Dacha – A Russian tradition
The dacha has been integral to Russian life for centuries, surviving revolution, and coups. It dates back to medieval times when tsars gave parcels of land to their noblemen. (In archaic Russian, dacha means “something given.”) Peter the Great started the modern concept of the dacha by not only handing out tracts in St. Petersburg, but instructing the recipients to build grand houses and gardens. These country retreats were used by the aristocracy for social and cultural gatherings, including masquerade balls and fireworks displays.
In the 1800s, the Industrial Revolution led to modest dachas for the middle class, as growing urban populations sought to escape polluted cities, at least temporarily. Writer Anton Chekhov popularized the country retreat by setting many of his plays in one. His own white-stucco dacha in Yalta, as well as dachas owned by Russian writers Leo Tolstoy, Boris Pasternak and others, are now museums.