Home    Number 1, 2019

“Private Territory”: Burial Ground in the Field of Social Interaction

[“Chastnaia territoriia”: mesto zakhoroneniia v pole sotsial’nykh vzaimodeistvii]

DOI: https://doi.org/10.31857/S086954150004180-8

Type of publication: Research Article

Submitted: 24.04.2018

Accepted: 26.04.2018

About author(s)

Elena G. Chesnokova | https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9815-3042 | chesnokova.eg33@gmail.com | Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences (32a Leninsky prospekt, Moscow, 119991, Russia)


Povolzhie, Upper Volga region, social space, social communication, family identity, cemetery, burial ground, burial structures, funeral rites, commemoration rites


Burial grounds, which represent integral and constitutive elements in a cemetery, consist of a unified set of burial structures erected above one or several graves. They may be designated as “private” territories, having connotations of “private property” and “restricted space”. The article discusses the most common approaches to organizing individual and family burial grounds in the cemeteries of the present-day Upper Volga (Povolzhie) region, as well as the ways in which they are embedded in local social interactions. I argue that the space of burial ground may be subdivided into the “core” (the burial spot around which the constructions are arranged) and the “boundary” zones (the latter being usually delineated by a fence or marked by other symbolic means). The tombstone, as a symbolic representation of the dead, serves to endorse the function of the burial ground as a commemoration or memory place. The demarcation of burial ground’s boundaries as an area of responsibility of a particular family is instrumental in its maintenance in accordance with the sentiments and beliefs of the relatives of the dead; and it allows the relatives to conduct commemorative practices in the manner that they consider proper and correct.

Funding Information

This research was supported by the following institutions and grants:
Russian Science Foundation, https://doi.org/10.13039/501100006769 [grant no. 18-18-00082]


Chesnokova, E.G. 2019. “Chastnaia territoriia”: mesto zakhoroneniia v pole sotsial’nykh vzaimodeistvii [“Private Territory”: Burial Ground in the Field of Social Interaction]. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 1: 65-78. https://doi.org/10.31857/S086954150004180-8

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