Like many royal families, Russia’s Imperial Family had a summer home they used to escape the city during the hotter months. These places were called dachas, which are estate-like. Many of the dachas in Russia were actually rural cottages.
A dacha would have a wooden house with a terrace and possibly butlers. These summer escapes were places of relaxation and enjoyment. After dinner, families were known to take a summer stroll, read, or have small family concerts for one another.
A person can find dachas in many different forms. There are estates built by aristocrats in St. Petersburg, wooden shacks, and cottages built by the new wealth of today. In 2015, Sokolniki Park in Moscow had a photo exhibition on the history of Russian dachas, which consisted of rare photographs from the State Central Archive of Moscow.
Russia’s Imperial Family had different dachas that they would travel to during the summer months, where they could have more privacy. One of the summer escapes was to the Lower Summer Residence in Alexandria Park of Peterhof.
However, things changed after the Russian Revolution in 1917. Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate on 15 March of that year, and he and his family were forced into exile. They would be imprisoned and then executed on 17 July 1918 by Communist forces led by Yakov Yurovsky in Yekaterinburg. After the Bolsheviks took over control of the government, they confiscated these summer residences and deemed them too bourgeois. Sitting around leisurely with family during the summer months was a thing of the past. By then in Soviet Russia, everyone was expected to do their part and work.
In the early days of the Soviet Union, some were able to have dachas, but these were top officials and scientific and cultural leaders. By the end of the Second World War, plots of land consisting of 600 square metres had been distributed out. There they built small homes, and with the remaining land, they used for agriculture. Here children fished, went swimming, and learnt to ride a bike. In many cases, the mother and children went to their summer cottage for three months while the father would travel back and forth to the city for work.
Fast forward to the twenty-first century and Russians are again free to buy as much land for dachas as they would like. The wealthy Russians of today have built luxurious cottages where summers are spent enjoying the company of their family on their estates.