Dacha is not a mere suburban house, it’s a distinct tradition of late USSR.
Dachas originate from 1950s, when people were permitted to have a personal piece of clay. It wasn’t completely private in modern meaning. At the beginning dachas were distributed by the state, but near USSR’s fall and after it, people could buy and sell them.
There were tough restrictions on area and buildings. All plots were equal – 600 square meters each (it’s only 20 x 30 meters, pretty small). All plots were set in lines next to each other. Maximal area of living space was 25 square meters, one floor, no cellar, optional attic.
a dacha settlement
Usually, offered land was in a significant distance from the city. Up to 40 kilometers, which was a trouble without a car. I remind: back in USSR days a car was luxury. People used to endure one hour standing with bags in a heated bus.
My grandparents have obtained their plot in 1972. It was a glade, which woodcutters left with plenty of stubs. The grandparents were eradicating stubs manually and still recall this work as one of the hardest ever. Then they leveled the ground and invited family friends to help build a wooden house. Back in that days everybody built his home independently. They finished construction in one summer and it was a good job. The house stands as before and still liveable.
Dachas were supposed to be a summer place for garden hobby. There was a lack of food in stores and soviet citizens used to cultivate vegetables and berries at dachas. Usually pensioners spent the winter in the city and moved to the dacha when snow began to thaw. Other family members, who work in city, came to the dacha for a weekend.
a vegetable garden
It’s important to understand: a dacha was never a place for rest. Relaxing there was condemned by society. Old people worked there from dawn to dusk and citizens, who came on a weekend, also received an abundancy of tasks. Generally they were growing vegetables, conserving them for winter and fixing all stuff.
In some places the state provided people with an extra field for growing potatoes. Every Russian remembers tradition to gather all family in the spring and move to dacha to plant potatoes. Then, in the fall, they to gather again for digging the harvest.
When USSR had fallen apart, the dark times came. “Hard 90s” they are called. I’ll write about it separately, but now it’s enough to say that dachas have saved people from literal starving.
Nowadays the institute of dacha is gone. It’s no more efficient to grow food on your own. But old people continue to live there in summer and kids often stay their on school holidays.
Anyway, those cozy building still stand, reminding us our past.