Boris Lvin (bbb) wrote,
Boris Lvin

Саймон Кларк о русской даче

На сайте Russian Research Programme (, помимо многого прочего, выложена книга Саймона Кларка Making Ends Meet in Contemporary Russia: Secondary Employment, Subsidiary Agriculture and Social Networks (между прочим, на амазоне она стоит 120 долларов новая и 66 не новая, не считая пересылки).

В частности, Кларк пытается разобраться в феномене современной русской дачи, где горожане в массовых масштабах выращивают картошку и прочую свеклу. По-моему, его выводы заслуживают внимания. Сохраню некоторые из них:

All the evidence that we have considered so far would seem to indicate that the availability of necessary resources, above all the time of household members, is the most important consideration in acquiring, retaining and working a dacha, but that opportunity costs are not taken into account in allocating labour time to the production of food. If the household is sufficiently large, has sufficient money and knowledge and household members have the inclination, then the household will acquire a dacha. Once the household has got a dacha it will almost always use the dacha to grow food, and it will usually grow a substantial proportion of its potatoes and vegetables and, where the climate is appropriate, a significant amount of fruit. The obvious implication of such a pattern of decision-making is that the time and effort put in to growing their own food is not regarded by those households which acquire a dacha as an unpleasant chore which must be compensated at the rate that the household member’s labour would be compensated in the labour market. Perhaps working on the dacha is better viewed as a leisure activity, the Russian equivalent of jogging, which clears the mind, relaxes the body and stimulates the circulation every weekend through the summer. Unlike jogging, however, working the dacha has the beneficial side effect of producing a lot of food. The hard work that this demands makes it a particularly congenial form of leisure activity in a society which retains a very strong work ethic. Working a dacha with friends is also a very convenient form of socialising in circumstances in which many households cannot afford to provide the hospitality expected when they invite people into their own homes, and the exchange of dacha produce consolidates and extends the family’s social networks.

Before finally rejecting the hypothesis that working the dacha can be regarded as a productive activity governed by the norms of economic rationality, we should look a bit more closely at the economic rationality of the domestic production of food. What is the order of magnitude of the costs and the benefits involved in this activity? As we will see, the costs in both money and labour time can be quite substantial, while the benefits, in terms of the value of useful product, appear very meagre.


If working the dacha is to be regarded as work, rather than as a leisure activity, then we should cost the labour time of the dachniki at the opportunity cost, which we can estimate at the hourly rate that those engaged in secondary employment earn in their second jobs, or the hourly rate in their primary jobs of those who have no secondary employment (this presumes that the latter have no opportunity to engage in secondary employment, which generally pays at a substantially higher rate). We have this data for just over half our dachniki households, which gives us an average imputed labour cost per household of just over 6,000 roubles per household per annum ($1,000 at the then current exchange rate), without accounting for travel time. This is very nearly a third of the total money income of these households.


<...> It seems, therefore, that the RLMS and Goskomstat data are at least consistent with our finding that working a dacha does not lead to a reduction in food spending.

This should not really be so surprising, since the produce of the dacha is largely confined to the cheapest food products (and products whose relative price has been falling over the past few years): potatoes, beets, cabbage, carrots and onions, spending on which accounts for only a small part of the food bill for all but the poorest of families, and the poorest families cannot afford to work a dacha. However much of their vegetables they produce on their dacha, virtually all urban households have to buy all their bakery, meat and dairy products and, for the more prosperous, their processed and more exotic foods, in the market for money. According to the household budget survey data for Moscow and St Petersburg in 1996, potatoes and vegetables accounted for only about 8–9 percent by value of the total food consumption of the residents of big cities, or less than four percent of their total money spending. In the ISITO survey the average saving achieved by our dachniki amounts to three percent of their total household income, or six percent of their total household spending on food. This is about the same as the average household admits to spending on alcohol in the budget survey. Saving a few roubles by growing their own food gives the dachniki enough money to buy a box of chocolates or a few bottles of vodka and a bit of sausage for the weekend.

We have seen that there is no evidence that the domestic production of food has been chosen by households as a means of supplying themselves with the necessities of life as an alternative to acquiring those necessities by earning money and then purchasing them. Nor even that it is the last resort of those who have limited employment opportunities and do not have sufficient money income to buy their own food. The households with the lowest money incomes and in the greatest hardship are the least likely to grow their own food. Those with more working members, those who work longer hours in their main jobs, those who are engaged in secondary employment are certainly no less and if anything are more likely to engage in subsidiary agricultural activity. Those who engage in subsidiary agriculture do not work any shorter hours in their primary and secondary employment than those who do not. The monetary saving achieved through such engagement is miniscule, particularly when measured against the enormous labour input. Finally, those who grow their own basic foodstuffs spend no less on food and food products than those who do not. All of the evidence would indicate that working the dacha is primarily a leisure activity, that people do it as a form of relaxation to give them a break from their working lives and the pressures of urban life, and indeed almost half of all the ISITO dachniki cited this as one of the main reasons given for working their dacha. The fruit and vegetables that they produce are then merely a byproduct, no more essential to their subsistence than is the product of the vegetable plot of any keen gardener. Many people say, in Russia as elsewhere, that they grow their own fruit and vegetables because that is the only way that they can get high quality produce, or be confident that it is ecologically pure (even though it is often produced on heavily polluted land).

However, that is not the end of the story. We still have to explain why this practice is so prevalent in Russia, why around half the urban population engages in it, despite the enormous costs and inconvenience involved, especially when the plots are often so far from home. So what is the significance of the dacha? Having debunked one myth, are we going to resurrect another? Is the dacha something deeply rooted in the psyche and culture of Russians, perhaps as a Jungian echo of their rural past, a symbolic celebration of the affinity between the Russian soul and the earth from which it was born, of the roots to which all Russians are drawn in periods of crisis? Working a dacha may have deep roots in the Russian psyche, but it is far from the bucolic idyll that many Westerners imagine: for the majority of the population of big cities it involves many hours crammed into buses or suburban trains, further hours of backbreaking work before the return journey, a substantial monetary outlay, beyond the reach of the poorer families, for a small and uncertain return. If it symbolises anything it symbolises the centuries of suffering that have been imposed on the Russian people and that have driven them back to the land not as the seat of their soul, but as the most basic guarantee of their survival. The dacha appears to make no economic sense at all, providing the most meagre of returns for an enormous amount of toil, but it is much more than a means of supplementing the family diet or of saving a few roubles. It is both a real and a symbolic source of security in a world in which nothing beyond one’s immediate grasp is secure.
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