by Sadri Hamid

First published in Ak Yul ‘White Road’, No. 16, 1969, page 1. Oulu, Finland. The prolific Finland Tatar writer Sadri Hamid (1905–1987) was born in Yangepar, now known as the village of Aktuk(ovo) near Sergach. He lived most of his life in Finland.

Transcription from Arabic script Fazile Nasretdin. English translation Sabira Stahlberg.

Read original in Tatar

“Sauna” – what is a sauna? We do not even need to write about that, because it is in the sauna where one sweats with or without whisking, and as we all very well know – the place where we bathe ourselves.

Although we will talk about saunas, our topic here is not town saunas, but we want to write only briefly about the saunas in our home (birth) region.

Those saunas are many thousands of years old, a heritage transmitted and remaining with us from our ancestors. In our area, saunas were not only used for bathing. They were used as hospitals as well. When someone fell ill, or a mother was about to give birth to a baby, the sauna was immediately heated. (Perhaps also now it is so.)

Saunas were not only present in Tatar villages, but in all villages of Russians, Moksha (Mordvinian), and there are – that is to say, there were – saunas in villages of other peoples as well.

Even if not all houses in (our home village) Yangepar had a sauna, there was a sauna in every fourth house. In earlier times, many saunas were dug out from the earth. Even in 1918 one could sometimes see dug-out saunas in the earth.

When talking about saunas, Finns boast about them, calling them “Finnish saunas”. As if their ancestors were the first to invent the sauna, and it has after that, so they assert, spread among other peoples. Three-four million people of this Finnish tribe have for a long time bathed in saunas, and all other peoples in the world have supposedly lived without a sauna until recently…

It is not enough that the Finns boast among themselves, but some years ago, in order to take for themselves all the honour before the whole world, they advertised and spread the information about it as the “Finnish sauna”.

The original word for sauna must be çabına, ‘s/he whisks’, because in earlier times, when there was no soap, people washed with different things. That is, they cleaned their bodies with soap-like things, which they made themselves. After real soaps appeared in the world, with a wad called munçala made from thin strips bundled together of the soft inner bark of linden trees, their soaps foamed. Did they after that reject the word çabına and began calling the sauna munça instead?

The ancestors of the Finns used to live side by side with Tatars, but then the Finns moved away and settled in the lands where they now live. They brought with them the knowledge from their earlier homeland how to build saunas. The Finns, like the Tatars, at first called it çabına. But because with time, Finns could not say the ch-sound anymore, instead of çabına, did they have to begin using the word sauna?

“While the horse was being shoed, the frog extended its leg, too” is a proverb left to us by our ancestors. Just like the proverbial frog, the Finns boast about “their own Finnish sauna”.

The body surface becomes dirty, and on top of it also the soul gets dirty;

there is no peace for the conscience.

Why is there a sauna for the body in this world, but none for the soul?

Abdulla Tukay