Russians Used to ‘Winter Proof’ Their Babies in The Weirdest Way

Videos by Rare

Videos by Rare

Russians have a cold-hearted reputation. So it seems fitting that, throughout the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, their babies slept outside — in the snow! The practice was called “winter-proofing.”

Winter Proofing

The Romanovs

The doomed Romanov family via History.com

The House of Romanov ruled Russia from 1613 to 1917, the throne bouncing between male and female heirs, with no established succession order. After centuries of this process, Emperor Nicholas II was crowned in 1894… and he would be the last Romanov ruler.

The Tsar — dubbed “Bloody Nicholas” — was an unpopular leader from the start, leading the country into an ill-fated war with Japan in 1904. The next year, the people of St. Petersberg began protesting his rule which led to Bloody Sunday, ushering in the Russian Revolution. As World War I broke out a few years later, conditions worsened further; Russians faced famine while women went to work and soldiers deserted their posts.

At home, though, Nicholas had a happier life. He was very close with his wife, Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children. The couple had four daughters: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and the famous Anatasia, all grand duchesses, and one son: Alexei. Little Alexei was the youngest of the Romanov children and was in line to inherit his father’s throne. But the boy was sickly, struggling with hemophilia, a genetic blood disorder that affected many Romanovs.

The family doted on Alexei and obsessed over his health. His healer Rasputin became something of an advisor to both Nicholas and Alexandria, an integral part of the ruling family. He convinced the parents that Alexei’s health was tied to the fate of the country. But Rasputin’s shamanic influence further isolated the royal family from their people, and by 1917, the country had enough.

At the news of another ration in March 1917, the women workers went on strike, taking to the streets of St. Petersberg. Nicholas sent troops to quell the protests, but sympathizing with the womens’ cause, most soldiers joined! An uprising had begun, leaving the Romanovs unprotected.

Nicholas was forced by parliament to abdicate the throne. He quickly made plans to escape to Britain; his first cousin was King George V, and the two were close. But George faltered, and the Soviets arrested the Romanovs. Though imprisoned, the Romanovs were set up in large homes and allowed certain comforts there, bringing along many servants.

Vladimir Lenin, the new Soviet leader, planned to put Nicholas to trial — eventually. But hearing that the White Army, who was loyal to the old Tsar, planned to free the Romanovs, the Bolsheviks (Lenin’s party) issued a secret death sentence. The Romanovs were killed by a messy firing squad on July 17, 1918. Failing to effectively shoot the family, their injured bodies were stabbed and left naked in the woods.

As the Soviet Union wore on, though, the Romanovs were not forgotten. In fact, they became a cautionary tale that led to winter-proofing. Throughout the Romanov reign, the rulers had been hidden away in palaces for their safety. But the line was always sickly, as last evidenced by poor Alexei. All Romanovs, it was believed, had weak immune systems and bad general health.

Civilians noted this, according to History.com, and blamed the family’s lack of fresh air. So following Russia’s Tuberculosis outbreak during the 1930s, widespread lifestyle changes were implemented across the country. Going outside became a mandatory part of the kindergarten routine while babies were routinely exposed to the cold outdoor air and sunlight. Bundled kids were left to sleep outside — some even napped in the snow!

The winter-proofing practice remained popular until in Russia the 1970s.

Winter Proofing Today

In many Arctic regions, including Scandinavian countries like Sweden, babies are left to nap outside as young as two years old.

READ MORE: The Bad-Ass Barbarian Queen Who Revolted Against the Roman Empire

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