Russia and the Environment

Health effects from Chernobyl
Posted by: , December 5, 2011, 2:44 am
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Chernobyl Accident


An environmental disaster affected nearly 75 million people in recent history.  April 26, 1986.  Although this date may not ring a bell to all Westerners, this is a significant date in nuclear history, especially for all citizens of post-Soviet countries.  Though there have been several nuclear reactor explosions and disasters, such as Hiroshima or Three Mile Island, the Chernobyl accident is by far the worst to date internationally.  Chernobyl was a monumental international disaster, even though it occurred in the Ukraine, which at the time was a republic of the Soviet Union and located 375 miles from Moscow (Hawkes et al 1).  The Chernobyl disaster heightened anxiety about nuclear power internationally and decreased the rate thereafter of the nuclear science race (Hawkes et al 215).

This accident resulted from an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor located on the Pripyat River (Hawkes et al 2).  The nuclear reactor exploded on April 26, 1986 at 1:23 am, local Moscow time (Hawkes et al 14).[1]  Although there had been other nuclear explosions within years of the Chernobyl disaster, Chernobyl triumphs them all and is the largest nuclear explosion to date.

According to French physicist Georges Lochac, “the explosion was initiated in the machine by the emergence of a powerful flow of magnetic leptonic monopoled…which transmuted the nuclear fuel in the reactor and its emission” (Akkerman 13).  Ultimately, as a result of the Chernobyl disaster, approximately 350,000 people were evacuated and 40,000 people died (Akkerman 13). Additionally, the Chernobyl accident affected roughly 75 million people living in the Soviet Union, and 9 million citizens continued to live in contaminated areas after the disaster (Akkerman 14).  Though it has been twenty-five years since the disaster, not all of the effects from the Chernobyl disaster are known, and scientists are still continuing to discover negative effects.  While those living in post-Soviet countries were impacted most by the accident, internationally, the world was affected, particularly in areas of psychological and physical health due to the amount of radioactivity released, which also caused iodine deficiency (ID).

Here is a picture that shows the effect of radiation in the surrounding areas of Chernobyl, which even include other continents:

International effect due to Chernobyl accident (The Chernobyl Catastrophe 2).

The safety of Chernobyl prior to the explosion 

Before the explosion, approximately 20,000 people lived in the town of Chernobyl, which had been established for the purpose of serving the nuclear plant (Hawkes et al 4).  Internationally, but also locally, anxiety had heightened about nuclear advancements, so Soviet scientists constantly had to reassure citizens of the plant’s safety.  Nikolai Fomin was Chernobyl’s chief engineer, and he understood the anxiety of the citizens.  He reassured them by explaining that Chernobyl is environmentally safe for the land and for the people (Hawkes et al 6).  Furthermore, Fomin reported in an article “the odds of a meltdown are one in 10,000 years.  The plants have safe and reliable controls that are protected from any breakdown with three safety lines” (Hawkes et al 7).

Background of nuclear explosion

Unfortunately, however, the citizens’ fear was confirmed on April 26, 1986, when tubes filled with hot water leaked radiation.  The nuclear reactor contained 1,600 metal tubes that were filled with water and pressure (Hawkes et al 11).  The tubes were unusually hot with water with an overwhelming amount of pressure as well (Hawkes et al 12).  After the explosion, radioactivity and extreme levels of heat were released (Hawkes et al 12).  After the fact, Soviet scientists could not believe that this has happened due to its unlikelihood (Hawkes et al 13).

Significant health effects due to Chernobyl disaster

The explosion caused many negative effects including a halt to nuclear power, psychological and physical health effects. The Chernobyl accident caused an aspect of Soviet defeat because the citizens felt the Soviet scientists were unable to live up to the promises that they had set; they proved they were unable to protect their citizens from radiation, which caused disastrous health effects (Akkerman 13).  For example, initially, 237 workers, who helped clean up the Chernobyl accident, were diagnosed with health problems: 28 people died in 1986, with a grand total of 47 work-related deaths were reported by 2004 (Sumner 31).

While there are numerous negative health-related problems caused by the Chernobyl accident, exposure to radiation is among the worst of the problems.  For example, the radiation released from the explosion caused all types of cancer, particularly thyroid cancer.  Although it is hard to decipher who was diagnosed with cancer due to Chernobyl and who was not, it is clear that the number of those diagnosed with cancer increased after the Chernobyl accident (Sumner 31).    Childhood cancer was usually detected within ten years of the accident.  Thyroid cancer was particularly prevalent among children of Chernobyl because the younger the person is, the higher risk he or she has of developing thyroid cancer (Sumner 32).   For example, by 2005, there were 4,000 children of Chernobyl who were diagnosed with thyroid cancer due to exposure in the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia (Sumner 32).  Thyroid cancer, however, was not the only form of cancer diagnosed as a result of exposure to radiation.  Overall, there were more cases of diagnosed cases after Chernobyl accident in 1986, according to the graph below.

There is an obvious increase in number of cancer cases since Chernobyl (The Chernobyl catastrophe 29).

(The Chernobyl Catastrophe 29).

Although the radiation appeared to be invisible, its effects were deadly (Kuchinskaya 407).  23% of the territory was contaminated with radionuclides (Kuchinskaya 409).   In order to compensate for the economic effects of Chernobyl, the Soviet government issued money; however, many citizens referred to this as “coffin money” because of the deadly effects of Chernobyl (Kuchinskaya 415).  In addition to an increase in thyroid cancer, other serious health concerns arose from Chernobyl.  For example, “chronic diseases, heart conditions, gastritis, memory problems, chronic fatigue” are all issues that have increased in children after the accident of Chernobyl (Kuchinskaya 418).  Furthermore, there was an iodine deficiency and lack of vitamins and minerals that created additional health concerns (Jackson et al 453).  For example, lack of selenium causes thyroid disorders, cretinism, and cardiomypathy; lack of fluoride resulted in poor dental hygiene; the lack of iron caused anemia, exhaustion, and lack of concentration (Jackson et al 456).   These effects may not be seen immediately, but are, however, detrimental consequences from Chernobyl.

The iodine deficiency caused by the Chernobyl disaster not only lowers the IQ of a child, but it also affects the working capacity of a child (Jackson et al 456).

Here is a graph to see the decreased IQ level of children who lived in contaminated areas surrounding Chernobyl:

Decrease in IQ level of Chernobyl children (The Chernobyl Catastrophe 99).

Other main health concerns and connection to WWII

There are additional health concerns such as increased stillbirths, birth defects, more cases of Down’s syndrome, cardiovascular disease, cataract induction, and psychological effects caused by Chernobyl (Sumner 40).  While thyroid cancer was a major effect from Chernobyl, urine and bladder cancer in the Ukraine and Belarus increased as well between 1986 and 2001 (Sumner 39).   Some researchers surmise that leukemia, particularly childhood leukemia, increased due to the radiation released from Chernobyl.  However, this is controversial because other European countries unaffected by Chernobyl also saw increased cases of childhood leukemia, so it is difficult to draw a conclusion (Sumner 38).

Regardless, it is clear that many health effects were caused by extreme radiation released into the air from the Chernobyl accident.  Prior to Chernobyl, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were highly talked about with radiation; however, Chernobyl trumps the statistics from the nuclear bomb.  For example, the risk of cardiovascular disease due to radiation is three times greater from Chernobyl than from Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Sumner 41).   Additionally, Lynn Barnett explains, “The resulting radioactive fallout has been estimated as equivalent to that of 200 of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki”  (Barnett 46).  Chernobyl, however, to date, has caused the greatest environmental impact due to a nuclear disaster.

Psychological effects as a result of Chernobyl accident

Due to the heightened fear of nuclear power and distrust in the government, psychological issues arose as a result of the Chernobyl disaster.  Due to detrimental environmental effects, citizens were forced to relocate, and the economy plummeted.  Additionally, the timing of the Chernobyl disaster also coincided with the start of the collapse of the Soviet Union, so there were underlying social, political and economical issues occurring simultaneously with the Chernobyl effects (Sumner 42).  Psychological effects from Chernobyl include anxiety, depression, pessimism, apathy, dietary changes, alcoholism, addiction to tobacco, and the feeling of social exclusion (Sumner 42).   Some citizens suffered from a more general psychological disease, post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) due to the consequences of Chernobyl, particularly relocation and economic decline (Barnett 48).

International efforts to provide aid for Chernobyl

While the effects of Chernobyl stirred up the Soviet community, there was a need for international efforts to overcome such consequences from high levels of released radiation and iodine deficiency.  Approximately 3.5 million people lived in affected areas.  Though not all 3.5 million people were directly affected, their fear caused mental health issues (Barnett 47).  Therefore, due to such drastic numbers and reflecting on the past, particularly examining Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was a strong need for international efforts (Barnett 47).   For example, due to the iodine deficiency spreading across contaminated areas from the Chernobyl accident, iodine was added to foodstuff (Jackson et al 457).   Throughout the 1990s, the Clinton Administration worked closely with Russian officials to have joint efforts to improve contaminated areas (Jackson et al 459).   Although iodine deficiency (ID) had been an issue for years, in 1990, at the World Summit for Children in New York, ID was declared an official global issue (Jackson et al 457).

In addition to iodine, other minerals and vitamins were low in soil of contaminated areas.  Therefore, there was micronutrient malnutrition spreading across Russia, and it was essential to have international support to suppress the spread of malnutrition (Jackson et al 461).  Throughout the decade, Russians worked with other countries, primarily the United States, and in 1999 the Russian government ultimately created Resolution No. 1119, which helped to prevent ID (Jackson et al 463).

25th anniversary of Chernobyl

April 26, 2011 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy, and for this reason, it is hard to determine all of the long-term effects because it was relatively recent.  Efforts and commemorations, however, still exist today.

Watch this brief news clip to see how the United States has continued to work with the Russian government on the issue of Chernobyl: US-Russian governments stance on Chernobyl

Watch this video to see the joint efforts of Moscow and Kiev to commemorate the Chernobyl disaster on the twenty-fifth anniversary: Moscow and Kiev joint efforts in anniversary of Chernobyl

In these two videos, note how countries, cultures and religions are able to come together to overcome such a tragedy together.


While Chernobyl was significant and initially progressed nuclear technology, its effects from the disaster caused international anxiety and fear for nuclear power.  Chernobyl is the worst nuclear disaster in the world’s history and its environmental legacy continues today.  Though twenty-five years later, efforts are still essential to improve the land surrounding the Pripyat River.  The Chernobyl disaster struck citizens internationally with fear and hesitation towards the government and towards nuclear power, and the world leaders are still struggling with this today.  Although life has improved in Chernobyl over twenty-five years, it is hard to determine the long-term effects of the disaster.  Thus, it is necessary to still keep Chernobyl on the radar and learn from the mistakes in order to prevent another nuclear disaster.

For further reading on nuclear waste disposal in modern day Russia, read the blog entry “Nuclear waste disposal” by Shawn Gessay.

Works Cited

Akkerman, Galina.  “A walk in Chernobyl.”  New Times (2006): 12-15.

Barnett, Lynn.  “Psychological effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.”  Medicine, conflict and survival 23.1 (2007): 46-57.

Hawkes, Nigel.  Geoffrey Lean, David Leigh, Robin McKie, Peter Pringle, Andrew Wilson.  Chernobyl: The End of the Nuclear Dream.  New York: Vintage Books, 1987

Jackson, Richard J., David M. DeLozier, Gregory Gerasimov, Olga Borisova, Paul L. Garbe, Lioudmila Goultchenko, George Shakarishvili, Joseph G. Hollowell, and Dayton T. Miller. “Chernobyl and Iodine Deficiency in the Russian Federation: An Environmental Disaster Leading to a Public Health Opportunity.” Journal of Public Health Policy 23.4 (2002): 453-470.

Kuchinskaya, Olga.  “Articulating the signs of danger: Lay experiences of post-Chernobyl radiation risks and effects.”  Public Understanding of Science 20.3 (2011): 405-421.

“Remembering Chernobyl, 25 years on.”  Youtube, 25 April 2011.  Web.  26 November 2011.

Sumner, David.  “Health effects resulting from the Chernobyl accident.”  Medicine, conflict and survival 23.1 (2007): 31-45.

“The Chernobyl Catastrophe: Consequences on Huamn Health.”  Greenpeace. 1-137.  2006.

“02.07.2010 President Yanucovich.  Hillary Clinton.  Chernobil conference..wmv.”  Youtube, 2 July 2011.  Web.  26 November 2011.

[1] The explosion of Chernobyl occurred the last weekend in April, which leads up to two major Russian holidays: May 1, May Day and May 9, which celebrates the anniversary of the defeat of Hitler (Hawkes et al 9).  Although the Soviets had been preparing for these holidays, the explosion halted such celebration. 


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The History of Dacha Life
Posted by: , November 27, 2011, 8:15 pm
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Dachas are common in Eastern Europe.  Russian dachas resemble American country homes, which center on a rustic lifestyle and community building; however, a great difference is that not all Russian dachas have modern plumbing.  Dachas are generally located not far outside of urban cities; their residents occupy land plots for summer gardens or leisurely activities (Zavisca 786).  The term “dacha” in Russian has the same root as the Russian verb meaning “to give” (Lovell, “The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 255).  Historically, Russians have had traditional dachas since the late seventeenth century as established by Peter the Great.  The Russian dacha lifestyle and culture is still carried out through modern times.

While the size of the dacha varies from family to family, today, gardening is a key focus and value of the dacha culture (Zavisca 786).  Throughout Russian history, the Russians have been plagued with food shortages especially during times of war and during the Soviet Union, particularly in the 1930s and during her collapse.  Therefore, gardening is a popular activity at dachas.  This leisurely activity represents the value of the Russians who have pride for their land and produce.

The importance of the dacha and its role, however, are controversial in Russia because while some Russians assert that dachas are intended for food cultivations, others argue that leisure is the prime focus of the dacha culture (Zavisca 799).  The function of the dacha is controversial; therefore, there are various types of dachas: departmental dachas owned by organizations, Soviet dacha plots, dacha garden plots and privately owned dacha plots (Lovell, Summerfolk: A History of the Dacha 211).  Over the course of Russia’s history, the dacha has changed in form as denoted by society and the government; however, ultimately, dachniki focus on both gardening and leisure; however, the government often plays a role in the control and production of the dacha gardens depending on the economic state of the country (“The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 256).

Here is a modern day picture of dacha you may find in Russia:

This is an image of what a modern day dacha in Russia looks like (Zavisca 807). Please note that this is a dacha from the Russian elite; therefore, not all dachas are necessarily this size.

The history of the dacha from the 17th century up to the Soviet Union

The modern definition of the dacha emerged in the eighteenth century under Peter the Great.  As defined in the 1700s, dachas were intended for summer use and located not too far outside of major cities.  Although presently, dachas can be associated with economic value and prosperity due to agricultural produce, this is a more recent phenomenon, and agricultural surplus was not attached to the original intent of the dacha (“The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 255).  Pleasure gardens, however, have existed at the dachas for aesthetic purposes since the eighteenth century (Caldwell, Dacha Idylls: Living Organicallyin Russia’s Countryside 40).  Historically, for Russians, dachas were places of leisure and rest.  The rise in popularity and usage of dachas throughout the nineteenth century helped to establish the middle class (Zavisca 794).  Furthermore, they continued to gain popularity prior to the Revolution in 1917, and represented not only the middle class, but also the bourgeois lifestyle (“The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 255).   The early roots of the dacha trace back to the reign of Peter the Great, and its initial intent was to have a summerhouse to spend time in nature and away from the chaos of the city.

Soviet-era dachas 

The Russian Revolution in 1917 and the Soviet Union drastically changed the purpose of dachas to correspond to the government needs of the time period.  The Soviet meaning of “dacha” combines both the past and present-day definitions (“The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 288).  Soviet dachas demonstrated the need to have a place for relaxation but also to have a place for food cultivation, which will be later discussed in this article.

Click this link to see pictures of Soviet-era dachas:

Initially, during the revolutionary period between 1917 and 1921 dachas were abandoned, and the focus of the Russian culture was not on f leisure, but, rather, the focus was political and social (“The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 256).  At the end of the civil war, however, there was a housing crisis (“The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 259).  In turn, the dacha community was affected, and Soviet officials thus gained control the dacha properties and supervised the dacha communities.  This difference is exemplified by the Soviet regime seizing control of dachas and mandating that they be rented out to organizations, rather than to individuals (“The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 275).  This control of the dachas corresponds to the Soviet system, which infiltrated the private lives of its citizens.

Soviet officials were advised to supervise previously abandoned dacha homes in order to prevent further chaos from remnants of the Revolution (“The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 257).  While in the past, dachas represented a Russian bourgeois lifestyle and culture, the Soviet government tried to prevent this association (Zavisca 805).  The Soviets greatly valued equality and sought to discourage class distinctions; thus they strived to eliminate the association of dachas with bourgeois homes.  Furthermore, elite dachas were turned over to Soviet control throughout the 1930s (Zavisca 794).  In addition, the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, was sent in the 1930s to keep vigilance on the Russian dachas (“The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 262).

Ultimately, the Soviet government sought to control dacha life in order to prevent suburban expansion that they had witnessed in England and the United States (“The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 266).  Throughout the Soviet Union, Soviet officials sought to strive for excellence in all aspects of a culture and wanted to be represented as the best and unique.  If the Soviets were to mimic the West and create more suburbs, the Soviets would not be as unique, or in their minds, superior.  The shift in dacha culture is caused by the desire and implementation of the Soviet government to regulate and keep a better watch on their citizens and land.

In order to further allocate and control dacha properties, the Soviets manipulated the dacha property particularly during food shortages to benefit the whole of the Soviet state.  For this reason, starting in the 1930s it became more common for Soviet citizens to live in the city year round but make constant trips on the weekends to the dachas, rather than to only occupy the dachas in the summer (“The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha” 278).  Soviet dachas often became associated with food cultivation due to the many food shortages that occurred throughout the Soviet Union.

Listen to the song “At the dacha” by Veronika Darina At the dacha Lyrics to \”at the dacha\”


The emergence of dacha gardens

The dacha gardens gained more importance during the Soviet Union and were viewed not only for aesthetic purposes, but they were crucial for the survival of the Soviet Union.  It became a Soviet initiative to support garden-plot dachas for food production (Summerfolk 214).  The notion of garden plots greatly increased and gained support during the Brezhnev regime.  The expansion of urban plotting and food cultivation and collectivization of potatoes and vegetables were crucial elements for Brezhnev (Zavisca 794).  Furthermore, the Soviet Party in 1985 supported the garden-plot movement (Summerfolk 213).  Stemming from the Soviet period, during the economic crises throughout the 1990s in Russia, gardening at the dachas in post-Soviet Russia allowed Russians to avoid an entire food shortage (Dacha Idylls 81).  While the Soviets drastically changed the value of the dacha garden, its legacy is carried out through modern day, and Russians seem to enjoy this leisurely work.

Be sure to look at the picture of the Brezhnev era dacha!

Here is a picture of a dacha from the 1970s during the the Brezhnev era (Zavisca 795).


Although the Soviets implemented and supported the dacha gardens for food cultivation, many Soviet citizens thoroughly enjoyed the gardening and labor.   Additionally, competitions arose among the dachas to create the largest surplus and quantity rather than having the dacha with the most square feet (Zavisca 796).  The main incentive, however, was for people to manipulate their crops and gain a surplus of food at their dachas.  This has become a more recent phenomenon from the Soviet Union and lasting until modern day Russia.

Dacha activities

In addition to gardening, hunting and fishing are popular activities at the dachas (Zavisca 787).  Russians are able to cut back on spending and be self-sufficient by gardening at their dachas (Hervouet 159).  Moreover, Russians take great pride in growing their own food rather than buying produce at local markets (Zavisca 797).  Russians find it more desirable to pick and gather food together because of the social gathering rather than the solidarity of buying food at a market (Dacha Idylls 93).   Another crucial aspect is that for Russians, collecting their own natural foods represents a step away from capitalism (Dacha Idylls 99).  Russians thoroughly enjoy this relatively new purpose of dachas not only to fully avoid food shortages but as a means to relax and gather with friends.

Look at the picture of the dacha from 1991 and note the differences between the dachas from the 1970s and from the early 1990s.

Here is a picture of a more modern day dacha from 1991 (Zavisca 790).


While many Russians enjoy gardening and see the economical benefits, others feel that gardening is too much of a physical burden (Zavisca 804).  Regardless, dachas, even nearly three hundred years after their original establishment, still exist in Russia.  By 1995, there were over 1.5 million dacha garden plots, and 1.65 million urban families own dachas (Summerfolk 216).  The Russian government established Garden’s Day as a national and public holiday in 1999.  This reiterates the importance and legitimacy of the modern Russian gardening movement (Summerfolk 216).  Additionally, because of the shift of the dachas to be year round and to have more of a focus on gardening, there are now two terms for dachas: kottedzh and dacha.  Kottedzh refers to a year round dacha-like home, which resembles the western tradition, whereas dachas maintain their original roots of being primarily summer cottages located outside of urban cities (Summerfolk 220).

Natural foods movement at the dacha

The dacha garden can help a family economically while also helping them to create and maintain an identity (Hervouet 166).  Natural foods are grown at dacha gardens such as: peppers, zucchinis, radishes, carrots, onions, peas, lettuce, pumpkin, cabbage, beets, garlic, cucumbers, green beans, strawberries, raspberries, red currants, grapes, herbs and spices (Hervouet 160).  Mushroom picking and berry picking are highly common activities for Russian today to participate in while at their dachas (Dacha Idylls 23).  It is not uncommon for Russians to travel to their dachas with the sole purpose of gathering produce, particularly berries and mushrooms (Dacha Idylls 74).  For example, the Tver region is a popular location for berry picking (Dacha Idylls 74).  Caldwell explains, “Russians’ affection for and preoccupation with mushrooms and berries are not isolated phenomena but belong to a culturally pervasive set of concerns with natural foods” (Dacha Idylls 77).  The Russian natural foods movement represents the shift of dachas to focus more on food cultivation and gardening compared to gardens for aesthetic purposes or dachas as solely places of relaxation and solidarity.

Watch this video about berry and mushroom picking at dachas: Modern dacha practice of berry and mushroom picking

Similarly, Melissa Caldwell explains the modern use of the dacha garden-plot and elaborates on the importance of natural foods in Russia, and the role of the dacha in the production and collection of natural foods.   Russians often grow vegetables and fruit at their dacha garden-plots.  It is not uncommon for a Russian to go the dacha to pick their ­­produce, in particular, berries and mushrooms.  Caldwell explains for most Russians, the benefits of picking food at dachas outweigh the convenience of getting produce at grocery stores that are more local (Caldwell, “Natural Foods” 83).  Additionally, Caldwell explains that, Russians take pride in their produce, and the food is also ecologically clean, which is a large benefit (“Natural Foods” 88).  Furthermore, Russians like knowing where their food came from and the soil in which it was grown, so growing and eating their own produce is another benefit for this reason (“Natural Foods” 88).

For most Russians, there are too many benefits of the dacha gardens not to take advantage of them.   In the mindset of most Russians, another benefit of cultivating their own food is that they would be succumbing to the Capitalists if they ate mostly commercialized, packed, and distributed food (“Natural Foods” 87).  As a whole, the importance and focus on dacha culture and lifestyle has created a new movement favoring natural foods, and the Russians take great pride in this movement, and their ability to eat that which they have grown on their plots.  Although this has become more of a recent phenomenon, the origins of this movement traces back to the desire to have dacha gardens throughout the dacha history.

The dacha as represented in literature

In addition to Caldwell’s article on Natural Foods, dacha life is depicted in Russian texts such as Anton Chekhov’s “Dachniki”.  Anton Chekhov wrote the short story entitled “Dachniki” in 1885.  “Dachniki” encompasses the values of the Russians with their emphasis on the importance of the dacha.  In the story, two young newly weds begin their new married life together at the dacha.  The subject of the story emphasizes the value of a simple, not ornate, lifestyle of the Russians in the late nineteenth century.  Furthermore, Chekhov describes the couple’s routine and daily walks in the countryside, which are more meaningful due to the natural setting surrounding them.  Chekhov writes that the moon is jealous of the solidarity of the couple in such a serene and natural setting (Dacha Idylls36).   Chekhov’s “Dachniki” represents the Russian value of nature and desire to have a less urban lifestyle, even in the late 1800s.

Watch this video to see a short clip about Anton Chekhov’s estate and dacha where he wrote many of his famous works. Birthplace and dacha of Chekhov



Although dachas were perceived as initially being only for the elite prior to the Soviet Union, the Soviet government strived to ensure equality including land plots, even dachas.  In present times, many families, regardless of socioeconomic status, own dachas; however, their purposes can vary from being dacha plots to garden-plot dachas or a combination of the two.  While some Russians view gardening at dachas as a peasant activity, the gardening and natural food movement indicates the popularity in such activities and that it is not an issue related to social class for the majority of Russians.  Presently, the size of the dachas varies from large villas to more cottage-like dachas; however, the overall dacha community does not differ greatly (Dacha Idylls 18).

Though the function of dachas has changed over time as asserted by the government, the overall dacha community remains untouched.  The focus on dacha life represents the value of the Russian culture to not focus solely on modernization, urbanization, and rather to also desire a slower paced lifestyle on the weekends at their dachas (Dacha Idylls 53).  Dachas do not have copious amounts of private land; in fact, the dachas are often very small plots and shared by their communities.  The open dacha gardens and dacha lifestyle depicts the Russian value of community and togetherness, which is something that has remained constant since the origins of dachas by Peter the Great (Zavisca 805).  The overall culture and community established by the dacha has changed slightly over time; however, it is based largely on the governmental needs.  Nonetheless, the dacha community remains popular and of large importance for the Russian culture, particularly in the garden-plot movement and the focus on leisure and down time at the dacha.  The dacha community exemplifies both the aesthetic and leisurely values of the Russians.


Works Cited

Caldwell, Melissa.  Dacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia’s Countryside.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.

Caldwell, Melissa.  “Natural Foods: Feeding the Body and Nourishing the Soul.”  Dacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia’s Countryside.  Berkeley: University of California Press, N.y.

“Check out Chekhov’s dacha, birthplace of his most famous works.”  YouTube, 23 September 2011.  Web.  27 November 2011.

Hervouet, Ronan.  “Dachas and Vegetable Gardens in Belarus: Economic and Subjective Stakes of an ‘Ordinary Passion’.” The Anthropology of East Europe Review 21.1 (2003): 159-168.

Lovell, Stephen.  Summerfolk: A History of the Dacha 1710-2000.  Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.

Lovell, Stephen.  “The Making of the Stalin-Era Dacha.”  The Journal of Modern History 74.2 (2002): 253-288.  The University of Chicago Press.

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.

Zavisca, Jane.  “Contesting Capitalism at the Post-Soviet Dacha: The Meaning of Food Cultivation for Urban Russians.”  Slavic Review 62.4 (2003): 786-810.

“Дача.avi.”  YouTube, 6 July 2011.  Web.  20 October 2011.


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