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For Russians, summer is dacha season

The term dacha comes from an old Russian word that means one's "portion."

What could be more apt? Russians only really come alive in these rural hideaways, seemingly a universe away from their tiny, cramped city apartments. A dacha can be anything from a rickety shed in the middle of a potato field, to an isolated cottage in a forest glen, to the soaring, garish villas of Russia's new rich. For most, it's a wooden cottage, maybe one or two bedrooms, with minimal conveniences, on a small piece of arable land.

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Forty-one percent of Russians have some sort of dacha, according to the Center for Public Opinion Studies in Moscow. Most family dachas were acquired during the Soviet era, usually through a workplace or membership in a public organization. Today, people may register their dachas as private property, although full ownership of land is still forbidden.

Besides being the focus of family life between May and September, a typical Russian dacha is also a serious unit of production. Agricultural expert Irina Khramova estimates as much as 80 percent of all fruit, vegetables, and potatoes consumed in Russia last year was home grown. By Russian dachniks, that is.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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