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History (Los Angeles) - Russian Rush to Sunland (1905)

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History (Los Angeles) - Russian Rush to Sunland (1905)

Posted: 1211727782000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Michael Lebedev, Ivan Afonin

Russian Rush to Sunland
Advance Guard of Fifteen thousand Comes
Los Angeles Headquarters for “Molokane”
Persecuted at Home, They Colonize Here

The advance guard of the greatest foreign colonization movement ever undertaken for California arrived in Los Angeles yesterday.

It was the beginning of an immigration of 15,000 Russians to this state from the southern borders of the troubled domain of the Czar.

This city has been selected as the headquarters, and there are now here 160 of the “Molokane.” Today or tomorrow another company of seventy-five will arrive.

The people of whom a horde is coming are known as the “Molokane”, or “milk-drinkers”, because they drink milk at all times, unlike the Greek Catholics. There are several hundred at New York ready for the journey clear across the continent to the Land of Promise. They are sometimes spoken of as Russian Quakers. Their proper designation is the “Brotherhood of the Spiritual Christians.”

On account of the terrible persecutions to which they have been subjected the members of this sect are fleeing across the southern borders of Russia by the hundreds and gathering in the European seaports, preparatory to sailing for America. It is said by the leaders here that fully 15,000 of their brethren will escape and come to America as rapidly as they can gather in companies at European seaports.

Their destination is California and they are not to be deterred from coming here, where they have known friends. A large company of the “Molokane” was detained two weeks at Hamburg by agents who tried to persuade them to go to Canada, but they would not be swerved from their purpose.

This great movement is due to the coming here some six months ago of a small party of the brotherhood, who had escaped from Russia, after many perils, and who, like Caleb and his brethren in the Promised Land, sent back word that there was a goodly heritage awaiting.

The Molokane are notable for their clannishness, and when it was learned that the first colonists here were happy and doing well, the news was spread throughout the sect in Southern Russia, with the result that California became to them the word expressing liberty, freedom and their persecutors, and a chance to make an honest living unmolested. Within a few weeks the idea of a wholesale emigration to California was thoroughly fixed in the minds of the Brotherhood of Spiritual Christians.

The second minor batch of colonists arrived in Los Angeles about six weeks ago, after having experienced terrible treatment from the Russian officiary in their attempts to escape across the border.

This company was composed of about sixty persons; and of that number one was shot, and six were thrown, with their belongings, into one of the swiftly running rive3rs near the Turkish borders. They managed to escape, with the loss of most of their goods, and hurried to Los Angeles.

Yesterday Ivan Afonin, one of the leaders of the second comp[any, was dismissed from the County Hospital, after a siege of pneumonia, brought on by the exposures and hardships he suffered through the acts of the Russian soldiery. He was one of the victims of the river incident.

Yesterday afternoon the colonists in this city received word that one Michael Lebedev, a leader of another company, had been shot by the soldiers just as he had reached the southern borders; but his companions made their escape, and are now on the way to America.

Last night there was an interesting gathering of these Russians at No. 1323 East First Street, a story-and-a-half cottage which is used as their general meeting place until they can build a chapel. There were fifty swarthy men, all bearded and wearing the typical Russian peasant costumes, with heavy garments which would do well in a land of snow, but looked strangely out-of-place here.

These men had gathered to make provision for receiving the colonists who are expected today and to discuss their plans for securing large tracts of land in Southern and Central California, for settlement by their brethren.

Nearly all of the Molokane are farmers. They are very successful grain raisers and gardeners; and they have much experience in dairying.

With the help of friendly Russians who reside in this city, they expect to negotiate with some of the owners of immense tracts in Central California, and to there maintain a model Russian Quaker colony.

Since their arrival in Los Angeles the members of this sect have found a good friend in Capt. P. B. de Blumenthal.

The Brotherhood of Spiritual Christians was established over one hundred years ago, the movement starting in Central Russia. They adhere to the laws of Moses; eat no swine-flesh and keep to “kosher” methods in their cooking and eating; but are not allied to the Jews, and believe in the divinity of Christ. They are said to be a most peaceable and quiet-loving people; honest and hard-working; and Russians who have long resided here declare the Molokane will make good citizens.

In the whole of Russia it is estimated that there are fully 200,000 of the Molokane; and the 15,000 who are planning to come to California are from the province of Kars, in the southern part of the empire. Many are located near the Turkish border.

Source: Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File); Jan 27, 1905; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881 - 1985) pg. II1
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