Russian family at their dacha

This photo postcard likely dates to the final years of Imperial Russia (1910-1917).  It came to me from modern-day St. Petersburg.  The back has some standard lettering but no personal information:

Russian family postcard 2

 

I’m guessing that this family is at their dacha, or summer house in the country, because of the trees in the background.  Their year-round home was probably in a village or town.  They may have been kulaks, or prosperous farmers, but that’s pure speculation on my part.

What I find most interesting about this family is the cultural divide between the generations.  The parents look like characters out of one of the great 19th century Russian novels.  If we saw a photo of them out of context, we might still guess they were Russian.  The next generation, in contrast, looks cosmopolitan and not identifiably Russian.  Their country had changed dramatically in their lifetimes, and it would change even more dramatically in the years to come.

Russian family postcard 3Russian family postcard 4Russian family postcard 5

 

Russian family postcard 6b

 

 

45 thoughts on “Russian family at their dacha

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  1. I really wish we could go back in time to understand and interpret the expressions that we see in their faces. They are not looking happy at all and I feel a bit sorry but
    at the same time very curious about this photo. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so accustomed to seeing serious faces in old photos that they don’t strike me as unhappy. In this case, I wonder about the family dynamics. Did the siblings all get along? Were there rivalries between the brothers? Were there tensions between the parents and their (adult) children? Thank you for your comments, Anita!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There is so much to explore in old photographs where we see people with different expressions and personalities. Many that we will never find the story behind, but I like you to know that I do appreciate your posts with old photographs that convey so much emotion, reflection and speculation.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a fascinating family portrait! The expressions are so varied. The old woman on the left looks like she’s saying, Get me out of here, now! The young man on the left immediately reminded me of a London gangster, circa 1964. (Yes, I have watched too much television.)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I’d guess the mother wasn’t a big fan of having her picture taken. The father, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying the moment. It was probably hard to get the family all together at one time. I see what you mean about the gangster look, haha!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m reading the Russian classic Anna Karenina by Tolstoy at the moment. The family in the photo somehow makes the characters of the novel more relatable to me. I agree with your observation of cultural divide of generations, Brad. The young woman looks more relaxed judged by her posture. The three young men resemble one another. To me they look like brothers.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Anna Karenina is one of the great novels. Not my favorite, because of the tragic elements, but an important book. This is a good time to tackle it! Russian literature is challenging, but it rewards the effort. My favorite is probably still War and Peace, which I read 25 years ago.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I thought a novel of almost 1,000 pages published in 1887, written by a Russian writer would be a tough read. Now that I’ve read 2/3 of Anna Karenina, I realise why it’s considered a classic, or as you said, an important book. The themes of love, death and humanity are universal. Although I don’t know all the references of the novel, I enjoy it very much. War and Peace is high on my reading list. Thanks for the chat, Brad. Appreciated a lot!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I read Anna Karenina in my late twenties, which may not have been the best time. At that age, life is full of possibilities and we don’t want to think we might make poor choices or end up in a hopeless position. But how many people can honestly say they have no regrets? Happy reading, Isabelle! 🙂

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  4. The difference in appearance and attitude between parents and children may be due to politics. Perhaps the younger generation was attracted to Marxism, believing the life of their parents too difficult and unappealing. This photo seems to mark a changing of the guard, so to speak. If they actually were kulaks their future would be bleak when Stalin came to power. Clearly they were prosperous enough to pose for a photograph and the children confident enough to ‘betray’ the plans for their future. I’m imagining of course! Coincidentally I’m reading Gogol’s short storyOld-fashioned Farmers (set in Little Russia/Ukraine) who were not aristocrats but wealthy compared to their serfs, yet to be freed. The assumed date of your photo puts it well past that somewhat ‘idyllic’ past. What an interesting postcard photograph 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An alternative title I considered for this post was “Old Russia, New Russia.” The social and administrative systems of Imperial Russia would have appeared outdated and inadequate to young people at the beginning of the 20th century, yet mechanisms for democratic change were frustratingly out of reach. Few would have wanted the lives of their parents. We don’t know the politics of this family, but it’s possible this photo was taken after the Revolution, which would tell us they picked the winning side. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t have protected them from the collectivization of agriculture or other horrors of the 1930s.

      I can’t remember if I read “Old-fashioned Farmers” or not. I read some of his stories but not all of them. Modern Russia would look very familiar to Gogol!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Very interesting photo and lots of fascinating comments. I absolutely agree with a comment which is before mine.
    Thank you for sharing it!
    Sometimes dacha could be a good escape from our everyday reality 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. To be honest, the young woman seems to be the one who’s thinking, “I wasn’t enthused about showing up for this gathering, and as soon as I can figure out how to do it, I’m gone.” The one who most intrigues me is the fellow on the left — the shortest one. There’s something about him that makes me think, “If there’s a revolutionary in this group, he’s it.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s funny you say that about that fellow. In her comment above, Liz said he reminded her of “a London gangster, circa 1964.” For me, though, the stars of the show are the father and daughter. He looks like he’d be the life of any party, while her languorous pose suggests she’s completely unfazed by the camera.

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  7. Terrific observation about the dress styles between the generations. The older folks definitely look Russian, but the younger people could be from almost any country.

    I love the pose of the young woman. It seems strikingly modern here.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Most likely the photo was taken in the pre-revolutionary period. Looking at the working hands, and the appearance of the head of the family and his wife, we can say with confidence that they are peasants. They lived a harsh life, knowing its bottom. Nevertheless, they had the strength to provide for themselves and their children. Looking at the fence of their estate, their clothes, they can be attributed to wealthy peasants. The simple image of an elderly man is very misleading. In fact, he is the personification of stability in this family and much depends on his opinion and decisions. All children except the eldest are very dependent on their father. The eldest son is a little removed from his family. His whole appearance suggests that he works as the manager or owner of his own small trading establishment. Perhaps he manages the capital of this family. The middle and younger brothers do not have such an opportunity, therefore they are dependent on their father and serve as assistants or work as employees. The girl is her father’s favorite and a little spoiled by him, so her pose is quite relaxed. How this elderly man managed to get out of the peasantry and earn a certain capital, one can only guess …I just expressed my opinion …
    Brad, I sincerely thank you for what you are doing.
    Thank you very much!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Wonderful photo! I was fascinated by the young woman – the ring on her finger suggests she might be married. Thus the might be the daughter who married and doesn’t live with the family any more or, a girl who married into this family. Either way, she is the one looking most relaxed in the group – such a cool posture!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wondered if she might have been married to one of the men standing behind, but if that were the case, I doubt she would be sitting next to the parents. At the same time, she seems to have come from a different world than they did. Her parents made that possible–they propelled her into that other world. They must have taken great pride in their beautiful, sophisticated daughter. Was she equally proud of them and their country ways? We can hope so, but with so much change between the generations in this family, there may also have been some friction.

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