In his book Dacha, published by Fuel this year, photographer Fyodor Savintsev captures the beauty of dachas, country homes in Russian with deep cultural and historic legacies. The idea of the dacha stretches back to before the Russian Revolution, and though many of the structures have been lost to time, some still stand. Savintsev documents remaining dachas with a mission to preserve their future.
“The idea of the dacha is as much cultural as architectural,” reads the foreword essay by Anna Benn. Through the decades, living in dachas fell in and out of favor, but dacha living today is thought of with nostalgia, according to Benn.
“My parents tell me I was taken to our dacha at a very young age – I was born in November 1982 and by spring the following year, I was ensconced in this idyllic environment,” Savintsev says in his afterword.
The photographer describes growing up in this world with all the nostalgia that Benn references. He references days spent with friends testing the limits of their sense of adventure and the environment they lived in.
“Today, this utopian place has changed considerably. My friends have long since moved away and their dachas no longer exist. Some have been sold, some have burned down, others are abandoned and decaying. The spirit that existed previously has evaporated,” Savintsev says.
“Although many survive, the majority have disappeared and are now not as easy to find as these photographs might suggest. Savintsev describes the process of searching for old wooden dachas around Moscow as being similar to hunting for mushrooms: glimpsing a fragment through the trees and running towards it, only to be met with disappointment, or — more rarely — to discover hidden treasure,” Benn says.
As such, Savintsev is committed to preserving dacha. His photographs capture these often forgotten and neglected homes, ensuring their memories do not disappear, even as the materials age. Some of his friends have, in turn, begun to breathe new life into these communities.
“In cities we focus on work, our minds consumed with thoughts of business, but the dacha is a place for rest,” Savintsev writes. “Gardens can go untended in favor of reading books, cycling and conversation. The dacha is a place of long summer evenings, samovars and tea parties.”
Image credits: Photos from “Dacha: The Soviet Country Cottage” courtesy of FUEL Publishing. Dacha: The Soviet Country Cottage is available to buy from FUEL Publishing.