Spirit-Wrestlers on Ahimsa, Nonviolence

Koozma Tarisoff  is one of the co-founders and co-producers of the Ottawa Peace Festival. The 2017 event was the 11th annual festival, and took place over 18 days at 15 locations around the capital.  Twenty-seven of the 29 were free or by donation. Here at PeaceQuest, we are huge fans of Koozma’s work and you will see our favourite articles mirrored on our page.

Koozma explores issues of peace and Doukhobor history and culture in ten books and his long running Spirit Wrestlers Blog.

Below is an article by Koozma published in the periodical Ahimsa Nonviolence (India), vol. XIII, No. 2, May-August 2017. Ahimsa is one of the “cardinal virtues”, an important tenet of Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. You can download a PDF of the issue here.

84 Ahimsa Nonviolence, Vol.XIII, No.2, May-August, 2017 

What I have learned from peace activism in the world 

Koozma J. Tarasoff * 

For over 60 years I have worked to promote a 
world without wars, and I am still trying. Among 
the groups that I have supported are the following: 
Society of Friends (Quakers), Canadian Friends 
Service Committee, Mennonite Central Committee, 
War Resisters International, War Resisters League, 
Project Plowshares, Voice of Women for Peace, 
Women’s International League for Peace and 
Freedom, Center for Global Nonkilling, Canadian 
Initiative for Department of Peace, World Federalist 
Movement, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 
Coalition to Oppose Arms Trade, Physicians for 
Global Survival, United Nations Association of 
Canada, Canadian Peace Alliance, Gandhi 
Information Centre, Fellowship of Reconciliation, 
Peace Train Foundation, Operation Dismantle, 
Canada - USSR Association, Canadian Peace Research 
Institute, Peace Quest, Center for Citizen Initiative, 
Transcend International (and Transcend Media 
Service), and World Beyond War. 

My ancestors, the Russian Spirit Wrestlers / 
Doukhobors (Tolstoyans in spirit) burnt their guns 
in 1895 and I was brought up to believe that it is 
wrong to kill another human being. The yearly 
anniversaries in June remind me how forward looking 
my ancestors were in making their stand for a world 
without war. Perhaps they were ahead of their time 
as Lev N. Tolstoy wrote in the late 1800s? 

Since the early 1950s, countless stories, 
petitions, marches, visits, and talks have shown me 
the potential of what one person in cooperation with 
others can do. Here is what I learned from being a 
small but urgent voice for peace: 

It is no longer a ‘we’ ‘they’ issue today in the 
nuclear age. The Hiroshima ‘baby’ atom bomb 
destroyed the city and cost the lives of hundreds of 
thousands. The new A-bombs are now over 1,000 
times more destructive. The most urgent issue for the 
peace movement today is PREVENTION. The 
‘bunker mentality’ that we can win a nuclear war is a 
very dangerous illusion because the destruction of 
civilization is at stake. So let’s prevent war using all 
of the skills that we can to invent peace. 

Hatted and fear of the unknown have no future. 
Love is the way. This is the fundamental wisdom of 
the ages. There is a saying that if you love, you are 
God. So let’s get more loving in this world and give 
peace a chance. 

Getting to know the stranger is the first step in 
any communications. A friendly gesture ought to be 
our eternal beacon throughout life. The handshake, a 
respectful comment, various bridge-building 
initiatives, travel abroad, home visits, and an accurate 
story of the ‘other’ goes a long ways to create a culture 
of peace. Let’s cease demonizing people and instead 
look for ways to visualize a positive outcome for all. 

Distinguishing ‘fake news’ from ‘real news’ is a 
challenge in today’s world when much of the 
mainstream media is owned by corporate interests 
which often fund the military and influence news 
coverage. We need to search for the truth above the 
din of propaganda and be open to learning from 
wisdom people such as Lev N. Tolstoy, Mahatma 
Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Albert Einstein. 
Reading, observing, listening, speaking out, 
visualizing, and writing are some of our learning tools. 

Remember that war and militarism sucks out much 
of our human services — so we need to actively 
question our foreign policy. 

The thesis of ’nonkilling’ is a useful strategy 
for peace. Developed by Dr. Glenn D. Paige, 
nonkilling shares the same family as nonviolence, but 
it is measurable and leads to a killing-free world. We 
don’t need to kill people to get their resources, but 
we can respect others and share what we have. 
Negotiate a shared ‘win win’ reality. 

Are we not people of one human race, with a 
common interest in surviving on Planet Earth? I think 
so. Consider the following connections that need to 
be addressed in the survival equation: (1) poverty 
and profit; (2) the relationship of nuclear war and 
foreign intervention; (3) equality and racism’ (4) 
environmental pollution and corporate profit; (5) 
violence and television; and (6) the perceived cold 
war mental set of the ‘Russian threat’. 

The Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky once 
said that ‘beauty will save the world’. Perhaps he was 
right. Beauty within our hearts radiates powerful 
healing waves of behaviour. We do not need to 
murder people and destroy property for the sake of 
power. We can learn to respect people as beautiful 
members of our human family. Let us visualize 
friendship as a desired human endeavour. 

We need to be humble in working to change 
the world. Firstly, we need to do our homework and 
learn the truth about our world. Secondly, we need 
to have the right intent saying ‘Peace is the way of 
the future.’ Regime change and sanctioned murder, 
should not be part of our vocabulary. Could you 
imagine what the world would look like if we did 
not ruin our civilization with wars and regime 

The bedrock values of nonkilling peace, 
friendship, cooperation, reconciliation and human 
development ought to instilled early beginning in 
public schools. These are the seeds of the future. 
Children need to learn to cooperate instead of being 
primarily competitive so as to become truly curious 

and responsible in being peacemakers rather than 
military warriors. 

To ease the transition from war economy to a 
peace economy, our governments ought to 
immediately build structures for peace, such as 
creating well-funded Departments of Peace in our 

With the challenges of peace, climate change, 
terrorism, inequality, population growth, and resource 
allocation, we need to become partners in 
development. This means working together to build 
a better society for all. 

New laws are urgently needed. For example, 
we need to focus on making war a crime against 
humanity. For me, nothing less makes sense for the 
survival of the human race. I’m surprised that today 
many people are still dependent on the gun and the 
bomb for their security. A shift in thinking is urgently 
needed. Saving humanity from the scourge of war is 
a better option and the primary goal of the United 

Patience is a good quality for peace workers. A 
small step for peace is a large step for humanity. After 
over 60 years of active peace making, I am still hoping 
to experience a world without wars. In the 1950s I 
edited and published The Inquirer with a search for a 
peaceful world. Today, 2017, I use my voice (and 
record visuals with my camera) in speaking out for 
nonkilling peace on my Spirit Wrestlers website and 
blog. I have hope for humanity. 

* email: kjtarasoff@gmail.com 

Reading List 

Paige, Glenn D. Nonkilling Global Political 
Science. 2002. 

Tarasoff, Koozma J. Spirit Wrestlers: 
Doukhobor Pioneers’ Strategies for Living. 2002. 

Tarasoff, Koozma J. Discovering Soviet-West 
Cooperation. A Handbook on Soviet-West 

Bridge-Building Initiatives. 1991. 

Tarasoff, Koozma J. Spirit Wrestlers website 
and blog.