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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dacha Country Gives Way to Suburbia

The unpaved, unlit roads are clogged with traffic. Getting to and from work in the center of Moscow is a 90-minute crawl each way. The schools are lousy. There are no stores within walking distance. Local health care facilities are primitive.

And Yekaterina Korobtsova could not be happier.

In December, Korobtsova, her husband and their 3-year-old son left their apartment in the center of the city and moved in to an all-pine, 250-square-meter home in this settlement a few miles outside the city limits.

"When I was pregnant four years ago, I discovered there is no oxygen in Moscow," said Korobtsova, 39, a senior manager in a telecommunications company. "Here, we have fresh air. We can walk in the forest. We will hear birds sing in the spring. And we don't have to smell our neighbors' cooking."

Korobtsova is part of a wave of homesteaders transforming the forested environs of Moscow into the beginnings of suburbia. Billboards across the city advertise developments with names such as Navaho, Monaco, Chelsea, Sherwood or, injecting a little Russian flavor, Barvikha Hills.

For decades, bucolic, peaceful villages such as Peredelkino were summer retreats for Muscovites escaping to modest country homes. Peredelkino was known as a writers' village. Boris Pasternak, author of the novel "Doctor Zhivago," had a dacha there and is buried there as well. But as in much of the countryside around Moscow, Peredelkino's old character is fast vanishing. New apartment buildings, townhouse developments and gated communities of sumptuous villas are appearing beyond the capital's outer beltway as Muscovites abandon urban living.

The super-rich trekked out of the city first. Now they are being followed by members of a rising middle class seeking cheaper housing in a cleaner environment. Helping fuel the trend is a realty boom driving up prices in the city by about 30 percent per year. New but bare and unpainted apartments there now start at around $2700 per square meter. In the suburbs, the cost is about $1075.

"Moscow is extremely expensive -- fantastically expensive -- for real estate," said Andrei Treivish, a professor at Moscow's Institute of Geography. "The suburbs are growing not only due to the people from the city but people from other regions in Russia looking for a foothold near the city."

In 2004, for the first time, construction of new residences, including apartments, in the region that rings Moscow exceeded the amount of new building in the city, government statistics showed.

Detached single-family homes outside Moscow range from $500,000 to the tens of million of dollars in the most exclusive neighborhoods.

Set in a village of fabulous houses in Veshki, just northwest of the city line, Vladimir Kudr's 600-square-meter home boasts a sauna and a small swimming pool in the basement, vaulted, light-filled rooms and lots of marble.

"We have horseback riding, bike riding, the forest, lakes, clean air," said Kudr, 39, a computer-game entrepreneur who is married with three children. "For a family, it's perfect."

A more modest version of that lifestyle is increasingly feasible for middle-class Muscovites as mortgage lending, unheard of just five years ago, brings home ownership within their grasp.

Alexei Yefremov and his wife sold their Moscow apartment and moved into a townhouse in Dolgoprudny, just north of the city, last year.

"Nobody is walking loudly upstairs. Nobody dumps their garbage on my doorstep. And the snow next to my house is white," said Yefremov, 52, a management consultant.

"It feels like home."