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Russian baths: ethno spa
January 7, 2010 01:37

Bath-house on the bank of Onega Lake

Tour operators, providing adventure, ecological, ethnographical tours, especially the winter ones, include the Russian baths into their services. The Russian traditional baths have a long history and combine washing with spa procedures like massage, conditioning and aromatherapy. When properly used, Russian baths can prevent some diseases and otherwise, it can do ill if used not properly. Consulting a doctor is anyway appropriate, because there are some contraindications.

Every nation has its own traditions of baths. What about Russia, the baths are mentioned already in the earliest ones. The so-called Primary Chronicle includes a text of 10th century, in which St Andrew the Apostle visiting the place of the future Kiev (the capital of the medieval Old Russian State, now the capital of Ukraine) during his visit to the Greek colonies on the Black Sea. He shows surprise towards the customs of the Slavs, especially the baths: “I saw the land of the Slavs, and while I was among them, I noticed their wooden bath-houses. They heat them to extreme heat, then undress, take faggots and lash their bodies almost to death. Then they pour cold water over themselves, and thus are revived. They do like this not for the torture but for washing”. The Slavs were using bath besoms, and it has with beating to death nothing to do, although could seem frightfully for the Roman, used to another type of baths (if we suppose this legend shares some similarities with reality, e.g. the foreigners’ impression).

The baths were used by the Russians regularly for washing and like ritual before something important: before the battle or marriage and like a treatment procedure.

How it works

The hot moist steam is a basis of the Russian bath and Finnish sauna as well. It cleanses skin gently, opening pores, while you are sweating and disinfects nasal cavity and throat while you breathing. The contrast of temperatures, caused by cold douche after steaming room makes the speed of blood circulation vary, so trains the vessels and hurt. Traditionally the baths were built on the bank of the river or lake, and the people swam there after the heating summer and winter alike. In winter they could lie down directly to the snow. Now the rivers are replaced by the swimming pools.

The bath besom which can be made of different species of wood, from traditional birch to gum tree, performs functions of aromatherapy and pealing and massage device depending on the way you will “lash” yourself.


What about healthiness of the bath, it helps in different diseases from cold with cough and sneeze to neuropathies. Moreover, it helps on weight loss and metabolism resetting.

The bath is ideal place for massage, because the body is warm.

After all the advantages and healthiness of the Russian baths, some contraindications are to be mentioned. First of all, the small children and people after 60 should be very careful. The Russian baths are absolutely contraindicated for the people having:

Severe bronchial allergy with often spells

Hypertensive disease 2nd – 3r stages


Acute myocardial infarction

Different oncological diseases

Inflammatory diseases with fever heat

Ischemic heart disease

And finally, whatever anybody would tell you, alcohol before and during and baths is absolutely contraindicated for everybody.

All in all, everything can be healthful and pleasant, even if it looks frightfully. Russian bath is one of such things. Moreover, it is one of the best possibilities to feel the Russian national color: it is very difficult to fake.

Yulia Buzykina


Tags: Russian Steambath Active Travel    

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