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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dachas of the Rich and Famous

The road to Zhukovka may not be paved with gold, but it is often lined with Mercedes, Volvos, Jeep Cherokees and Lincoln Towncars - particularly on sunny Friday afternoons, when the village's weekend residents return after a week of work in the city.

Located about 10 kilometers west of Moscow along the Moscow River, the quaint village of Zhukovka was turned into an intelligentsia getaway and Communist Party retreat more than 50 years ago. Today, it is perhaps Moscow's most expensive and exclusive suburb.

A combination of good roads, clean air and water, sizeable homes and proximity to Moscow has lured Western business executives and wealthy Russians to pay as much as $120, 000 a year to rent homes in Zhukovka.

Strolling through the village, one is as likely to hear English, Dutch, Spanish or French as Russian and Georgian. As more fancy homes are built, more rumors fly. The villagers say that "a millionaire woman who drives a Volvo" is building a five-story brick house that has an elevator.

Zhukovka has been a retreat for the elite since Stalin chose the village - along with the nearby villages of Barvikha, Nikolina Gora, Ilinskoye, Arkhangelskoye, Razdory and Gorky II - as the Communist Party's top rest spots near Moscow.

A group of Russian scientists and artists (who were not yet in Stalin's camps) were given luxurious dachas in Zhukovka. The cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, the nuclear scientist Yakov Zeldovich and the airplane designer Alexander Yakovlev were among the illustrious tenants.

Politburo members and other distinguished politicians also built dachas in the area, with the size and quality of the houses dependent on the political status of the dweller. Other notables who lived in Zhukovka were Soviet statesman Vyacheslav Molotov; Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva; and Yumzhashin Tsedenbal, the leader of the Mongolian Communist Party.

In addition, two compounds of about 50 government dachas each were built in the 1950s for members of the government. They were called Zhukovka-1 and Zhukovka-2.

The compounds are now among the most desirable residences in Zhukovka. Their residents include presidential aide Sergei Stankevich, Georgia's ambassador to Russia and a Lithuanian pop singer.

Surrounded by a tall, solid fence, the compounds have a tennis court, gymnasiums, a sauna, a cinema, a billiards hall, a library and two hairdressers. The compounds also have a private beach along the river, with boats, dressing rooms and refreshments. In May, a hard-currency grocery shop opened, offering the residents such treats as fruit yogurt, cookies and spaghetti.

While most of the villagers still live in log houses with no running water or telephones, and many still have pechki - wood-burning stoves - and outhouses, the dachas for the privileged have all the modern conveniences.

Many of the homes in the area have been taken over by Pergamon, a Russian-Swedish joint venture that rents them to Russians and foreigners. Expatriates who rent houses here through Pergamon said they pay $120, 000 per year.

Though most of these houses are rented only by wealthy Western companies, many arrange better deals on their own. In the village of Zhukovka, dachas with all conveniences can be rented for $800 a month from private landlords.

Commuting residents here do not worry about bumpy roads; The Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse is repaved almost every year to provide smooth driving for the important residents of the area, and traffic is directed to give priority to cars turning from Kutuzovsky Prospekt onto Rublyovskoye Shosse because of all the important people who traditionally have traveled that route.