The “dacha,” or country cottage, is a cultural institution in Russia. The tradition began during the Soviet Union when dachas were given as rewards to good workers.
The communities were organized by profession. In St. Petersburg, my friend Katya took me to her grandparents’ dacha. They worked as city planners during the USSR, and their dacha was located in the architects dacha neighborhood.
In Voronezh, my friend Oksana’s parents live in a neighborhood designated for teachers.
The most popular dachas are located along rivers where residents can swim and relax.
Dachas play an important role in providing food for the Russian table. During lean times, Russians can always count on the food they grow and preserve at their dachas.
Russians are ace foragers, and they add to the table by foraging for greens, berries, and mushrooms in the surrounding forests.
The classical Russian childhood includes summer vacations to family dachas, spent playing with other dacha children and members of the extended family.
Today, many Russian cities have expanded, enveloping what used to be separate dacha communities inside city borders. The trend in suburban home building is to bring the dacha into the city, with expansive backyards that have a cottage-like feel.
The backyard garden connects Russians to the land, be it in the backyard of a suburban home, or at a dacha in the countryside.