“Without the Bania We Would Perish”: A History of the Russian Bathhouse


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences during academic year 2013-2014


In telling the history of the pervasive and resilient Russian bathhouse, this project offers new perspectives on Russian identity, traditional and modern conceptions of health and hygiene, and the evolution of ideas about community and sociability. The layers of meanings that have formed around the bania over its 1000 year history make it a unique prism through which to understand the effects of broad social, economic, and political changes on the everyday lives of Russians. Sources ranging from the earliest recorded Russian chronicles to recent feature films illustrate the ways in which the bania has always been more than just a place to get clean. It is also a space for intimacy, intrigue, violence, and sex.