Dachas: An Essential Part of the Russian Landscape
My journey outside of the city center
Дача (Dacha) has no direct translation in the English language, often being referred to as a “summer home”. However, the reality and culture surrounding dacha’s is entirely more complex. The term became part of Russian culture during the Empire, referencing plots of lands gifted by the Tsar. During Soviet times, cottages outside of the city center because commonplace for families that could afford them. Dachas provided respite from the bustle and pollution of major cities. Additionally, they were places to grow crops and flowers in times of rationing and limited access to to nutritional food. Strict Soviet regulations around the size and utility of these homes made them affordable, yet many are not inhabitable year round. Dachas from Soviet times are one story buildings made mostly from wood without insulation. Today, dachas still serve many of their original purposes but have increased in size and luxury. The majority of middle and upper class Russian citizens have a dacha in their family.
Naturally, I have been very curious about this Russian phenomenon since discovering it. Today, after many years, I got to experience it firsthand! As many Dacha’s are not equipped for winter, they need a little TLC before the season begins. I was enlisted (invited myself) to assist in this process. After an hour train ride outside of Moscow, I was in the Russian countryside ready for an adventure! The train tracks appeared to be endless in both directions. You could smell campfires in the distance. We took an unpaved path from the train station to the village through tall grass. The air was crisp, the leaves were turning, and I was only mildly overreacting about how amazing the experience was. This village of dachas was quiet, serene and compact. Due to the Soviet restrictions on land ownership and building, the Dachas are all very close together on small plots of land. There are no secrets among neighbors in the countryside! Fortunately, this meant less for us to prepare for winter. I believe I only helped lift one piece of furniture. Although I was not a practical companion for my friends, it was completely worth the trip to see Russian dacha life. Make time to enjoy the fresh air!
Sam Cramer is currently studying Russia at Liden & Denz Moscow