One of the most well-known Russian sports is lapta, an analog of baseball of sorts. It goes back to as early as the 14th century, according to archaeological finds in Veliky Novgorod. Although not as popular today, it’s still loved and played, and it’s not that hard to try it yourself, too. All you need is a ball and a bat – some versions of lapta are fairly simple and don’t even require two teams.

In the version called svechki (candles) the batter hits the ball thrown by the pitcher, and, once it crosses a special line called kon, other players must catch it. Whoever catches it gets to be the next batter. If no one catches the ball, then one of the players throws it back to the pitcher and they must catch it without leaving their zone to become the batter.

During big holidays, such as Maslenitsa, when all kinds of festivities took place, bare-knuckle fighting was usually on the list. The participants could prove their strength one-on-one or in teams. For example, one of the most popular ways to fight was “wall-on-wall,” when opposing teams formed two lines and faced each other, trying to make their opponents back away. During the first round, young boys fought each other, then young men, and then adults. For the most part, this was more of a game, although sometimes the participants could get seriously injured. 

Another example of traditional sports known and loved in Russia is a game called gorodki (townlets). Known since the 18th century and enjoyed by everyone from peasants to the upper classes – for instance, it was said to be a favored pastime of Leo Tolstoy – it gained even more popularity during the Soviet times, when union-wide championships were held.

Nowadays, gorodki aren’t as big, but playsets are still available on the market. To play, you need to arrange wooden cylinders into one of the many predetermined configurations and throw a bat at them from a distance. The goal is to knock them all out in as few rounds as possible, much like it is with pins in bowling.