Stone Zoya: From Orthodox Legend to City Brand

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Key words
Orthodox legend, rumor, anti-religious campaign, violation of taboos, blasphemers, monument, branding
Nikita V. Petrov
About the Author
Никита Викторович Петров
Кандидат филологических наук, заведующий Научно-исследовательской лабораторией теоретической фольклористики Российской академии народного хозяйства и государственной службы:
Российская Федерация, 119571, г. Москва, пр-т Вернадского, д. 82, стр. 1;
тел.: +7 (499) 956-99-99; e-mail:
Date of publication

The writing of this article was supported by the research program of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.


The story about a girl who was turned to stone after she blasphemed by dancing with an icon, known in Russia at least since the late 19th
century, reappeared in the text 74 of “Zoya’s Standing” of 1956 (the protagonist allegedly stood petrified for 128 days until freed by a holy man). This version proved to be the most stable textualization of the story, which was reinforced in the 1960s–1990s by a popular narrative scheme about the punishment of blasphemers for desecration of the sacred. Regional folklore narratives influenced its textual presentation and plot, as well as its popularity in the folk milieu; in addition, the sinner was given a concrete name — ​Zoya. New details were added to the plot and it entered the catalogue of St. Nicholas’ deeds. Moreover, oral versions came to be influenced by the written text, by the movies on the topic (2004 and 2009), and by popular TV programs. As a result, the miracle described in the story began to be seen as a real event. A monument to Nicholas the Wonderworker was unveiled in Samara in May 2012 and the bronze figure of the saint under a gilded dome was erected in memory of the miracle of Zoya’s Standing. In the Church of John the Warrior in Samara there is a large hagiographic icon of Nicholas the Wonderworker with scenes (kleimy), the bottom row of which is dedicated to the miracle of Zoya’s Standing in Kuibyshev. Numerous mentions in the media; repetition of the story in religious texts and in official and unofficial media discourses; and pilgrimages to Samara to the monument of St. Nicholas not only made this local legend appear to be a historical narrative, but also turned it into a kind of folklore “brand” thanks to which Samara could earn a place on Russia’s tourist map. Locals want to turn the house where the famous event allegedly took place into a museum. It is to these processes — ​how a folklore text turned into a brand used by various players — ​that this article is dedicated.


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For citation

Petrov N. V. Stone Zoya: From Orthodox Legend to City Brand. Traditional Culture. 2021. Vol. 22. No. 1. Pp. 65–75. In Russian.