Evil spirit or miners’ protector?
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Evil spirit or miners’ protector?

July 15, 2020

The myth that came from the underground workings of Donbass is familiar to the Norilsk miners.

Its main character is a mountain spirit and the patron saint of conscientious miners – Shubin. The mythological creature is called a mine brownie or the owner of underground workings, by analogy with the Mistress of the Copper Mountain in the Urals, the German Kobold, the Polish Skarbnik or the Ukrainian White Queen (White Baba).

There are many versions where this legend originates. According to one of them, Shubin was the name of a young worker at one of the first mines in Donetsk. Allegedly, during the collapse, all workers died, except him, and the man was accused of what happened. Fleeing from anger, Shubin disappeared into the mine face and blew up the mine with him. Since then, his spirit has been wandering through the workings.

Another version of the legend’s origin is the superpower of the mining master Shubin to predict accidents. It was allegedly at the end of the 19th century in Donbass. Before each shift, he was the first to descend to listen to the bowels and keep the workers safe. One day the mining master disappeared.

Also, the prototype of Shubin, according to various versions, might be a greedy mine owner, an unfortunate loving miner who lost his bride, a drunkard and a brawler, a machinist who disappeared with an electric locomotive.

The researchers call the gas burner version the most possible for the character’s name appearance. Such workers walked around the workings with a torch in their hands and burned out the gas to prevent the methane explosion. The gas burners were dressed in a sheepskin coat with fur inside (shuba). Because of the danger of the profession, the deaths of “shubins” were frequent.

Over time, in the underground workings of Donbass, and after that in some other Russian mines, a Boss appeared, who was called Shubin. It is believed that he still lives in abandoned mines, constantly bypasses his possessions, being next to each of the miners working in them.

The spirit is credited with the image of a miner, coughing like an old man, with brightly burning eyes and hairy hooves. His character is ambiguous. Sometimes, according to the miners, Shubin is generous and benevolent. Especially to honest hard workers and the poor. But there are also manifestations of anger and irritation from the underground brownie. It all depends on the situation and Shubin’s mood.

In the miners’ environment, they sometimes talk about how the owner of the mine saved workers from accidents, took them out of dark tunnels, pulled out from under the rubble. If Shubin did not like a person, he could both lead him astray and cause a breakdown.

Some miners perceive a meeting with the spirit or a signal from it (if such can be recognized) as a sign. Good or bad – as luck would have it.

Ruslan Shaihiev is a geologist with almost 20 years of experience. During his mining career, he rose from a local geologist at the Mayak mine to the deputy chief geologist at the Oktyabrsky mine. According to him, the legend about Shubin also takes place in the Norilsk mines.

Safety precautions should be always observed in the mine

“In such mystical questions, there are always skeptics and those who do not deny that this can happen”, Ruslan says. “Some of my colleagues believe in the existence of Shubin. I also believe, why not? Sometimes unexplained phenomena occur in the workings. It is a fact. To be honest, this did not happen to me. One thing I know for sure: in dangerous working conditions, in which not everything depends on the person, the belief in additional supernatural help will not hurt. And one more thing: Shubin, of course, does not pull out coupons (warning coupons can be withdrawn for violation of safety regulations at work), but safety precautions should be observed. It must always come first in the mine”.

About Shubin, one can add that the spirit of mine workings does not like two things: when people scold the mine and when they do not believe in him. Perhaps this is also a legend.

Read in the Truths and myths: about why bees were kept in northern greenhouses, whether Vysotsky visited Norilsk, what is hidden under the columns at Arena-Norilsk, how an architect’s wife could take revenge on her husband for an insult and whom Peace Street reconciled.

Text: Yulia Gubeladze, Photo: Nikolay Schipko

July 15, 2020

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