Molokan Cemetery



Photos by AL SEIB / Los Angeles Times
Women in traditional dresses wander through the Russian Molokan Cemetery after attending the funeral of an elderly church member.
Danny Kanavalov and son Josh, of Bakersfield, walk through the graves at the Russian Molokan Cemetery in the City of Commerce.
EIGHTY-FOUR-YEAR-OLD Shasha Tolmachoff lives in Glendale, Ariz., but plans that when she dies, she will be buried in the City of Commerce, in the same dusty parcel where generations of Russian Molokans including her parents and in-laws have been laid to rest.
“It’s very comforting to be with them,” said the retired homemaker as she walked gingerly around the tightly packed tombstones at the Russian Molokan Cemetery on Slauson Avenue after attending the funeral of an elderly church member.
Tolmachoff is a member of a little-known Christian sect that broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1600s. About 60% of America’s church-going Molokans–about 3,000 people–live in Los Angeles. [Descendants of Molokans in LA County number over 20,000]. Molokan Since 1941, most of them have been burying their ancestors at the Slauson cemetery, sandwiched between a paper factory and a warehouse.
The 14-acre graveyard has about 2,500 graves and space for thousands more, free to dues-paying church members. Two smaller Molokan cemeteries in East Los Angeles are too small or too full to absorb many more graves.
In recent years, as commercial development has surrounded the Slauson cemetery and vacant land in Commerce has become scarce, banks and real estate firms have clamored to buy and develop the cemetery or its vacant 10 acres for nearly a half-million dollars an acre.
But the six Molokan churches that own the property have rejected all offers outright.
“If our people have put our blood, sweat and tears into this land, why move?” said Alex Goosseff”

Yesterday I posted a description of the Molokan religion.  I was raised in this community. My grandparents and other relatives are buried at this cemetery. In high school I chose to leave this religion because of some of their beliefs. The outfits you see on these ladies are what is worn by married women to church services, weddings, and funerals. Molokans wear pastels or white garments for their gatherings. No black or bright colors.

About Ellen am a wife, mother, baba (grandmother) and a loyal friend. Jesus is my King and my hope is in my future with Him.

75 thoughts on “Molokan Cemetery

  1. Wow…So I decide to surf the web…and look what I find…a picture of my Pop and little brother walking through the cemetary. Interesting. I still have the newspaper clipping.

    Sarah Kanavalov

    Hi Sarah, welcome…

  2. Are there any Molokan congregations on the East Coast? I’m in Maryland. My mother’s Ukrainian. I don’t know if there were many Molokans in Ukraine but I do agree with most Molokan teachings. I’m a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and we share many similar beliefs.

    Hi Kye,
    I do not know if there are any churches on the East Coast. I’ve heard of Quakers but I’m unfamiliar with their beliefs. What similar beliefs do you share?

  3. Hi,

    Some similar beliefs include no paid clergy, no water baptism, no statues or holy days and also the peace testimony- a rejection of war. Unlike Molokans, however, Quakers do not have any particular dietary restrictions and don’t follow a kosher diet. The only dietary restrictions I can think of are that Quakers don’t believe in consuming alcohol. And of course, Quakers don’t believe in doing drugs, smoking or gambling. I know of at least one Quaker of Russian heritage who also attends Molokan services when he visits Russia.

    Hi Kye, Thanks for some clarification. Who do you believe Jesus is?

  4. Hi,

    Jesus is not just a historical figure but he is the only-begotten Son of God. He died as a sacrifice for our sins. He’s our savior, our teacher, our priest, our prophet and we pray to the Father in His name. John 1:1 also identifies Him as the “Word of God.”

    Kye, It seems like some of the externals of your faith are similar to Molokans. The Molokans in my experience put importance on the external and do not in my experience give Jesus the Supremacy. From what you say about Jesus you have a sound Biblical understanding of the person and work of Christ which is not true of the Molokan religion in my experience. Molokans bear many external similarities to the Jewish faith, in following externals, and observing passover, then they are similar to the Mormons in that they (the Preguny Molokans) follow a prophet Maxim and his revelation. These characteristics of their faith do not seem to fit in with Quackers….

  5. Hi,

    I am from Molokan’s family. My Grand mother’s family (Shubins, Morozovs and Karyakins) emigrated from Kars to Stavropol and later to Tbilisi, Georgia. But her older sister Maria Vedenoff (passed away in the middle of 70-th) immigrated with her husband and three children to California. Also I know that My Grand mother’s cousin with his family also moved to California. Their family name was Shubin. I really would like to find some relatives, though I know that probably most of them already dead, or very old… May be some their children, grand-children remember something about the family roots? And may be somebody knows if there is Molokan’s comunity in Canada?

    Thank you,
    Iren (from Montreal, QC)

    • I would like to chat with you via email. I am researching Vedenoff, Vidinoff and other names.
      Thank you.

      • I have some info and family tree from the early 1800’s (Emilian Shubin) that someone sent to me a few years ago from the internet. I am a Shubin (father’s dad was Jimmie) who’s father was Issac Shubin and was married to a Valoff (Mary). They fled in the 1920’s from Russian when they lifted the ban on Molokans being exempt from the war etc. A cousin of my great grandfather (Issac) was a lawyer in Russia and fixed their papers.
        Let me know if you would like me to email the tree, it has been useful to many distant relatives active in the Molokan sector in San Francisco.

      • Hi Cathy, I am the granddaughter of William Vidinoff. Raised in Temple City, CA by grandparents William and Jennie Kornoff-Vidinoff. Could we possibly be related? I went to the Percy Street Russian Church when I was growing up.
        Rose Ann (MMN Vidinoff) Tolmachoff-Bogdanov

    • Mark Shubin here, Kobzieff and Samadoroff are all in my family. Andrew and Anastasia (Kobzieff) Shubin my grand parents. Bizieff for cousins. My Grand Mother was also born in Tbilisi and was Ortodox, Samadouroff was a coach driver (my great grand father) for Czar I heard. My Family never talked much, but was always told to be proud of Russian blood. Kerman Ca. Russians.

    • Do you know where in California, San Francisco?
      In my earlier years I worked as a Sheet Metal Apprentice in San Francisco and one of the shop guys I worked with was named Fred Shubin.

      Richard W. Loscutoff

  6. Iren – do you know if this Karyakin family you mentioned emigrated to the Los Angeles area? I am trying to track down members of my family but there are several spellings to it is confusing I do know Shubins that move dto Woodburn, Oregon (NW USA) after leaving the molokan faith.

  7. My mother’s Molokan father was Mikhail Dimitri Kisilow (later spelled Kasloff and Kosloff) from Kars, and wife Uliana (later called Julia and Louise) Konovalov from Kars. Taking their baby son, they emigrated from Novo Petrovka with his parents in 1911 when her brother Gregory, a Cossack, told them they needed to leave because of the Bolshevik invasion. They went to Ellis Island on the ship Pennsylvania, then to Los Angeles in 1912. Around 1914 they left for San Francisco where they lived on De Haro St. on Potrero Hill three doors from the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House. Looking for information on anyone who might have known them or their children.

    • My great-grandfather was a Shubin and I am trying to do family history right now on my Shubin family line. My great-grandfather’s name was Jack P. Shubin. He immigrated from Russia with his grandparents, Fillip Mihalovich Shubin Mikal and Alice Evyonne Tikinoff, and his mother, Esveria Levontevna Sarokin, and their many family members in 1905 – as best as I can tell. I was told that his father, Petro Filipovich Shubin, came over to the U.S. first and helped to set up the church in Los Angeles. I am not of the Molokan faith. Honestly, we don’t know much at all about his family because after my grandmother and her brother were born, he and my great-grandmother split up. She was always very quiet about what happened and no one ever talked about him. My great-grandmother and the two children she had with Jack Shubin have passed away, and my heart just wants to know their stories. And I want to know my Russian Molokan relations. I want to know about their faith practices. My family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (people call us Mormons) so I actually understand fleeing from religious persecution, and other aspects of what I have read of the Molokan faith. But I can’t find much about it, to be honest. I am looking for anyone who might know my relations, who could help me know what sect they were from in Russia, what sect they followed in California. Numerous hosts of my relations are buried in this cemetery in Commerce. My great-grandfather had TEN siblings. Draft records show some descendents use the phrase “Jumper” to describe their religious convictions. Any clarification on the religious beliefs and convictions or who these relations are would be great from someone out there. I’d like to know my people, who I came from, even if they are just one family line! I’m anxious to know their story. Thanks for any help or points in the right direction.

      • Hi Erika ! — I’m Leah Shubin — from what I can tell, if my lines are correct on my — your great grandfather Jack Shubin, was my grandfather’s brother (Leon Peter Shubin Sr. d. 2015, married to Christine John Uraine Shubin (d. 1981)). My dad was Leon Peter Shubin Jr. (d. 2019). Many of our cousins still practice the Molokan faith and may be willing to assist in your quest for understanding — so they’d be my first cousins, your second cousins I think, they are Nazaroffs — they are my dad’s sister’s children of Manya Shubin Nazaroff (d. 2021) and William Nazaroff (d. 2015).

  8. Hello Molokans, and all in God! I am fom Azerbaijan, NovoSaratovka. Candy, in Molokan village where I was born, there is a surename Conovaloff (Konovalov). A few time ago died last representative of Conovaloff’s generation. Maybe she was your blood relative?

  9. I’m Rose and my husband is Jim Richard Halopoff, son of Mary Unkin and Nick Halopoff. My in-laws gave birth to 12 children in Los Angeles, CA. They also came from Kars as children in the early 1900s. For a long while, there were 10 surviving Halopoff children but now there are nine. Quite a few are age 80 and over. Some of you might know John Halopoff of Little John’s Body & Fender in Downey and Paul Halopoff, former owner of Rattan Furniture in the 1960s, etc.

    Jim and I celebrated our 50th Wedding Anniversary last Novemeber 2008. We also attended a lot of weddings and funerals at Big Church (Lorena) but the place was sold. The new location is near First Ave. & Whittier Blvd. in Whittier, CA. The church building on Lorena was moved there from the Flats area in Los Angeles to make way for the Hollywood Freeway many years ago. That building has a lot of history and Mary Unkin’s father was one of the first leaders at the original location. I understand that the people who bought Big Church will treat it as a historical landmark. This, is well-deserved.

    As for all of the immediate Halopoffs, we hold a family gathering every year.
    Our last family reunion was at Canyon Lake, CA, on May 16, 2009. I am now working on the Halopoff annual newsletter in preparation for our next family conclave in May 2010 somewhere in Southern California.

    • my grandfather was william halopoff but he passed in 1962 my gr grandfather was alex and he had a son nick – they lived near the lorena church i think. gr grand parents on my mother’s side were william (vasia) & dena gregoroff- fathers side was uraine/batchkoff/and had some cousins that were shubins i think- hard to remember cuz seems like everyone always kissed us like we were all family lol

      • Karen, Was your father Michael John Batchkoff? Born 11/21/29? If so, we are half sisters. Please contact me. My name is Mary and I would really like to talk to you.

      • I think that may be my uncle. Was the cast on his foot? I have a picture somewhere showing him in his uniform on crutches.


  11. My great grand parents came from KARS, Russia to the US in 1907. I’m writing a historical novel about my ancestors. Do you know any Molokan sayings that were used in Russia, or Molokan sayings that are currently being used?

    • Hi Debbie………it’s your cousin Nancy Poppin Umland. I co-authored my father’s autobiography for the Poppin family and Seminoff’s I uploaded it to the Poppin family tree on Ancestry. It’s on George John Poppin’s part of the tree. I think cousin Faye bought one…..not sure.

      I’m at

  12. Hi, Debbie:

    I’m anxious to read your book. Will you be putting an Ad in the Russian Molokan Directory? My in-laws also came from Kars as very young children. I will check around and see if I find any sayings that were used in Russia among the Molokans or in the Los Angeles area. Molokans have always been very productive since they arrived in Canada, the United States and Mexico. However, I understand there are very few Molokan families left in Guadalupe. Kars has certainly had a lot of historical changes among its peoples. As you know, the entire country of Russia has had a lot of suffering in the past. with wars, hunger, invasions, etc., with peasants taking the brunt of it.

    • this is to rose halopoff. Are you Nellie Vidinoff’s mom? She was one of my favorite aunts. I am the daughter of her husband’s brother Pete.
      Cathy Vidinoff

  13. Howdy, Cathy:

    No, Nellie’s mom was my mother-in-law. Nellie was my sister-in-law. My husband Jim Halopoff is her brother. You remember the Halopoffs – there were 12 of them. My mother-in-law Mary was a strong woman.
    I know that John Vidinoff had a brother named Pete. Do you have brothers and sisters?

    Our niece Vera Vidinoff graduated from Whittier Teachers College some time ago and she has been retired several years now. She travels a lot to other countries. Otherwise, she and her husband live in Ojai. Her beautiful grownup children Lisa and Peter Dalmatoff both have one child each. They’re also in Ojai. They would be your cousins. Where do you live? Maybe you and hubby can join us on a trip to Ojai to visit Vedda.
    Our headquarters is in Hacienda Heights, a couple of miles from Russian Molokan school. I go to their store there to buy things once in awhile. They have books, kasinkas, Russian spoons and bowls, and other goodies. I have even bought used Russian shirts for male relatives there. When one makes a purchase there, it helps the school.

    Have you ever attended the Czarina’s Tea & Luncheon? It is put on by the Heritage Club every two years. The money raised provides college scholarships. It is usually held in Orange County. It is wonderful to attend as you get to see people you haven’t seen in years, their children and grandchildren. You must be about Vedda’s age as we are a few years older (I won’t elaborate). Age is just a number.

    Thanks for writing, Cathy, and keep in touch. Drop by to see the website I am constructing Let me know what you think. I still have a lot to learn, like putting up photos, etc.

  14. Hello I am a teenage girl who just found out I was adopted very recently. My mother will not give me my mother’s birth name but she did tell me about her religion and I’m very curious to find out more about Molokai. I live in the OC I want to get more involved I have done some reading on Molokai and have a lot of questions? if someone can answer them I would be truly thankful?

  15. I, too, am the descendant of a Molokan family who immigrated from Kars. My grandfather, Alex Zahar Kotoff came to the US in 1907 with his brothers. Eventually, his sisters (except 1) and his parents also came to CA – his father, Zahar Kotoff returned to Russia at some point.

    The only family member I know who is buried in the Slauson cemetery is my great-aunt Mary. I believe her married name at the time (1974) was Esakoff (spouse: William Luke Esakoff). Prior to that, she was married to John Demencoff.

    I know so little about my great-aunt. If anyone is related to either the Esakoff or Demencoff family, I would love to hear from them!

  16. The top picture of the woman, walkinh through graveyard, almost looks like Cousin Elain Klistoff and her daughter Lori.

  17. Hello everyone. today I found out so much information about my heritage. I am 25% Irish and 25% Russian. My grandmothers (rest in peace)birthname is Melosardoff. Her father immigrated over here from Russia before she was born and he was a Dalmatov, although due to the numerous amount of Dalmatovs in the US at the time he changed his, his wifes, and his future 3 girls (Katherine, Faye, Susan) to Melosardoff after moving to the plains of Los Angeles, CA and building a house that Auntie Faye lived in up until a few years ago. I want to find my ancestors and more information about them. any help would be greatly appreciated. My Great Auntie Faye is the ONLY original Melosardoff left

    • Hi……..I think I may be able to help you. Based on the names you identified, Katherine, Faye and Susan’s father is Jack Paul Melosardoff (1880-1963). He was first married Anna Kudashin (abt 1887-between 1912-1916); they had seven known children: Paul, Moses, Mary, Julia, William, Alex, and Anne. His second wife is Mary Mechikoff (abt 1884 – ?). They had six known children: Jack, Mary, Faye, Sally, Katherine and Suzanne.
      Jack is the only known child of Paul Melosardoff and Hazel Slivkoff (abt 1840-1923).

      Is this the family you seek?

      Nancy Poppin Umland

      • Diane Bogdanoff Murphy no i was looking to see where i could hear the songs they sing at the funerals so my grandchildern could hear them to know everything they can about the Molokans they really would like to hear them thank you

    • I do not know how much you found out since this post but we share a Grandmother (Mary Melosardoff). I just came across this post when I was looking for the address to the cemetery were my Grandparents are buried at. At this time the only child left is my mother Susane melosardoff. If you would like to contact me, please E-mail me.

  18. Hi Rose and Cathy,

    My names is Stella Vidinoff Volkov Owens, My father Alex Vidinoff was brother to Pete and John. Vedda is my cousin, pls tell Vedda hi from me, we rung around in our pre teens, like families did. Its great to read about all the families. It seems like we do lose touch.

  19. Diane Bogdanoff Murphy I couldn’t hardly believe my eyes when i foum nd this on you tube and i have been listening to songs from Big Church that is where i went when i was a little girl and both my parents John and Mary Bodanoff are laid to peace there i sure do miss them so much and i was wandering if anyone know where i can go on the internet to listen to song they sing at the funerals if so my email is I want my grandkids to hear these songs they are so interested in the Molokan way thank you

  20. My great great grandparents settled in Downey, and had a farm on center street, then they moved to 159 N Gless, Los Angeles. They were Halopoffs…Mihail and Mary, and they had about 8 kids, I think. Any idea if they were related? I know a lot of Molakans lived in the area, but I’m not sure how common the name Halopoff was in the area.

    Thanks! Megan

  21. I’m a Sakrekoff from Freeway Church…lots of relatives out there, but we’re spread from Oregon, California and beyond…I married out and live in Delaware now, but do enjoy seeing the Amish near by…not the same, but still…my aunts/uncles/cousins are Vernonin, Valov, Liege on my dad’s side, Klubniken and Poppin on my mom’s side…

    • My name is Susan Valov Gillette. My dad was Fred F. Valov Jr., My grandfather Was Fred Agapich (?) Valov, married to my grandmother who was Manya Chernabyoff (?) or Chernabyov. I spent my early years attending doings at the Molokan church in Shafter, Ca, near were I grew up. My dad would be 84 or 85, he died in 1964 in a farming accident. Because my father ‘married out’, I was not able to be a part of the molokan church. I remember loving the music and the food. I have such fond memories of my russian molokan grandparents and have several aunts and uncles that are still in the Molokan church.

  22. Hi

    I recognize many of these names. I have met Andy, I’m a Slavinski/Moiseve/Konnoff being from a Molokan family, but my mother was Pravoslavie, so i was raised in that faith.

    I have been to big chruch many times, and i am related to just about everyone.


  23. HI! My gran Ivan Potapoff and his daughter Steffany came frm molokan family in Rostof region ,earlier frm Kars, in 60th emigrated first in Santa Rosa and then to Losangeles . Are there any of Potapoff still there?

  24. I’m russian and my madien name is Konovalov, my parents were Vassili and Nadia Konovalov,they both passed away,we came over to the U S in 1949 and lived in San Francisco. awhile,then moved to Oregon I was brought up as a molokan,then married out.My husband passed away in 1988. I want to start going to the molokan church,but I don”t think that they would except me. What could I do?.

  25. I grew up in Hacienda Heights Ca. and Downey. My grandfather & grandmother attended Big Church in LA. William & Clara ( Esakoff) Kilstoff . My mother married my dad David Orloff in LA 1953. My name is Hope Orloff Cornejo I lived in Bakersfield for 30 years and just last year moved to Pismo Beach Ca. I am doing a speech on my ancestry and came across this site. I am really glad I did. I miss church food, it was the bomb !

  26. Pingback: Tuesdays With Moisi ~ Molokans | The Happy Wonderer ~ ellen b.

  27. Hi Nancy. You seem to know a lot about the Molokans. I am looking for a contact person for the Russian cemetery in Colma,CA. I thought we might have a paid-for plot there but don’t know who to ask. Our family immigrated from Iran to SF in 1949 and were members of the SF Molokan church for several decades. However, the last time I was in SF was about 30 years ago. I was considering taking a trip some Sunday morning from Fresno, CA to visit the church and ask somebody but I don’t know if it still exists. Can you or any of the readers shed some light on my inquiries? Thanks much. Ludmeila Axionoff.

  28. Does anyone know how to find a gravesite at the old cemetery in Los Angeles? Most of the graves had wooden markers that were destroyed in a fire many years ago. My grandfather Ed Veronin’s marker was destroyed in the fire and we would like to know if someone would know where he’s buried 🙏

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