Duchobortzi the name of a Russian sect, not certainly known to have existed before the 18th century. The word is the plural of Duchobozetz, meaning Spirit Wrestler. It is the name of one of the many sects of the Russo Greek Church. The designation was adopted by themselves upon their separation from the sect called Molokans, or Duchowny Christiany, "Spiritual Christians." No records being kept by these people, it is impossible to ascertain the true time when the separation took place. It is, however, known that a certain Ilarion Pobirochin originated it by teaching. That God was not an essential being, but existed only in the generation of the righteous. 2. That the soul of the righteous at death passes over into another human being, and that of the wicked into an animal. 3. That there are no higher beings of any kind. 4. That to read the Bible is needless trouble, for the spirit of God will teach every one his duty. Krazinski, in his work named at the end of this article, gives the following summary of a creed delivered by the Duchobortzi to a provincial governor at the time of Catherine's persecution: "God is one, but one in the Trinity. This holy Trinity is an inscrutable being. The Father is light, the Son is life, the Holy Ghost is peace. They are manifested in man — the Father by memory, the Son by reason, the Holy Ghost by will. The human soul is the image of God; but this image is nothing but memory, reason, and will. The soul existed and had fallen before the creation of the visible world; it is this fall that is recounted in the story of Adam and Eve, which, like most other portions of the Bible, should be taken allegorically. In the beginning the soul's fall was occasioned by the circumstance that it contemplated itself and commenced to love itself alone, thereby abandoning the contemplation and the love of God through willful pride. The soul is placed in the present life as in a place of purification, in order that, clothed in the flesh and abandoned to its will and reason, it may choose between good and evil, and thus obtain pardon of its primary sin, or incur eternal torment. When a body is prepared for us in this world, our soul descends from above, comes to take possession, and the man is then called into existence. Our body is the house in which the soul is received, and in which we lose all memory and feeling off what we had been before incarnation," etc. (page 271, note).
Pobirochin considered and called himself one of the righteous, and a son of God. Of his followers he selected twenty-four of the most trustworthy and able bodied; twelve of them he called archangels, and the other twelve mortiferous angels. The duty of the latter was to dispose of such as would backslide. They refused to serve in the army, on which account they were much persecuted under the czarina Catherine II, and exiled in the days of the emperor Paul. Alexander granted them a settlement on the banks of the Moloshna, near the Sea of Azof, where they numbered about two thousand. In 1839, the real or alleged discover that a secret tribunal had existed among them caused their banishment to the other side of the Caucasus. At present this sect exists principally in the districts along the Caucasus, but in smaller numbers, and less attached to the peculiarity of the sect. They are to be found wherever there is a community of the Duchownv Christiany, or Molokans. An effort was made in 1861 by a certain Ivan Gregorieff to found the sect among the Molokans residing at Tultscha, in Bulgaria, but failed, whereupon he returned to Russia. For the usages of the sect, SEE MOLOKANS. See Lenz, de Duchobortzis (Dorpat, 1829, 8vo); Seebohm, Life of Stephen Grellet, 1:456; Krasinski, Histoire Religieuse des Peuples Slaves (Paris, 1853, 8vo).