Dachas, or Russian country houses, appeared first in the hands of landowning nobility in the mid-18th century. They were visited predominantly in the summer and usually had no heating.
Getting ready and making arrangements before spending your entire summer living away from the city could easily be compared to a natural disaster: People had to turn one house into another, as well as carry out any maintenance and make sure the house was spotless after winter.
A relaxed tea time with a samovar under an open sky was many Russians’ favorite pastime up until the middle of the last century. People would spend entire days sitting at the dacha table. The nicest kitchenware was always brought out for such occasions.
There’s always so much to do at the dacha that, paradoxically, you don’t actually get any time to rest! The most rewarding of the chores, according to many Russians, is collecting forest berries and making fruit preserve for the winter ahead.
Levitan was a master of the melancholic Russian landscape. Here he shows a different kind of dacha - a secluded little house amidst the trees, with a soft light in the window. If you listen closely, you might even hear the buzzing of the mosquitoes.
The Academy of Fine Art in St. Petersburg had its own dacha. Students and seasoned masters would visit here to spend time working in fresh air.
Kustodiev often painted scenes of merchant life. Samovar tea time was among his favorite themes.
A seaside dacha was a particular luxury. Many famed writers and artists had one, while tsars owned entire compounds. Pristine air, pine trees, sun and saltwater have always had a healing effect.
Group fun for the little ones was always an inalienable part of dacha life and good neighborly relations.
Proper dachas have always had a cabbage patch and a fruit tree garden, complete with lilac and other flowers. Maintaining such things was always difficult, but the results are always such a rewarding sight!
The dacha season typically ends with summer’s departure. Many used to live there in the fall as well, until the cold really set in. They were rewarded with the dashing vibrancy of seasonal colors and falling leaves.
Even after the Revolution, the culture of the dacha never lost its appeal. Country plots were available to soldiers, statesmen and scientists (and later even given out to workers for free).
The artist masterfully portrayed the life of Soviet children (other famous works include ‘Low Marks Again’ and ‘Arriving for Vacation’). Here, he perfectly illustrates the fun that children have at their dachas during summer vacation.
Summer, children, tea and lazy cats - the dacha continues to be an island of bliss even today.
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