Kedabek header image

Back to Home Page


Slavyanka village today

Wikipedia photo by Asif Masimov. A current view of the former Doukhobor village of Slavyanka

About this web page ...

The Elizavetpol village of Slavianka (Slavyanka) in the Lesser Caucasus Mountains, in present day Azerbaijan, has a unique Doukhobor history, for a number of different reasons. It is celebrated as one of the three village sites chosen for the historic Doukhobor Burning of Arms peaceful protest of 1895, and it is remembered as the birthplace of two important Doukhobor leaders, Peter Vasilievich Verigin, and his son Peter Petrovich. What is lesser known about Slavianka, is its connection with the equally celebrated Siemens copper smelter at Kedabek, both situated along a steep narrow dirt road into the mountains only nine kilometers apart. The two had quietly co-existed side by side for decades in the last half of the 19th century, and their interdependence has generally been overlooked by modern Doukhobor researchers. There is now however sufficient evidence to confirm that it had indeed been a close symbiotic relationship, of considerable mutual benefit to both.

This web page research has been a step by step process, initially motivated by a Kedabek reference in John Bellows' memoir. He was a member of the British Quaker Society of Friends, and also a friend to the Doukhobors assisting them with their emigration to Cyprus. His memoir was written posthumously by his wife in 1904, and it revealed the close geographical proximity between the Slavianka Doukhobors and Kedabek, described in his account of a personal visit to the Doukhobor village and the smelter with a friend in 1893. But in this memoir there was little, if anything, to suggest that there was a working relationship between the two.

The first actual indication of such a relationship was found in another memoir, by Werner von Siemens (a part owner of the smelter), in which he also described a similar visit to Kedabek in 1890 just two or three years prior. In this memoir, he too described his encounter with the Dukhobortsi at Slavianka, but he further explicitly acknowledged their association with the Siemens as being one of "inestimable value to Kedabek". A subsequent discovery of a rare photograph of the Doukhobors actually taken at Kedabek, from the Siemens photo collection, added further substance to this assertion.

Slavianka wives of Siemens  Kedabek  workers

But the final conclusive evidence of their interdependence was found in a short segment of a 41 page article about the Slavianka village, written in the late 1890s by a Russian Orthodox priest who actually lived near Slavianka at that time. His comprehensive analysis of the Slavianka Doukhobor village will be examined in its Russian language form, and in partial Google translation, in the final segments of this web page. (Link) Interested Doukhobor readers with an ancestral family connection to Slavianka, are however welcome to download and read the full Russian language article here directly, (Link) without the "distractions" of copper smelting that are to follow below.

Doukhobors have generally been recognized as capable agriculturalists, but aside from building railroads, they have rarely been associated with heavy industry. And this research into the Kedabek smelter was partly undertaken to understand just what it was, that they may have been able to contribute to this rather unusual relationship.

There are numerous online photographs of the Kedabek townsite, the smelter and the Siemens staff and employees, and even their workers, most of them sourced from a historical archive maintained by the Siemens Historical Institute. (Link) This web page includes clipped portions from a number of these images, now presumably in the public domain, to visualize certain aspects of this page content.

Kedabek Siemens and Bellows

Werner von Siemens - the Kedabek townsite 1890s - and John Bellows

Copper in the Caucasus ...

The vast resources of copper in the Greater and Lesser Caucasus mountains were known and mined since antiquity by the Greeks and Romans, and many others in the middle ages, and heaps of copper slag have been encountered here and there over the centuries as remaining evidence of primitive smelting operations.

As it turns out, according to the celebrated German scientist, Werner von Siemens, the very first copper mines in these mountains in prehistoric times were not far distant from the Elizavetpol Doukhobor village of Slavianka, near the present city of Gedabey (Gedabek, then Kedabeg or Kedabek), and further south toward the biblical and "metalliferous" Mount Ararat.

Siemens engineering and their Kedabek copper mine and smelter

The Siemens Brothers' interest in copper mining and smelting was not initially of interest in itself, and it essentially came about as an incidental opportunity arising in the course of their involvement in other business matters with the imperial Russian government.

As inventors and electrical engineers, Werner von Siemens and his brothers had a particular interest in telegraphy, and the low voltage electrical technology involved in its early development, building instruments and devices furthering the earlier advancements of Samuel Morse and Charles Wheatstone. Werner formed a business partnership in 1847 with Johann Georg Halske (Siemens & Halske), to monetize their inventions, and as entrepreneurs, they introduced a means of laying subterranean telegraph cables, first in Germany and later in Imperial Russia (1851) where they supplied telegraph wire services, both subterranean and strung along wooden poles, between Warsaw, St. Petersburg, Moscow and the Crimea. The construction of the Crimean telegraph line was undertaken on short notice at the start of the Crimean War in 1854, and its progress was fraught with many challenges. And although the line was completed by the end of the war, it appears that its first actual contribution to the war effort was to telegraph St. Petersburg of their loss of the Russian fortress at Sevastopol. In partnership with others in the later 1860s, the Siemens also constructed the ambitious Indo-European telegraph line between England and India, part of the route directed under the shallow eastern coastal waters of the Black Sea and inland through Tiflis and the Caucasus. The service operated until 1931. But their most significant achievement in telegraphy may well have been their historic placement of the first transatlantic undersea cable between Ireland and Tor Bay, Nova Scotia (then to Rye Beach, USA) using their own specially built cable-dispensing steamship, the Faraday.

Indo-European telegraph and Faraday

As all other things electrical, telegraphy required the use of copper wire for its transmission, and the necessary mineral resources for its manufacture were conveniently available in the Caucasus mountains nearby.

Carl Siemens, one of the younger Siemens siblings, was the first to learn about the old copper mines being worked by Armenians and then the Greeks in the eastern Azerbaijani mountains in the early decades of the 1800s. With the approval and support of Walter Siemens, who had just fulfilled his own obligations in Tiflis, as a supervisor of the Russian telegraph contract, he obtained Russian government authorization and purchased this operation for 70 thousand rubles in 1864, and also convinced Werner von Siemens to join him in the business venture. Recognizing the limitations of their new purchase, they invested nearly 400 thousand additional rubles of their personal wealth into modern mining and smelting infrastructure in the following decades, and by 1890, despite some difficulties in its nascent years, their Kedabek copper enterprise had become the most advanced and productive operation in the Caucasus, and perhaps the whole Russian empire.

Batoum Diplomatic and Consular Report on Trade 1891, D. A. Peacock:
"The copper works of Kedabek, belonging to Messrs. Siemens Brothers, where the latest improved methods furnished by science and technical art, and the most ingenious contrivances for economising labour and increasing production may be met, are unquestionably the first in rank, and have no parallel in this country. They represent a capital of about 500,000 pounds of foreign money permanently invested in the Caucasus. The yearly average output of the works exceeds 1,000 tons of copper".

Caucasus map with Slavianka and Kedabek

Caucasus Map of Elizavetpol Doukhobors - Mt. Ararat photo, Martin Perrod - -   full map here (link)

Kedabek mines and smelters ...

Metallurgy and the technological aspects of historic copper smelting are understandably far beyond the scope of this web page, and interested readers can learn about these matters from an abundance of online information available elsewhere. But possibly the best account of the Kedabek operations is by William (George) Bolton, the plant manager himself, and it just couldn't be ignored. Wm. Bolton was of British origin, but his article unfortunately only appears online in the Russian language. The article spans two volumes, Nos. 19 and 20, of an 1890 Russian financial and trade journal, "Vestnik Finansov Promishlennosti i Torgovli", and it can be machine translated online to some extent. (Link) The first part examines the nature of the Kedabek mine minerals, the smelting processes and the significance of the dozen or more various kinds of kilns, furnaces and smelters involved in the Kedabek plant operations. The second part focuses on the availability of suitable sources of smelter fuels and the way their scarcity or abundance shaped the evolutionary technical development and profitability of these operations. The following segments of this web page paraphrase only a few selections from the wealth of information in this article.

The copper minerals, their mining and transport

The Kedabek mountain copper ore was primarily a chalcopyrite, a copper iron sulfide mineral, and it was classified into three main categories of productive value in terms of its purity. The first consisted of irregular sized masses containing 15 to 24% copper, the second was more granular containing 5 to 12% copper, and the third of least purity, between 2.5 and 5% copper. And as smelter fuel was costly, only the better qualities of ore were transported directly to Kedabek for smelting. The lower grades were processed at the mine site, as will be explained in a later paragraph, but first ... a brief look at the mines and means of ore extraction.

To conduct their mining operations, the Siemens acquired a steam driven American-made diamond drill and made use of dynamite (unspecified brand) and black powder to expose the outcrops of mineral ore, and to expand the pre-existing mine shafts and underground tunnels begun by the previous Greek/Armenian operations. There were 9 such mine tunnels 60 to 200 sazh. in length. (Sazhen = 2.1 meters or 7 feet) The copper ore extracted underground was brought to the surface horizontally outward through these tunnels in small iron carts pushed along narrow steel rails. 

To transfer the ore to the Kedabek smelter, a steep narrow gauge railway 2 versts long (a verst is approx a kilometer) was built downhill from the mine to a railroad transfer station on the main Kedabek railroad below. The downhill railroad grade was a difficult one with an incline of 1/10, and in places even 1/7, and the flat-deck ore cars were fitted with special brakes to slowly and safely maneuver their heavy cargo (81 poods) to the station, and then beyond from there to the smelter some 11 versts away. Once unloaded, the empty rail cars were returned to the station, and then back up the mountain by horses. Other writers claim that the Siemens had also devised an alternate aerial cable car system of delivering this ore to the station. In good dry weather about 5,000 poods of ore were said to be daily dispatched in this manner from mine to smelter, except for the winter season. (1 pood is approx. 36 pounds)

Kedabek smelter close-up

This image is a close-up clipping from a wider view photograph of Kedabek and the smelter. The railroad and the flat-deck ore cars are clearly visible, as are the smelter workers manually unloading the mineral ore. Click the image for the full view - from the Siemens Corporate Archives

The third category of minerals with 2 to 5 % copper content surprisingly involved a unique less costly wet method of ore processing, called cementation or leaching, practiced yet in the middle ages in Slovenia and other European regions. This lower grade Kedabek ore was sorted by particle size. The larger masses were placed on a large impervious sheet or layer of asphalt located on the gentle slopes below the mine and burned in heaps up to three feet in height, repeatedly being fueled by firewood for several days. The heaps were then sprayed with surface or underground mineral water, rich in sulfuric acid from years of exposure to the copper sulfide minerals of the mine. The solution then passed downward over the ore to wooden tanks containing scrap pieces of iron, to begin what was called a chemical cementation process. Copper minerals in solution slowly precipitated onto the scrap iron after a period of time, and the precipitant was later scraped away, dried and crushed for delivery to the smelter for further refinement.

Doing the math, Wm. Bolton determined that on January 1, 1890 there were 5,001,396 tons of total unprocessed ore lying on the various Kedabek mine dumps. Of this amount, 134,889 poods of the richest ore, was shipped away to be smelted directly, and 4,866,507 poods of the low grade ore (2.5 to 5% copper) was processed by this wet method of cementation.

The Siemens search for smelter fuel

Firewood and coal

The earliest Kedabek smelter(s) were fueled by firewood and coal. The coal was typically imported from Ukraine, and the firewood harvested from local forest reserves allocated for that purpose. The initial transport of wood from the reserves was not particularly difficult, as the woodlots were not far distant. But over the years the closer reserves were exhausted, and their fuel sources had become considerably more remote, over mountainous and rugged terrain. The local population could provide only limited means of transportation, and the works administration was forced to make its own arrangements, purchasing 200 horses and carriages. But despite these measures, furnace fuel needed constant resupply, and fuel requirements at the Kedabek smelter were still inadequate, causing frequent closures from lack of firewood and coal. To overcome these shortages once and for all, and to increase productivity, the Siemens brothers obtained approval for access to the large Shamkhori forest district, further south along the Shamkhor river in the Bairam-Ali area.

This strategy however presented its own challenges, involving the construction of a special 29 verst narrow-gauge railroad from Kedabek southward to the woodlot for its procurement. The whole railway with its rolling-stock was built for 800,000 rubles, and was fully operational by January 1884, working only during the day and carrying about 1,800,000 poods of freight a year. A rare undated photograph below (at right in the composite), depicts a Siemens train and viaduct on this railway route, although the actual nature of the cargo in transit is difficult to determine. It may be firewood, or even copper ore, as these same trains were later used for its transport, and in that way, the railroad functioned in both directions. The image at left, is a current view of the viaduct, the abandoned railroad bed now enjoyed by travellers as the Gedabey-Galakent Railway Historical Hiking Trail (source).

Kalakent viaduct and train

View a current Google Map plot of this railway route (Link)

Petroleum "mazut"

Coincidentally at that time, another form of smelter fuel was procured and implemented by the Siemens to alleviate their reliance on wood and coal. And the Kedabek smelters were possibly the first to ever use it. The new fuel source did however involve an upgrade to their smelting procedures and machinery, and a new type of smelter furnace was designed in Germany by Friedrich Siemens for its use. The fuel was a low grade form of naphta or petroleum that was a by product of the refinement of kerosene, called residual oil or "mazut". It became available in the Caucasus in 1883 after the completion of the Transcaucasus Railroad between the Caspian and Black Sea. The railroad had enormous significance for Baku oil industrialists at that time enabling them to export kerosene worldwide through the Batoum seaport at the Black Sea. (Link) And as engineers, the Siemens had their own later business interests in Baku, but at that time, they were particularly interested in the short railroad segment between Baku and Dallyar, a small railroad station at the foot of the Lesser Caucasus Mountains and near the dirt roadway leading southward and upward to their Kedabek smelter. An oil tank reservoir was put in place at Dallyar as a storage depot and the mazut was initially transported from there to the smelter by horse and wagon in steel barrels, two per carriage.

Kedabek Copper Oil burning Smelter

This close-up view of Kedabek depicts the Siemens copper smelter and the townite itself after 1883. We can estimate its approximate date from the appearance of the three white dome-shaped smelter furnaces, which are of the oil-burner variety, making use of Baku residual oil. The photo also depicts at least three oil transport wagons alongside the smelter at lower left. Despite the challenges of this means of transport, particularly in snowy winter months, it was seemingly maintained for nearly ten years until 1892, when a steam-driven pump and pipeline was finally put into service from the Dallyar depot to Cherdakhli, an Armenian village 21 versts from the railroad, to lessen the burden and cost of fuel delivery. The pipeline was then extended an additional 20 versts to Kedabek in 1894. Click this photograph to view a wider version of the image. The photograph immediately below depicts a closer view of the new oil burning furnace.

Kedabek Copper Furnace

This large 6 meter diameter circular-domed oil burning furnace, the first of its kind, was designed in Germany by Friedrich Siemens, and was put into service at Kedabeg after 1884. Large pieces of copper ore were first pre-roasted in smaller Gerstenhofer furnaces, heated with either charcoal or naphtha, and then gradually fed into this larger oil furnace through chutes and a long inclined tunnel. The dome shaped smelter furnace itself was fueled by naphta "mazut" delivered to the burner by two large steam pumped nozzles, and the resulting hot flames generated by the fuel, were then passed through the horseshoe shaped tubes passing over the ore, and smelting it by hot radiation rather than by direct contact. The residual gases were then discharged through a 25-meter high chimney. The advantages of using this oil furnace over wood or coal burners proved to be considerable, and the installation of a second and third furnace of the same design and size was soon begun.

Hydro power and the advanced electrolytic Kalakent Smelter

Although the aforementioned new mountain railroad had begun fulfilling its intended purpose, delivering wood to Kedabek, the Siemens had also envisioned the construction of a second copper smelter 22 versts from Kedabek on the same railroad close to the woodlot itself, ostensibly to minimize transport costs. The construction of the new smelter was completed in 1884, near the Kalakent River, adopting its name, and firing five blast furnaces and a Gerstenhofer smelter capable of smelting and refining various forms of pre-roasted ores. Although the plan seemingly made sense, the additional demand for wood fuel not surprisingly only served to further exacerbate the fuel shortage, the original concern in the first place.

This did not however deter the Siemens engineers. They ultimately devised another plan, a veritable testament to their technical and mechanical expertise. The Siemens are recognized for their early development of electrical dynamos. When propelled by water-driven turbines, they can generate hydro electrical power. And as the new smelter was conveniently located on the Kalakent River, a tributary to the Shamkhor, it was upgraded to take advantage of this electrical energy for the electrolytic refinement of copper. The plant was in full operation by 1889.

Map Kalakent Copper Smelter

Diagrams of the Siemens Kalakent hydroelectrical plant and smelter.

Diagram Kalakent smelter
These Kalakent developments are only of secondary interest to this web page, which has more to do with Kedabek, but for readers interested in historical technologies, an excellent article in the English language on Kalakent electrolysis and the smelter by Wm. Bolton's successor Gustav Koelle, can be viewed here. (Link) Nonetheless one can't overlook the similarities between Kedabeg copper and the remote historic mining town of Phoenix, British Columbia, and the Grand Forks Granby copper smelter, also situated close to a Doukhobor community. (Link) But there were numerous other copper smelters in the West Kootenay Boundary region at the turn of the 19th century, and in that respect, the Kalakent smelter had more in common with the Trail Cominco (CM&S) electrolytic copper smelter and its equipment and processing procedures, depicted in the photograph below. Both of these smelters needed an assured water supply to generate the required electrical energy, and it was available in the rivers nearby.

Trail Cominco Electrolytic Copper Smelter

Cominco electrolytic copper smelter, Hughes Bros. Photo 1920s - Trail Historical Society (Source)


The Kedabek townsite ...

Kedabek Townsite

In his "Recollections" Werner von Siemens described this view of Kedabeg as a "small thoroughly European and picturesquely situated manufacturing town, with huge furnaces and large buildings, among them a Christian chapel, a school, and an inn fitted up in European fashion ... a civilized center in the midst of the wilderness".

And it does appear that despite its isolation, the town offered smelter officials, and their technical engineers and office employees, many of the same social, cultural and recreational amenities enjoyed by other contemporary European urban dwellers. The Kedabek mine and smelter manual labourers on the other hand, were initially local seasonal workers of various ethnicities, and they were provided temporary accommodation, many with families, in wooden barracks as depicted below. In time most workers became permanent residents either living in apartment -style dormitories or in detached stone houses in neighborhoods scattered around the perimeter of the townsite.

According to the smelter general manager in 1890, the Kedabek operation employed about 1,500 people, which accounted for almost half of all those employed in the mining and metallurgical industry of the whole Caucasus.

Kedabek worker barracks

Kedabek early wooden worker barracks ca. 1865 - from "Carl von Siemens" - Martin Lutz

Kedabek townsite neighborhood

A Kedabek worker family in a later residential neighborhood - photo undated


Werner von Siemens on the Molokani and Dukhobortsi

Werner von Siemens Memoirs or Recollections were first published in 1893, and a 2008 English translation is freely available online (Link) offering readers insights into his extraordinary contribution to the emerging electrical technologies in the last half of the 19th century. He made his third and final personal visit to Kedabeg (his spelling) in 1890 accompanied by his wife and daughter, and their journey is described in this book. They travelled through Tiflis and Elizavetpol, and then along a difficult narrow mountain road into the mountains, along which they encountered an archaic Swabian (German) colony at Annenfeld, and further into the mountains, a Molokan village, and then the Doukhobors at Slavianka. Beyond that point it was approximately 20 more versts (kilometers) to the copper smelter. But it was not all about copper business. In the following days, they undertook a day trip into the mountains for a scenic view of Lake Goktcha (Sevan) and Mount Ararat, a common journey for many distant Kedabek visitors.

"There exist in the Caucasus numerous Russian colonies, composed of sects which have been transported there from all parts of Russia in an endeavor to preserve the uniformity of the state religion, and these are united in separate settlements. After more than half a century, these too have still retained quite unchanged their language, creed, and customs. The most widespread of these sects are those of the Dukhobortsi and Molokani, which like those of the Swabians take their stand on definite and peculiar interpretation of biblical passages. They are excellent workmen, and orderly people, when not carried away by fanaticism.

The Molokani are almost without exception artisans, especially cabinetmakers, the Dukhobortsi on the other hand, good husbandmen and drivers. The proximity of a colony of Dukhobortsi (9 kilometers) has always been of inestimable value to Kedabeg. Once only in the year do the people refuse to work, viz. when their queen proceeds from one colony to another and celebrates religious festivals with them. These seem to lay great stress on earthly bliss, perhaps only to give the faithful a faint idea of the anticipated and infinitely greater joys hereafter".

The following previously unknown remarkable photograph of a group of Siemens workers' wives at or near Kedabek confirms that at least some Doukhobors may have actually been at work at the Siemens mine or smelter, while their wives were seemingly enjoying a "holiday".

Slavianka wives of Siemens  Kedabek  workers

This photograph was unexpectedly encountered online on a website displaying a selection of Siemens photographs from the company historical archive. The source photo and others can be seen at (Link) Although the photo is undated, the cutline or caption identifies this group of ladies as the "Wives of Siemens workers during a holiday". Although not stated as such, Doukhobor readers would immediately recognize at least nine of them as Werner von Siemens' "Dukhobortsi". Group photos such as these were indeed often taken at religious services or festive occasions, even as the group may have been singing psalms or hymns. They are dressed in traditional costume rather than work clothing so this may indeed be a holiday. But their identity as wives of workers is of further interest, as it may confirm that their husbands could have in fact been employed in some fashion at Kedabek itself.


Ilarion Dzhashi and the Slavianka Doukhobor - Kedabek connection ...

Werner Von Siemens' acknowledgement of the Doukhobors as "good husbandmen and drivers" and of "inestimable value to Kedabek", is certainly curious enough and interesting in itself, but it does raise questions about the nature and extent of their contribution. We can now learn more about this Slavianka and Kedabek connection in three paragraphs of an obscure historic document by a Russian Orthodox priest, Ilarion Dzhashi, encountered in a current Russian archive.

Ilarion Dzhashi's words in Google-assisted English translation

"The Kedabek town and the Siemens Brothers copper mine and smelter, are very important not only for the Slavyanka Dukhobors, but also for non-Dukhobor communities in the district.

The Dukhobors earned a good income, delivering Baku petroleum mazut (residual oil) to the Siemens' Kedabek plant in steel barrels, but now after the construction of a fuel oil pipeline, they have lost a good part of this income. They (still) haul copper from Kedabek to Dallyar station (on the Transcaucasus Railroad) on carts drawn by four horses. And on their return, they transport coal back to Kedabek.

The Kedabek smelter is a small plant with 2000 inhabitants, about 8-9 versts from the Dukhobor villages. The plant's population is not involved in agriculture, and the surrounding workers and settlers are unable to grow their own food or satisfy their other daily needs. The Dukhobors understand this, and recognizing that the operation of the plant would be difficult without them, they always raise the prices of their agricultural products, almost always higher than those prices in Elizavetpol. And as soon as the Dukhobors feel in need of money, they just assemble a few sacks of flour or potatoes and go to the plant; and by evening they come home with money. Rare is there a village landholder who could resist selling his surplus products to Kedabek for at least 100-150 rubles per year, and the well-to-do, even more so, for up to 300-400 rubles. A pood of wheat flour is valued from 70 kopecks to 1 ruble, 60 kopecks; barley is from 35 to 90 kopecks; potatoes are from 30 kopecks to 1 ruble; and cabbage, from 15 to 40 kopecks."

A brief reference, but it is nonetheless an acknowledgement of the working relationship between Slavianka and Kedabek. But this is only a brief excerpt from Dzhashi's 41 page article, and looking at its contents as a whole, it is very likely that the Slavianka Doukhobor contributions were not necessarily limited to just those described.

Known Doukhobor history of Slavianka (Slavyanka) ...

Slavianka was settled in the Caucasus by the Doukhobors between 1841 and 1845 after they were forcibly displaced by imperial decree from their villages in the "Molochnaya" Crimean region, presently the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine, which at that time was one of the centers of the Doukhobor community. The common explanation for the Slavianka village placename in the Caucasus is that it was brought to the Caucasus by the former Crimean villagers, the earlier name itself being adopted from the name of the town of Slavyansk. Another version of its source can be found in The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Azerbaijani Toponyms. This source suggests that "the name was formed from the surname of the Russian officer Slavin, who led the resettlement campaign (from 1844 from Crimea) and lived there, in 1854 the official name was recognized - Slavyanka"

After Gorelovka in the Akhalkalaki district, which was the administrative centre of all Doukhobor settlements, and the home of the hereditary Kalmykov leadership, Slavianka in the Elizavetpol district, received perhaps the second-most historical attention for its two prominent families, the Verigins and Kotelnikovs. The families initially celebrated their union with the marriage of young Peter Vasilievich Verigin to young Evdokia Kotelnikova, but their relationship soon became strained when their marriage was annulled and Peter was recruited by Lukeria Kalmykova to Gorelovka for tutelage as a potential Doukhobor leader.

This and other events at Slavianka were recounted by Gregory Verigin, Peter's youngest brother in his 1935 book, Ne v Sile Bog a v Pravde, in which he describes the relative prosperity of his family, and offers readers insights into the village life of Slavianka and its history in general. This work, and the knowledge that the location of the village in the Caucasus was lower in altitude, had a more favourable climate, and was closer to the commercial centres of Elizavetpol and Tiflis, may have led to a perception that Slavianka held a special status, and had been relatively more affluent and independent-minded than other Caucasus villages. The actual reality of the matter was however not clearly explained or tested, although it is well known that Gregory's family, and many others, carried forward their prosperity from the Molochnaya Crimea to the Caucasus. And it is very possible, that Slavianka's involvement with Kedabek may then have further contributed to its continued prosperity.

Gregory's book, and another article, Confessions of a Doukhobor Elder, by a Slavianka Doukhobor elder, Vasily V. Zybin, are excellent first hand accounts of the Slavianka Doukhobor role in the historic 1895 Burning of Arms, a subject far beyond the scope of this web page, and certainly documented far better by actual historians elsewhere.

About Ilarion Dzhashi ...

Ilarion Dzhashi, the author of the Slavianka article, is all but invisible online. The little we do know about him from other Russian archival sources, is that he was an Orthodox priest from the Kedabek parish before 1900 when his article was finally published. And a clipping from an Orthodox "Vestnik", No. 18, from 1899, surprisingly reveals that he was awarded a "skufya" by the order of the Georgian Bishop's Administration for his efforts in building an Orthodox church at Kedabek and a chapel at Slavianka.

Russian Orthodox Skufya Headdress

The gentleman at right is not Ilarion Dzhashi. But it is a recent online photograph illustrating what he may have looked like over a hundred years ago, wearing a "Skufya". These headdresses were for everyday non-liturgical use by the Orthodox clergy, and were also emblazoned with a cross on the forehead, possibly for special religious service. Dzhashi's name is occasionally listed in church records and appears to be on a schedule of speakers at the Tiflis Seminary. And after his priesthood at Kedabek, he is recorded living at the small parish of Passanour north of Tiflis along the Military Highway. Here he seemingly became active in the "autocephaly" movement to promote the autonomy of the Georgian church from the Moscow Patriarchate, publishing a 1906 detailed five page monograph in its support. The transfer to this parish occurred in the declining stages of the Siemens operations at Kedabek when a good part of their equipment and employees were moved to another copper smelter near Batoum

About Dzhashi's Slavianka article ...

Ilarion Dzhashi's 41 page document is a comprehensive analysis of Slavianka and Doukhobor village life in the Elizavetpol region in the last few years of the century, prior to the emigration of the Doukhobors to Canada. It was not precisely dated but is estimated to have been written in approximately 1897 or 1898. The document was embedded within a larger volume or compilation of articles in a Russian language "Sbornik", Collected materials describing localities and tribes of the Caucasus", Volume No.27, published in 1900. The Sbornik turned up in a current Russian archive as a Google search result for the word "Kedabek" (in the Russian language), while searching for content on the copper smelter. (Link)

Sbornik Title Page
Repeated Google searches for the Slavianka article itself, in both the Russian and English languages, were not immediately fruitful, although there now appears to have been an actual Xerox copy of it all along as early as 1980, in the UBC Library Special Collections. A reference to the article and its parent "sbornik" was found in a bibliography of Doukhobor files compiled by Maria Horvath (Krisztinkovich).

Ilarion Dzhashi UBC Library file

The Doukhobor bibliography was since then continuously expanded by Jack McIntosh, a highly respected University of British Columbia Slavic bibliographer and certified translator. His decades-long commitment to this task occupied a great part of his career and retirement years, right up until his death in 2019. Further research reveals that he, along with a UBC associate, Nina Olsen, had also initiated selective English translations of the Dzhashi article after 1987, and a more complete draft of their joint translation is thought to be filed with the original Xerox copy at the UBC Library.

As to its historical significance, it was indeed surprising to find that Jack McIntosh had also referred to the Slavianka article as "one of seven obscure rarely-cited gems" in his 1995 article for the Canadian Ethnic Studies journal. (Link) His interest in the article elevates its scholarly value as primary source material for the ongoing research and greater understanding of Doukhobor history. The article is in fact also briefly cited by a small number of other contemporary writers, but an actual copy of it has not been readily available to general readers in print or online, and in that regard, this may be one of the more useful functions of this web page.

The complete 41 page document in its original archival form has been extracted from the much larger "Sbornik", and with subtle digital alignment and enhancement, has been re-posted as a print-ready Acrobat file, approximately 16 MB. in size. It can be downloaded here. (Link)

Without an apparent expert English language translation to be found online at this time, a Google-assisted translation of selected portions of the article, with potential relevance to the Kedabek/Slavianka relationship, has been prepared for this web page in the meantime. It can be viewed for "casual research" in a later segment of this web page. (Link)

The "Sbornik" Preface - an introduction to the Slavianka article ...

For those unable or not inclined to read the Russian language article, the Preface or Forward to the "Sbornik" by its editor S.N. Shulgin provides a good preview of its contents, and it was similarly extracted and appears below in "Google-assisted" translation.

"The article "Slavianskoe Obshchestvo" by priest Ilarion Dzhashi, aside from its information on natural sciences (such as flora and fauna), presents a very detailed analysis of the economic status, morals, occupations and religious life of the Transcaucasian Dukhobors, a sect that has lately attracted the attention of not only the public, but the governmental spheres. The article focuses on the various manifestations of village life - which are agriculture, cattle breeding, wool and linen production, blacksmithing, shoemaking, the tailoring of hats and coats, hunting and trade, and so forth. Concerning the organization and history of the sect, the author notes the well known Dukhobor leaders, Lukerya Kalmykova, and Pyotr Verigin (born within the described area), and draws attention to the later (1895) "postnikov" faction of Dukhobors, and its anti-state attitude, which resulted in the mass eviction of the Dukhobors to America. The article also describes the social and cultural aspects of Dukhobor life, with a focus on births, weddings and funerals, and their associated sectarian specific psalms. It is interesting that in addition to family commemorations, Doukhobors still publicly commemorate the leaders of the sect. When describing the life and character of the village population, the author in our opinion, manages to maintain complete impartiality, without hiding the darker sides of Dukhoborism (their anti-government tendencies), and he pays tribute to the Doukhobors as "these peaceful, honest, hardworking and thrifty people, who, living in Transcaucasia for half a century, did everything possible to gain the respect of the local population while raising the banner of Russian culture".

Mr. Dzhashi's article is accompanied by several statistical tables, visually acquainting readers with the status of education, the distribution of arable lands, and the statistics of living or dead in the community (in 1897). The article ends with an interesting description of common Doukhobor practices, rituals and superstitions among the Doukhobor villagers.


Personal observations about the Slavianka article ...

Article footnotes and its date

There is no doubt about the 1900 publication date of the "Sbornik", but unfortunately the date of the creation and submission of the Dzhashi article itself is not easily determined, which is obviously very important for a clear understanding of its context. There are clues however, such as a statistical population table dated 1897, and an editorial footnote within the article revealing that Dzhashi had updated the publishers after his initial article submission, with news of the Doukhobor Canadian emigration in 1899. The article was thus presumably submitted sometime between those two years.

"The author kindly informed us of the latest information about the Dukhobor emigration from Slavianka, from the elders of the Slavianka office. By now (i.e., up to May, 1899) 736 souls of the Slavianka Dukhobors (males- 330, females- 406 souls) have obtained the permission of the Government and moved to Canada (this number did not include 18 individuals, administratively exiled to the Yakutsk province for civil disobedience, before the above mentioned permission was granted). Thus, only 1866 people are left in Slavianka  (males- 959, females- 905). Of these, 45 souls are also seeking permission to leave for Canada. They hastily sold off all their property, most of which went to Armenians and Tatars, while the immovable property went exclusively to the remaining Dukhobors. There are rumors, which are of course difficult to confirm, that Orthodox Russians from Черниговской and "Каменецъ-Подольской губерный" will settle on the former Slavianka lands used by the departed Dukhobors."


In the preface or forward, the Sbornik editor commends Dzhashi's impartiality in his writing, and at first glance it may appear to be so, but the village demographics revealed in the footnote favour the Small Party over the Large Party Doukhobors significantly in numbers, contrary to what their names might suggest. Doing the math, in 1899 there were 754 Large Party villagers (Verigin supporters) including the 18 exiles, while there were 1866 Small Party villagers, the overwhelming majority. Looking at the overall article coverage of Slavianka village life, we would expect to find a great deal of shared common Doukhobor customs and values, yet there is also an undeniable and perhaps understandable, focus on the "larger" Small Party values because of its numerical footprint. And it was not a matter of bias or impartiality, it was likely just a matter of the reality observed on the ground.

Take the matter of hunting animals and food and diet. There seems to be considerable preoccupation with the village consumption of vodka. "Of the drinks, fruit vodka is most commonly used. Neither grief, nor joy, nor purchase, nor sale, in a word - not a single act of family and social life is complete without vodka. Everyone drinks vodka, men, women, old people and even children; often a mother might pour vodka into the mouth of her own child. "Let her get used to it from a young age" she would say, "and they will be healthy." But although the consumption of vodka receives a great deal of attention in the article, only a short footnote in small print quietly reminds readers that the "писанные" Doukhobors (signed followers of P.V. Verigin) had actually refused eating meat, did not smoke or drink alcoholic beverages.

About the Doukhobor factions

Readers of Doukhobor history may be occasionally confused when confronted with the bewildering assortment of names attached to the various factions of Doukhobors in the Caucasus. Two previously unknown designations, "писанные" and "неписанные" are referenced throughout Ilarion Dzhashi's article, and they may only add more to the confusion. But they essentially describe two of the already existing factions, and the following explanation will attempt to help better understand their relationships.

After the death of Lukeria Vasilievna Kalmykova in 1886, the Doukhobors in the Caucasus, essentially coalesced into two groups, the Large Party as supporters of Peter Verigin, and the Small Party, named after a Gorelovka village elder, the Zubkov Party or the Gubanov Party, after Lukeria Vasilievna's brother. The Large Party on advice from Peter Verigin, who was then in exile, were encouraged to make a stronger commitment to their resistance of military service, and to divest themselves of excessive land holdings, and abstain from using alcohol, tobacco, and eating meat. The issue of eating meat however, remained contentious leading to a split within the Large Party into two factions, the so-called Fasters (postniki) and the Meat-eaters (miasniki). The Meat-eaters, also known as the Middle Party, accepted Peter Verigin's leadership, but declined to accept his more radical perspective on abandoning meat. The term "postnik" itself was derived from the Russian word for "fast", being "post", and there are a number of current derivative Doukhobor surnames incorporating that term, although it has long lost its association with "fasting".

About the"писанные"and "неписанные" Doukhobors? According to Ilarion Dzhashi ... these terms differentiated Doukhobors between those that officially "signed" oaths of allegiance to Peter Verigin on paper, and those that did not. In other words, they appear to be an alternate means of defining the Large Party and the Small Party Doukhobors, which coalesced after Lukeria's death but prior to Peter Verigin's exile, and affected Doukhobors across all Caucasian settlements. The origin of the terms is explained on page 29 of his Russian language article.

The various Doukhobor factions are also referenced on page 46 of Gregory Verigin's aforementioned book, the Large Party being defined in his own words, as the "«большая» or "Large party", the «писанная» or the "signed" party, and the «Веригинская» or "Verigin" party". The full wording of the Dzhashi and Verigin references is similar, raising further questions as to the actual source of that term. Gregory does not fully address it, however he does describe court proceedings between the two main Doukhobor factions in another paragraph, regarding the inheritance of the Gorelovka Sirotsky dom and its assets, which may or may not have involved "signing" legal documents. If there were signatures associated with these proceedings, they would likely have involved only a small select group of Large Party representatives, rather than thousands of actual group members. In any "case", the use of these particular group designations by Dzhashi may remain unresolved.

Church and State

Being an Orthodox priest, Ilarion Dzhashi would have undoubtedly been aware of the centuries-old contradictions between Doukhobor faith and the Russian Orthodox establishment church, with its close ties to the Czarist government. And it has indeed been shown that by 1899, officials of the Orthodox Church and the State were more than happy to rid themselves of the stubborn Large Party Doukhobors, wishing the "dirty scum" Godspeed on their departure to "America". Dzhashi more politely however, characterizes the Large Party as perhaps being somewhat misguided. But it is interesting to note that the historic 1895 Burning of Arms is essentially ignored in his article, and there is undeniable disapproval of the overt anti-government sentiments of the «писанные» Doukhobors.


As for Dzhashi's sources, in his first page footnote, he acknowledges that he draws his material from "a collection of statistics and other ethnographic materials dealing with customs and beliefs, from the Imperial Society of Naturalists, Anthropologists and Ethnographers". And in his acknowledgements at the end of the article, he also claims to have been indebted to a Slavianka Doukhobor elder, Ivan Atamanov. (духоборъ Иванъ Атамановъ). It may well be that Ivan Atamanov was giving him Small Party information and population numbers, which may explain the preponderance of that content. Curiously, by coincidence or perhaps not, the term "ataman", the root of the Atamanov surname, was historically associated with Cossack military commanders, although it was also known to have been given to Doukhobor village elders themselves, who were elected to manage their village affairs. On page 8 of his article, Dzhashi claims that this task was however later entrusted to foremen or supervisors appointed by the government, after the split between the Large and Small Party Doukhobors, ostensibly to smooth their village interrelationships. And it was indeed such a Slavianka foreman by the name of M. Sklyarov, that supposedly provided the statistics for Dzhashi's table on domestic animals, shown below.

The Statistical Tables, an original, and three English language reconstructions

The Slavianka article included three such Russian language tables, the data collected from "official sources". The first example below is a copy of the actual Russian language population table, the following three are reconstructions in the English language. Only this population table was specifically dated in the article (1897), and the others are presumed to have been created at the same time.

The interpretation of these tables however must take into account the scope or focus of the surveys. The Slavianka population statistics for January 1897 (928+832 = 1760) below for example, do not appear to reconcile with the aforementioned 1899 footnote update numbers, which claims there would have been a total of 2602 Slavianka residents only two years later, of which 1866 were Small Party members and 736 Large Party members (excluding exiles).

Slavianka Statistical Population table

Slavianka Statistical Population table reconstruction

Note that this reconstructed population table does not include all columns at right for simplicity.


Slavianka Statistical Arable Lands stable reconstruction

Slavianka Statistical Domestic Animals table reconstruction

The interpretation of this table must also be viewed with caution. Slavianka villagers are known to have farm-land leases outside village boundaries, and it is not clear whether their domestic animals would have also been included in the table numbers. Gregory Verigin, as an example, revealed in his book that his family leased an acreage six versts from Slavianka where they owned three thousand sheep, seventy horses and a hundred cattle.

A Google translation of the article ...

The source Russian language Slavianka Acrobat pdf file was uploaded to Google Translate (Link) for online processing as one single file. In some cases short clips of Russian text were re-uploaded to an alternate translation website (Link) to compare or improve results. Nonetheless the resulting translation still required a degree of manual translation from reading the Russian context, and it was not too difficult to manually correct certain obvious single word inaccurate translations in a word processor. The content was then categorized, spaced, and headlined for clarity into sections, and all the sections were amalgamated in sequence into a single Acrobat pdf. It should be noted that only approximately half of the complete article was translated in this manner, keeping in mind its relevance to the Kedabek-Slavianka focus of this web page. Two large sections, on a Brief History of the Doukhobors, and on Rituals and Superstitions were not addressed. Google translations are undoubtedly insufficient for academic research purposes, but they work well enough for casual family research for those wishing to learn more about their ancestral histories. The partial Google-assisted English translation of the Dzhashi article can be viewed here. (Link)

Two sections of the Google translation are posted below as a preview of what to expect.

SECTION 01.  Settlement locations and their physiognomy
The village of Slavyanka, which is of Doukhobor historical significance, is located in close proximity to its three associated villages: Novo-Goreloye, Novo-Troitskoye and Novo-Spasskoye, approximately 35 versts, south of the Transcaucasus Railroad and at a distance of 75 versts from the provincial city of Elizavetpol. All four of these Dukhobor villages have exactly the same external physiognomy, and the same arrangement of houses and streets. The general view of the villages is quite attractive: they are all located on level ground, and each of them has one main street, on both sides of which stretch wooden huts, smeared with clay and whitewashed both outside and inside. Each house has a vast courtyard, not particularly tidy, almost half occupied by outbuildings and agricultural implements. The houses, in most cases, are one-story, covered with earth, and small balconies often open out into the courtyard. The interior decoration of the houses is made up of benches, tables and chairs, all of which have been self-made. The houses of the more prosperous owners are much more beautiful. They are decoratively painted, covered with tiles, and wallpapered inside, with balconies facing the street and courtyard sides. The house of a middle-class Dukhobor is much better than the house of a rich Kartalinsky peasant, and, perhaps, even the nobleman himself.


SECTION 02. Historical background
In 1839, the Supreme Commander Emperor Nicholas resettled all Dukhobors from the Molochnye Vody, Melitopol district, Taurida province, to the Caucasus, for religious reasons. The resettlement began in 1841 and ended in 1844. In Transcaucasia, they were settled in Akhalkalaki and Elizavetpol districts. In the last province, they were settled on the site of an old Armenian village; calling their settlement Slavyanka. In 1847, part of the Dukhobors moved from the Akhalkalaki district to Elizavetpol, settling at some 6 or 7 versts from Slavyanka, forming the three aforementioned villages. All these villages received the name of those villages from whence the Dukhobors were originally evicted (from the Melitpol District)


John Bellows visits Kedabek, Slavianka and Prince Khilkoff at Bashkitchet

John Bellows visited the Caucasus with his friend Joseph Neaves in 1893, to observe the Slavianka Doukhobor villagers, but they were also keenly interested in the Kedabek smelter and mines, travelling into the snowy mountains by horse on the roadway through the village to see them with their very own eyes. Interesting details of this visit were found in Chapter IX of his memoirs. (Link) During the course of these travels, he also went off the beaten path to Bashkitchet to meet Prince Khilkoff, who had been banished to these mountains, and lived with his wife and son, among the Doukhobors. His memoir also includes details of this visit, including sketches of the Khilkoff family dwellings, which may be of interest to Doukhobor readers. Prince Khilkoff was to be of later historical significance for bringing the persecution of the Doukhobors to Leo Tolstoy's attention, as well as his later reconnaissance of Cyprus and the Canadian prairies in 1898, as potentially suitable lands for their emigration.

Prince Khilkoff Bashkitchet dwellings

Prince Khilkoff dwellings among the Bashkitchet Doukhobor villagers


Kvartskhana and the end of the Siemens Kedabek era ...

William (George) Bolton, the Kedabek mines and smelter general manager who was hired in the 1870s, died in 1900, and was succeeded by Gustav Kölles. The new manager did his best to maintain the productivity of the plant, but this became more and more difficult with the rapid depletion of ore reserves. With the closure of Kalakent in 1903, Kölles acquired a new mine near the village of Kvartskhana, south of the Black Sea port of Batoum, where another smelter was built at Bortchka, the ore brought down from the mountains on cable cars. Both smelters made use of the Tchorokh River to deliver their copper to Batoum for export. The following map illustrates the Siemens operations and the Richner mines and smelter, referenced in a segment of the Batoum web page, elsewhere on this website. (Link)

Map Kvartskhana copper mines
In 1905 and 1906, labour unrest in the Caucasus inspired a Social Democratic revolutionary worker movement with protests and strikes at Tiflis, Batoum and particilarly Baku, involving petroleum industrial workers. Strikes were not uncommon in the mines and smelters, which mostly employed multi-ethnic workers, who were paid low wages but worked long hours. According to one recent report, 27% of Kedabek workers were Persian (Iranian), many of them seasonal, from towns south of the Azerbaijani border. The copper industry struggled these years and many businesses suspended their operations. The photograph below depicts what is thought to be a 1905 worker strike at Kedabek, beside what appears to be a worker dormitory, and a bank of horse stables with rolls of hay not far distant across the road.

Kedabek smelter worker strike
The 1905 Russian Revolution served as a springboard for continued worker, ethnic and political unrest throughout Russia, with geopolitical consequences and outright war with Japan, and with mounting mistrust between neighboring states, Russia disallowed foreign nationals to register new companies. The Siemens operations however temporarily survived as an umbrella company under the ownership of Russian citizens until the start of war with Germany in 1914, when Czar Nicholas II froze all German assets and contracts. But the Siemens era in Kedabek and the Caucasus ended in 1920 when all their assets were finally nationalized by the Soviets.

A detailed German language article (Link) by Gustav Kölles,the aforementioned Kedabek smelter general manager, describes the final years of the company operations after 1900 at Kedabek and Kalakent, and their Tchorokh River copper acquisitions near Batoum.

Back to Home Page



The 49th Parallel