Kamchatka is a peninsula, but overland access is so difficult that it also resembles an island. The road and rail networks of Siberia are a long sea or air voyage away.

Around the year 1800, how would people in Kamchatka call contiguous, mainland Russia? 'Материк' seems to be one plausible translation, but are there other, possibly more antiquated or poetic possibilities?

  • 1
    around 1800, материк meant "deposit", "mother lode", but today that's exactly the word the population of remote Russian regions use to refer to mainland Russia.
    – Quassnoi
    Mar 6, 2019 at 13:31
  • Tangentially, the BBC Culture photo essay "Norilsk: Otherworldly photos of an Arctic city" mentions that residents "call the rest of the world 'the continent'" (континент?)
    – user8359
    Mar 23, 2019 at 4:32
  • I believe it's their take on translation of материк to English
    – Quassnoi
    Mar 23, 2019 at 8:06

2 Answers 2


Here's a modern example (not sure if it worked at the time):


Выбираться с Камчатки на большую землю этим парням действительно не в первой.

  • almost like the English mainland Mar 6, 2019 at 10:30
  • The modern term is "материк", 100%. Doubt "большая земля" was used much in the 19th century, but it's plausible.
    – AR.
    Mar 7, 2019 at 4:55
  • It's the term used outside Kamchatka. Here's a spontaneous reaction of a native inhabitant (as in the question) to the article about upcoming ferry possibilities. А когда начнется строительство этого парома? Мне надо пожилых родителей вывезти с Камчатки на большую землю. kam24.ru/news/main/20180815/62238.html
    – Alex_ander
    Mar 7, 2019 at 5:57
  • I'm afraid "Большая земля" was used much more terminologically around 1800 to denote a specific region on the Russian North: books.google.com/books?id=TtGpNjRXe5sC&q="большая земля"
    – ain92
    Mar 7, 2019 at 15:47
  • 1
    I'm from Kamchatka. I have never, EVER heard anyone say "большая земля" when referencing the mainland. Not even ironically. It sounds ridiculously pompous.
    – AR.
    Mar 7, 2019 at 21:04

Матёрая земля is an obsolete equivalent to материк, although the latter is attested already in the 18th century (but not in the 17th century, unlike the former):

Я включаю в Камчатскую Провинцию всю сию обширность страны .. до самаго сѣверовосточнаго окончания матерыя земли. Пут. Бел. 220.

На сих днях пришло в Яркут 17 перевозных судов с войском с матерой земли. МВ 1795 1734.

Превеликие островы нарицаются континентами, сирѣчь толщами земли или материками. Геогр. ген. 61.

Мы .. вошли в пролив находящийся между Азиею и Америкою, из средины котораго в хорошую погоду могли видѣть вдруг оба материка. Пут. Кука 118.

Beware that both материк and матёрая земля had other meanings back then (I'ld recommend consulting this historical dictionary).

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