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Key words
public bath, urban leisure communities, mental health, urban studies, fleshliness
About the Author

Tel: +7 (495) 938 00 19;

Leninskij prospect 32a, 119991 Moscow, Russian Federation;

Рost-graduate student, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy

of Science.


 Moscow tradition of visiting public bath-houses existed since the founding of the city, and still lives and develops in the modern metropolis. Today Russian steam bath has lost its utilitarianistic hygienic function, but remains very popular among Muscovites. This article reveals one facet of the research held by the author in 2012—2013, aiming to identify the reasons of attractiveness of this ethnic and cultural tradition in modern urban environment.

The study has been conducted in public baths of Moscow, differing in years of construction, price range and state of renovation. Modern private bath-houses, saunas, spas and recreational facilities, as well as other types of baths, appearing today in apartments and cottages, are left outside this study. Methods of participant observation and interaction, for obvious reasons, were used only in the women's department. However, informal in-depth interviews were conducted with both female and male members of bath leisure communities.

The study reveals that traditions of bath culture today are highly demanded among the residents of the Russian capital. Muscovites have four reasons to visit a public bath-house: physical and mental health, spa treatments and communicative space with its special etiquette and rituals, etc. Russian bath tradition has become a universal form of leisure for multiple ethnic groups living  in Russian capital. Due to its openness and democracy the Russian bath today is one of the  few elements of traditional Russian culture, adapted to all the processes of modernization in the country. Demolition and destruction of old buildings baths, lack of either renovation or building of new facilities of bath infrastructure in urban planning policy threatened the existence of this tradition in Moscow, as well as in the other Russian cities.


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