History of Live Action Role-playing Games - Russian History

Russian History

LARP has been played in Russia since at least the 1980s. The Russian word for LARP translates simply as "role-playing", since tabletop RPGs were unknown in Russia at the time LARP was invented or introduced there. Russian live role-playing is often practised under the banner of "Tolkienism" or Tolkien fandom, though it is definitely no longer confined to Tolkien or fantasy only. Regional traditions vary greatly in their history and practice, though the now defunct Soviet "Young Pioneers" organisation and the networks between former members seems to have played some role in spreading and coordinating the idea of live role-playing. Much more involvement is usually attributed to SF fandom clubs, which flourished in Russia in that period.

Earliest documented mentions of LARP-like activities in Russia relate to the yearly memorial reenactment of the Battle of Borodino, where military history clubs, not satisfied with reenacting this battle only, tried various other takes on the subject—the first recorded one, in 1988, being the people dressing up as soldiers of Red Army. According to witness reports, in 1989 Tolkien fans came to the Borodino reenactment in fantasy costumes, which jumpstarted the movement and led to the first recorded large-scale LARP in Russia, the National Hobbit Games, which ran in August 1990 near river Mana in the vicinity of Krasnoyarsk. Since then, such events occur yearly and the tradition became very widely developed.

Russia probably has the biggest and most varied LARP-scene in the world, with a wide range of genres and playstyles. By now, the number of players is estimated to be somewhere between 50000 and 100000. The biggest plays number more than 1000 players, but many smaller plays (50-200 participants) are also common.

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