Preparing For The End Of The World: What Is Survivalism

Survivalism refers to the culture of survivalists. This is a movement of people who are preparing for a catastrophe – a natural disaster, a nuclear explosion, or a third world war. 


Survivalists stock up on food, build shelters, and learn to make fires. They always have an alarming suitcase ready – a set of essentials. They know how to assemble a stool, cure teeth with improvised means, and make quinoa soup. And, of course, they know how to handle weapons.


The prepper culture is based on the belief that social collapse is inevitable. The state and society will not be able to protect them. People should take care of themselves or unite in small groups. 

Survivalism is not a sequential movement. It is rather a set of disparate beliefs and practices. Survivalists rely only on their strength and knowledge.

The motto of the movement is ” only the prepared will survive.” “Prepared” refers to those who have useful skills and are ready for the end of the world or any possible collapses. They oppose themselves to others who have not yet realized the danger.

In economic terms, Survivalism is based on the principles of autarky. This is the name given to the economy of closed and self-sufficient countries or communities. Supporters of survivalism survive without external help, they do not rely on officials. Some openly express distrust of the authorities.


Survivalism appeared after the Second World War – at the height of the “atomic age”. Interest in the topic of survival was spurred by the Cold War and military conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. People prepared for everything from floods to nuclear disasters. In 1974,  American writer and financier Howard Ruff published Famine and Survival in America. Three years later, another American writer (Kurt Saxon) published the first issue of the monthly bulletin The Survivor. It was there that the term “survivalist” was first used. Saxon urged Americans to leave major cities and move loved ones to safety. 

In the 1980s, survivalism became an entire industry. In recent years, media culture has popularized survivalism. Many television reality shows have been dedicated to the movement.  The Internet has rallied survivalists around the world: they have thematic sites, blogs, and forums. Content for such resources is created by both experienced survival instructors and amateurs. 

Examples in life

Adherents of Survivalism create hobby groups. For example, in the USA there is an organization Fortitude Ranch – a club of survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts. The community is run by ex-military. They created a network of autonomous ranches where you can wait out an epidemic, riots, or an economic crisis. The ranches are equipped with underground shelters, water tanks, and generators. Club members pay an annual membership fee of $1,000 per person. For this money, they are guaranteed comfort and safety. The club also organizes survival classes. Instructors teach useful skills – from shooting to farming.

Some preppers prefer to survive in comfort. Today, many companies build and sell bunkers for wealthy preppers. In such shelters, you can wait out the apocalypse without leaving your mini-bar. One of the buyers admitted in an interview with Forbes that the riots scared him more than the nuclear threat. A man bought an underground bunker in Ohio for himself, his wife, and three children. Inside there is the internet, electricity from solar panels, food, and water for the whole family for six months. Such a concrete-steel fortress cost more than a million dollars.

Examples in culture

The theme of survival often appears in the plots of movies and TV shows. There is a category of films, which is called Survival Movies. Their heroes roam the wastelands, run away from cannibals, or try to survive in a bunker with a suspicious owner. The popular survival portal The Prepared has a whole list of the best films on the topic. 

Such feature films can help survivalists. They include more small details than a tutorial video or any article. The viewer can imagine himself in the place of the hero and understand how he would act in a dangerous situation. 

Now you know the history and the notion of survivalism. Stay with us for more interesting and useful topics.

Survivior - How to survive a catastrophe