- Из города на дачу: социокультурные факторы освоения дачного пространства вокруг Петербурга (1860–1914) by О. Ю. Малинова-Тзиафета
At least by the middle of the nineteenth century, the Russian word “dacha” had found its proper place in European vocabulary as a term for “Russian country house” in general and “summer dwellings of Petersburgers” in particular. 1 The sociocultural phenomenon thus conceived remained deeply rooted in the people’s everyday life even after the dissolution of the Russian and later the Soviet Empire. Its integration in the here and now of common living environments may be one reason why the dacha stayed outside the focus of scientific investigation for a long time. Only in the 1990s did it become an object of observation and reflection. Nearly at the same time, the Russian press and the international [End Page 426] housing and urban studies “discovered” the dacha as a socio-cultural practice combining recreational and economic functions. 2 Receiving academic attention during the time of the 1990s’ economic crisis highlighted its significance for “sustaining life.” 3 Dacha life became an object of international investigation for anthropologists, historians, art historians, and literary scholars. In 2003, the British historian Steven Lovell published the first comprehensive study on the cultural history of the dacha since the eighteenth century. 4 One of the recent publications based on field research and investigating today’s dacha culture was written by the American anthropologist Melissa L. Caldwell. 5
The Russian historian Olga Malinova-Tziafeta devotes her new study to the dacha’s ascent to a mass phenomenon of Saint Petersburg’s urban culture. Her book Iz goroda na dachu explores the sociocultural factors of dacha development around the capital of the Russian Empire between 1860 and 1914. It is one of the first works to start closing the gap that until now existed in the historiography on dacha culture and Saint Petersburg’s urban development in the time period after the Great Reforms.
Malinova-Tziafeta draws from a variety of sources, ranging from newspapers to guidebooks and including visual sources like postcards and photographs, found in four different archives (P. 25). The secondary literature includes recent publications in Russian, English, and German as well as old works related to her topic.
The book consists of four chapters, with an emphasis on the second and the fourth. The first chapter, “Ot dachi k dachke,” contains a history of the term “dacha,” following it from the seventeenth century to the [End Page 427] late nineteenth. The author’s concern to reconstruct the term’s historical semantics and its fixing in juridical and fiscal texts is an important one. A conceptual history of the dacha remains a desideratum. Various significant yet still fragmentary studies defining the phenomenon for respective time periods have been published by historians, art and literary historians, and linguists. 6 Combined, these findings and Malinova-Tziafeta’s observations lay a good base for a further clarification of the term. Such an undertaking would contribute to developing a joint perspective on the dacha as a phenomenon of Russian culture and could relativize the stereotypical juxtaposition of Moscow and Petersburg as two contrasting types of living environments in the countryside.
The following three chapters of the book each deal with sociocultural factors influencing the valorization of dacha space and transforming the dacha from an elite into a mass phenomenon. The focus lies on hygiene and health issues resulting from the ongoing industrialization (chapters 2 and 3). The fourth chapter is concerned with the sociocultural influence of railroad construction on dacha space and vice versa.
In the second chapter, “Bor’ba za blagoustroistvo Peterburga i dachnyi otdykh (1860−1914),” Malinova-Tziafeta expounds the struggle for improved hygiene and health conditions in the capital and its consequences for the development of dacha space around the city. The chapter centers on refuse disposal and the planned construction of urban sewerage, as well as the sociocultural factors connected to them. The author vividly elaborates how civic life was affected by industrialization and how the municipal authorities on the one hand, and the developing middle class on the other, tried to deal with it. Compared to other European metropolises, Saint Petersburg...