I went to a Dacha today. In Australia, we have holiday homes and apartments. They are expensive. A few can actually afford them because they usually cost nearly as much as a house in a modest suburban neighbourhood in a city. Therefore is was to my surprise that Russians have a culture of owning holiday homes they escape to in the summers.
How can this be? How can ordinary Russians own two homes when the salaries are not that high? The answer was rather simple: Russia — particularly Siberia — has too much land and not enough people living on it. Land away from cities are affordable to citizens with the humblest of salaries. Plus, in the old days of the CCCP, I am told the government gave free land to citizens in order to build communities of dachas. It makes sense: In order for a nation to hold a territory as vast as Siberia, people have to be encouraged to live across its vastness and not just congregate around the big cities.
I was invited to a friend’s dacha — not far from the city of Novosibirsk. There I saw an interesting sub-culture of city dwellers doing what we in the west would call: Hobby farming: growing vegetables, fixing roofs, installing custom made saunas, chopping wood, etc...
At that moment I saw the practical wisdom behind the dacha — it is a way for people born in the cities to practice how our agricultural ancestors lives centuries ago — to be self-sustaining, not relying on supply chains of food and electricity from nuclear power plants.
The west is heading towards new trends in our lifestyles. I would argue these Dachas are simply eastern reflections of these new trends in the west.
Eco-friendly: A blanket term to describe what is environmentally non-harmful. Recycling, for example is a method of waste disposal that is friendly to the environment.
Zero-waste: Forget recyclilng, people who practice this way of living in the west produce / attempt to produce zero waste. They only buy products that are not in tin cans or plastic and have compost bins in the backyard to throw away food scraps onto.
Off-the-grid living: Sick of paying bills? Try this: Replace electricity coming into your home with through cables with solar panels and home batteries. Flush your sewage down into a septic tank instead of connecting into the city sewers. Your home becomes a self-sufficient, single unit of domicile that doesn’t require service from anyone else but you.
So next time you drive yourself to your dacha, remember: You guys (Russians) pioneered self-sufficiency lifestyle through your tradition of owning dachas.
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