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Dacha Idylls

Dacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia's Countryside

Melissa L. Caldwell
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Dacha Idylls
    Book Description:

    Dacha Idyllsis a lively account of dacha life and how Russians experience this deeply rooted tradition of the summer cottage amid the changing cultural, economic, and political landscape of postsocialist Russia. Simultaneously beloved and reviled, dachas wield a power that makes owning and caring for them an essential part of life. In this book, Melissa L. Caldwell captures the dacha's abiding traditions and demonstrates why Russians insist that these dwellings are key to understanding Russian life. She draws on literary texts as well as observations from dacha dwellers to highlight this enduring fact of Russian culture at a time when so much has changed. Caldwell presents the dacha world in all its richness and complexity-a "good life" that draws inspiration from the natural environment in which it is situated.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94787-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Note on Transliteration and Pronunciation
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xxii)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Dacha Enchantments
    (pp. 1-27)

    In summer, it may appear that all of Russia has gone on vacation. The bustle and noise of daily life in towns and cities noticeably ease with the departure of residents to public parks, summer camps, cottage communities, and tourist destinations elsewhere. The pace of life slows down as people meander aimlessly through the dense thickets of parks and forests, nap on blankets spread along riverbanks, or read while absently pushing baby carriages containing contentedly sleeping infants through city parks. Formal business attire gives way to gently faded and patched work clothes and bathing suits. Businesses reduce services, or sometimes...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Intimate Irritations: Living with Chekhov at the Dacha
    (pp. 28-47)

    At the end of summer 2005, I was invited by Veronika to visit her at the dacha that she shared with her elderly widowed mother, Zinaida, in the Nadezhda dacha cooperative. During the summer, Veronika and Zinaida occasionally shared the dacha with Veronika’s grandchildren and assorted nieces and nephews. Accompanying me on this visit were my hostess Iuliia and her niece Angela. Although Veronika was a bit older than Iuliia, the two women had grown up together in the dacha community, and their families knew each other well. Veronika and Zinaida had been looking forward to our visit, and when...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Pleasure of Pain: Gardening for the Soul
    (pp. 48-73)

    In the 1990s, dacha stories were rife with narratives of need, misery, and suffering juxtaposed against the satisfactions associated with dacha life. During the periodic economic uncertainties that had emerged in the initial post-Soviet period, dachas became particularly important as a part of Russia’s subsistence economy. Newspaper accounts documenting the consequences of inflation, fluctuating exchange rates, and unpaid salaries and pensions focused heavily on how Russians were again resorting to their gardens to sustain themselves through these difficult times. The accounts of financial decline that were presented by the media, especially by Western sources, focused on desperate acts of thievery...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Natural Foods: Feeding the Body and Nourishing the Soul
    (pp. 74-100)

    In early August 2005, the passage above introduced an article about the social history of the blueberry in Russian life inTver Life, a daily newspaper for the city of Tver. Combining romantic descriptions with practical information, the article focused primarily on the healthful attributes of blueberries: they improve vision, especially for drivers and people who sit at computers, lower blood sugar for diabetics, ease the pains of rheumatism, possess antiseptic qualities, and facilitate recovery from eczema and burns. The author concluded by writing that “in these days, the blueberry is at its ripest, although it is already starting to...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Disappearing Dachniki
    (pp. 101-129)

    One intriguing trend within Russia’s natural foods movement is that of “peasant food.” At relatively reasonable prices, brands such as “Little House in the Village” and “Beloved Garden” promise consumers who desire a taste of “the wild” not just healthy foods but also access to “tradition” in the form of association with an authentic peasant lifestyle. Prepackaged foods, however, offer little more than a vicarious and imagined engagement with this rural lifestyle. For consumers who long for a more intimate and authentic experience, the peasant restaurant offers a more viscerally satisfying option. Although the fare offered by peasant restaurants generally...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Dacha Democracy: Building Civil Society in Out-of-the-Way Places
    (pp. 130-161)

    Toward the end of my stay in Tver in summer 2005, Larisa and Pavel, a married couple who were friends with Angela’s mother, invited Angela and me to visit them at their dacha northwest of the city. Through Angela’s mother, Larisa passed on instructions about which minibus to take. Fortunately, because Larisa and Pavel’s dacha community was located at the end of the minibus line, we did not have to worry about knowing where to get off along an unfamiliar road. When we exited the minibus, Angela called Larisa on her mobile telephone to let her know that we had...

  12. CHAPTER 7 The Daily Dacha Soap Opera
    (pp. 162-174)

    Television has consistently played a significant role in the dacha lives of my friends and acquaintances over the past two decades. In the mid-1990s, at the beginning of the consumption revolution that swept the postsocialist world, Russians’ television-viewing habits changed dramatically as the privatization of Russian media, the arrival of cable and satellite television, and widespread public interest in Western trends fostered a veritable explosion of foreign television programs, especially Western movies and serials, on Russia’s airwaves. Foreign soap operas such as the American showSanta Barbaraand the Mexican telenovelaThe Rich Cry Toowere particularly popular, especially among...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 175-182)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 183-196)
  15. Index
    (pp. 197-200)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-201)