The word dacha has originated several centuries ago. It was based on the term that applied to real estate donated to Russian upper class families by the Tsar. Dachas have a lot of references in Russian literature of the 19th century. For example Pushkin wrote a number of his well-known poems while staying at his rented dacha near Saint-Petersburg in 1831.
During Soviet times dacha was one of the symbols of prosperity. It was the third key wealth attribute after a personal auto and apartment in the city. It wasn’t easy to become the owner of the desired residence in the country side. Russian dachas were distributed by the communist party to its members based on profession and personal contribution. There were dacha communities inhabited by scientists, writers or even theater actors.
Dachas in Russia: Definition and Statistics
Did you know that more than 40% of all people living in the major cities of Russia own their dachas? In Moscow this number gets close to 60%! So what exactly is the right definition of a Russian dacha? Well, dacha is basically a house located in the country side and used as a secondary home.
During summer Russians tend to escape the overheated cities and spend more time in the nature. A typical Moscow family has an apartment located in the city and a house located in the country side. In most cases dacha is used as a summer home. This allows the kids to stay in the countryside with their grandparents during the whole season.
Living in the country side and working in the city is not so easy though. A typical Russian dacha in the Moscow area is located about 20 to 40 miles away from the city. The problem is that because of the outdated traffic system this relatively small distance usually takes at least 2 hours to be covered during peak hours. Every year starting May, Moscow highways become over congested with the so called “dachniki” driving to and from their country houses.
People spend hours in the numerous traffic jams. That’s why weekends become the only days when working parents can finally enjoy some fresh air in the countryside with their children and parents.
New Luxury Dachas on Rublevka
In most cases these dachas have been built long before the 1990s. They were granted to the parents of the current owners by the Soviet government. A large portion of these wooden constructions has never been renovated. Thus they lack a lot of the modern world amenities that include in-house showers and toilets. On the other side there is a great number of country houses that have been either fully renovated or constructed from scratch after being demolished. These new constructions may worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars depending on the size, quality and the cost of land.
The most upscale dacha area in Russia is definitely the well-known Rublevka. It is located about 15 miles away from the Moscow downtown.
Most of the Soviet and Russian elite have their dachas there. Rublevka remains the most expensive countryside in Russia that has the largest percentage of houses worth more than 1 million dollars. Most of the government members as well as president have their residences located in Rublevka area.
Here is a house that hit the Moscow real estate market just before the collapse of the Russian ruble in 2014. The house was listed on the Sotheby’s International Realty website with the asking price of $100 million.
It was located in one of the closed gated communities of Rublevka on 2 acres of land. It featured the palace interiors decorated with gold, marble and expensive kinds of wood. Most of the high class Rublevka real estate is hidden behind tall fences and guarded by the private security. Here is a typical Rublevka style fence.
Russian Dacha: Cultural Phenomenon
Russian dacha is more than just a name for a country house. In fact it’s a very complicated cultural phenomenon. Its role may vary depending on the social background of the family.
- Some people view dachas as their getaway pension residences. This assumes that the city apartment can be put out to rent in order to compensate the degrading pension system.
- Other people view their dacha weekends as great alternatives to spending their free time inside the small city apartments. It is a very inexpensive way to organize their free time during weekends.
- A very small portion of people can afford to take a vacation trip to the sea side inside or outside Russia. Dachas are used as cheaper vacation alternatives especially in summer.
- There are a lot of low income families around the country. They use their dachas to grow potatoes and vegetables as well as to produce milk. In fact during the early 2000s more than 60% of the above products in the country have been produced at dachas located all around Russia.
- There is just a small portion of people that have their dachas built in accordance with the high western standards. These types of houses located in the Moscow area can be worth millions of dollars.
I have spent a couple weeks in Moscow this summer. During my stay there I had a chance to visit an old friend of mine at his dacha. At first his plan was to destroy the old wooden construction and build a new one using bricks. But later he decided to build a new house in a different area and just renovate the old dacha.
That’s great because it still has that natural feel that in my mind can only be associated with a wooden construction.
As you can see the whole area looks very nice with all these large pine trees. The construction of dachas in this area started in the late 1960s. Today there are many private houses here built with various budgets ranging from extremely low to very high. Most of the dachas located in the Moscow area are not used for agriculture.
Overall it’s nice to have some nice place to stay outside the city inhibited by more than 15 million of people.