- STALKER redirects here. For the game series, see S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
Stalker is the Ukrainian government's official term for any person illegally residing in the Zone of Alienation.
In the Zone
In the Zone's culture, being a stalker is more of a career than a title as traders like Sidorovich and Barkeep are not considered stalkers by other zone dwellers, even though they are illegally residing inside the zone. Bandits are borderline cases as they are not called "stalkers" by other stalkers, though the authorities label them as such, and they use the word for themselves. The stalker's primary act of "stalking" or "looting", as the military characterizes it, is the smuggling of radioactive and unidentified objects from the zone that is highly dangerous for human health and life.  And stalkers seem to have adopted this concept, since exploiting and robbing others do not fall within their usual agendas.
Officially, stalkers are trespassing in a restricted ecological disaster zone and will be shot on sight by the military due to armed encounters in the past. Unofficially, they are the most reliable workhorses for any individual who wants something retrieved in the Zone as they are the most experienced people who can be enlisted. Indeed, without stalkers, curiosities like artifacts would be a rarity outside the Zone and the experiments of the Ecologists would be stalled for a considerable amount of time as the military is hardly able to assist them because of their slipping control, low morale, and lack of sufficient manpower.
Stalkers come to the Zone for a number of reasons. Some go for profit, some for adventure, some seek to get away from the world, to escape the law or personal problems. It follows that former criminals can be found in all of the stalker factions except Duty, though most criminals not part of a bandit clan have long since started new lives.
The first time the government came to be aware of the presence of stalkers after the second incident was in August 17, 2010, when a stalker camp was found by government explorers.
The so-called "stalker phenomenon" started around 2011 after news spread that survival in the Zone of Alienation was possible. People began entering the Zone, illegally, in droves. Originally, they were mostly ignored by the government, but as time passed, and word reached the world of items like artifacts, the authorities were prompted to take action. Even with the military blockades, the population of stalkers continued to grow until the present day. This can be credited in part to the fact that the soldiers at the blockades were themselves corrupt, keen on bribes and prone to stalking.
Note that "stalker" is not the same thing as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. While the former is a common term for a Zone inhabitant, the latter is an abbreviation with uncertain meaning. Supposedly, it stands for "Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers, Robbers", but the truth of this is contested somewhat by the fact that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. written with periods between the letters is only ever seen as "the mark", the tattoo put on brainwashed agents of the C-Consciousness. In the intro cutscene to Shadow of Chernobyl, both Sidorovich and the unknown rescuer seem excited about finding a live person with "the mark" on his skin.
While there is no official meaning or word for every letter in the apparent acronym, if you take every letter from the word and convert it to its numerical value in the alphabet, then sum the results up it yields the result "86". The Chernobyl nuclear power plant catastrophe (in real life) occurred in 1986.
List of Stalker factions
In all STALKER games, all regular stalker NPC's are given random names every new game, pieced together from two long lists of names (first names and surnames) in the game files. Most of the time it involves names of Russian and former Soviet Union descent such as Tima or Misha, though a lot of the names were taken from staff members who worked on STALKER games. GSC, however, also made some rather bizarre choices for names such as Boar, Microbe, Smartass, and Liveshits, and even more outlandish ones that seem most uncommon for names, such as SWAT officer, Sawn-off Gun, AA Gun, Big Fellow, and Polar explorer.
Curiously, all stalkers speak only in Russian despite the fact that they're located in Ukraine, where the official language is Ukrainian. This isn't completely out of place, however, since Russian is still a popular language used in Ukraine.
Stalkers are commonly heard speaking Russian in conversation with other stalkers, such as around a campfire or telling stories while in safe areas, and while in battle when cursing their enemies, shouting battle cries, getting hit or crying for help. In the English translations of the games, NPC's will almost always speak English when communicating directly with the player.
An interesting fact about language in the games is that the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. acronym is in English, not in Russian. The Russian word for Stalker is Сталкер, and the corresponding words:
Scavengers - Выносители
Trespassers - Нарушители
Adventurers - Искатели приключений
Loners - Одиночки
Killers - Убийцы
Explorers - Исследователи
Robbers - Разбойники / Грабители
do not match the Russian acronym. Why the developers of the Ukrainian software company GSC would use an English acronym made from English words for the plot of one of their games is still unknown.
However, the film "Stalker", a film based on the same source material as S.T.A.L.K.E.R, Roadside Picnic, says that the term was used by both Arkady and Boris Strugatsky as a "Stalky" from Rudyard Kipling's "Stalky and Co.".
- Military Cordon announcements during Shadow of Chernobyl
- THQ's Official STALKER Shadow of Chernobyl website, THQ, retrieved on 18/07/2010
- Strugatsky, B. (2012) Afterword. In Chicago View Press (Eds.), Roadside Picnic (Page 197)