Between Life and Death: The Borderline Urals in Thanatological Culture

Keywords: Ural identity; mortality; dark tourism; death studies; space conceptualization; frontier


The space of the Urals is analysed through the prism of thanatological studies. The paper emphasises the significance of the phenomenon of death / dying in the understanding of local identity. The authors provide a concept of the Urals as a multi-level frontier, including not only geographical, ethnocultural, and socio-economic dimensions, but also a metaphysical frontier between the world of the living and the world of the dead, the real and the surreal. A specific tradition developed in the region due to the historical peculiarities of adaptation that generations of immigrants had to go through to become accustomed to severe climatic, social, and economic conditions: the gloomy, the anxious, and even the terrible becomes commonplace in the minds of Ural inhabitants; death is regarded as something ordinary and not extraordinary, as a familiar portal for transition into non-being, not as an unfamiliar or frightening state. At the same time, a constant stay at the edge of life and death, on the border of the known and the unknown, forges a unique Ural character that helps overcome real difficulties and hardships, resist the challenges of nature and fate, and, ultimately, defeat unfavourable circumstances again and again in the quest to find light in life. Practical issues receive special attention in the paper as it considers the possibilities of developing so-called dark tourism in the Central Urals as a way of presenting a special local cultural code that includes such important elements as willingness to overcome difficulties, the sense of a frontier, and conscious coexistence with death, which is initially present nearby. Allegorically, such a cultural code may be compared to the worldview of fort guards or people living by the ocean at the far reaches of the Earth. Unusual discourses and the commodification of death are common for the Urals and reflect the potential of dark (and in general – cultural) tourism in the region. It is already a unique product, even though demand for it is still spontaneous and haphazard.

Author Biographies

Dmitry Bugrov

PhD (History), Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Social and Cultural Service and Tourism, Ural Federal University.

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-6262-1107

Ekaterina Bugrova

Teaching Assistant, Ural Federal University.

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0001-9304-1327


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How to Cite
Bugrov, D., & Bugrova, E. (2019). Between Life and Death: The Borderline Urals in Thanatological Culture. Quaestio Rossica, 7(4), 1199–1213.
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