After the 1917 revolution, dachas were distributed among Communist party leaders and their followers. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, who spent summers in a green mansion on the Black Sea, built dacha settlements as a reward for loyal service. A dacha, however, didn’t always provide an escape from politics. Nikita Khruschev was booted out of power in 1964 while relaxing at his seaside hideaway and Mikhail Gorbachev was arrested in 1991 at his Crimean vacation home during an abortive coup by hardliners.
Since the collapse of communism, the dacha has become a status symbol freely bought and sold on the real estate market. And it is now indispensable for good PR. President Vladimir Putin often hosts visiting dignitaries at the official dacha, Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow. He joins millions of dachnikis or summerfolk who consider their retreat to the woods or the waterfront as an essential place to relax, recharge and get in touch with Russian roots.
To learn more about this tradition, the book “Summerfolk: A History of the Dacha, 1710-2000” by Stephen Lovell (Cornell University Press, 2003) is an excellent resource. Washingtonians seeking to experience the real thing can visit the Hillwood Estate where a one-room dacha, built in 1969, will re-open with a new art exhibition this fall.