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Dacha Idylls

Living Organically in Russia's Countryside

Melissa L. Caldwell (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 224 pages
ISBN: 9780520262850
October 2010
$34.95, £27.00
Other Formats Available:
Dacha Idylls is a lively account of dacha life and how Russians experience this deeply rooted tradition of the summer cottage amid the changing cultural, economic, and political landscape of postsocialist Russia. Simultaneously beloved and reviled, dachas wield a power that makes owning and caring for them an essential part of life. In this book, Melissa L. Caldwell captures the dacha’s abiding traditions and demonstrates why Russians insist that these dwellings are key to understanding Russian life. She draws on literary texts as well as observations from dacha dwellers to highlight this enduring fact of Russian culture at a time when so much has changed. Caldwell presents the dacha world in all its richness and complexity—a “good life” that draws inspiration from the natural environment in which it is situated.
Note on Transliteration and Pronunciation

1. Dacha Enchantments
2. Intimate Irritations: Living with Chekhov at the Dacha
3. The Pleasure of Pain: Gardening for the Soul
4. Natural Foods: Feeding the Body and Nourishing the Soul
5. Disappearing Dachniki
6. Dacha Democracy: Building Civil Society in Out-of-the-Way Places
7. The Daily Dacha Soap Opera

Melissa L. Caldwell is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Not by Bread Alone: Social Support in the New Russia (UC Press).
“[Caldwell’s] insight into Russian life is impressive. . . . Her descriptions are so sumptuous and almost tangible that they nearly prompt readers to make their own travel arrangements to spend the next summer at a dacha community in the greater Moscow region. Richly supplemented with the best of scholarship on spatial history, temporalities and identities, the book undeniably deserves to be read and appreciated by scholars of Russia and its culture.”—Europe-Asia Studies
"Valuable and accessible. . . . Dacha Idylls is an evocative and original examination of a central aspect of Russian life."—Susanne Cohen American Anthropologist
"Any future scholar working on modern Russian rural life would do well to read this book. It provides an excellent survey of the field."—John Randolph Journal of Modern History
“The strength of this book is that it interweaves ethnographic research with the day-to-day lives of the dachniki through personal narrative.”—Adele Barker Russian Review
“A brief review such as this cannot do justice to Caldwell’s thoughtful analysis. She complicates the binary oppositions that ordinary people and academics use to explain their world-- private/public, core/periphery, urban/rural, and labor/leisure. In explicating the complex reality that lies between these oppositions, Caldwell helps us to understand the paradox that is modern Russia.”—Christine Ruane Slavic Review
"Anyone who has spent time in Russia knows the importance of 'going to the dacha.' In this ethnography Melissa Caldwell reveals the mystique of rural life by exploring the social nature of gardening and making food, and Russian relationships to the land. It's truly an innovative study!"—Catherine Wanner, author of Communities of the Converted: Ukrainians and Global Evangelism

"In this engaging ethnography, Melissa Caldwell brilliantly demonstrates what is peculiarly Russian about the dacha, long an object of literary and nostalgic imagining, while simultaneously situating the 'vacation cottage' within larger histories of leisure, consumption, home, and post-socialist transition. A must-read for scholars of Russia or tourism."—Pamela Ballinger, author of History in Exile: Memory and Identity at the Borders of the Balkans

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