Students and faculty of the Russian Area Studies program welcomed members of the HWS community to join in on a traditional game of lapta, an ancient and recently revived Russian bat-and-ball game. Held on Friday, Sept. 25, players and spectators congregated for the game on the William Smith Green in front of Smith Hall.
Organized by Assistant Professor of Russian Area Studies Christopher Lemelin, the event served as an opportunity to engage in an exciting part of Russian culture. “It’s considered the most quintessentially Russian of the country’s popular sports,” Lemelin says.
The game dates back possibly as far as the tenth century, and artifacts from the game have been found in twelfth-century excavation sites in Russia. The game was extremely popular until the 1960s, but has seen a revitalization since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Lemelin describes the game as “a chaotic combination of baseball, dodge ball and a 100-yard dash.” He says, “Traditionally, two teams of six players face off in four, 15-minute rounds. A player enters the batting zone, and the pitcher tosses the ball in a style similar to a tennis serve. If the ball is hit, the players on the defensive team attempt to tag or peg the runner with the ball as he runs from one end of the 45-yard-long field to the other. If the runner is hit, the teams change.”
The game is named for the bat used, which is a flat surface with a handle. A regulation lapta bat is very hard to come by, so Lemelin got creative and crafted one himself.
“We don’t take the competition too seriously – it’s more about experiencing the culture,” says Lemelin. “I wanted to play it here at HWS, because when I’ve played in the past, we’ve always had a lot of fun.”
For more information on the HWS Russian Area Studies program, visit: http://www.hws.edu/academics/russian/. For the program’s Facebook page, visit: https://www.facebook.com/HWSRussianStudies/timeline.