When Michelle Obama visited Russia back in 2009, she was congratulated by the Russian press for ‘working the White House like a dacha’. I was able to see this thing called a dacha on a trip to Poland back in 2007.
But let’s start the story in America. If you don’t have a chicken at your urban residence, you are behind the times. If you don’t have herbs and vegetables clinging to your windowsill, you are out of step. You probably don’t drink locally brewed beer or eat upmarket hot dogs. If this describes you, you probably think that chicken raising and vegetable gardens should be left to the owners of suburban or country homes.
But what do urban dwellers do about our inner peasant? How can we satiate the small gardener in our soul trying to breath free, donning a trowel in one hand and a bunch of carrots held up triumphantly in the other? If you live in Moscow, you might imagine that this little gardener will die a slow death amidst the smog, the Bolshoi and the colorful onion domes. But that is not true!
More than 60% of Muscovites spend time at their family country cottage, known as a dacha. Summers (albeit short ones) are spent at these dachas. Russians pride themselves on being a society of gardeners; apples are plucked, cucumbers pickled, and jams jarred at their dachas.
Dacha comes from the Russian word дать (davat) “to give”. Originally, during the time of Peter the Great, loyal vassals would receive parcels of land on which to put a summer home. But summer living started getting crowded during the 1960s. During this time, the soviet party issued land for a dacha to anyone who applied – for free. And now just about everyone has one. They are a common sight in much of Eastern Europe.
So if you like growing your own food, on your own parcel of land, may I recommend moving to Moscow?
Here is a first hand account of dacha living that paints an interesting picture: