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Battening a country house in a dacha co-operative in the environs of Moscow, 1993.
A typical soviet dacha house.

Dacha (Russian: да́ча; IPA: [ˈdatɕə] ( ), from the verb "дать" [dat'] - "to give") is a Russian word for seasonal or year-round second homes often located in the exurbs of Russian and post-Soviet cities. Cottages or shacks serving as a family's main or only home (or districts of such buildings) are not considered dachas, although many purpose-built dachas are recently being converted for year-round residence.[citation needed] In some cases, dachas are occupied for part of the year by their owners and rented out to urban residents as summer retreats.[citation needed]

Dachas on the Volga river.

Most dacha areas have existed since the Soviet era and consist of numerous[citation needed] small (typicallly 600 square meter [0.15 acre]) land plots. They were initially designated only for recreation getaways of city dwellers and for the purpose of growing little gardens. They were extremely popular because the Soviet people did not have an opportunity to buy land and build a house where they wanted, and also because they lacked other opportunities to spend their time and money.[citation needed]

There were legal size restrictions for dacha houses. They had to have not more than 60 m² (~646 square feet) of living area and be only one storey tall.[1] That's why they usually had a mansard roof with a roof storey in it, which was considered by authorities as just a big garret or attic, not a second storey.[citation needed]

Dacha houses built in late 1980s and later are significantly larger than older ones because legal size restrictions were liberalized, and new dacha areas became fields of relatively big houses on tiny land plots.[citation needed] Tracks between lines of dacha land plots are usually unimproved (somewhere improved with crushed stone) and narrow (often about 6 m (20 ft) between fences), so two cars can hardly pass each other by.[citation needed]

Now dacha areas located in good places tend to modernize and develop, others — degrade since the end of soviet era, but can be renovated and modernized later by new generation of owners.[citation needed]

Dachas are very common in Russia, and are also widespread in most parts of the former Soviet Union. It is estimated that about 50% of Russian families living in large cities have dachas.[2] Dachas have also started appearing in regions of North America known for their high concentrations of immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. Russians and Ukrainians from New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey have been retreating to their Russian-style dacha homes in the forests of Upstate New York in order to recreate the dacha experiences they had during the Soviet era.

As the size and type of dacha buildings was severely restricted during the Soviet time, some permitted features, such as attics and glazed verandas, became extremely widespread and often oversized. During the 1963–1985 period, these limitations were especially strict: only single-story summer houses without permanent heating and with living areas less than 25 m2 (269 sq ft) were allowed as second housing (though older dachas that did not meet these requirements continued to exist).[citation needed] Since 1990, all such limitations have been eliminated.

People on dachas are colloquially called dachniks (дачники); the term usually refers not only[citation needed] to presence on dacha, but to a whole distinctive lifestyle.


In 1917, a dacha near Moscow
An old dacha near Saint Petersburg
Sisto-Palkino, Lomonosovsky District, Leningrad Oblast, and the Sista River

The first dachas in Russia began to appear during the reign of Peter the Great.[citation needed] Initially they were small estates in the country, which were given to loyal vassals by the tsar.[citation needed] In archaic Russian, the word dacha means something given.

During the Age of Enlightenment, Russian aristocracy used their dachas for social and cultural gatherings, which were usually accompanied by masquerade balls and fireworks displays.[citation needed] The Industrial Revolution brought about a rapid growth in the urban population, and urban residents increasingly desired to escape the heavily polluted cities, at least temporarily.[citation needed] By the end of the 19th century, the dacha became a favorite summer retreat for the upper and middle classes of Russian society.

After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, most dachas were nationalised.[citation needed] Some were converted into vacation homes for the working class, while others, usually of better quality, were distributed among the prominent functionaries of the Communist Party and the newly emerged cultural and scientific elite. All but a few dachas remained the property of the state and the right to use them was usually revoked when a dacha occupant was dismissed or fell out of favour with the rulers of the state.[citation needed] Joseph Stalin's favourite Dacha was in Gagra, Abkhazia.[3] The construction of new dachas was restricted until the late 1940s and required the special approval of the Communist Party leadership.[citation needed]

The period after World War II saw a moderate growth in dacha development. Since there was no actual law banning the construction of dachas, squatters began occupying unused plots of land near cities and towns, some building sheds, huts, and more prominent dwellings that served as dachas.[citation needed] This practice of squatting was spurred by the desire of urban dwellers, all living in multi-storey apartment buildings, to spend some time close to nature, and also to grow their own fruits and vegetables.[citation needed] The latter was caused by the failure of the centrally planned Soviet agricultural programme to supply enough fresh produce. As time passed, the number of squatters grew geometrically and the government had no choice but to officially recognise their right to amateur farming. The 1955 legislation introduced a new type of legal person into the Soviet juridical system, a gardeners' partnership (садоводческое товарищество, sadovodcheskoye tovarishchestvo), distinct from the internationally popular community gardens. The gardeners' partnership received the right to permanent use of land exclusively for agricultural purposes and permission to connect to public electrical and water supply networks.[citation needed] In 1958, yet another form of organisation was introduced, a cooperative for dacha construction (дачно-строительный кооператив, dachno-stroytelniy kooperativ), which recognised the right of an individual to build a small house on the land leased from the government.[citation needed]

The family of Boleslav Telichan, a worker of the Krasny Khimik plant in Leningrad at their dacha house, 1981.

The 1980s saw the peak of the dacha boom[citation needed] with virtually every affluent family in the country having a dacha of their own or spending weekends and holidays at friends' dachas. Often ill-equipped and without indoor plumbing, dachas were nevertheless the ultimate solution for millions of working-class families to having an inexpensive summer retreat. Having a piece of land also offered an opportunity for city dwellers to indulge themselves in growing their own fruits and vegetables.

The collapse of communism in the Soviet Union saw the return to private land ownership. Most dachas have since been privatised.[citation needed] The growth of living standards in recent years allowed many dacha owners to spend their discretionary income on improvements. Thus, many recently built dachas are fully equipped houses suitable for use as permanent residences. The market-oriented economy transformed the dacha into an asset, which generally reflects the prosperity of its owner and can be freely traded in the real estate market.[citation needed]

Due to the rapid increase in urbanization in Russia, many village houses are currently being sold to be used as dachas.[citation needed] Many Russian villages now have dachniki as temporary residents. Some villages have been fully transformed into dacha settlements,[citation needed] while some older dacha settlements often look like more permanent lodgings.[citation needed] The advantages of purchasing a dacha in a village usually are: lower costs, greater land area, and larger distances between houses. The disadvantages may include: lower-quality utilities, less security, and typically a farther distance to travel.[citation needed]

Dacha farming[edit]

Main article: Household plot
One of many dacha co-ops surrounding Kstovo (Nizhny Novgorod Oblast)

The dacha plots (usually not more than 600 m2 (6,500 sq ft); in some cases over 1,200 or 1,500 m2 (13,000 or 16,000 sq ft), but virtually never exceeding 0.96 ha (2.4 acres)) are too small to grow the needed amount of fruits and vegetables, thus sometimes they are also grown on separate dedicated plots of ground.[citation needed] In Soviet times and sometimes now, such dedicated plots of ground were often made of the unused sections of agricultural fields owned by collective farms.[citation needed] However, in rural areas, many dacha owners own a greater land area and can grow the needed amount of fruits and vegetables right on their plot.[citation needed]

Many small dacha plots, especially those that were recently purchased, are not used for large-scale fruit and vegetable farming. Instead, they are frequently used for gardening and planting exotic plants.[citation needed]

Due to the high costs of good equipment,[citation needed] even relatively large plots of land are often cultivated manually using equipment such as a spade or a spading fork. In autumn the grown potatoes and other crops are gathered and transported to the city where they are stored in cellars, dugouts (usually located on unused plots of ground), or in personal automobile garages.[citation needed]

Many Russians prefer to grow vegetables themselves because of the widespread (especially among the older part of the population) belief in the excessive use of agrochemicals in the vegetables from the supermarkets and grocery stores, and the higher costs of the vegetables in stores and bazaars.[citation needed] Also, growing one's own food supplies is a long-lived Russian tradition practiced by many affluent Russians.[citation needed]

The most common dacha fruits in cool temperate regions of Russia are apple, blackcurrant, redcurrant, gooseberry, raspberry and strawberry (sometimes also sour cherry, downy cherry, plum, pear, sea-buckthorn, Actinidia kolomikta, black chokeberry, serviceberry, sweetberry honeysuckle, blackberry and grape, but many of them are either rare or not hardy enough and require winter protection). Popular vegetables and herbs are potato, cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin, tomato, carrot, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, turnip, onion, garlic, dill, parsley, rhubarb and sorrel.

The means of transportation for people to get to their dachas, besides cars, are "water trams", buses and electric trains, colloquially called "elektrichka" (электри́чка). Due to the high number of people traveling to dachas during the weekends (especially during the summer), traffic typically builds up around large cities, and elektrichkas and buses become filled up.[citation needed]



American President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at Medvedev's dacha office outside Moscow, 6 July 2009.

The state-owned vacation houses allotted for government officials, academicians, military personnel, and other VIPs are called "gosdachas" (госдача, short for государственная дача gosudarstvennaya dacha— "state dacha"). In modern Russia, the Federal Property Agency of Russia continues to own numerous estates throughout the country that are leased, often on non-market terms, to government officials.[citation needed] The President of Russia has official dacha residences in Zavidovo and Novo-Ogaryovo.[citation needed] Gosdachas in Komarovo and Peredelkino, Zhukovka, Barvikha, and Usovo and Rublyovka in Moscow are populated by many Soviet-era intellectuals and artists.[citation needed] Russian President Vladimir Putin has a dacha in Ozero.[citation needed]

Modern elite dachas[edit]

In modern times, the rise of a new class in the Russian society (the 'new Russians') has added a new dimension to the concept of dacha.

With construction costs often reaching into the millions of US dollars, the dachas of the country's elite bear no resemblance to Soviet-era small garden houses. Most dachas of the elite are constructed with brick and concrete, unlike the middle-class dachas that are mostly constructed with wood.[citation needed] Comparable in size and décor to mansions and palaces, they become an elaborate display of social status, wealth and power. These new symbols of prosperity are designed by professional architects, usually in eclectic style[citation needed] that reflect the nouveau-riche tastes of their owners,[citation needed] and feature numerous luxury items such as marble statues, fountains and exotic plants.[citation needed] Some have state-of-the-art sporting facilities such as an indoor swimming pool, multiple tennis courts and stables for race horses.[citation needed] A few privately owned estates even have small forests and lakes.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

Types of houses or gardens similar to the dacha:


  1. ^ Lovell, John (2011). The Shadow of War: Russia and the USSR, 1941 to the present. John Wiley & Sons. 
  2. ^ Struyk, Raymond J.; Angelici, Karen (1996). "The Russian Dacha phenomenon". Housing Studies 11 (2): 233–250. doi:10.1080/02673039608720854. 
  3. ^ Abkhazia: where Stalin’s ghost holds sway

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]