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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Photo Essay - Getting Away From It All

As promises of good weather become more frequent, thousands of Muscovites have opened the dacha season — seeking refuge from the smog and dust of the city on their own plots of land in the countryside.

Traditionally, the annual trek by Muscovites to their dachas is marked by heavy traffic jams on the city's main thoroughfares ahead of the weekends and crowds of dachniki in commuter trains, balancing tomato seedlings in their laps, loudly exchanging gardening advice and discussing crop forecasts.

For many Russians, the dacha is a symbol of all the joys associated with rest and warm weather — a place to spend a vacation or leave children for the summer.

In Soviet times, most dachas were standard plots of land, usually 6 sotok — 600 square meters — owned by the state but allotted free of charge by trade unions to employees of state enterprises.

The land was meant for a modest house, usually wooden, a garden and not much else. Few lucky dacha-goers could afford forbidden luxuries like a fireplace, banya or greenhouse. Some dachas, such as those awarded to the Communist Party elite and state-favored cultural figures, were manifestly more equal than others.

All this has changed over the past decade, as hundreds of castle-like mansions have cropped up, mixing with older, shabby houses and introducing a sense of inequality among neighbors.

Despite the pleasure of relaxing in the fresh air, for most dachniki the dacha means labor rather than rest. For the most devoted of them, the season begins with the May holidays and runs until early November.

"I cannot imagine myself sitting idle at the dacha. I always find something that needs to be done — weeding, painting, canning," said Yelena Borisova, 50, who owns a two-story cottage in the scientists' community in Abramtsevo, some 70 kilometers east of Moscow.

"Once I caught myself thinking: I'm too tired to go to the dacha this weekend, there is so much to do there. I'd rather stay in Moscow and rest," Borisova said.

— Text by Oksana Yablokova
Photos by Vladimir Filonov