Amusements in Rus

Забавы на Руси

In the article “Amusements in Rus” you will learn a few Russian-popular amusements that our ancestors used to indulge in, and we already know them as traditional sports.

The games of the peoples clearly show the cultural code and vividly demonstrate its value system. Centuries ago, traditional games promoted the development and strengthening of sought-after qualities. Some peoples valued agility, strength and bravery more, while others valued cunning and cold calculation.



Ryuhi (emphasis on the second syllable) is very similar to gorodki. Earlier ryuhi was especially popular in the Tver region, but over time the game became a favorite for other regions of Russia.

The game has easy rules – you need to line up 30-40 barrels (ryukh) on the first line. Then they should be knocked out with bats, which were quite heavy – about 2 kilograms. Throw the bat had to be from the line, which was drawn at a distance of about 7 meters to the ryuh. The game was played by teams: who knocked out all the ruhs faster, the one who won.

It is interesting that despite the long ago invention of the game, ryuhi is still popular in the Tver region. At large folk celebrations men still gladly knock down ryuhi with bats. Ethnic festivals also include ryuhi in the traditional program.



A sheluga was a bag of rags. The game consisted in the fact that the leader spins the sheluga on a rope, standing in the center of the circle. The other players try to break through to him and take off the hat – that was the main prize.

And to do this was not as easy as it seems, because in the bag with rags there was also a weighty log, which when hit on the body could leave quite a painful sensation or even injury. If the host knocked someone out with a sheluga – he was out of the game.

An alternative to the sheluga was created for the children – in the sack was an ordinary telogreika, instead of a hat – a bunch of lambs. Naturally, there was no log in the sack. The host twisted the sack at first at the level of ankles, then went up to the knee and higher – it was possible to pass over the gouge, under it and in other ways.



The game is very similar to ball hockey and can be said to be its prototype. Earlier hockey was played in Pskov, Novgorod, Tver and the Leningrad region. The main difference from ice hockey is that you score the ball not in the opponent’s goal, but in your own hole.

Klyushkovanie is a very difficult game that requires great physical strength and endurance. At the same time, it was sometimes quite tough, and the players agreed on the level of toughness in advance.

The game is played on flat grounds. In summer any clearing would do, in winter the snow had to be tamped well. The ball was wooden – it was specially milled for the game. Wooden sticks with bent ends were used as clubs. According to the rules of keying, players were forbidden to touch the ball with their feet, step on it or go into the hole.

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There was no time limit – teams usually played to a certain score. Any number of players could play – from two people or more. The number of players in the team determined the size of the court – the more crowded the people, the wider the field.

It is noteworthy that klushkovanie is not forgotten to this day – it continues to be played even now. More often this amusement can be seen at ethnic festivals. It remains fascinating even now, and is played with a high level of passion until the night.

Elephant chase

Remember the game of “elephant”, which is still popular even with today’s teenagers? Elephant toss only remotely resembles it. Participants are divided into teams of five. Four of them are the legs of the elephant – holding the fifth, who hangs face down between them.

The teams run after each other to tag the opponent. Only the fifth player held by the “legs” can tag the other team. The “legs” can catch up, push, knock down another’s bishop.



Lapta is one of the oldest Russian games, originating in the 10th century in Kievan Rus. Similar to cricket and baseball, lapta is still popular in modern Russia.

Lapta is a game with a bat and a ball, played on a rectangular field. The pitcher (pitcher by analogy with baseball) pitches the ball, and the outfielder hits the ball with the bat, and then runs across the field and back. The opposing team’s job is to catch the ball and launch it at the outfielder before he finishes running. Each successful run earns the team points.

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, develop stamina and speed. Today, lapta is an official sport in Russia.


One of the most popular games in modern Russia “Cossacks-robbers” is the Russian equivalent of “Policemen and Robbers”.

Players are divided into two teams: “Cossacks” and “Robbers”. At the beginning of the game, the robbers hide in a pre-agreed area (for example, in a park or neighborhood), drawing arrows with chalk on the ground or on buildings indicating which way they went. The Cossacks give the robbers a head start in 5-10 minutes, and then start looking for them. The game is played until all the robbers are caught.

The name of the game came from tsarist Russia, when the Cossacks were the guardians of law and order. The game became popular in the 15th and 16th centuries.

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Another traditional Russian game. Chizhik has been popular since at least the 16th century due to its simplicity, flexibility and fun. Two wooden sticks are needed for the game: one short (chizhik) with a pointed end and one long (marked bat). Before the game begins, a line and a circle are drawn on the ground a few meters apart.

The aim of this game is to hit the chizhik as far as possible with the bat. Meanwhile, another player(s) tries to catch it in flight or, if this fails, to find the fallen siskin and throw it back into the circle.

Sticks are often made from wood scraps; the siskin can be sharpened with a pocket knife. The name of the game comes from the resemblance of the smaller stick to a siskin, a bird of the finch family.


Fool is a card game of Russian origin, played with a deck of 36 cards. The youngest card is a six, and the oldest is an ace.

The fool can be played by 2 to 6 players, and the game includes a series of “attacks” and “defenses”. At the beginning of the game, each player receives six cards, a trump card is selected from the deck. Any card of this suit can protect against an attack. Otherwise, you can only defend against attacks with a card with a higher suit number of the attacking card.

The goal is to get rid of all the cards on the hand. At the end of the game, the participant who has the most cards left loses and is declared a “fool”.

Rubber bands

Rubber bands
Rubber bands

In the rubber bands game, players perform a sequence of jumps around, over, and between large rubber bands. The band is usually held by two other participants, but many enterprising children have played with fewer partners by attaching a rubber band to the legs of a chair or tree.

The object of the game is to complete a full sequence of jumps without stepping on the rubber band or making mistakes. The level of difficulty increases after a successful round: the rubber band rises from ankle level to knee level and even higher.

The rubber bands game was so common in playgrounds that many people consider it a game of Russian/Soviet origin. Its peak of popularity was in the USSR in the 70s and 80s, and it came to us from Asia, where the basis of rubber bands was laid 10 years earlier.

Amusements in Rus have evolved into entire sports in modern times. This is what happened with lapta, and the Russian Bendi (ball hockey) Super League, which grew out of hockey, is the same age as the English Premier Football League. Ethno-festivals allow us to recall the cultural traditions of our people and entertainments like sheluga and ryuha.

Thanks to family traditions, folk ingenuity and such historical events, our customs continue not only to live in the memory of today’s youth, but also often receive their logical development.

( 8 assessment, average 5 from 5 )
Alexander/ author of the article

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