Changing Planet

Photo Essay: Dacha Season Kicks Off in the Russian Countryside

The “dacha,” or country cottage, is a cultural institution in Russia. The tradition began during the Soviet Union when dachas were given as rewards to good workers.

Dacha Life

The communities were organized by profession. In St. Petersburg, my friend Katya took me to her grandparents’ dacha. They worked as city planners during the USSR, and their dacha was located in the architects dacha neighborhood.

Dacha Life 2

In Voronezh, my friend Oksana’s parents live in a neighborhood designated for teachers.

Dacha Life

The most popular dachas are located along rivers where residents can swim and relax.

Dacha Life

Bathing in an artesian spring.

Dachas play an important role in providing food for the Russian table. During lean times, Russians can always count on the food they grow and preserve at their dachas.

Dacha Life

Russians are ace foragers, and they add to the table by foraging for greens, berries, and mushrooms in the surrounding forests.

Dacha Life

The classical Russian childhood includes summer vacations to family dachas, spent playing with other dacha children and members of the extended family.

Dacha Life

Dacha Life

Today, many Russian cities have expanded, enveloping what used to be separate dacha communities inside city borders. The trend in suburban home building is to bring the dacha into the city, with expansive backyards that have a cottage-like feel.

Dacha Life

The backyard garden connects Russians to the land, be it in the backyard of a suburban home, or at a dacha in the countryside.

Dacha Life


Ryan Bell is traveling through Russia and Kazakhstan for his project #ComradeCowboys. Follow his adventure on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Get updates about his work at Storify.

 

Ryan Bell is an award-winning journalist living in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington State. A former cowboy and adventure guide, Ryan is specialized in examining how agriculture impacts the natural world. He is a two-time National Geographic Explorer who, in 2015-2016, traveled for nine months through Russia and Kazakhstan for his project Comrade Cowboys. In 2018, he will explore the mountains of Uzbekistan where an international team of archaeologists have made a discovery that could rewrite the history of the Ancient Silk Road. Elsewhere, Ryan’s work has been published by NPR, Columbia Journalism Review, Bloomberg, Outside Magazine, among others.

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