National Geographic

Snapshots Of Summer In Russia

It makes sense that in Russia, where it's cold and dark for much of the year, summer would be a magical time. An article in National Geographic's July issue explains the cultural significance — and ubiquity — of dachas, or summer cottages: One in three Russians, the article reads, owns one.

  • At his dacha, Sergey Yudin plants, burns weeds and indulges the "inner peasant" who lives within many Russians. In pinched Soviet times, such gardens grew some 90 percent of Russia's vegetables.
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    At his dacha, Sergey Yudin plants, burns weeds and indulges the "inner peasant" who lives within many Russians. In pinched Soviet times, such gardens grew some 90 percent of Russia's vegetables.
    Jonas Bendiksen/National Geographic
  • Summer, the short, sweet release from the interminable cocoon of Russian winter, is a time for swimming and riding, and sometimes both.
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    Summer, the short, sweet release from the interminable cocoon of Russian winter, is a time for swimming and riding, and sometimes both.
    Jonas Bendiksen/National Geographic
  • The dacha community of Lyubitel-5, near the town of Elektrostal, sits in the shadow of a steel smelter and Elemash, a plant rumored by locals to produce fuel pellets for nuclear reactors.
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    The dacha community of Lyubitel-5, near the town of Elektrostal, sits in the shadow of a steel smelter and Elemash, a plant rumored by locals to produce fuel pellets for nuclear reactors.
    Jonas Bendiksen/National Geographic
  • At the lavish end of the dacha spectrum are faux chateaux like these. Roughly half are permanent residences. A helicopter landing pad and yacht club are among the amenities for well-heeled owners.
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    At the lavish end of the dacha spectrum are faux chateaux like these. Roughly half are permanent residences. A helicopter landing pad and yacht club are among the amenities for well-heeled owners.
    Jonas Bendiksen/National Geographic
  • In the mishmash of a dacha community, an ersatz schloss and wooden shack may stand shoulder to shoulder. Here, Zinaida Kondratyeva, owner of the modest wood house in the background, works with her daughter-in-law in her garden near Moscow. The castle-like house is owned by a lawyer.
    Hide caption
    In the mishmash of a dacha community, an ersatz schloss and wooden shack may stand shoulder to shoulder. Here, Zinaida Kondratyeva, owner of the modest wood house in the background, works with her daughter-in-law in her garden near Moscow. The castle-like house is owned by a lawyer.
    Jonas Bendiksen/National Geographic
  • Barrel-bellied bathers, picnicking near the Dubna River, are as much a part of the summer scenery as grilled meat and beer.
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    Barrel-bellied bathers, picnicking near the Dubna River, are as much a part of the summer scenery as grilled meat and beer.
    Jonas Bendiksen/National Geographic

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According to writer Cathy Newman, Vladmir Putin swoops into his by helicopter; Boris Pasternak wrote Doctor Zhivago at his dacha; and Joseph Stalin had about 20 dachas scattered around the Soviet Union.

"The dacha has threaded its way through Russian culture ever since Peter the Great handed out land on the outskirts of St. Petersburg to courtiers," Newman writes. "The dacha is the stage upon which the drama (or comedy) of Russian summer unfolds." Everyone in Russia, she says, has a dacha story.

And photographer Jonas Bendiksen has beautifully captured that fleeting, lyrical quality of life.

Where do you spend your summers?

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