Dacha!

Pastor Andrei Furmanov wrote this great article about Russian Dachas —

In the days when the USSR was still a country collective farms, which were the backbone of Russian agriculture, were unable to produce enough, and the money for importing food was sufficient to only buy grain. The result was an official policy was that citizens of then USSR were supposed to grow a lot themselves.

Dachas were formed as cooperatives supervised by trade unions and the by-laws of these cooperatives were strict enough. First of all, the land technically of course did not belong to the members of those cooperatives, all land was state federal property at those times. It was leased to trade unions and could not be sold. Another serious restriction was that the usage of this land had to be limited to growing things.

One simply could not make a lawn on his or her land and enjoy the grass. That would be illegal and immediately would result in kicking the person out from the dacha cooperative and replacing him with a more devoted “weekend farmer”. Not more than one dacha per family was allowed.

The typical size of land given by the state to a family varied from 4 to 12 “sotok”, 6 and 8 being the most common (not surprising, now a popular newspaper for dacha owners is titled “6 Sotok” and everyone perfectly understands what they mean by that). One “sotka” = 100 square meters, so typical dacha land area of 6 sotok is equal to 0.16 acres.

Statistic says that now more than 30% of Russian families have dachas. And traditionally most of the dachas were distributed by the trade union organizations at the major industrial enterprises. Therefore in many cities the figures are even higher. Majority of dacha owners were workers, according to the party policy.

We are not saying that other social groups were not allowed to have dachas. It’s just important to realize that having a dacha was not a sign of belonging to elite class, and almost every family could easily get it if at least one family member had been working for 5 or 10 years at the same factory or plant.

But we have given you enough dry facts… Let us add some emotions to that long technical introduction to the concept of dacha – one of the key concepts of Russian life in both Soviet and post-Soviet times. Continue reading