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WE WORK HARD AND PLAY HARD: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TRADITIONAL RUSSIAN GAMES?

WE WORK HARD AND PLAY HARD: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TRADITIONAL RUSSIAN GAMES?
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Published: 05.07.2021
Russian traditional games

Welcome. Today, I will be talking about some games that are popular in Russia. This is another great way to learn more about our traditions and culture.

While many classic Russian games are now part of history, others have survived and are experiencing a new surge of popularity in modern Russia. Now, you can discover the rules of some of the most well-known traditional Russian games.


Lapta (Lap-tah)

What is Lapta: This is one of the oldest Russian games, dating back to the 10th century. With similarities to cricket and baseball, Lapta is still popular in modern Russia today.


How do you play Lapta? It is a bat-and-ball game which is played on a rectangular field. The pitcher serves the ball, and the hitter uses the bat to hit the ball, then run across the field and back. The opposite team's task is to catch the ball and launch it at the hitter before he or she has finished running. Each run completed without being hit earns points for the team.

An interesting fact about Lapta: during the reign of Peter the Great, Lapta was used as a training technique for Russian troops. Over the centuries, the game has become a popular way to keep fit and build stamina and speed.
Durak (doo-rak)

What is Durak: it is card game of Russian origin which is played with a deck of 36 cards. The lowest card is a six, and the highest is an ace.

An interesting fact about Durak: the name of the game can be literally translated as "fool".

How do you play Durak? This card game can be played with 2-6 players, and involves a series of "attacks" and "defenses." At the start of the game, each player receives six cards, and a trump card (козырь) is chosen from the deck. Any card of that suit can defend against an attack. Otherwise, attacks can only be defended against with a higher-numbered card of the attacking card's suit. The goal is to get rid of all the cards in your hand. At the end of the game, the player with the most cards remaining loses and is declared "the fool" (дурак).


Elastics

This was one of my favorite games growing up. Yes, many kids back in the day did not have a particularly fancy childhood and many children (just like myself) spent their free time playing on a playground in our yard.

How do you play Elastics: In the game of Elastics, players perform a sequence of jumps around, over, and in-between a large elastic band. Typically, the band is held in place by two other players, but many enterprising Russian children have played with fewer partners by hooking up the elastic band to the legs of a chair or a tree.


The goal of the game is to complete a full sequence of jumps without stepping on the elastic or making any mistakes. The level of difficulty is increased after reach a successful round, with the elastic raised from ankle-level to knee-level and even higher.

An interesting fact about Elastics: Elastics is so commonplace on the playground that many Russians consider it to be a game of Russian/Soviet origin, but the game actually originated in China in the 7th century.


Gorodki


To understand gorodki, you first need to know the terminology: The word gorod means "city," while gorodok means "small town" or "village."

The aim of the game is to knock the five cylindrical pins, or "villages," out of the "city" (that's what the square-shaped playing area is called) in as few throws as possible. The "villages" are 20 centimeters long and about 4.5–5 centimeters in diameter. Players stand 13 meters – a "con" – from the "city" and throw the stick.

If they successfully knock one or more of the pins out of the "city," then they continue to throw from a distance of 6.5 meters ("half a con").

A village is considered "banished" when all the shapes have been knocked out of the square-shaped playing area. Players receive no points, have the villages re-set and are charged a turn if the bat touches the line or the ground in front of the line; if they step on or over the boundary line; and if they do not throw the bat within the designated 30-second time limit.

An interesting fact: The famous Russian military leader, Alexander Suvorov, once compared gorodki with the tactics of warfare: "Setting up your throw sharpens your aim; striking the pins makes you swift in attack; knocking the pins down develops your force."
Did you know that Gorodki was invented by Russian peasant farmers, who would etch out a playing area in the ground and then knock wooden figures down with bats made from the very same wood?

In 1928, gorodki was included in the All-Union Olympics. And the official rules, which still govern the sport today, were finalized in 1933. The number of configurations was fixed at 15. The 1960s and 1970s were the golden years of gorodki in the Soviet Union. Every stadium, vacation retreat, courtyard, summer camp, plant, and factory had its own gorodki playing area.

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