The Finnish sauna is the closest relative of the Russian banya or russian sauna, and because the history and folklore of the Russian banya and Finnish sauna are largely indistinguishable, it is safe to assume that they both were developed simultaneously. In modern times, the finnish sauna and the russian sauna are distinguished by the russian sauna being a wet sauna and the finnish sauna being a dry sauna. Historically though, both types used wet steam. Interestingly enough, some researchers believe that the word "sauna" rather than "banya" was adopted in post-war Europe primarily because of the Iron Curtain rather than as a term of any meaningful distinction. However, it is notable that, in modern Russian, a sauna is often called a "Finnish Banya", though possibly only to distinguish it from other types of high-temperature bathing facilities, such as Turkish baths referred to as "Turkish Banya."
Russian sauna buildings can be quite large with a number of different bathing areas, or simple wooden cabins like the traditional Finnish saunas. Russian saunas usually have three rooms: a steam room, a washing room and an entrance room. The entrance room, called a predbannik or pre-bath, has pegs where bathers can hang clothing, and benches to rest on. The washing room has a hot water tap, which uses water heated by the steam room stove and a vessel or tap for cold water to mix water of a comfortable temperature for washing.
Black vs White Russian Saunas
In a black russian sauna, the smoke escapes through a hole in the ceiling, while in white russian saunas there are exhaust pipes to vent the smoke. In the former, the escaping smoke darkens the banya's interior wood, therefore the name. Both styles are characterized by boulder stones, clay balls and large cauldrons for the hot water as well as stone stoves with a tank to heat the water. Birch is usually used as a heat source. A black russian sauna is much more rudimentary and is generally considered to be less desirable than the white russian sauna.
Russian saunas, also known as Banya's are russian steam baths
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