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Doukhobor Suit

Curated Submission
Circa 1910
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
Materials & techniques
Linen; Homespun, machine-sewn
Made by Anastia Nemanishen; Bludoff
Saskatchewan Western Development Museum WDM-1989-S-55
By the time Alex Nemanishen died in 1971, traditions in Canadian Doukhobor communities had changed enough that he was not buried in the suit you see here. This traditional Doukhobor man’s suit was made for him by his wife, Anastia, and his mother-in-law in the early 20th century. Nemanishen’s mother-in-law took flax grown in their new fields in Canada and spun and wove it into linen. Anastia used her sewing machine to turn the cloth into a matching traditional shirt and trousers.
Persecution and the threat of compulsory military service forced followers of the Doukhobor faith to flee Russia. With the sponsorship of Russian sympathizers such as famed writer Leo Tolstoy, some 7,500 Doukhobor arrived in the West in 1899, enticed by land and religious freedom. The Canadian government had promised exemption from military service and the right to establish communal farming villages like those in Russia. In 1899 11-year-old Alex Nemanishen travelled to Canada with his family and thousands of others of the Doukhobor faith. The Nemanishen family settled in the small Doukhobor village of Kirilowka, near present day Langham, Saskatchewan.
In 1906 the Canadian government cancelled its agreement with the Doukhobors, requiring them to abandon their communal villages for individual farms. Some chose to stay in Saskatchewan, while others purchased land near Brilliant, British Columbia, where they could continue their communal lifestyle. Nemanishen left Saskatchewan for work at a lumber mill in Brilliant. He injured his leg while on the job, forcing him to use a cane for the rest of his life. After the accident he returned to Saskatchewan, using his carpentry skills to earn money to buy land. In 1926, at age 38, Nemanishen purchased land near Langham, close to where Kirilowka had been.
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