Russian Bath House

Russian Banya: History, Traditions, Health Benefits. Russian Bath House

In Russian fairytales Ivanushka asks Baba-Yaga for steaming in a banya first and then to ask him questions. These concepts about hospitality have been kept to our time. You can find records of “myl’nya” (which is a derivative of a “mylo” (a soap)) in the ancient chronicles of XI-XII centuries in which there is a narrative about Russians’ customs. You can also see mentions about banyas in The tale of Bygone Years (which was written in 945) and Kiev Pechersk Lavra’s Canon (966).

Initially a banya was a little izba (a hut) built from the whole logs. The internal structure of a banya is that a brick oven occupies one third of the room. The fire is lit at the bottom of the oven, it heats the bricks which are above and the room of the banya. When the bricks get red-hot, the fire is extinguished, the pipe close with an oven door, you can steam out watering the bricks in order the steam to appear. To steam out, you should climb a sollar which is something like stairs with four or five wide footsteps. The higher you get, the hotter the steam. It’s a belaya banya (a white banya). The flue is taken out through the roof in this banya unlike in a chernaya banya (a black banya). Both a belaya banya and a chernaya banya have two small rooms with the quite low ceiling. The wooden step is in front of the door.

The first room of a banya is called a predbanik (it literally means a room before a banya itself). There is a bench and pegs in it. A predbannik is smaller than a banya itself from which it is separated by a thin wooden partition with a door. In one of the corners of a banya there is an oven on which big boulders lay. You can also see a tub with a lot of water near the oven. The Russian banya is incomparable to European and Asian bath houses.

The Russian banya affects with its heat stronger than they do. The air in the Russian banya warms up to 60-90°C. Its inevitable feature is (a venik) birch twigs. The healing power of Russian banyas is universally recognized. Amateurs of the traditional Russian banya consider rubbing yourself with snow or diving into snow after steaming in a banya to be a healthy treatment. Steaming out in a banya you can get benefits such as massage with veniks, lungs clearance, improvement of blood circulation and sweating, increasing of vitality, etc.

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