The Sectarians in America: The Jumpers

Leben: a journal of Reformation Life, Volume 5, Issue 4, Oct-Dec 2009
Review by Andrei Conovaloff, February 11, 2010. Updated April 27, 2015. All updates in red font.

On 15 May 2014, this erroneous article was shortened and posted on the commercial WND (WorldNetDaily) website with one photo, under a misleading title and author:
Cloud of Witnesses: Did Russians In L.A. 'Found' Pentecostalism? The editors of Leben discover history of the Molokan immigrants. By Lillian Soklokoff, A.B.

Answer: No! Molokane have no connection with Pentecostalism. This article is an edited excerpt from a 1918 report by a U.S.C. sociology graduate student.

Warning to writers, editors, journalists, scholars: Always Invite study subjects to proofread your text.

Click to ENLARGEIn September 2009, the religious history journal Leben (Fresno, California) asked (e-mail below) for images for an upcoming article about Spiritual Christian Molokans in Los Angeles. I replied (below) noting that all "
Spiritual Christian Molokan" congregations in Los Angles are of the Dukh-i-zhiznik Jumper religion, provided many references about Spiritual Christians Molokans, and asked to "proofread BEFORE you publish, to reduce errors", which did not happen. By not collaborating, a sloppy article was published. Pay attention writers, journalists, scholars, editors.

By November 1, 2009, the website showed the cover of the October-December issue, listing the article with "Jumprs" misspelled, which was corrected after I sent a complaint. The link was posted on and I subscribed online to read the magazine as advertised, but could not. Then I complained twice (by e-mail and phone message) with no response. In January I received the next issue by mail and complained again (4th complaint), and finally got the issue I wanted, right. Customer service was poor.

Beginning in 1928, Spiritual Christian Prygun (Jumper) sect
in America was being converted to various Dukh-i-zhiznik cults; and was completely extinguished by 1950.

Besides obvious errors, in my opinion the article lacked focus. Below is the article as published in black font with errors corrected and comments in red. With so many blunders in this one article, Leben readers should check source material before relying on other articles.

"Leben" is German for "Life." The magazine was founded by Pacific University in Fresno, California, and has since moved to Sacramento. The full name is Leben: A Journal of Reformation Life Magazine.

"Reformation Life" refers to the history of Protestantism. Leben has covered Russia many times. In it's first year, the third issue of Leben featured
"consequences of the religious wars that devastated Europe, and how God used those horrific events to send streams of Protestant immigrants into Russia . ..."The Great Russian Trek", "Princess Palatine Elizabeth", "Harvest of Sorrow", and in a later issue: "The Odessa Church Today", and Kurt Snow wrote a brief article about the songbook used by Germans in Russia: "Wolga Gesangbuch - The Volga Hymnal", Leben, 2005 Jul-Sep (v.1, i.3). This hymnal should be compared with Spiritual Christian Molokan and Jumper hymns to find any borrowed songs.

Leben has a small staff and budget. Sometime after 2010, back issues were posted on their website. See the original Oct-Dec 2009 PDF issue with errors corrected below.

From:   "Kurt Snow" <>
Date:   Mon, September 14, 2009 4:17 pm
Subject:   Use of images for a magazine article

We publish a small, non-profit magazine (1,700 subscribers) about church history called "Leben: A journal of Reformation Life". Our next issue will include an article about the
Spiritual Christians Molokans in Los Angeles during the early 1900s. We are searching for photos, paintings and other images to help illustrate our article. Would you have any photos that we might be able to use in our magazine? If so, do you have the image in a high-resolution format (300 dpi)? We would, of course, credit you in the article. Thank you for your reply. You may review our magazine at

From: administrator @
Sent: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:48 PM
"Kurt Snow" <>
Subject: Re: Use of images for a magazine article -- Spiritual Christian Molokans


1. Please let us proofread BEFORE you publish, to reduce errors.

2. Please, do not confuse
Spiritual Christian Molokans with Dukh-i-zhizniki Jumpers. This is the most common mistake of journalists.

All congregations in Los Angele now are Dukh-i-zhizniki Jumper-S&L-user, not Molokan, though they mis-label themselves Molokan, sometimes as "Holy Jumper."

3.  All Molokan congregations in the US are near you, in SF and Sheridan

I can give you names and addresses of Molokane in and near Sacramento and San Francisco.

You may prefer to limit your story to the Molokane near you who you can visit
They have a library in the basement and lots of photos
Library of Congress photos and info from 1938
Genealogy by Nancy Poppin-Umland
Radio interview
Book with photos: San Francisco's Potrero Hill, by Peter Linenthal and Abigail Johnston
Members who attended the 200th anniversary of Molokan religious freedom in Russia
The Poppin Family (5 generations with 20 photos)

4. I'd be glad to help if I knew what topics, themes, focus, story lines you are considering.

5. Most published literature in the US is about LA
Dukh-i-zhizniki Jumpers. Did you study?
You can get A stroll through Russiantown / George W. Mohoff and Jack P. Valov. 1996.
via inter-library loan from UC Berkeley   Bancroft  F869.E18 M651 1996

6.  I have no excellent early photos of LA Pryguny Jumpers. But, I do have many color photos of current buildings, the UMCA Heritage Room museum-bookstore, the UMCA picnic,  ... which have not been posted.

7.  I looked at your web site and find you wrote about the Germans from Russia Volga Hymnal. Dukh-i-zhizniki We also have songbooks with many borrowed songs (no notes) and would like a music expert to compare melodies and verses. See. MHC Volume  IV   The Origins of Spiritual Christian Molokan Singing, By Dr. Linda O'Brien-Rothe. 60 page book and 45 minute tape. Taped and musically notated examples show how
Spiritual Christian Dukh-i-zhiznik Molokans [Jumpers] borrowed melodies from old Russian village folk songs. Proofread by over 70 Dukh-i-zhizniki Jumpers

8. This should be enough to keep you busy.


The Sectarians in America: The Jumpers

Click on images to read scanned pages 9, 10, 18, and 19, from Leben, Vol. 5.4, Oct-Dec 2009.
Click to ENLARGE   Click to ENLARGE    Click to ENLARGE   Click to ENLARGE
[This erroneous article is not about "Jumpers." It appears to have been quickly written by one person and edited by another, with neither doing much fact checking. Some topics are over reported, like the neighborhood location which could be better explained with a map. Other parts are scant, like the description of the prayer service; or omitted, like diet and pacifism. An obvious blunder is showing 3 times on photo credits, instead of References for 3 editorial comments are lacking. Whether Doukhobors are actually in "Grand Junction" without showing the state (Colorado?), was not checked. It should be "Grand Forks, B.C." Since this series is about "Sectarians in America", the Russian sectarian Molokane, Pryguny, Doukhobors (Dukhoborsty) and Sabbatarians (Subbotniki) would be much better covered in separate articles, or in one article about Russian "Spiritual Christians" in America or North America, and each covered in a section. The distinction between Dukh-i-zhiznik, Prygun Jumper and Molokan sects is not clear and the terms erroneously used as synonyms. The history of Pryguny Jumpers is scant. More source material and notes should have been cited, as in Scott's: "The Pilgrims of Russian-town Seventy Years Later." More comments follow in the article below and at the end.]

American Christianity has influenced, and been influenced by, a stunning panoply of non-conformist groups, separatist enclaves and, in some cases, self-styled prophets and messiahs. In our series "The Sectarians," we will trace the origins, the beliefs and the impact which some of these groups have had on the Church today. We begin the series with a fascinating report we've recently discovered written in 1918 about a group known as the Spiritual Christian Pryguny or "Jumpers," or "Molokans," (the former name referring specifically to an 1830's sect of formed in New Russia, now Zaparozhie oblast, Ukraine, by zealous people from many different faiths who were attracted by prophesies of an apocalypse during a famine and adapted charismatic spiritualism from neighboring Jumpers (Hupfers) from Germany offshoot of the Molokans). See Zhuk, Serguei. (2004) Russia’s Lost Reformation: Peasants, Millennialism and Radical Sects in Southern Russia and Ukraine, 1830-1917.

After one-third (7,411) of all Doukhobors fled from the Caucasus in 1899, various non-Doukhobor Spiritual Christians, mostly Pryguny, moved to California mostly for economic reasons and resettlement guidance offered by Captain P.A. Demens, a Russian-born business man promoting immigration to booming Southern California. A minor number were motivated
Impelled by the utterances of a grown prophet-child, E.G. Klubnikin they left their native Russia by the thousands and headed for the "City of the Angels" — Los Angeles, California. See Dukh-i-zhizniki in America, Why did they wait so long in Russia? Why did 99% stay in Russia? 

Adapted from The Russians in Los Angeles by Lillian Sokoloff, A.B., 1918, graduate student, Department of Sociology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

[The reader should study Sokoloff's 18-page paper documenting that 94% of the sectarians from Russia in Los Angeles were Pryguny. The Leben editors omitted this fact which will mislead readers. Though Sokoloff notes these early immigrants from Russia were a mixture of historically related Spiritual Christians, she missed the Armenian Pryguny, and clustered all non-Orthodox immigrants from Russian together.]

Click to ENLARGEThe first group of Spiritual Christians Molokans, who came here in 1905 [some date this as 1904, Ed.], settled around Bethlehem Institute on Vignes Street. When others came, a few bought homes along Clarence and Utah Streets. Then the settlement grew in the district situated between Boyle Avenue on the east and the Los Angeles River on the west, and between Aliso Street on the north and Seventh Street on the south. Recently there has been a new settlement made along what is known as Salt Lake Terrace several blocks east of the larger colony. On that street are located many of the somewhat better homes. In a hollow south of Stephenson Avenue [renamed Whittier Boulevard in 1922] and east of Mott Street, there is a group of about sixty houses occupied by Russians only [called Karakala by locals].

[In the photo right showing relatives who scouted North America about 1900 for immigration sites. Vasili (William) Halopoff was the first and only Molokan known to have enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (army) in World War One. He wrote his religion as "Brotherhood" with no space to add "of Spiritual Christians." He was reported missing in action December 10, 1917. Though claiming to be pacifists, more Spiritual Christians enlisted in WWII than registered as Conscientious Objectors (but about half served as non-combatants); and Dukh-i-zhizniki who avoided the military during WWII by performing Alternate Service in CO camps, failed pay nearly half (46%) of their camp fees, defaulting on $17,000 in debt in 1944. They made no effort to reimburse the Society of Friends (Quakers) and Mennonites who operated the camps though one, Alex Shubin, often asked members to collectively pay the shameful bill.]

Sectarian Emigration from Russia.

Click to ENLARGETo understand these immigrants from Russia Russians in Los Angeles, it is necessary to consider briefly their historical backgrounds. During the reign of Alexis Michaelovitch, second ruler of the Romanoff family — 1645-1676 — Nicon [Nikon], at that time patriarch of the Russian Greek-Catholic Church, investigated and decided to change the liturgy. While the ruling house accepted these changes and formally adopted this type of worship as the stat religion, there were many dissenters who would not submit to the dictates of the government in matters of religion. The dissenters were continually persecuted or banished, and were greatly dissatisfied with the bureaucratic institutions, with the hypocrisy of the priesthood, and with the forms of their worship, the numbers who sought other types of religion that would satisfy their deep religious feelings constantly grew.

Prominent among the religious sects that developed, were the Dukhobors [Doukhobors], the Molokans, and the Subotniks [Subbotniks]. The last-mentioned are different sects in Russia Russians who have variously adapted characteristics similar to embraced the Jewish faiths. This result was not through influence exerted on the part of Jews, however, because the Jews do not have any form of mission work for the purpose of conversion to Judaism, nor were there any Jews living in that part of Russia where these religious sects developed. The Subbotniks embraced Judaism as a result of reading the Old Testament. [See a 2014 book review about the origin of Subbotniki: Origin of Sects in Old Russia Explained : Credit or blame Peter the Great.]

Click to ENLARGEThe essence of the Doukhobor religion is a belief in the divinity of Christ [this is contrary to modern sources, Ed.], and the brotherhood of man. The Dukhobors [Canadian spelling: Doukhobors] do not believe in any earthly representative of God; they have no church leaders, and no icons or images. They do not have church ceremonies nor do they believe in saints as do the Greek Catholics. They are opposed to war and therefore to military service. Their religion forbids their indulging in the use of intoxicating liquors, and in smoking.

[This photo of Molokane in San Francisco and following partial history of the Molokan faith is confusing in an article about Pryguny and Dukh-i-zhizniki in Los Angeles. These are different faiths 400 miles apart in America.]

The name "Molokan, derived from the word "moloko" which means milk, was first applied to them in 1765 by a religious sect in the Government of Tambov. This name was applied because of the fact that the Molokans drink milk every day in the week, while the Greek Catholics abstain from it on Wednesdays and Fridays, which are fast days for them.

The Molokans had no definite form of religion for many years. During the last years of the seventeenth century, two highly educated men, Skovoroda and Tveritinoff, had come under the influence of the teachings of Luther, Calvin, and other European reformers. These men then preached reform among the dissenters of the Russian Greek-Catholic Church. They thus paved the way for other reformers. For about one hundred years, the Molokans were unmolested by the governmental authorities.

Click to ENLARGEIt was not long, however, before the Russian government again began to oppress the sectarians in various ways. The heavy taxation of their land proved to be a greater burden than they could possibly bear. They were again compelled to serve in the army. Some of the more educated among them foresaw disastrous times because of inevitable wars in which Russia was to engage. They therefore began to consider the advisability of emigration from their country. It is well known that of the emigrants from Russia up to the end of the last century, the greatest number were Jews and a smaller per cent were Poles, but scarcely any Russians proper. In the last two years of the nineteenth century, many of the Spiritual Christian Dukhobors left the Caucasus region and went to Western Canada where several thousands now live. [There remains a large community in the Grand Junction [Grand Forks, British Columbia] area, Ed.]

[The prayer house (photo right) was occupied by a congregation founded by prophet E.G. Klubnikin, was the most zealous of the Dukh-i-zhiznik congregations, and today is divided into 5-7 branches. The photo was taken in the "Flat(s)", on Clarence Street, south of First Street.]

The beginning of the Russo-Japanese War [1904-1905] inaugurated a new era of persecutions for the sectarians in southeastern Russia. They were compelled to go to war and pay war tax. Though many were capable of occupying high military positions, they were prevented from so doing and were put to the most menial work. They also suffered all kinds of insults at the instigation of government officials. They were not permitted to go anywhere without passports — and passports were not granted them. It is therefore not surprising that these people became disgusted with conditions such as they experienced, and longed to leave the country.


Click to ENLARGEOf all the immigrants from Russia Russians in this city, about 75 per cent of the working men were employed in lumber yards up to the outbreak of the war. [Russian-born P.A. Demens owned one of the larges lumber yards, and invited his country men to Los Angeles.] Then the majority entered the ship-building industry. About 10 per cent own and drive their own teams, and work by the day in hauling produce and other commodities. About 2 per cent are engaged in running little grocery stores and butcher shops, which are patronized by their own people. The remainder — about 13 per cent — are employed in various ways, e. g., in the metal trades, automobile shops, planing mills, fruit canneries. The last-mentioned occupations are followed by the younger men of the community, who have had some schooling but who left school as soon as the law permitted them to do so.

It is the usual thing among the Russians for the married women to work. The young women are employed chiefly in laundries. Girls who have attended school and have learned the English language, work in the biscuit factories which are in the neighborhood. A small number of girls work in a candy factory on Utah Street. The older women work in fruit canneries or do housework by the day. Though many of the girls who have been to school for several years, could do other work and perhaps earn more money, the parents are anxious to have them work near home and among their own people. Clerking or office work might cause the girls to become "Americanized" quickly and to this the older people object.

The religion of the Molokans (1765) sprang from the same origin as that of the Dukhobors (1785) — from ikonobory, khristovoverei and their precursors. Both these sects are opposed to war. They believe in no earthly representatives of God. The Molokans have no ministers or church dignitaries of any kind. They have no rules or traditions as to who shall be their religious advisers. Their pastors are not ordained, do not receive compensation, and are not dependent upon the approval of the community. Their authority prevails only at prayer meetings, marriage ceremonies, and funeral services. It may be said that the Molokan religion has little definite form. It is systemless. Many of its phases are exceedingly crude. It is incoherent and inconsistent. Like the orthodox Jews, the Molokans abstain from eating pork and are supposed to slaughter their beef in a certain manner.

There are at present seven diaspora Dukh-i-zhiznik meeting halls churches in east Los angles County the Russian settlement , and more are dispersed in the Central Valley, central Oregon, and Australia. [See map.] These are simply very large rooms in which church services are conducted. All have kitchens for meal preparation. During holidays, some Small congregations use private homes for meetings are also used for religious services. The Dukh-i-zhizniki Priguni conduct their prayers in a unique manner only in the Russian language. Typically, after formal prayer rituals, many sing All pray aloud for some time, until one feels that the "spirit" has entered into him, when in a trance-like manner he comes to the center of the place of worship. The praying goes on in a sing-song loud tone of voice until one by one, every person feels the "spirit" within him by raising both hands and/or jumping ....

[This is a simplified description of a complex ritual which varies depending on the people involved, their fluency in the Russian language, past relations to each other, location, purpose for meeting, interaction, whether a prophesy was delivered, the song being sung, timing, and other factors. Sometimes no one raises hands or jumps, sometimes one person, other times many. Sometimes the prophesy is ignored, sometimes it is relayed to other select congregations. A few congregations require charismatic raising of hands, jumping and singing by all members or specific members.]

[Southern California Pryguny transformed to Dukh-i-zhizniki after 1928. In America, 4 Prygun congregations persisted up to 1950 in Arizona, Mexico, San Francisco, and shortly in Los Angeles among new immigrants from Iran.]

Abridged from: Studies in Sociology, SOCIOLOGICAL MONOGRAPH NO. 11. Vol. III MARCH 1918 No. 3. EDITED BY EMORY S. BOGARDUS, Department of Sociology. University of Southern California, Originally published by the University of Southern California Press. Los Angeles, California. For the complete text, please visit: ko/russiansinlosang01soko_dj vu.txt [The complete original 1918 document is online in 6 formats on the Text Archive, and on Google Books in Sociology and social research, Volumes 1-5.  See the report updated and corrected: The Russians in Los Angeles by Lillian Sokoloff, 1918.]

Click to ENLARGEWhile there are still numerous groups in the U.S. and in Canada that are direct descendants of the Molokan and Doukhabor [Doukhobor] sects, their influence may have had a minor impact well have been enormous on what is today generally referred to as Pentecostalism. [Only the Pryguny in Los Angeles interacted with charismatic Pentecostals before 1928 at the Apostolic Faith  Mission (Azusa Street Revival). After 1928 a few choirs organized by Dukh-i-zhiznik singer John Slevcove sang on Aimee McPherson's radio program at Angeles Temple; and, she visited the Armenian Apostolic Church (Pentecostal, Breed St. at 6th St.), which separated from the Armenian Prygun faith.]

Click to ENLARGEThe Spiritual Christians Molokans, especially of the "Prygun Jumper" variety, had a long history of laying claim to modern-day manifestations of the apostolic gifts, including healings, tongues, etc. When they moved to Los Angeles, California, most settled near the lumber yard that employed many of the men, a lumber yard situated in close proximity to Azusa Street. A year after the Spiritual Christians Molokans arrived, the "Azusa Street Revival", considered by many to be the birthplace of American Pentecostalism, burst forth into the American church scene. The "revival" continued with three services a day for nearly three years.

[This photo (right) is not about Pryguny and was taken in Russia. The caption should say: "...clothes donated by American Molokans and Dukh-i-zhizniki Jumpers.]

It is an established fact that some many of the Pryguny from Russia Russian Molokans became a part of the Azusa Street Revival, but it remains a mystery as to whether they were converts or, after it began a fashion, the founders.

In addition to the above text in red font:
  • How the Pentecostal movement in America was founded in Europe, and maybe Africa, and transported to America before 1900 is not mentioned.
  • The proper historical label of Dukhovnye khristiane pryguny (Spiritual Christian Jumpers) was never used in this article.
  • The photo (above) of the "world-wide Molokan Center" is outside the theme, mislabeled, and misleading. This Russian Molokan organization is called Союз духовных христиан—молокан (СДКМ, website:, Souiz dukhovnykh khristian—molokan, Union of Spiritual Christian Molokans (USCM) — "Molokan Center" in short.
  • Dukh-i-zhizniki, the subject of this article, do not support or recognize Molokane, and generally consider themselves spiritually superior to all other faiths (whom zealots label with the mark of the beast, 666).
  • The reader would probably want to know more about the "apostolic gifts" which are merely mentioned in this summary, yet this is outside of Sokoloff's 1918 paper and appears at the end, like a teaser.
  • Historic documentation of Pryguny attending the Azusa Street Revival is scant (4 count), and should be another article. There is very little documentation about the interaction because zealots attacked inter-denominational fellowship as heresy and anyone who tried to document it.
  • The conclusion that American Pryguny were "converts" to the Azusa Street Revival may apply only to a few Armenian-Jumpers, because they later adapted the label Pentecosts; and indirectly to individual Pryguny who abandoned their Russian heritage faiths and labels, and avoided the zealous and uneducated to intermarry and/or melt into America and English-speaking churches. Some changed their Russian last name. Many chose American churches with a similar Protestant theology, like Vineyard, E.V. Free, ....  More than half (estimates up to 90%) of the descendants of Spiritual Christian in America have joined or primarily attend other faith churches. Some are duo-faith — paying dues in a Dukh-i-zhiznik congregation and/or cemetery, while attending (even baptized in) an "American" faith. Faking alliance with the Dukh-i-zhizniki allows one to avoid discrimination by the most zealous while participating in family funerals, weddings, and holidays. One Vineyard church in Whittier, California, reportedly had as many as 40% of its attendance from descendants of Dukh-i-zhizniki. Conversion of sectarian descendants should be another article, about which there is very little documentation.
  • There has never been any previous suggestion or documentation that Pryguny were the "founders" of American Pentecostalism or that their "influence ... [was] enormous ... [on] ... Pentecostalism" as stated in the article, though many joined and contributed. The best example is Demos Shakarian, who descended from Armenian-Pryguny, founded the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International (FGBMFI), and published: The Happiest People on Earth. Shakarian first hosted Oral Roberts Ministries in the Los Angeles area in the 1950s. Several lesser renown Prygun descendants have become ministers or missionaries in their new-world non-pentecostal congregations (John Michael Novikoff, Dr. William John Samarin (Grace Brethren), David Joseph Shinen, Jim Klubnik, Steve Bogdanov (The Temple), etc), and some probably have taken leadership positions (deacons, board members, teachers, newsletter editors, financial supporters, and missionaries), but there is no documentation about this history, and their impact on Pentecostalism is very minor, compared to Shakarian's.
  • Any participation with or attention to "other" faiths by descendants of diaspora Pryguny or Dukh-i-zhizniki  has been attacked as heresy by the most zealous Dukh-i-zhizniki for most of the past century. Listening to a Christian radio broadcast can result in reprimand, if found out by a zealot.
  • After 1992, the revitalization and registration of the Spiritual Christian Molokan faith in the Former Soviet Union caused the diaspora Dukh-i-zhiznik cults, who falsely claim to be true "Molokans," to further hide, while they funded several refugee congregations of Dukhizhizniki now in the South Russia provinces of Stavropol' (from Kars (Qars), Turkey, since 1962) and Krasnodar (from Armenia since 1992).