Folk Games: ??????? (Gorodki)

White/Native American

University of Arizona, Arizona State University, University of Southern California

International Relations

Accountant for Make a Wish

English, Russian

Scottsdale, Arizona

25 April 2011

Russian Folk game- ???????

Roman spelling- Gorodki

Direct translation- townletts

Translation- little cities

“So Gorodki is a Russian peasant folk game that was taught to me by my Russian language teacher. I only played it once but the rules are pretty simple. Basically, you draw or make a square on the ground. The square is called a gorod, meaning a city in English. You then take these short cylindrical pieces of wood, and stack them into shapes. There are more than like 10 ten of these shapes and each has a name. After this, you walk like 20 feet and then throw a larger piece of wood at the formation. You then get points for the number of pieces of wood you knock out of the square. Players take turns and when the pieces of wood are all out of the square, the person who knocked out the most pieces wins.” RA explained that the game was really easy to make, and he believes that this is the case because the pieces are so simple. He mentioned all you really need is a bunch of sticks to play. He mentions that it was a pretty big sport for the peasants of Russia. He also believes that it was partially started by Soldiers because several of the names of the wood configurations look and have a “military sound to them.” Ie. artillery, canon, shooting gallery, and watchmen. Clearly, the game is still being changed, as configurations of modern configurations are included (machine gun installation and airplane). He mentions that his Russian teacher showed a really old picture of Leo Tolstoy playing the game, showing the game has existed for more than a hundred years.

From the information RA gave me, I believe that Gorodki is an example of folklore. Foremost, is the fact that it is still referred to as a peasant game. The simplicity of the game makes it easily taught or understood through observation and minimal instruction. The game also allows for variation, as individuals can make up their own configurations of wood or stand further back to make it harder. The game is still played today, showing how popular it was/is in Russia.

After some basic research, I found that Gorodki is a very old game. It existed very similar to the modern game in the 1600’s. Though considered a folk game, Gorodki was apparently played by some of the aristocracy of Russia. It existed without formal rules until the 1920’s, when it was organized into an official sport by the Soviet Union. Gorodki appears as a game for the Wii video game console and appeared as a challenge in the television show The Amazing Race season 17, episode 7.