U is for Upir/Upyr


I love mythology, history, and the undead. Hey, I’m a bit morbid. So you’re probably scratching your head, unless you happen to know your Russian folklore. Essentially the Upir/Upyr are vampires, undead, and they rise from the grave. In many ways they’re similar to other vampiric myths.


So what makes them special?

Aside from the history? Nothing much. But all around Russia different myths arose as well as other names for the undead. The same goes for their abilities, yet the only things they have in common are drinking blood, sensitivity to sunlight, and they were evil in life.


According to the Orthodox Church, a Upir arises when the person committed horrendous sins or denounced Christ. In doing so, the church banished them and forced them outside of the community. But when they died, they would rise again as Upir.


Because of this, the church would find the bodies and burn them. Otherwise, the sinner would return and torment the believers, slowly aging, and with the ability to possess the dying. The sick patient would become Upir, too, and feed off children and family.


The Upir is weakened and harmed by sunlight, but there’s a particularly interesting part of the myth. They used wooden stakes, made specifically from aspen, and they buried the Upir upside down. When one was suspected of coming back to life, they would dig up the coffin, open it, remove the body, stake the body, and then burn it.

So how old is this myth? It’s hard to say, but historians have traced the word Upir to a Novgorodain prince (Upir’ Lixyj) as early as 1047, and then it resurfaces as a peasant’s name (Makarenko Upir’) in Novgorod in 1495.

Could this Prince be the original vampire legend? Do you have a favorite vampire legend?




Return to A-Z