This month’s National Geographic features a story about Russia’s dacha culture, a long history of summer cottage living that goes back as far as Peter the Great’s reign in the 1700s.
Today, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of Russian urbanites have some form of dacha, the definition of which has expanded from the modest one-room, unheated summer shack to include massive homes just 50 miles from Moscow.
But in most traditional dacha communities, where there aren’t even permanent mailing addresses, the old ways persist. Parties with singing and dancing, horse riding and swimming, and gardening occupy most residents’ time. While mostly recreational, the extended stays in these summer homes demand some self-sufficiency. In fact, in tougher Soviet times almost 90% of Russia’s vegetables came from dacha gardens.
The recent revival of the dacha in Russia seems to resonate to America’s re-discovery of summer camp and cottage culture as well. As more and more people move into cities, the countryside is becoming a critical part of our escape.