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Belarusian Games
Games for children

We strongly advice to have a parent supervising you when you play these games for the first time for your safety.

Ivanka.jpg (14602 bytes) "Ivanka"

This game is played outdoors on some openning - in the yard or in the meadow. "Ivanka" is actually a little rug-doll. It could also be any other toy - a ball, a cube, anything. The number of participants could be upto 20 people. A circle is drawn on the land aroun "Ivanka" sized 5-6 yards. This circle is called "forest". In the center of "forest" the square is drawn some 2 feet by 2 feet. It is a "house of the forest man".  "Ivanka" is placed in the house and a person is chosen to play a "forest man". The rest of the players are called "swans". The "swans" are flying into the "forest" tosave "Ivanka" from the "forrest man". The "forrest man" can catch "swans" with his hand or touch swans with his majic branch. Catched "swans" are leaving the game. The "swan" who carries out "Ivanka" becomes in his turn a "forrest man". The "forrest man" can not leave forrest. The "swan" can not transfer "Ivanka" to others. The game is over when all the "swans" are out of the game.

Ivanka.jpg (14602 bytes) "Miaciolka"

This game looks like a pre-historic hockey :)
The action takes place on the ice-rink, the surface of the frozen pond or lake (these are in abundance in Belarus). Each participants has a broom - "miaciolka" made of branches.and 3-5 pieces of ice (sized 2-3"). # to 190 people can play this game simultaneously.

A circle is drawn on ice 7 to 14 yards in diameter. It's center has a "mark". Along the line of circle the pits are made on equal distance from each other - 6-8 inches wide and 2-3 inches deep.

The players decide on the order of playing. The first chosen person puts his ice-piece on the "mark" while the rest of the players leave them outside of the circle. They stand by their pits with brooms. The central player pronounces a frase "It is easier to broom alone then alltogether" and strikes his ice-piece towards his pits. At this moment the rest of the players are entering the circle. Each of the players tries to broom the ice piece into his own pit. When the first piece is in the pit, the next player puts his ice-piece on the mark and it starts all over again.  After all ice-pieces are spent the winner is the one who has most of them.

  • The pits should be on the same distance for each player.
  • The size of the broom and the pit should be approximately the same for all players.
  • It is forbidden tohold another player with hands or trip him with your feet.
  • If you decide to play this game have a parent to supervise you for the first time.

Ivanka.jpg (14602 bytes) "Pikar"

This game is very populkar and is played all over Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. The game is held in a flat ground some 20 yards by 20 yards. One needs a "pika" (Engl.: "lance") - sharpened on one side wooden peg some 10" long, and a longer stick - a bat. The number of participants is 7 - 10 people.

In one end of the ground the line is drawn - "town". 15-20 yards away from it another line is drawm to designate "hotel".  In front of the "hotel" , 4-5 yards towards the "town" the soil is loosened - it's a "mark" area.  A person is chosen as "pikar". He sticks his "pika" vertically into the soil in the "mark" area. Then the players take shots in line or simultaneously with their bats towards "pika". When "pika" is hit and is outside of the "marked" area all the participants are rushing to pick up their bats. During this time "pikar" is supposed to put his "pika" back into the "mark". After that he is supposed to touch one of the players. If this happens the touched becomes a "pikar" for the next round.

  • While pikar is trying to touch the player, other players are allowed to kick "pika" out of the mark with their bats. The "pikar" is obliged to go back and stick "pika" into the mark before attempting to touch someone again.
  • The player who has picked his bat has a right to have some rest in "hotel" waiting until other players will kick the "pika" out of the mark.

There are multiple variations of the rules of this game around different regions. I personally remember we were using an empty tin can instead of the "pika" since we played in an asphalted yard.. Boy it was one loud game.

Ivanka.jpg (14602 bytes) "Shyla"

During the winter time the nights come very early in Belarus. And so kids would be still playing inside with their friends. This is one of such games. A small object is used. Originally an awl (Bel.: "shyla") was used. I would suggest to use something less harmfull - a tennis ball, for example, or any small toy.

There could be upto 20 players in this game. A "leader" is chosen. He stands in the center of the room. The rest of the kids sit down very close to each other on the floor in a half circle behind his back. The legs are bend and hands are hidden under their knees. One of the players has a toy. The players secretly transfer it to one another. The one who has a toy can either transfer it to someone else, or he could touch the leader's shoulder if he is convinced that the leader doesn't see him. If the leader guesses right who is the person, then they change places. The clumsy kid becomes a leder. There is a variation of the game where the guessed player leaves the game.

Ancient Belarusian Folk Games
These games are indended for adults

    The rituals and games were taking place during traditional festivals and celebrations - "ihryshcha"- of ancient eastern slavs and baltic tribes that were inhabiting belarusian lands. In some places these party evenings were called also "bent" evenings ("kryvyia") because everything was humorously depicted in grotesque inside-out way. The participants would enact humorous weddings or wakes with a dead guy turning out to be alive ("Babior pamior, pashli haranic', azhno ion siadzic'!"), or the bride turning out to be a goat, etc. These theatrialized show would be accompanied with songs and dances. Some of these "ihryshcha" are still taking place. The tradition of these "ihryshcha" is undoubtly absorbed by modern folk theatres.

Karahod.gif (82070 bytes)"Karahod" - is a popular form of dancing and singing. The "karahod" songs are having slow tempo with changing rhythm. The topics of these songs are different and enclose most of the sides of everyday peasants life. The lirycs consists of monologues with several developments of the story, rhythoric questions, exclamations etc. The participants are usually aligned in circles hand in hand. The motions of participants are simple - usual steps, side steps, changing pace steps. The alignment of the singers and dancers is usually a circle, circle in circle, "8" shaped two circles, strait chain, zig-zag ("snake"), "creek" (couples are passing in the alley of lifted hands of other couples standing on the sides). The mime theatrical action is important. Different situations could be played out with participants in the center of the circle, while the outside karahod comments and responds to the theatrical act inside of karahod. There are different "karahod" games -'Marriage match-maker", "A sold child", "Devils rib", "Bridge", "Important lady" etc.

"Vishan'ka" ("Cherry") - the girl stands on the stool having a straw in her lips. Two guys walk in karahod hand in hand around her, entraping her in their circle. They are supposed to protect the girl from the third guy. This task of this guy is to jump and catch the straw with his lips. If he suceeds - the girl kisses him.

"Hula" - nope it's not a hula-dance. The name originates from "hul'nia" - "game" in Belarusian. Players are divided into two teams - "armies". Each "army" choses a "big one" - the strongest person. This person throws a wooden wheel or a heavy round stone towards another "army". The other "army" is supposed to stop it as fast as possible and reverse its direction. The game is won when the line is crossed on one of the sides.   Boy, does this sound like american football or what!

Ancient Chess in Belarus

Interestingly, according to this website by Jean-Louis Cazaux, Belarusians have been widely involved in playing chess in XII c. Below is several XII century chess figures found by archaeologists in three locations - Slucak, Lukoml' and Vaukavysk:

king-slutsk-12-r.jpg (3186 bytes) ladya-volkovysk-12-r.jpg (4721 bytes) pawn-volkovysk-12-r.jpg (3366 bytes) queen-lukoml-12-r.jpg (4021 bytes)
King, ivory, XII c, Slutsk, Belarus, Bielorussian Academy of Sciences, Minsk Boat (Rook), ivory, beg XII c, Volkovysk, Belarus, Bielorussian Art Museum, Minsk Pawn, ivory, beg XII c, Volkovysk, Belarus, Bielorussian Art Museum, Minsk  Queen, ivory, XII c, Lukoml, Belarus, State Museum of Belarus

References used in this file

Ia. R. Vil'kin "Belaruskiia narodnyia hul'ni" ("Belarusian folk games")
Publishing house "Belarus", Minsk 1996. 86 pages.
ISBN 985-01-0038-9
The lovely drawings are made by an artist V. Pachkaeva.

"Etnahrafiia Belarusi" Encyclopedia ("Ethnography of Belarus")
Publishing house "Belarusian Soviet Encyklapiedyja" named after Piatrus' Brouka
Minsk, 1989. 575 pages.
ISBN 5-85700-014-9

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