Stranger Things Season 3 ends on the biggest cliff-hanger in series history, not only revealing that a key character who we thought was dead might still be alive, but also shifting the story from Hawkins, Indiana to the other side of the world (aka, Kamchatka). But what does “Kamchatka” tell us about the revelations set to come with the Stranger Things Season 4 release date? A bold new theory suggests the location could signify a huge twist, but a deeper look shows that it’s even more complicated than we thought.
Spoilers for Stranger Things Season 3 ahead.
After the credits roll on the latest season of Stranger Things, we’re transported to a facility on the Kamchatka Peninsula in far east Russia, where the Soviets are feeding humans to a Demogorgon they’ve taken captive. The biggest reveal, however, is that they have an “American” locked up in the same building. We never see this prisoner, but the obvious guess is that it’s Jim Hopper, who allegedly died in the Season 3 finale, but who most fans assume will come back for Season 4.
However, one Stranger Things fan on Reddit offered up an even wilder theory, arguing that the facility in the post-credits scene isn’t in Russia at all, it’s in the Upside Down. Did your brain just explode? Well, keep reading.
Claiming to be a “linguist by trade,” redditor u/sbatast offers an interesting take on the Stranger Things Season 3 ending:
There is a place named Kamchatka in the end credit scene. People assume that is Russia. It may be in Russia, but the name actually means “exploded place” or “stretching terrain” . This could be the name the Russians give for the upside down.
Is it possible? Could Hopper or some other “American” be held captive in a Russian facility inside the Upside Down? Well, for one thing, as commenters pointed out, the title card clearly lists the location as Kamchatka, Russia, and not Kamchatka, Upside Down.
More importantly, however, this translation seems to be entirely false. A quick Google search turns up the same definition for Kamchatka on the Russian Stack Exchange forum,
But in an effort to confirm the translation, I reached out to several actual linguists. That’s where things got really interesting.
After corresponding with two Russian language experts via email, I learned that there’s no one clear translation for the word Kamchatka. The only thing it definitely doesn’t mean is “stretching” or “exploding.”
According to Professor Susanne Fusso, Chair of Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at Wesleyan University, there’s no one clear answer to this “knotty problem.” She tells Inverse that some theories argue the name “Kamchatka” comes from the words used by indigenous peoples of the Russian Far East, adding, “I don’t see any source in Russian that talks about it meaning ‘exploded place.’”
However, the most accepted etymology comes from the Kamchatka River, which was in turn named after an explorer. Here’s a translation of the Russian Wikipedia page for Kamchatka from Professor Fusso:
“There are more than 20 versions of the origin of the toponymic name “Kamchatka.” According to B. P. Polevoi, the name of the peninsula Kamchatka originated in the name of the river Kamchatka, and the river was named in honor of Ivan Kamchatyi.” [I’ll just summarize, he was an explorer in the area and his sobriquet was “Kamchatyi,” named for the silk shirt he wore, because silk was called Kamchataia tkan’; he was a Cossack from Kolyma.]
In some circles, the debate over the origins of the name Kamchatka continue, but according to Alina Israeli, an Associate Professor World Languages and Cultures at American University with a PhD in Slavic Linguistics, one explanation may trump the rest as the “most scientific in its analysis.”
The theory argues that the region’s etymology “ boils down to meaning of a Koryak word ‘one passage”, that is the distance equal to one day’s passage,” Israeli explained, adding, “And indeed a similar word in Koryak refers to an island which is not far away, just one day’s passage.”
So what does this all mean for Stranger Things Season 4? Well, it seems pretty clear that Kamchatka wasn’t named after the Upside Down, but the mysterious nature of this region certainly seems ripe for Netflix’s sci-fi horror series. I doubt the show will spend much time exploring the etymology of the area before revealing who that secret “American” really is, but at the very least, I hope this linguistics lesson will help you enjoy the next season of Stranger Things (or at least your next game of Risk) even more.
Stranger Things Season 3 is streaming now on Netflix.