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Without the Banya We Would PerishA History of the Russian Bathhouse$
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Ethan Pollock

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780195395488

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195395488.001.0001

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The Great Healer

The Great Healer

(p.32) 2 The Great Healer
Without the Banya We Would Perish

Ethan Pollock

Oxford University Press

As elites in Russia became more integrated into Western culture, going to the banya became more associated with the unreformed peasantry and lower classes. Most outsiders, like the astronomer Chappe D’Auteroche, who was in Russia to observe the transit of Venus, saw the banya as further indication of Russia’s backwardness and barbarity. Catherine the Great wrote a pamphlet, her famous “antidote,” to rebut his views in general and on the banya specifically. Meanwhile, the prominent medical doctor, Antonio Sanches, used his connections with Catherine and members of her court to systematically defend the banya not as a popular custom, but as a valuable tool of modern medicine. He used his connections with Western European intellectuals to promote the use of the banya there as well.

Keywords:   Europeanization of Russia, António Sanches, transit of Venus, Chappe D’Auteroche, Catherine the Great, modern medical hygiene, Catherine’s “antidote, ” banya and health, dangers of the banya

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