Summerfolk: A History of the Dacha, 1710-2000 (Hardback)Stephen Lovell (author)
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The dacha is a sometimes beloved, sometimes scorned Russian dwelling. Alexander Pushkin summered in one; Joseph Stalin lived in one for the last twenty years of his life; and contemporary Russian families still escape the city to spend time in them. Stephen Lovell's generously illustrated book is the first social and cultural history of the dacha. Lovell traces the dwelling's origins as a villa for the court elite in the early eighteenth century through its nineteenth-century role as the emblem of a middle-class lifestyle, its place under communist rule, and its post-Soviet incarnation.
A fascinating work rich in detail, Summerfolk explores the ways in which Russia's turbulent past has shaped the function of the dacha and attitudes toward it. The book also demonstrates the crucial role that the dacha has played in the development of Russia's two most important cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, by providing residents with a refuge from the squalid and crowded metropolis. Like the suburbs in other nations, the dacha form of settlement served to alleviate social anxieties about urban growth.
Lovell shows that the dacha is defined less by its physical location"usually one or two hours" distance from a large city yet apart from the rural hinterland-than by the routines, values, and ideologies of its inhabitants. Drawing on sources as diverse as architectural pattern books, memoirs, paintings, fiction, and newspapers, he examines how dachniki ("summerfolk") have freed themselves from the workplace, cultivated domestic space, and created informal yet intense intellectual communities. He also reflects on the disdain that many Russians have felt toward the dacha, and their association of its lifestyle with physical idleness, private property, and unproductive use of the land.
Russian attitudes toward the dacha are, Lovell asserts, constantly evolving. The word "dacha" has evoked both delight in and hostility to leisure. It has implied both the rejection of agricultural labor and, more recently, a return to the soil. In Summerfolk, the dacha is a unique vantage point from which to observe the Russian social landscape and Russian life in the private sphere.
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Number of pages: 280
Weight: 28 g
Dimensions: 238 x 168 x 21 mm
"For Boris Pasternak, a dacha was a place to dig potatoes and write For Joseph Stalin, a home for his final years as dictator. But while the famous and the infamous had their country retreats, so did ordinary Russians. Dachas, notes Stephen Lovell, have ranged from sumptuous villas to cottages to shacks, reflecting changing views of property and its uses throughout Russian history."* Chronicle of Higher Education *
"Lovell does a splendid job of telling the story of the dacha, which is by now a hallowed feature of Russian life. Each summer Moscow and St. Petersburg still virtually shut down for July and August as millions of Russians head for the country, and no study of the Russian mentality can be complete without an understanding of a phenomenon which really has no proper equal in any other culture. An enormous amount of research has gone into this attractive book, but the scholarship is worn lightly, and the writing style is lucid and wryly amusing. There are many delightful illustrations and references to a wide range of relevant literary works."* The Economist *
"Stephen Lovell has scoured all possible sources-literary, architectural, economic, legal-and supplemented them with the finding of an oral-history project of his own devising. Summerfolk opens up a whole new field of inquiry and is one of the most insightful works to appear in the relatively young discipline of Russian cultural studies."* Times Literary Supplement *
"Stephen Lovell's Summerfolk is a wonderfully rich yet concise history of this peculiar Russian institution the dacha which brilliantly illuminates its diverse cultural and social themes. As Lovell demonstrates, the story of the dacha is a good way to reflect on the zigzag history of the relationship between the Russian state and private property."* New York Review of Books *
"Stephen Lovell's choice of the dacha as a prism through which to look at the changes in Russian society is inspired.... It shows Lovell to be a first rate social as well as cultural historian."* London Review of Books *
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