Living Organically in Russia's Countryside
University of California Press 2010
Russians’ dachas are regularly mentioned in a sentence or two in newspaper articles about life in Russia, and many of who have visited the lands of the former Soviet Union have visited dachas. Yet, just as Russians themselves treat dachas as an escape, outsiders tend to treat them as peripheral. Melissa Caldwell has stood that view on its head in her book Dacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia’s Countryside (University of California Press, 2010) by showing how even as dachas are a refuge from city life, they are central to Russian life. Not only do we learn about dachas and activities that fill days at the dacha like berry picking and mushrooming, we get a glimpse of Russian ideas of authenticity and the role of nature, as well as how the end of communism is changing Russian life. It is an engaging book, and it was a pleasure to speak with Melissa about dachas.