They Called Him a Radical

The Memoirs of Pete Maloff and the Making of a Doukhobor Pacifist

By Pete Maloff
With Vera Maloff

Categories: Memoir, BC History
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781773861340, 228 pages, April 2024

Bestselling author Vera Maloff shares the fascinating memoirs of her grandfather, noted Doukhobor pacifist and philosopher Pete Maloff, written during his years under house arrest for peaceful protests.


Peter “Pete” Maloff was born in Saskatchewan in 1900, the year after the first Doukhobors, including his parents, immigrated to Canada. Living through the eras of WWI and WWII in a Doukhobor community strengthened his deep-rooted belief in pacifism and, at a young age, he dedicated himself completely to the idea that there must be another way to solve conflicts. This quest, as well as Maloff’s status as an ‘outsider,’ was not always welcomed—judges and wardens considered him a radical and his influence a threat, and his outspokenness and peaceful protests resulted in house arrest and years in Canadian jails. Maloff was not deterred, and his perseverance garnered him many followers, including some who had formerly worked against him or had helped to incarcerate him.

Today, his granddaughter Vera Maloff remembers Pete as a tall, strong, charismatic man. Growing up, she worked beside him in the family’s gardens, and at the local markets where they sold produce, she recalls that he would be regularly surrounded by people wanting to hear him speak. He was a kind, caring man, and the time spent incarcerated, forced away from his family, did not seem to have dulled his spirit. He was an avid reader, who taught his family to consider all aspects and perspectives, instilling an awareness of other people and cultures and an eagerness to learn.

In They Called Him a Radical: The Memoirs of Pete Maloff and The Making of a Doukhobor Pacifist, Vera revisits her grandfather’s memoirs, written while under house arrest and covering the formative years from his birth to his late twenties, during which Pete’s resolve to live as a pacifist was cemented. Here, Pete writes of growing up in the new Canadian Doukhobor community at the turn of the century, meeting influential figures in the pacifist movement in California, his time in a cooperative freedom colony in Oregon, and his turning to writing, as he truly believed that the pen could be mightier than the sword.


"They Called Him a Radical makes available for the first time the autobiography of Peter N. Maloff (1900–1971). He was born in Canada to Doukhobor parents exiled from Russia after their community had organized a public burning of firearms, one of the most spectacular protests against conscription and the military system at the end of the nineteenth century. Introducing each chapter with insightful personal recollections and historical commentary, Vera Maloff affectionally describes how her open-minded grandfather 'Pete' came to be an 'Independent Doukhobor,' an intellectual and world citizen, who endured many hardships in his adherence to the moral truth 'Thou shalt not kill.' His conscientious approach chimes in with current efforts for an ecologically sustainable future on Earth with social justice for all, and Pete Maloff encourages us by calling for a 'bloodless subsistence'—simple living and a vegetarian diet, the renunciation of luxury, the eschewal of exploiting others, and non-violent resistance against all violence and any war along the lines of Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi."

—Dr. Dominique Miething, Department of Political and Social Sciences, Freie Universität Berlin