2022, Volume 19, Issue 2

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Elena E. Ivanova
Ural Federal University
Ekaterinburg, Russia

Toponymic Legends of Ural Amateur Miners

Voprosy onomastiki, 2022, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp. 177–196 (in Russian)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2022.19.2.022

Received on 10 January 2022

Abstract: This article analyses the legends of Ural amateur miners (gorshchiks) — people who recover precious stones and gemstones as their private business. The folklore of amateur miners still remains virtually unstudied; that differentiates it from the folklore of professional miners (gorniaks). The research is based on field records of various periods, both published and unpublished. These records are part of the card index Vocabulary, Toponymy, Ethnography of the Stone kept at the Department of the Russian Language, General Linguistics and Verbal Communication (Ural Federal University). The article demonstrates that the legends spring from the real working practices of amateur miners; traditional motifs, including fantastic ones, add to these legends. The research centres on toponymic legends which are considered as a source for deriving the inner form and motivation of the place name (toponym). The author points out that applying to historical records and a comprehensive ethnolinguistic analysis help establish if the motivation of the toponym given in the legend is correct or erroneous. The research reveals that a correlation between a firmly established legendary motif and a firmly established nominative model helps correctly determine the motivation of a toponym. In addition, the amateur miners’ legends are seen as a source for studying their way of life and worldview. The article analyses the following motifs characteristic of the amateur miners’ legends: the stroke of luck and the chance discovery of gemstones, the not given treasure and the unlucky development of a mine, the prophetic dream, the violation of a taboo and punishment for greed, the miraculous richness of mines. The author highlights specific professional interpretations that well-known folklore motifs acquire in the amateur miners’ legends. Specifically, the self-burial of the Chud people is replaced by the motif of treasure burial.

Keywords: Russian language, toponymy, folklore, toponymic legend, legendary motif, the motivation of a place name, history of the Urals.


The research was carried out within the framework of the project The Regional Identity of Russia: Comparative Historical and Philological Studies, funded by the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia (topic number FEUZ-2020-0056).


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