, a large village of
Armenian Catholics, were rapidly left behind. The landscape
opened to a lofty range of swelling shapes and rounded outlines
on the western margin of the plain. They were the mountains
about Lake Chaldir ; the declining sun was about to touch them
from behind a shroud of mist. Sheets of light were thrown upon
those distant opaline masses as upon the coast of a hazy sea.

At a quarter to six — we had left Efremovka at 4.20 — we
were winding between the two Shishtapas, on our right the
Turkish Shishtapa, washed by the young stream of the Arpa ; the
Armenian Shishtapa further away on our left. At six o'clock we
crossed a bridge which spans a tributary of the Arpa, coming
from the east. The confluence takes place some hundred yards
below the bridge, and the name of the tributary was given to us
as Kizil-Goch (the red lamb). It is a solid stone bridge with a
curious stone ornament ; on the further side you rise to an
eminence which overlooks the Arpa, and upon which the lonely
post station of Shishtapa is built.

The doors were heavily barred ; when at length they yielded,
after many grumblings, a wizened figure in official uniform
stepped forth. It was the postmaster — it seemed the embodi-
ment of some immense and ideal sorrow of which all human
griefs are but the mirrored images. How cross the threshold
upon which he stood, how enlist his sympathy with our puny
wants, who himself was the incarnation of Want ? But the
keenness of the air overcame our hesitation ; a night in tents and
without blankets was the alternative course. So with a greeting,
which was coldly returned, we led the way to the ■ interior,
followed by our dismal host. It appeared to consist of a single

Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 49)