Summerfolk: A History of the Dacha, 1710-2000 / Edition 1

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Overview

The dacha is a sometimes beloved, sometimes scorned Russian dwelling. Alexander Pushkin summered in one; Joseph Stalin lived in one for the last twenty years of his life; and contemporary Russian families still escape the city to spend time in them. Stephen Lovell's generously illustrated book is the first social and cultural history of the dacha. Lovell traces the dwelling's origins as a villa for the court elite in the early eighteenth century through its nineteenth-century role as the emblem of a middle-class lifestyle, its place under communist rule, and its post-Soviet incarnation. A fascinating work rich in detail, Summerfolk explores the ways in which Russia's turbulent past has shaped the function of the dacha and attitudes toward it. The book also demonstrates the crucial role that the dacha has played in the development of Russia's two most important cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, by providing residents with a refuge from the squalid and crowded metropolis. Like the suburbs in other nations, the dacha form of settlement served to alleviate social anxieties about urban growth. Lovell shows that the dacha is defined less by its physical location"usually one or two hours" distance from a large city yet apart from the rural hinterland—than by the routines, values, and ideologies of its inhabitants. Drawing on sources as diverse as architectural pattern books, memoirs, paintings, fiction, and newspapers, he examines how dachniki ("summerfolk") have freed themselves from the workplace, cultivated domestic space, and created informal yet intense intellectual communities. He also reflects on the disdain that many Russians have felt toward the dacha, and their association of its lifestyle with physical idleness, private property, and unproductive use of the land. Russian attitudes toward the dacha are, Lovell asserts, constantly evolving. The word "dacha" has evoked both delight in and hostility to leisure. It has implied both the rejection of agricultural labor and, more recently, a return to the soil. In Summerfolk, the dacha is a unique vantage point from which to observe the Russian social landscape and Russian life in the private sphere.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Lovell directs the reader to experience Russian history as it relates to the concept of country life represented by the dacha. . . . This original study is recommended for public and academic libraries with Russian History collections."—Library Journal, March 15, 2003

"Stephen Lovell has scoured all possible sources—literary, architectural, economic, legal—and supplemented them with the finding of an oral-history project of his own devising. Summerfolk opens up a whole new field of inquiry and is one of the most insightful works to appear in the relatively young discipline of Russian cultural studies."—John Keep, Times Literary Supplement, April 25, 2003

"Mr. Lovell does a splendid job of telling the story of the dacha, which is by now a hallowed feature of Russian life. Each summer Moscow and St. Petersburg still virtually shut down for July and August as millions of Russians head for the country, and no study of the Russian mentality can be complete without an understanding of a phenomenon which really has no proper equal in any other culture. An enormous amount of research has gone into this attractive book, but the scholarship is worn lightly, and the writing style is lucid and wryly amusing. There are many delightful illustrations and references to a wide range of relevant literary works."—The Economist, June 21, 2003

"For Boris Pasternak, a dacha was a place to dig potatoes and write For Joseph Stalin, a home for his final years as dictator. But while the famous and the infamous had their country retreats, so did ordinary Russians. Dachas, notes Stephen Lovell, have ranged from sumptuous villas to cottages to shacks, reflecting changing views of property and its uses throughout Russian history."—Nina C. Ayoub, The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 13, 2003, Vol. XLIX, No. 40

"Stephen Lovell's choice of the dacha as a prism through which to look at the changes in Russian society is inspired. . . It shows Lovell to be a first rate social as well as cultural historian."—London Review of Books, October 9, 2003

"Stephen Lovell's 'Summerfolk' is a wonderfully rich yet concise history of this peculiar Russian institution the dacha which brilliantly illuminates its diverse cultural and social themes. Lovell argues that the dacha was defined not so much by its physical appearance or location (it could be a country mansion or a suburban shack) as it was by the routines, values, and ideologies of its inhabitants. The . . . subject of his book is the dacha's history, but its broad theme is the complex interplay of 'cultural meanings and social practices' across several centuries. . . . As Lovell demonstrates, the story of the dacha is a good way to reflect on the zigzag history of the relationship between the Russian state and private property."—The New York Review of Books, January 15, 2004

"Summerfolk is superbly researched, well-organized, meticulously documented, and clearly written. Lovell describes a unique Russian phenomenon of settlement and domestic space in the clear language of empirical data illuminated by a symbolic interpretation of the experience of those who lived in (or next to) dachas. There is no comparable book on the subject."—Professor Irina Paperno, University of California, Berkeley, author of Suicide as a Cultural Institution in Dostoevsky's Russia

Library Journal
In the glare of contemporary Russian history, some of the cultural or populist aspects of history get somewhat short shrift. The dacha (the allocation of property rights) as used by Peter the Great to honor special people, became the basis for a summer dwelling of the same name. Lovell, lecturer at King's College in London and author of The Russian Reading Revolution: Print Culture in the Soviet and Post-Soviet Era, directs the reader to experience Russian history as it relates to the concept of country life represented by the dacha. The dacha and the requisite dacha dwellers (dachniki) had their beginnings in and around St. Petersburg at the time of Peter the Great. Lovell identifies four distinct periods of dacha life: early stages, when the nobility moved to the country; 1860 to early 1900; the Soviet era; and contemporary dacha life. One would think that the class warfare of the Soviet era would put a halt to the movement, yet even though the concept was never completely reconciled with Soviet egalitarian society, it began to flourish and expand. The story of why this occurred, and how the dacha is reflected in distinct historical events, is treated in a somewhat academic fashion. Nevertheless, as very little contemporary English-language literature exists on the subject, this original study is recommended for public and academic libraries with Russian history collections.-Harry Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. Syst., Iola Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801440717
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.84 (w) x 9.86 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Glossary
Abbreviations
Maps
Introduction 1
1 Prehistory 8
2 Between City and Court: The Middle Third of the Nineteenth Century 28
3 The Late Imperial Dacha Boom 58
4 Between Arcadia and Suburbia: The Dacha as a Cultural Space, 1860-1917 86
5 The Making of the Soviet Dacha, 1917-1941 118
6 Between Consumption and Ownership: Exurban Life, 1941-1986 163
7 Post-Soviet Suburbanization?: Dacha Settlements in Contemporary Russia 209
Conclusion 232
Note on Sources 237
Bibliography 241
Index 255
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