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Dacha

From Academic Kids

Dacha Template:Audio (Russian: да́ча) is a name for summer home or vacation house in Russia and CIS countries where people spend their summer holidays and grow fruit and vegetables for their own use. Dachas of the middle class sometimes has a separate banyas (Russian, sing.: ба́ня — sauna) attached to the house. The house is usually wooden or rarely brick and nearly always hand-built.

In archaic Russian, the word 'dacha' used to mean 'something given' as 'dachas' were estates given to loyal vassals by the Tsar. The common term for a dacha farmer is 'dachnik' (Russian: да́чник).

History

Dachas began to appear after the WWII. The reasons for their appearance were on one side the desire of city people, all living in blocks of flats, to spend some time at nature and on the other side the need to grow vegetables. Such need was caused by food shortages experienced due to Soviet agricultural policy.

In the very beginning dachas of common people were practically illegal but since there were no actual law against them the more and more people grabbed unused plots of ground first on the city outskirts, then near villages located close to their city. As time passed the number of dachniks had been grown geometrically and they have been officially legalized. Legalization brought local government representatives in the form of so-called "Gardeners' Societies" (Russian, sing.: садоводческое общество) together with electricity and water conduits for irrigation.

In Soviet times prominent officials or cultural figures were granted to use state-owned vacation houses as a part of their compensation package, though this right had to be revoked when the official was dismissed or went out of favor.

To this day May Day holidays remain a feature of Russian life allowing urban residents, even of the largest cities, a long weekend to plant potatoes. There are no suitable state holidays to be used for the potato harvest, thus it is usually accomplished very quickly during a usual weekend. Some companies, especially the municipal ones, often give their staff an extra weekend day specifically for that purpose.

Dacha Farming

The dacha plots are usually too small to grow the needed amount of potatoes thus sometimes they are also grown on separate dedicated plots of ground. In Soviet times and sometimes now such dedicated plots of ground often were made of the unused sections of agricultural fields owned by collective farms.

Due to poorness and the lack of good equipment even relatively large plots of ground are often being cultivated manually using a spade or a hayfork. In autumn the grown potatoes are gathered and transported to the city where they are being put to storage either in specially dug cellars usually located on unused plots of ground or in personal automobile garages.

The annual process of potato harvesting (and sometimes planting) is a significant, though rather dislikable event in life of Russians. It is commonly called "to go for potatoes" (Russian: ездить на картошку), in the soviet times visiting a private field plot has been called "to go to fields" (Russian: ездить на поля).

Though dacha farming is absolutely not obligatory the most of Russians still prefer to grow vegetables themselves because of the excessive use of agrochemicals and low quality of the vegetables sold through the markets and stores. The only acceptable alternative to such Post-soviet form of farming is acquiring vegetables on numerous Russian bazaars called "rynoks" (Russian, sing.: ры́нок) where the products being sold are grown either by rural farmers or by other dacha farmers.

The most common mean of transportation for low- and middle-class people to get to their dachas, besides cars, is electric trains colloquially called "elektrichkas" (Russian, sing.: электри́чка). During the planting and harvest seasons elektrichkas are so filled with dachniks that sometimes their sliding doors hardly can be closed; this is caused mostly by the railway administration policy that makes elektrichkas twice longer and increases their number only after June, 1.

Gosdachas

Early in the Soviet times the state-owned vacation houses allotted for government members were called "gosdachas" (Russian, sing.: госда́ча, short for "государственная дача" — "state dacha"). In modern Russia, President's Administration continue to own numerous estates throughout the country, that are leased, often on non-market terms, to government officials.

In modern times many oligarchs live only at their dachas, so they make huge and very expensive houses sometimes comparable to palaces with different luxury decorations such as numerous statues, fountains, basins and even small woods, with construction costs often reaching several millions dollars with armed guard and sometimes several barriers around them.

de:Datsche es:Dacha pt:Dacha sv:Datja

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