June 01, 1996

Defenders of the Soul

Nearly 100 years ago some 600 families of Russia’s persecuted Dukhobory sect sought, and obtained, asylum in Canada. There they have earned a reputation for diligence and tolerance of suffering. But what of the Dukhobory who stayed behind, to face persecution under Imperial and Communist rule? Ivan Sergeyev made a rare visit to their Caucasian homeland to bring back this telling story. Photos by Yuri Pirogov.

Storks are everywhere in the remote village of Gorelovka in Georgia. Almost every house has a nest. And according to folk wisdom, they only build them on roofs that protect peaceful and hard working  people.

The Russians who inhabit Gorelovka are Dukhobory, members of a religious sect persecuted by the authorities and ultimately exiled to Georgia for their beliefs. For them, the stork has been no less than a good-luck charm throughout their extraordinarily unfortunate history.

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