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Traditional Russian Sports, Part 1
February 7, 2014 11:17

Russia is a sportive country. Within a short time the Russians mastered dozens of sports and gained international recognition by that, but at the same time forgot the native sport games played by many generations of ancestors.

Gorodki (Little Tows)
Gorodki is a traditional Russian version of golf. Had we cherished our heritage more, we would have had Russian businessmen nowadays negotiating their deals while playing Gorodki rather than golf. 
The whole point of the game is to aim and hurl a wooden bat to knock target action figures (constructed of wooden props) out of the playing ground.
A. N. Tolstoy wrote in the historical novel Prince Serebrenni that Russian boyars enjoyed playing Gorodki in the epoch of Ivan the Terrible
It is difficult to establish the exact time as to when Gorodki originated. References of this traditional Russian game can be found both in ancient legends and fairy tales, as well as in chronicles of Old Russia. Peter the First, Alexander Suvorov, Vladimir Lenin and even Joseph Stalin were recognized sports masters of Gorodki. By the way, Gorodki sport was somewhat of a cult in the USSR: there were practically now stadiums or enterprises without their own Gorodki playing field. This once popular sport is still extant, but only among dedicated enthusiasts.
Lapta (aka Russian ball game)
Lapta is the Russian version of American baseball or English cricket. Though, to be more exact, the latter two can be versions of the ancient Lapta. After all it was played in Russia even before adoption of Christianity. It is interesting to note that the Vikings, who often visited their relatives in Russia, adopted the game and tried to inculcate it in Norway. Lapta accessories, such as wooden bats and felt balls dated back to the 14th century were found by archeologists in Veliky Novgorod. No festival or holiday in Russia could do without Lapta on a par with traditional fist fights. Lapta was a favourite sport of Peter the First, as well as soldiers and officers of the Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky regiments.
The Russian writer Alexander Kuprin, who was also a fan of Lapta, wrote: “This folk sports game is one of the most interesting and healthy games. It trains resourcefulness, deep breath, attentiveness, fast run, keen eye, sure hand and eternal confidence that you will not be defeated. There is no place for cowards and idlers in this game. I heartily recommend this native Russian game …”
Lapta is played by two teams of 5 to 12 people each on a level ground about 30 to 70 m large… One team is considered to be “batsmen” and another stands for “taggers”. After a successful bat blow on the ball a player of the batsmen team runs fast to reach the field margin, i.e. “home”, and then return. Each player who managed to make this successful run, gains one score to the team. If he is “tagged” with the ball, the team of batsmen shifts to tagging, and vise versa. 
Tchizh (Siskin)
Tchizh is not so well-known as Gorodki and Lapta, however the fact does not belittle its staginess. The game reminds of Lapta.
For playing it you will need a “tchizh/siskin”, i.e. round stick 10 to 15 cm long and 2 to 3 cm over, pointed on both ends, and “lapta” – a board 60 to 80 cm long, with one end squared to make it more convenient to hold in hand. A square (“home”) up to 1 m large is drawn on a playground and put tchiz in the middle. One player is a batsman and others are catchers that stand in line at the edge of the playground. The batsman strikes tchizh to go up in the air, and with the second blow tries to beat it off far away. A catcher tries to catch it. If he is success with that, he gains one score and the right to replace the batsman, who stands in line of catchers. If the catcher fails to get the flying “siskin”, he has to throw it from its falling place into “home”, whereas the batsman beats it off with lapta. 

Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Russian Traditions Russian Sports    

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