The Russian and his dacha - Little luck in the countryside

The Russian and his dacha - Little luck in the countryside

600 square meters with sheds: This was once assigned to workers in the Soviet Union - as a summer house and for bailing. The dacha quickly became a Russian cultural asset and it still is today. And some huts have become palaces.

It is Saturday afternoon, and I accompany Nikolaj to his dacha. He is a retiree, but still works part-time as a driver. He's just finishing work and is heading out to his little hideaway where he spends the entire summer, like most Russian pensioners: "In our cooperative we have 550 plots," he says.

Nikolaj wears a sporty T-shirt over his round stomach, leaving his round bald head uncovered. He says cooperative, when he talks about the dachshund, Tovarischestvo, after the Tovarisch, the comrade.

And they have turned the Russians into green weekend trays. The Russian dacha was a model for other socialist states, including the GDR - even the name is still internationally common: dacha.

We are in Taganrog, a 250,000-inhabitant city in the south of Russia on the Sea of ​​Azov, near the border with Ukraine. Nikolaj takes the arterial road.

After 20 minutes, it turns onto a gravel path. On the right and left, shrubs stand over garden fences. An old Lada meets us. On the roof long slats that overhang front and back. On many parcels is being built. On others are new big houses. Some plots are wild. The settlement is simply called "Gardens 1". The paths are straight and numbered.

"Our cooperative is almost 60 years old, 57, if I'm not mistaken. It used to be a combine harvester factory. That was great, as have worked up to 26,000 people. They got the land here. Eventually the factory closed. The former workers were partly moved away, some died, many plots of land were sold. The people here are mixed. "

Nikolaj is one of the new ones. He bought his property twelve years ago. He turns into the "Allee No. 3" and stops in front of a green gate. We are there.

Wine is lush on the carport. Fruit trees bend under the weight of fruits: apricots, apples, cherries, plums, peaches. The gooseberries wear as well as currants and raspberries. On the ground celery, sorrel, radish. Rose bushes line the path to the house.

When Nikolaj bought the property, there was only a shed there, as was customary in Soviet times. He replaced it with a brick house, with two rooms, bathroom and kitchen.

His wife Natalija comes out the door. "My husband is so diligent, he always works. I wonder where he gets the power from. There is always something to do: clean up, sweep the house, pluck weeds, water. "

And Nikolaj is a true perfectionist. Behind the house he has built a greenhouse, grow tomatoes and cucumbers. Garlic sprouts between vines, at regular intervals:

"Garlic disinfected. And we have our own garlic for the winter. We harvest it in late summer and cellar it. Garlic always makes itself good in the garden. "

"All that was good was that the cooperative distributed pesticides. You had four to five days to use them. An agronomist walked around and controlled it. It stank so much, it was unbearable. The pesticides killed everything, including the gardener! "

The Datschniki, the dachshunds, were supposed to provide for themselves and alleviate the notorious supply shortages of the Soviet Union. One like Nikolaj with his green thumb would have been a showcase dynasty back then. But these times are over, also the togetherness has changed.

"There were not even fences here between the plots. Everyone knew each other from the combine factory. And there was a lot of celebration. It was just like that, at the weekend, for example: 'I have roasted potatoes, come over and bring a bottle.' "

Natalija arranges plastic chairs on the terrace and serves tea. Nikolaj shovels several spoons of sugar into his cup: "In the past, there was not even electricity, no water, nothing. The people sat together by the light of a kerosene lamp. My husband had to come first. He made sure that the settlement was connected to drinking water and gas. "

"I like comfort. Water used to be pumped from the river, three times a week, strictly according to plan. It was just for casting. We did not have drinking water. A friend of mine has a company that runs water pipes. That's why I approached him. He said, "When you become the chairman of the dachshund, we come into business. I do not want to have anything to do with the current chairman. 'He was not a decent man! People steal everywhere, okay. But not only did he steal, he robbed in a big way. "

At that time, the chairman was already in the post for many years, "and he was also on the management floor of the combine harvester factory. Here sums went by, that was millions! The combine factory has still written off usable building material and used it for the dachshunds. They shared the profit. That was a sworn clique. If someone opened their mouths here on the dacha, then he had problems at work. "

Not Nikolai. He came from the outside, never worked in the factory, was independent of the goodwill of the chairman and his rope team. Although he was not elected to the chairman, he made pressure as a board member. When the combine factory was closed, the problem was eliminated. The chairman left. Today, the cooperative is financed only by membership fees. And the members enjoy all freedoms.

"You can do anything you want here. Many people live in the settlement without being registered. Ukraine is right next door. It is only 30 kilometers to the border. Many Ukrainians work here in the area. Especially since the war. "

"Even an African from the Ukraine lives here, he bought a dacha here. Nobody bothers about it. There is only one thing: you have to pay your membership fee. Whether you're here or not, living here or not, does not matter. "

"The city is not far. If one does not know where to go with his harvest, he grabs a basket, gets on the bus, drives to the market and sells it there. "

Nikolaj is happy with his life, with his dacha: "I was on the road a few times in Moscow. There they build what they want to do. Even your own golf courses, my goodness, and palaces, since even the garden gate costs as much as my whole dacha. "

I want to see these palaces. That's why I sit down in the Elektritschka in Moscow. These suburban trains departs from all Moscow train stations, distributing the commuters in a star shape into the surrounding countryside and on the weekends still the stressed capital cities. More than half of Muscovites claim to have a weekend home just outside the city.

The suburban train twitches through high-rise housing estates. Many passengers are packed with big bags. One woman has her cat in her lap, another solves crossword puzzles. A man sits opposite me and leafs through the "Happy Gardener". It's stuffy.

"Our dacha is in a village. It is a summer house, in winter we see no sense to live there longer. My daughter has been there with her grandma since the beginning of the holiday. In the fresh air. I'm going to work weekend after work, I have to go back to Moscow on Sunday. "

"The traffic jams are bad. It takes me three hours to get to the dacha. And & nbsp; three hours home. It takes only an hour and a half to get out of Moscow at all! I would like to rest on the dacha, but unfortunately there is always something to do there. Although we have no special plantings. But also the lawn and the flowers want to be poured. "

Irina has a tent with her. She wants to spend the night with friends on a lake and barbecue. I ask her if I can look at her dacha. She refuses - too private. We do not know each other.

In the meantime, forests and settlements alternate behind the train window. Moscow is expanding. Row house settlements are surrounded by walls: gated communities. Whole small towns, built on tight, because building land is expensive, with so-called cottages, single-family homes. Then again classic dachas with the obligatory 600-square-meter plots. The dacha was never classless. For artists, scientists and party officials, the rules in the Soviet Union differed from those of the workers. They got larger plots, cream pieces in particularly beautiful areas. Dachas are wooden huts, containers, small weekend cottages, villas, palaces.

The opposition politician Aleksei Navalnyi's anti-corruption foundation recently launched a drone over Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's dacha. The recordings can be seen on the internet. The camera glides over a boathouse on the Volga, a private beach, a green hill with a ski lift. Over dozens of houses, a forest, a pond with a duck house, a handball field, an old country estate. 80 hectares, the area is large. Surrounded by an astonishing six meters high, opaque fence.

Dats of this size are inaccessible to reporters like me. In general, the more feudal the hut, the higher the fence. I know a few people in Moscow who have money, and I know people who know such people - but nobody is willing to give a German journalist an insight. With wealth is gladly protested, but the dacha is private.

But then Sascha invites me to visit him in the dormitory Letowo in the southwest of Moscow. He is not rich, but he wants to show me the houses of his rich neighbors. The driveway to the settlement is blocked by a barrier. Sascha is an artist and lives constantly on the dacha. He built there in the mid-nineties, in illustrious company.

In the chaotic 90s everyone in Russia built how funny he was. This castle-like dacha dates from this time in Aleksander's neighborhood (Deutschlandradio / Gesine Dornblüth)

We go for a walk. The roads in the settlement are empty. Walls on the left and right. Surveillance cameras everywhere. The wall at the end of the road is even higher than the rest and overgrown with ivy. I can see a house with a pointed roof, round corner turrets and battlements - a real little castle.

"When I get a visit, I always hear: how does this come from, it looks like in Disneyland. The man who built it probably dreamed of living in a castle from an early age. The house is huge. "

"The two houses belonged to two brothers. You controlled any markets in the 1990s. That's how they got rich. The man with the lock sometimes rode there in front of the field. He was shot with an assault rifle. At that time there were always gang wars and shootings. "

"Twenty years ago people were talking to each other here, the relationship was narrower. Today, you do not really know your neighbors anymore. There's just no time for a chat. And people do not feel like it. "

"In Russia, there were always fences. They were made of wood, like mine. But when the individual building started, in the 90's, people started to demarcate themselves with such fences. And of course there were norms. But it's like always in Russia: people do not pay attention to it. And usually nobody cares about it either. You will not sue your neighbor now because he has such a wall. Should he? I do not care. I think it is a tradition of Russian people to differentiate themselves from their neighbors. It's about feeling safe. Incidentally, my topic in art is My Territory. On my territory, my property, I work and live and I feel safe there, even though I only have a broken wooden fence, but it gives me the feeling of security, of inner freedom. "

Sasha's dacha is comfortably furnished. Floorboards, heavy wooden chairs, a fireplace. The studio is full of canvases, on which walls and fences are painted. Through the window front is a meadow to see and a small vegetable patch with herbs. Sascha originally planned the cottage as a weekend dacha for his family.

"In the '90s, the dacha was still a place to spend the weekend or even vacation. Everyone went with pleasure, built something, I remember, we also planted potatoes, vegetables and fruits, even strawberries. At that time, the traditions of the Soviet way of life were still alive: the farm gave you a piece of land, you dragged board by board and you built a bower, in it you sit, look into the garden that you have laid out, and rejoice over it. "

When the dacha was finally finished, Sascha divorced. Wife and daughter stayed in the city apartment in Moscow, Sascha moved out into the countryside. For him it was the optimal solution. He can paint in peace. He spends his holidays in India or Western Europe.

"At the end of the 90s, I had the opportunity to travel to Italy and Greece with my family. And even then we realized that the dacha is not the place of our dreams. That there are many more interesting places in the world that we would rather visit than dig in the garden. People used to dream that when I retire, I will be living on the dacha and it will be a paradise. The dacha has long lost this meaning. At least in the Moscow area. "

I'm back in the south of Russia, near Taganrog near the border with Ukraine and the war zone in Donbass. Liliya and Aleksander just invited me to their dacha, but only because we have a mutual acquaintance. The basic requirement here as well: we do not talk about politics, and the last name is left unmentioned. Many Russians have become cautious in dealing with German journalists in recent years. Ten-year-old daughter Vasilisa opens the gate.

The dacha is a log cabin, a few years old. The trunks are painted dark, the entrance is covered. Everything is right-angled. The sidewalk slabs, the driveway for two cars. In the corner is a second log cabin, behind a shed. For green is little space, some lawn, some fruit trees.

"During the day we are mostly in town, even on weekends. But we come here as often as we can. Because here it is good. Even in the winter. And we also have the bird and the cat here. "

"In the city we have a very stressful life: I work, and besides I have to drive the child constantly somewhere, her dad is too busy. Here on the dacha we rest. "

"A whole fridge full of ice cream! We have a lot of ice cream, frozen pizza, mushrooms, pancakes. My father is an ice cream businessman! He is the director of a warehouse for ice cream. "

"Three years ago we spent all our savings on this dacha. It was our dream. We always have a lot of visitors, here is a lot of space. We have not changed much, we are renovating our city apartment. But we will soon hire a designer. He should do everything in the Russian style, with real wood carvings. It should be nice. "

"Everybody has to get out in between. I can not leave because of work in the summer, that's our main business. It's only 15 kilometers to this point, but the air is already different than in the city, the landscape is different. You arrive and you are immediately in a little paradise. You lie down on the couch, and you feel like you are on a short break in a small resort. If we have time, we will go to the Black Sea at the end of the summer. To Anapa, Gelendzhyk, Sochi, maybe Crimea. "

Half an hour later, Aleksandr is on the grill. Barbecuing is also a men's business in Russia. Smoke clouds are caught in the fruit trees. The coal glows orange.

"I bought the barbecue in Dnepropetrovsk. In Ukraine, 2013. We had business partners there, ice cream makers. They invited us and had a great dinner. Unfortunately, politics has split us apart. We'll meet again, at fairs in Moscow. "

Aleksander goes to the car, turns on the radio. Now we have reached politics. Sometimes they would have heard the explosions in the nearby war zone Donbass on the dacha, Aleksander tells. In the meantime, they hardly have anything left of it.

"Life here is actually stable. If the sanctions were not there, it would be wonderful. Because of sanctions, prices have risen. In the past, ice cream producers in Russia processed cherries from Poland. Because of the import bans, we have to import the products through other countries, which makes them expensive. And that is why many no longer use natural fruits, but take jams from Iran, which are cheaper. If that were not, everything would be fine. "

Then, out of the blue, Lilija says she can not understand why Europeans call Ukraine Ukraine's own state. I feel uncomfortable because I am a guest, I do not like arguing and I turn off the recorder.

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