Upper elastic layer of birch bark has its own name - elm or birch bark (both acceptable spellings and pronunciations).
In the dry distillation of the white bark tar get. (Proverb: broad elm - yes tar is black).
The Slavs products from birch bark considered a talisman against evil forces. Celts buried their dead in caps of birch bark, and Finno-permyane according to archaeological evidence, the deceased was wrapped in birch bark.
Birch bark has long been used in folk crafts. Due to the presence of resinous substances elm differs extremely robust and resistant to decay. Peoples of the North and the Far East have used birch bark for the manufacture of boats and buildings dwellings - tents. In Russia birch bark used in construction (as resistant to moisture cushioning material), for the manufacture of tueski (milk in them even in hot weather does not spoil), baskets, boxes, buckets, lukoshek, other kitchen utensils, bast.
In ancient elm replaced paper. Known to many ancient Chinese and Sanskrit texts on birch bark. She was one of the main refills materials in ancient India, where it wrote a sharp metal pencil, prominayuschimpoverhnost and then wiped inscription soot.
Birch bark as a material for writing on Russia have been widely used not later than the first quarter of the XI century., It fell into disuse until the middle of the XV century., When there was a cheap paper. Writing specially prepared birch bark, it boiled in water, makes elastic crust and then delaminate, removing most coarse layers. Prepared for writing sheet bark usually cut from all sides, so that he had a neat angles. Wrote sharp bone sticks, called pisalami. Inscription in most cases applied to the inner side of the cortex, ie, on the surface of birch bark, which is always outside when the bark sheet folds into a scroll.
Elm perfectly conserved in river sediments, peat bogs, so Academician VL Janine opened in Novgorod a treasure trove of ancient manuscripts. Archaeologists have found more than a thousand birchbark documents in Novgorod, Pskov, Torzhok and other cities, which showed widespread literacy and a high level of culture more than a thousand years ago.
Among the found letters have letters, drafts of documents, notes on economic affairs and even "school notebooks" with the recording of the alphabet mixed with drawings creatures (picture from Wikipedia).
In the seventh Thursday after the first full moon of spring festival celebrated Russian people "Semik." Decorated their houses and streets of birch twigs, herbs sprinkled floor, curled ribbons in birch branches Russian girls. The festival is accompanied by fun, dancing, singing songs. Semitsky Thursday and follow them in the olden days the girls' festivities: dances around in a grove of birches, kumleniem, braided wreaths and fortune-telling them about her suitors. Over time, some of these rites was moved to Trinity. On Semik girls were herded into the forest, chose young birch and wringing her (often vershinku). Not quite broke off and left hanging and squashed branch braided wreath. Then the fun begins about birches rite. Of twigs and grass made stuffed cuckoo and amusing manner "baptized" it. During the "baptism" girls "kumilis": future "godfathers", putting his face curled birch wreath, kissing and immediately exchanged pectoral cross. Comic their native ceremony and pokumivshiesya often remained good friends for many years.