17 April 2012

The Tolstoy Connection

A morsel of validation! A family emigration story from Latvia gets a helping hand from local history.

The Family Story:
Janis (John) Jurikas (1880-1954) was originally given passage money by a member of the Tolstoy family in London, in order to reach Canada.

My Earlier Thoughts:
The intriguing story may have some truth although Count Leo Tolstoy, the renowned author, was apparently never in England (he died in Russia in 1910). Count Tolstoy was known for his generous sponsorship of group emigration for Russian Doukhobors. Some of those groups came to western Canada in 1898 and 1899.(1) I could not ascertain that any of Leo Tolstoy’s children or descendants happened to be in London at an appropriate time for Janis Jurikas. If the financial assistance took place, perhaps it was before he went to England.

What is certain is that John entered Canada at least twice. Iwan [sic] Jurikas, a general labourer age 26, came to Halifax 12 April 1907 on the ship Sicilian from Glasgow — also with a Johan Tukum (probably a cousin), age 28 and a carpenter.(2) Their destinations were Port Arthur and Fort William, Ontario, respectively. Then Iwan Jurikas, a “Lish” [sic: possibly a corruption of Lettish] native born in Russia, age 29, previous occupation painter, arrived in Montreal via Liverpool on the ship Cedric in April 1910.(3) John or brother Paul, or both, were in New York by 1912 when Victor Freibergs married their sister Marija.

Recently Found:
"It is interesting to note, that within the boundaries of the Russian Empire, Limbaži was considered a place of exile, to which the government sent unruly freethinkers-noblemen. And so in 1899 Lev Tolstoy's associate, lawyer Bodyansky, was sent to Limbaži. He had already sold his estates and bought land in Canada for those being persecuted by the Czarist regime. After Bodyansky's departure to Canada from the "Limbaži exile", his children remained on good terms and in contact with students in Limbaži. They sent to Limbaži a variety of Tolstoy's writings. The gendarmerie in town questioned and arrested a number of people. After that, some of the oldest students - Daugulis, Jurikas and Eglitis - were also exiled from Vidzeme province."(4) [emphasis added]

The reference to Bodyansky more than likely means the nobleman and “Tolstoyan activist,” Alexander Mikhailovich Bodyansky, later associated with Doukhobor settlements in Canada.(5) The movement espoused “communalism” and certainly begs for a bit more background in my Jurikas family history, especially regarding Tolstoy's social theories. Did his group help subsidize individual emigrants to spread his ideals? In 1899 Janis Jurikas was about eighteen-nineteen years old. It's not difficult to imagine the impression such free thinking would make on young men thoroughly unhappy with alien domination of their lives and culture.
Janis Jurikas ca.1948

About a decade of John's life in Canada and the United States remains unaccounted for. Whether he worked to spread Tolstoyan ideals is not known. In 1921 he travelled from the U.S. to meet his brother Paul who was working in Vladivostock, where they prepared to visit a liberated Latvia. John dedicated himself to working the family farm near Limbaži until he and his family were removed in the infamous Soviet confiscations and deportations. His widow and daughters were allowed to return in the 1960s to occupy the sadly neglected old family home once again.

(1) Dave Obee, Destination Canada: A Genealogical Guide to Immigration Records (Victoria, British Columbia: Dave Obee, 2010), 11.
(2) “Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935,” digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 26 March 2010), Sicilian (1907), entry for Iwan Jurikas.
(3) “Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935,” digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 26 March 2010), Cedric (1910), entry for Iwan Jurikas.
(4) Vecie Limbaži [Old Limbaži], full reference to follow, kindly translated by Antra Celmins; email correspondence Celmins to Merriman, 18 March 2012.
(5) John McLaren, Despotic Dominion: Property Rights in British Settler Societies, 226, digital image, Google books (http://books.google.ca/ : accessed 17 April 2012).

© Brenda Dougall Merriman, 2012


Judy G. Russell, CG said...

That's really great information, Brenda! What an interesting connection.

Cathy said...
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BDM said...
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