The Russian Style of Survival is a part of the large complicated system of the Russian (Soviet) hand-to-hand fighting, which includes hand-to-hand fighting itself, knife fighting, shooting, healing practices, fitness exercises, self-development and finally, survival. The Russian Style of Survival has two characteristic traits, which makes it different from any other approach.

  1. Survival skills are not a final target, but just a tool to strengthen your spirit by being on your own in a forest without tools and food. The inner development is the main thing. A person becomes very independent and strong.
  2. A person should know how to survive without any tool (even a knife). We teach people to light a fire without a lighter, to cut wood without a saw, to fish without a fishing rod and other useful skills.

This system was developed by the early USSR teams of fighters and scientists, based on traditional Stone Age methods (5000 years old) and was used by secret KGB groups of Elite Forces. It is unknown even in Russia.

Once you  have found a good place for shelter, then the first thing to do is to make a fire. A fire will give you heat which prevents you to from getting cold, also you can use it to make meals or boil water. It can also serve as an illumination source, which gives you the ability to make a shack or a bed when it is dark. The bottom line is that fire is life. However, a fire needs “fuel” and in this chapter, you will know how to cut wood without an axe or a saw by using just your hands (maybe a knife).

Preferred Log Sizes

The thicker the wood, the better. A thick trunk can burn up to 8 hours; which would also allow for a goodnight’s sleep. A thinner trunk will require you to wake up, get some more wood and feed the fire. Also, it is easier (and quicker) to find and carry one thick trunk than look for several thinner ones. Thin trunks and dry branches are good for making meals only, but if you want the fire to last all night, then use logs which would smolder and produce a lot of heat. Do not split logs (if you have an axe) as they would burn faster and make only a cold ash. If you take a whole log and a split log, the latter would burn much faster.

Preferred Type of Tree

Do not choose birch trees as it is always wet in a forest. A dry birch in a forest is a very rare thing due to its lack of waterproof qualities. That is why a birch tree rots from the inside out. A pine tree and a pine spruce are good choices due to their medium resin content. At the same time, a fir tree has too much resin in it and would produce a lot of dangerous sparks which can start your clothes on fire. A pine tree is waterproof; unlike a birch tree it does not allow water to infiltrate its bark so it is usually dry enough to use as a fire.

It is always wet in a forest so if a tree is laying on the ground at least a week period it should not be used. Maybe you cannot see it on a surface, but it is surely all wet inside. It would produce only smoke, not fire. So, do not use laying trees. You need dry standing trees. How can you know if a tree is dry? Check its bark. If it comes off a tree, then that tree is dry already. Also, pay attention to branches – if they have green needles, it means a tree is still alive and wet inside. A tree feeds its needles with water rising through a trunk. Do not use broken trees. Water cannot penetrate through a bark, but it would be wet from rain very fast through the broken top. The surface will be dry but wet inside.

Now that you have found an appropriate dry tree, how can you take it down? Even dry trees rot their roots, close to the soil containing water. Water in a tree, obeying gravity, travels down, to the soil, while the part of the tree above the ground is dried by winds and the sun. The underground part is rotting slowly. You can break a lot of dry trees down by just pushing them. The higher a tree, the better, because the lever is longer. Choose only such trees you can carry or drag because if you hurt your back your survival chances are reduced. There would be no medicine and no doctor to help you in a forest. Pay attention to details if you want to live. By the same reason, you should not stand near a dry tree during a storm; it can fall on you if broken by the wind.

When you start swinging to try tree to break it, watch out – its top can break away and fall on you. Alright these are instructions for a lifehack for thinner trees, but what about breaking a thicker tree? Those larger trees can provide heat all night long? You just need to get a longer lever. Use a long stick with a loop at its top to hook a treetop and make it fall. Any rope is good for a loop. If a rope is absent, do not worry – you can use your belt, pants, jacket, anything. Raise a stick with a loop high enough and hook a solid knot on a log. Then start swinging it. Be sure it is a dry tree which should make a crunching noise. If it does not crunch, then it is wet inside so start searching for another one.

What can you do if you don’t have any rope or a belt, or clothes at all? There are things like pine or spruce roots. They are long and durable. Pine roots are less reliable, especially when they dry up, but spruce roots are a great thing. It is known that Vikings used them to build their wooden ships which were able to stand any sea storm. Pine or spruce roots lay just under the upper layer of soil. They look like a cord. Use a stick when digging because if you hurt your nails they might abscess or become infected. Remember you cannot call a doctor? Use roots to make a loop and then use that all the way. By the way, a tree can fall to the opposite side from an apparent falling direction due to its structure (due to contorted grains).

How to Cut the Logs?

To cut a thick log, fall two or three trees across each other and make a fire in the intersection. They would burn out soon enough especially if you scrub coal. When they are ready, you can make a famous Siberian fire able to heat you all night long. It is simpler with thinner logs. Find two trees standing close. You will use them as pliers (clamp). The closer, the better. Because thin trees are spring-like and very elastic. They can break in an unexpected place and hit you in your face. This is why you put a thinner treetop in that “clamp” while holding the butt-end. You can pull it or push it. Pushing can be better because you will not strain your back. If a log splits, it is perfect, now you have a cordwood (bolt). Turn a log to 180 degrees and continue in such a manner that the crack in the log would give you the same cordwood. You might need them for boiling water, making meals, etc.

Variation #2: Cutting a Tree With a Knife

If you have a knife, then you have “an axe.” Use an elbow length cordwood as a handle. The heavy birch one is the best. A fragile and light pine would not work. It is recommended to take bark off of the branch before making “a handle.” Take bark off a chosen tree making “a belt.” You can make a scraper knife by sticking your knife in “a handle” at an angle and use it by holding the knife handle and the cordwood. Work the wood at approximately your chest level so it will be comfortable for you while you hold the knife and use “a handle.” This method should be applied with 10”-15” diam. trees. Yes, you can cut a thicker tree, but it would not be practical. Now put your knife to a log at an angle of 45 degrees and strike its spine with the cordwood to split the wood. After making diagonal cuts all over the tree, put your knife at an angle of 90 degrees and cut out all the particles. Then do the same a little bit higher. Eventually a log gets thinner and you can break it with a single push.

As you have read, you do not have to have an axe or saw to cut wood and to build a fire in the forest. You can follow these directions, which have been proven to work and survive without all the tools or equipment that you wish you had brought with you.


Written by Mikhail Didenko and Edited by Dr. John M. Landry, Ph.D.

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay