Dacha

   The term signifies a house on a plot of land located within reasonably easy reach of a city. It is intended for intermittent family residence, especially during the summer. People residing on their dachas are called dachniks, which is the linguistic form for a peculiar social identity based on the principles of living away from the city and enjoying the delights of the Russian summer, including the cultivation of flowers, herbs, berries, and even fruits and vegetables. In the late 1980s, the Gorbachev administration provided large sections of the Soviet society with allotments, signifying the first step toward privatization of land in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). This wide availability of plots meant that dachas became a mass phenomenon, with virtually every family having at least a single plot of land. For working-class families, dachas provided a cheap alternative to summer holidays on the Black Sea. Massive construction projects were initiated at the end of the Soviet era, transforming the appearance of the Russian countryside and forcing an upgrade in the country’s roads and transportation system. Furthermore, small and large businesses were established to cater for the growing needs of Russian dachniks.
   In the 1990s, when the society lived through a series of economic crises, dachas became centers of economic activity and agriculture, with dachniks focusing their cultivation efforts on goods for sale rather than for personal consumption. This trend was reversed in the most recent decade as dachas again became centers of family summer recreation. For some Russians, having a dacha provides a symbolic link to the earth and nourishes their Slavic rural roots. For others, living at the dacha is a form of suburban life with regular, if not daily, commutes to the city and involves a bond with their local dachnik community.
   A typical dacha involves a plot of land of normally about 100 square meters, a one- or two-story house with a veranda, a patio, and a barbeque area, and a small fruit and vegetable garden. Dacha settlements are normally found in picturesque settings by a river or on the edge of a forest. Since the time of Peter the Great, dachas have been a sign of social distinction. Under Joseph Stalin, dachas were the property of the state—the so-called gosdacha (state dacha); these were made available to individuals at no charge, and marked their contribution to the state. In post-Soviet Russia, dachas became emblematic of business and social success, with many dachas of the Russian political and economic elite as well as celebrities being equipped with the state-of-the-art sporting facilities and surveillance systems, turning the modest dacha into a country estate.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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