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Though only a limited number of Russians have dachas of their own, hundreds of thousands have access to some kind of rural retreat. "Every summer Friday afternoon half of Moscow seems to leave the city," reports TIME'S John Shaw. "Even a quarter-acre of Mother Russia's soil gives them a place to escape to from the aggravations of communal urban life. Tens of millions of country-born Russians have been converted into citydwellers by industrialization in a generation or less. Many of them remain country folk at heart. To ordinary Russians, the extravagant, arbitrary privileges of their leaders, most powerfully symbolized by the secluded, luxurious villas of officialdom, will matter little so long as they too have a chance for a humbler version of the same pleasures."
A Russian family can rent a two-bedroom dacha for the equivalent of about $100 a month. Holiday accommodation is also available through dacha cooperatives, run by most government ministries and academic institutions for their more senior employees. A member pays a token lease for a bit of rural land on which he can build a private dacha for an average of about $2,000. The tracts are usually about 25 acres subdivided into fifty half-acre plots. There are hundreds of such cooperatives around Moscow.
Private Faith. In the summer-lush countryside, the Soviet citizen can raise vegetables, stroll through the pine woodsand enjoy an extra measure of privacy unavailable in his city apartment. Even the KGB (secret police) pays little attention to what the citizen does on weekends in the country. Prudent during the week, he may read proscribed books once he is secluded in his dacha. Among typical articles of private faith furnishing many dachas are Alexander Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle, an LP of Hair, a photograph of Pasternak, and a bronze cross.
Summer is also the time of the dachniye muzhya, or dacha husbands, whose families are away in the country, leaving them to cook for themselves in the city Monday through Friday and commute to the dacha on weekends, carrying suppliesa situation familiar to many urban American husbands. The role of dachas in Russian life is by no means new to the Soviet era. Anton Chekhov wrote a short story about a dachny muzh who made the best of his citybound work week by taking a mistress in the summer while his wife was at the dacha.