Burning luchina
A knife for splintering luchinas
Spinning under luchina

A luchina (Russian: Лучина) is a long thin sliver/chip or plate of wood, most commonly used as a miniature torch for makeshift lighting of the interiors of buildings in the history of Russia. [1] Similar implements were used in other countries, e.g., Poland (called pl:Łuczywo), Ukraine (called uk:Скіпка or Лучина[2]).

Luchina lights

An early mention of the use of luchina for lighting in western sources may be found in Fletcter's Of the Russe Common Wealth (1591):

...their greater menne vſe much waxe for their lightes, poorer and meaner ſorte birch dried in their ſtoaues, and cut into long ſliuers, which they call Luchineos.[3]

Luchinas are best used from luchina cuts of log; it was steam-heated in a Russian stove for easy splintering. Splintering was done with the help of a special large knife called luchinnik.[1] or kosar [ru]. It may also be done with a special implement, similar to a carpenter's plane.[4]

For lighting, luchina is inserted in a crack in the wooden wall or in a special holder called svetets.[1] A small metal svetets may be stuck in a wooden wall. A more elaborate svetets may be manufactured with a stand. A small basin with water is usually placed under the svetets, to collect ashes and coals.

In Poland, luczywo, known under various regional names, could also be placed in a special cavity in the stove or on a special hearth attached to the stove, or in hanging holders.[5]


In Polesian huts luchinas were burned using svitach (Світач, Polish:Świtacz), an implement that consisted of wooden pipe leading through the roof, under which an iron grate was hanging, on which luchinas were burned.[6]

A part of servicing of luchina/luczywo, usually done by children, was to remove the charred tips, for brighter light.[7]

Usage of luchina/luczywo had a number of drawbacks enumerated in an 1828 article by a colonel Piotr Kołogriwow, which suggested to use burning of hemp stalks for lighting.[8] He identified the following issues:

Kołogriwow argues all the above drawbacks are absent if hemp were to be used.[8]

Russian archeologists posed a question when luchinas were started to be used for lighting in Russia. Possible indicators would have been finding of luchina holders (svetets), but this indicator is unreliable for the determination of the earliest date, because luchinas can be simply inserted into a crack of a wall. Another way is search for lucina's unburned tinder ends (and having a reliable way to distinguish them from other kinds of partially burned pieces of wood). Archeologists of Novgorod sought for luchina ends in various strata and found no remnants of those in strata dated between the 11th and first half of 13th centuries.[9]

Other uses of luchina

Luchanas were commonly used as kindling to start a fire and for making laths for lath and plaster works.[1][10]

In Olonets Governorate (Karelia), pine luchina was commonly used for basket weaving, both for home usage and for sale.[11]

In culture

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Лучина, Vladimir Dal's Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language
  2. ^ СКІПКА
  3. ^ Fletcter's Of the Russe Common Wealth, 1591, p. 8
  4. ^ Strug do darcia łuczywa
  5. ^ Jerzy Hołubiec, Polskie lampy i świeczniki
  6. ^ Світач, In: Словарь української мови, ed. Borys Hrinchenko, Кiev, 1907—1909
  7. ^ Jerzy Hołubiec, Polskie lampy i świeczniki, p. 20
  8. ^ a b Rozmaitości, no. 32, 1828, p.319
  9. ^ Юлия Минеева, Древние жители Новгорода не умели пользоваться лучинами, October 23, 2009
  10. ^  "Дрань" . Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (in Russian). 1906.