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Canada's Doukhobor Heartland

At the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers is a broad fertile valley surrounded by the towering peaks of the Kootenay Mountains. The rivers were a highway for Indigenous peoples for millennia, and when Europeans arrived in the late 1800s they built steamers to navigate the winding rivers. Abundant mineral deposits attracted mining and industry to the region in the early 20th Century, but that's not what attracted the Doukhobors to the region. The Doukhobors are a pacifist Christian sect who came to Canada around the turn of the last century, fleeing persecution in Tsarist Russia. They wanted to be left alone by the state, to farm peacefully and live peaceful communal lifestyles. They were led to the Castlegar area by Peter 'Lordly' Verigin, where they established dozens of small farming settlements, called doms, especially on the east side of the Columbia River, an area they named Ootischenia. They planted fruit orchards and set up a jam factory at Brilliant, which is the subject of our walking tour. Though few Doukhobors continue to live communally in the doms around Castlegar, they've left a lasting legacy on the region, and their stories are preserved today by the Doukhobor Discovery Centre in Ootischenia.

These photos and tours are possible through the generous support of our partners.

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Then and Now Photos

A View of Brilliant

A View of Brilliant A View of Brilliant

On This Spot

1923 & Now

A view of the prosperous community of Brilliant showing the jam factory (far right), the train station (bottom right corner) orchards, and the sawmill (at far left on the opposite side of the river).

Procession to the Tomb

Procession to the Tomb Procession to the Tomb

Patsy Popoff On This Spot

1924 & Now

A huge funeral procession of Doukhobors carrying banners, walk up the road to Peter Verigin's tomb to lay the great figure to rest.

Doukhobor Workers

Doukhobor Workers Doukhobor Workers

Nick Ozeroff On This Spot

1932 & Now

A Doukhobor work crew, including men, women, and children, take a rest from farming on Brilliant's meadow.

Castlegar Theatre

Castlegar Theatre Castlegar Theatre

Trail City Archives On This Spot

1948 & Now

Castlegar's Theatre, which opened in 1947.

Columbia Avenue

Columbia Avenue Columbia Avenue

Trail City Archives On This Spot

1948 & Now

A woman pushes a stroller across Columbia Avenue, in this view of Castlegar's main street shortly after the Second World War. The building at left has survived, albeit in a heavily renovated fashion.

A Car on the Bridge

A Car on the Bridge A Car on the Bridge

On This Spot

1956 & Now

A car drives on to the Brilliant Suspension Bridge. Built in 1913 by the Doukhobor community, it was designated a National Historic Site in 1995.