Dachas played a an important role in the Russia’s cultural movement forward. All throughout the Soviet Union’s reign, thousands of people flocked to the major cities to find work and a new life, cramming into small apartment buildings as they did so. Living conditions were far from good, especially for those who shared communal or multi-family apartments. As a way to try and space things out, the Soviet Government began assigning Dachas to families who they thought were in good standing with the USSR, usually these people were artists, writers or government officials. Dachas before the Soviet Union were only owned by the wealthy, but this changed. Usually these small houses had only a few bedrooms, a kitchen, a garden, and if you were very lucky running water.
Some Dachas were much nicer than others. Dacha communities set up for those in political power had the most up to date houses, while those with small-time jobs were only given shacks. Special communities were set up across the country side for different career occupations. The most notable among these was a writers community called Peredelkino, where the famous writers claimed residency. The Soviet Government would often arrange meetings with the writers or artists unions at there dachas to have a more relaxed setting to come up with the future agenda for their role within the Union. In order to get to these dachas that were outside the city limit, citizens would take green electric trains called the electrichka, which would be packed on Friday mornings and Sunday evenings.
Dachas allowed the country to industrialize, while still keeping its “peasant” and cultural roots. Going to Dachas on the weekend made it possible for poor peasants who lacked appropriate funds to grow a large majority of their food, especially when famine was occurring. People could still feel like they were living the authentic Slavic life on the weekends, while earning a better wage in the cities during the week. This summer I had the opportunity to spend a day at a Dacha, and it was truly an incredible experience. Although the tiny house lacked fresh water and adequate plumbing, it definitely had a “homey” feel to it. Its owners were happy and extremely giving, with both their time and food. They were in constant worry though that the government was going to evict them from the house at any moment, since it was given to them during the Soviet era and now they no longer provided any services for the government due to their age. It is just one more example of old soviet unsolved problems flowing over to be dealt with today.
Interesting read! Its remarkable that even in a “communist” country, living standards were still unequal based on your job and relation to the government. I had no idea that Dachas were used as weekend homes for peasants to grow their food while still working in the city to make more money. Learned something new thanks.
There’s a wonderful book about the history of the dacha: http://www.amazon.com/Summerfolk-History-1710-2000-Stephen-Lovell/dp/0801440718/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383764803&sr=1-2&keywords=summerfolk
Check it out!