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Learn to Play Gorodki

Gorodki can be described as a form of street skittles. It is a sport in Russia that has been played for centuries, but only received official rules and regulations in 1923 in order for a fair All Soviet Union Gorodki competition. It has spread to various countries, such as Estonia, Finland and Sweden, but remains a popular leisure activity in Russia that was also once enjoyed by legendary figures including Leo Tolstoy, Peter I, Joseph Stalin, Maksim Gorky and Vladimir Lenin.

To explain the aim or Gorodki, one can view the game as something similar to bowling. Instead of skittles, there are gorodki and in the place of a bowling ball, players throw bats at the gorodki. The gorodki are cylindrical wooden pins that are usually twenty centimeters in length and 4.5 centimeters in diameter and approximately ten to twelve gorodki are used in the game. The name gorodki means towns or cities. The bats that are thrown towards the gorodki are wooden rods, just under a meter in length and 3.5 centimeters in diameter. Two to four of these bats are used per team. In bowling, the skittles are placed upright, but in the sport of gorodki, the gorodki (pins) are arranged in various different forms and patterns.

Gorodki is played on a marked out square, preferably on asphalt or gravel, and each square, which is two meters in size, is called the Gorod (city). In front of the Gorod is the Prigorod, or suburb, with the penalty line just before that. Thirteen meters away from the Gorod is the main throwing line known as the Kon, with the Polukon line being six and a half meters away from the Gorod. Teams playing against each other will either have their Gorods across from each other, or next to each other.

There are usually fifteen patterns, or figures, that team members must try to knock out, by throwing their bats at the figures from the Kon (throwing line). Once one of the Gorodki has been dislodged and moved outside the lines of the Gorod, players are permitted to move closer and throw from the Polukon to dispel the rest of the Gorodki. As one figure is complete, the team begins working on the second, with each figure being knocked out in as little throws as possible. The figures include a fork, machine gun installation, arrow, cannon, crankshaft, artillery, raquet, star, well, watchmen, airplane, sickle, letter, lobster and shooting gallery. Children are also able to take part in the fun, with their teams only having to take on ten figures and they are allowed to throw their bats from the polukon.

Gorodki is a fun and interesting game to play and to watch. It is enjoyed by young and old, and is a tradition that was passed down through the ages by some of the great names in Russian history.


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