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A typical Soviet dacha Dacha in Resheti (4116129180).jpg
A typical Soviet dacha

A dacha (Russian:дача,IPA:  [ˈdatɕə] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) is a seasonal or year-round second home, often located in the exurbs of Russian-speaking and other post-Soviet countries. [1] A cottage (коттедж, kottedzh) or shack serving as a family's main or only home, or an outbuilding, is not considered a dacha, [1] although some dachas recently have been converted to year-round residences and vice versa.


The word "dacha", coming from "davat" or "give", originally referred to land allotted by the tsar to his nobles; and indeed the dacha in Soviet times is similar to the allotment in some Western countries – a piece of land allotted, normally free, to citizens by the local government for gardening or growing vegetables for personal consumption. With time the name for the land was applied to the building on it. [2] In some cases, owners occupy their dachas for part of the year and rent them to urban residents as summer retreats. People living in dachas are colloquially called dachniki (дачники); the term usually refers not only to dacha dwellers but to a distinctive lifestyle. [3] The Russian term is often said to have no exact counterpart in English. [4] [5]

Dachas are common in Russia, and are also widespread in most parts of the former Soviet Union and in some countries of the former Eastern Bloc. Surveys in 1993–1994 suggest about 25% of Russian families living in large cities had dachas. [6] Most dachas are in colonies of dachas and garden plots near large cities. These clusters have existed since the Soviet era, and consist of numerous small, typically 600-square-metre (0.15-acre), land plots.[ citation needed ] They were initially intended[ by whom? ] only as recreation getaways of city dwellers and for growing small gardens for food. [7] Dachniki use their dachas for fishing, hunting, and other leisure activities. Growing garden crops – still seen as an important part of dacha life – remains popular.

Dachas originated as small country estates given as a gift by the tsar, and have been popular among the Russian upper- and middle-classes ever since. During the Soviet era, many dachas were state-owned, and were given to the people. The government of the Russian Federation continues to own State dachas (gosdacha) used by the president and other officials. They were extremely popular in the Soviet Union.

As regulations severely restricted the size and type of dacha buildings for ordinary people during the Soviet period, permitted features such as large attics or glazed verandas became extremely widespread and often oversized. In the period from the 1960s to 1985 legal limitations were especially strict: only single-story summer houses without permanent heating and with living areas less than 60 m2 (646 sq ft) were allowed as second housing (though older dachas that did not meet these requirements continued to exist). In the 1980s planners loosened the rules, and since 1990 all such limitations have been eliminated.[ citation needed ]



A dacha near Moscow, 1917 1917 Datcha pres de Moscou.jpg
A dacha near Moscow, 1917
An old dacha near Saint Petersburg Magic Sankt Petersburg - it's Datscha Land 3.jpg
An old dacha near Saint Petersburg

The first dachas in Russia began to appear during the 17th century, initially referring to small estates in the country that were given to loyal vassals by the tsar. [3] In archaic Russian, the word dacha means something given, from the verb "дать" [dat'] – "to give". [1] 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. The coming of the Industrial Revolution to Russia brought about a rapid growth in the urban population, and wealthy urban residents increasingly desired to escape the heavily polluted cities, at least temporarily. [3] By the end of the 19th century, the dacha became a favorite summer retreat for the upper and middle classes of Russian society. [8] In the tsarist era, dachas tended to have pleasure gardens, but were not used much for growing food. [9] Maxim Gorky wrote a novelette entitled Dachniki (1885), about newlywed city-dwellers living a 'simple' summer life of walks in the countryside.[ citation needed ]

Soviet Union

Following the Russian Revolution, most dachas were nationalised. Some were converted into vacation homes for factory workers, 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. Building new dachas required permission from senior officials and was rarely granted during the early years of the Soviet Union. [10] The seniormost Soviet leaders all had their own dachas, and Joseph Stalin's favourite was in Gagra, Abkhazia. [11] New dachas started to be built in larger numbers during the 1930s, and dacha colonies for artists, or soldiers, or various classes of party functionaries, started to form. [8]

There were legal size restrictions for dacha houses in the Soviet era. They had to have not more than 60 m2 (646 sq ft) of living area and be only one story tall. [12] For that reason, they usually had a mansard roof, which was considered by authorities as just a large garret or attic, not a second story. [13] Often ill-equipped and without indoor plumbing, dachas were nevertheless a solution for millions of working-class families, to have their own form of summer retreat. Having a piece of land also offered an opportunity for city dwellers to indulge themselves in growing their own fruits and vegetables. In the years before and after World War II, cultivation of garden crops on dacha plots was substantial, because of the failure of the centrally planned Soviet agricultural programme to supply enough fresh produce. Many dacha owners grew crops for market. Since then, growing garden crops has been of lesser importance, but continues to be widespread. [3] [8] Many Russian dacha owners still see gardening as a key value of dachnik culture. Keeping historical food shortages in mind, they take great pride in growing their own food rather than buying it at a store. [14]

Battening a country house in a dacha co-operative in the environs of Moscow, July 1993 RIAN archive 532407 Country house battening.jpg
Battening a country house in a dacha co-operative in the environs of Moscow, July 1993
The family of a worker of the Krasny Khimik plant in Leningrad at their dacha house, July 1981 RIAN archive 487609 Boleslav Telichan's family at summer house.jpg
The family of a worker of the Krasny Khimik plant in Leningrad at their dacha house, July 1981

The period after World War II saw moderate growth in dacha development. Since there was no actual law banning the construction of dachas, people began occupying unused plots of land near cities and towns, growing gardens and building sheds, huts, and more prominent dwellings that served as dachas. As time passed, the number of squatters grew 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), similar to community gardens in other countries. 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. [15] 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. [3]

The 1980s saw the peak of the dacha boom, with nearly all affluent families—over a third of families in urban areas—having a dacha of their own. [16] [17] Dacha houses built since the late 1980s 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. [18] Tracts between lines of dacha land plots are usually unimproved or improved with crushed stone, and narrow (often about 6 m (20 ft) between fences) enough that two cars can hardly pass each other by.[ citation needed ]

Dachas also started to be found in other Eastern Bloc countries, especially in East Germany, where the concept was unknown before 1945 (but remains quite current, even after German reunification), and in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. [1] [19] [20]


In the nineties there was great unemployment in Russia and other post-soviet states and in factories and research institutes that still functioned the salary was sometimes not paid for many months. In these hard times potatoes grown in garden plots saved many people from hunger and fruit and berries saved from vitamin deficiency.[ 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, 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 ]

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 elektrichka and buses are filled to capacity.[ citation needed ]

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, 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.[ citation needed ]

Dacha gardens

One of many dacha plots surrounding Kstovo, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast E7159-Kstovo-industrial-right.jpg
One of many dacha plots surrounding Kstovo, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast

Dacha plots are usually not more than 600 m2 (6,500 sq ft) in area; in some cases over 1,200 or 1,500 m2 (13,000 or 16,000 sq ft), but nearly never exceeding 0.96 ha (2.4 acres). They therefore are too small to grow any large amount of fruits and vegetables, thus sometimes they are also grown on separate dedicated plots of ground nearby. 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. [3] 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 custom and the perceived high costs of good equipment, even relatively large plots of land are often cultivated manually using equipment such as a spade or a spading fork. [4] [21] 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 belief in the excessive use of agrochemicals in the vegetables from supermarkets and grocery stores, and the higher costs of the vegetables in stores and bazaars, especially among the older part of the population. Also, growing one's own food supplies is a long-lived Russian tradition practised even by many affluent Russians. It is seen as a way to have a connection to the land, to be self-sufficient, and for many, to find some escape from a capitalist economy. [14]

While a large portion of urban Russians grow some vegetables in their dacha gardens, the perception in some parts of society that urban Russians are becoming increasingly self-sufficient is a myth, and only some 15 percent of vegetables are grown by urban dwellers. [21]

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, rose hips, plum, bird cherry, pear, sea-buckthorn, Actinidia kolomikta , black chokeberry, serviceberry, barberry, 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, red bell peppers (capsicum), beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, turnip, onion, garlic, dill, parsley, rhubarb, sorrel, papaver, earth apple, horseradish and others. [ citation needed ]

Elite dachas


U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at Medvedev's dacha office outside Moscow, 2009 Barack Obama in Dmitry Medvedev's office.jpg
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at Medvedev's dacha office outside Moscow, 2009

The state-owned vacation houses allotted for government officials, academicians, military personnel, and other VIPs are called "gosdachas" (госдача, short for государственная дачаgosudarstvennaya 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 Novo-Ogaryovo [22] and Zavidovo.[ 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 the Karelian Isthmus, as part of a cooperative society called Ozero, [23] and one in Sochi. [24]

Dacha of Boris Pasternak in Peredelkino, near Moscow Dommuzejpasternak.jpg
Dacha of Boris Pasternak in Peredelkino, near Moscow

Modern elite dachas

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. (Some wealthy Russians prefer the term 'cottage' for their country homes.) [25]

With construction costs often reaching into the millions of U.S. dollars, the dachas of the country's elite bear no resemblance to the small dachas of the Soviet era. Comparable in size and décor to mansions and palaces, they become an elaborate display of social status, wealth and power. [8] [26] [27] Most dachas of the elite are constructed with brick and concrete, unlike the middle-class dachas that are mostly constructed with wood. [3] [28] These new symbols of prosperity are designed by professional architects, usually in eclectic style—that older dachniks look down upon as reflecting the nouveau-riche tastes of their owners—and feature ostentatious items such as marble statues, fountains and exotic plants. [25] [28] [29] Some have state-of-the-art sporting facilities such as an indoor swimming pool, multiple tennis courts and stables for race horses. A few privately owned estates even have small forests and lakes.[ citation needed ]

Wealthy Russians have also bought up many of the tsarist-era dachas of the aristocracy, and Soviet-era dachas of artists and intellectuals. [30]

Dachas and crimes

Theft is not an unusual happening for dachas. Usually, the dachas are either not under surveillance at all or there is only one single guard taking care of the entire property. Trying to prevent these thefts, dacha owners take everything valuable back to their apartments in the city at the end of summer. Most of all, dishes, tools and clothes are stolen. It often occurs that homeless people and criminals use the dachas in autumn and winter in the absence of the respective owners. [31] [32] Sometimes, minors light the unsupervised dachas on fire as an entertainment. Thieves break into dachas with the intention of stealing non-ferrous metal. The leader of the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) at the time, Igor Lebedev, has suffered from such doings in 2000. Two men broke into his dacha situated in Odintsovo District who were then stopped by police officers. The press of the GUBD, which stands for Moscow city police, claims that the collectors of non-ferrous metal are a big problem for Moscow region and that they come there from several different nearby regions. [33] In connection to the spread of drug abuse, poppies are now increasingly being stolen from dachas. That is the reason why growing more than two poppy plants is now considered a crime. [34] In 2008, unknown men robbed 10 dachas, including the famous "Zelyonaya budka" (Зелёнaя будка, Russian for "green booth") belonging to the famous Russian poet Anna Akhmatova in the settlement Litfonda in Komarovo (Leningrad region). [35] In 2002, in the protected gardening association "Yagodka" (Ягодка, Russian for "berry") in Opalikha in Krasnogorsk region of Moscow, the United States citizen Yakov Tilipman who was representing the interests of the "Kremlyovskaya group" was shot. [36] [37] [38] In 2008, robbers in a camouflage uniform climbed over a fence and made their way into the dacha of the TV host Aleksandr Tsekalo in Krasnogorsk, Moscow region where his relatives were tied up and robbed. [39]

See also

Types of houses or gardens similar to the dacha:

Related Research Articles

Gardening Practice of growing and cultivating plants

Gardening is the practice of growing and cultivating plants as part of horticulture. In gardens, ornamental plants are often grown for their flowers, foliage, or overall appearance; useful plants, such as root vegetables, leaf vegetables, fruits, and herbs, are grown for consumption, for use as dyes, or for medicinal or cosmetic use. Gardening is considered by many people to be a relaxing activity. There are also many studies about the positive effects on mental and physical health in relation to gardening.

Allotment (gardening)

An allotment garden, often called simply an allotment, or in North America, a community garden, is a plot of land made available for individual, non-commercial gardening or growing food plants. Such plots are formed by subdividing a piece of land into a few or up to several hundred land parcels that are assigned to individuals or families. Such parcels are cultivated individually, contrary to other community garden types where the entire area is tended collectively by a group of people. In countries that do not use the term "allotment (garden)", a "community garden" may refer to individual small garden plots as well as to a single, large piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people. The term "victory garden" is also still sometimes used, especially when a community garden dates back to the First or Second World War.

Urban agriculture The practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in or around urban areas

Urban agriculture,urban farming, or urban gardening is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around urban areas. Urban agriculture is also the term used for animal husbandry, aquaculture, agroforestry, urban beekeeping, and horticulture. These activities occur in peri-urban areas as well. Peri-urban agriculture may have different characteristics.


A cottage is, typically, a small house. It may carry the connotation of being an old or old-fashioned building. In modern usage, a cottage is usually a modest, often cosy dwelling, typically in a rural or semi-rural location. The cottage orné, often quite large and grand residences built by the nobility, dates back to a movement of "rustic" stylised cottages of the late 18th and early 19th century during the Romantic movement.

Garden design

Garden design is the art and process of designing and creating plans for layout and planting of gardens and landscapes. Garden design may be done by the garden owner themselves, or by professionals of varying levels of experience and expertise. Most professional garden designers have some training in horticulture and the principles of design. Some are also landscape architects, a more formal level of training that usually requires an advanced degree and often a state license. Amateur gardeners may also attain a high level of experience from extensive hours working in their own gardens, through casual study, serious study in Master Gardener Programs, or by joining gardening clubs.

Market garden

A market garden is the relatively small-scale production of fruits, vegetables and flowers as cash crops, frequently sold directly to consumers and restaurants. The diversity of crops grown on a small area of land, typically from under one acre to a few acres, or sometimes in greenhouses distinguishes it from other types of farming. Such a farm on a larger scale is sometimes called a truck farm.

Guerrilla gardening Act of gardening on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to cultivate

Guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to cultivate, such as abandoned sites, areas that are not being cared for, or private property. It encompasses a diverse range of people and motivations, ranging from gardeners who spill over their legal boundaries to gardeners with political influences who seek to provoke change by using guerrilla gardening as a form of protest or direct action. This practice has implications for land rights and land reform; aiming to promote re-consideration of land ownership in order to assign a new purpose or reclaim land that is perceived to be in neglect or misused.

Container garden practice of growing plants exclusively in containers

Container gardening or pot gardening/farming is the practice of growing plants, including edible plants, exclusively in containers instead of planting them in the ground. A container in gardening is a small, enclosed and usually portable object used for displaying live flowers or plants. It may take the form of a pot, box, tub, basket, tin, barrel or hanging basket.

The classification system of inhabited localities in Russia and some other post-Soviet states has certain peculiarities compared with the classification systems in other countries.

Community gardening

A community garden is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people. Community gardens utilize either individual or shared plots on private or public land while producing fruit, vegetables, and/or plants grown for their attractive appearance. Around the world, community gardens can fulfill a variety of purposes such as aesthetic and community improvement, physical or mental well-being, or land conservation.

Komarovo, Saint Petersburg

Komarovo is a municipal settlement in Kurortny District of the federal city of St. Petersburg, Russia, located on the Karelian Isthmus on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, and a station of the Saint Petersburg-Vyborg railroad. It is located about 45 kilometers (28 mi) northwest of central Saint Petersburg. Population: 1,230 (2010 Census); 1,062 (2002 Census); 1,635 (1989 Census).

Kitchen garden

The traditional kitchen garden, also known as a potager or in Scotland a kailyaird, is a space separate from the rest of the residential garden – the ornamental plants and lawn areas. Most vegetable gardens are still miniature versions of old family farm plots, but the kitchen garden is different not only in its history, but also its design.

Colonial Revival garden

A Colonial Revival garden is a garden design intended to evoke the garden design typical of the Colonial period of the United States. The Colonial Revival garden is typified by simple rectilinear beds, straight pathways through the garden, and perennial plants from the fruit, ornamental flower, and vegetable groups. The garden is usually enclosed, often by low walls, fences, or hedges. The Colonial Revival gardening movement was an important development in the gardening movement in the United States.

Urban horticulture

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Household plot is a legally defined farm type in all former socialist countries in CIS and CEE. This is a small plot of land attached to a rural residence. The household plot is primarily cultivated for subsistence and its traditional purpose since the Soviet times has been to provide the family with food. Surplus products from the household plot are sold to neighbors, relatives, and often also in farmer markets in nearby towns. The household plot was the only form of private or family farming allowed during the Soviet era, when household plots of rural people coexisted in a symbiotic relationship with large collective and state farms. Since 1990, the household plots are classified as one of the two components of the individual farm sector, the other being peasant farms – independent family farms established for commercial production on much larger areas of agricultural land. In terms of legal organization, household plots are natural (physical) persons, whereas peasant farms generally are legal (juridical) persons.

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Houses in Poland can be divided into three categories: residential houses, recreational houses and mansions or palaces.

Kuntsevo District District in Moscow, Russia

Kúntsevo is a district in Western Administrative Okrug of the federal city of Moscow, Russia. Population: 142,497 (2010 Census); 125,100 (2002 Census).

Muromtsev Dacha

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Community gardening in the United States

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