Book 5. Who are we? (2001)
Harbingers of a new civilisation
The first shoots of a new and splendid future are to be found in the Russian dachniks\m These words sounded within me, all by themselves. Anastasia was not around at the time. It took but a moment to recall the enthusiasm and joy with which she talked to me about the Russian dachniks four years ago. She believes that it was thanks to the dachniks that a global catastrophe on the Earth was avoided in 1992. So it turns out that it was in Russia that this amazing movement began, a movement which has had a kindly influence on a part of the Earth. I remember her telling me:
“Millions of pairs ofhuman hands began touching the Earth with love. With their hands, you understand, not a bunch of mechanical contraptions. Russians touched the ground caressingly on these little dacha plots. And the Earth felt the touch of each individual hand. The Earth may be big, but it is very, very sensitive. And the Earth found the strength within itself to carry on.”
Back then, four years ago, I didn’t take this saying seriously, but now, after learning of all the various attempts by people of different countries of the world to create spiritual-ecological communities, I suddenly realised something: with no noisy fanfare, appeals, advertising or pompous ceremonies, the
most massive-scale project has come to fruition right here in Russia — a project having significance for all humanity; When seen against the backdrop of all the various Russian dacha communities, all the reports from various countries on the creation of eco-communities there sound quite ludicrous.
Judge for yourselves: here spread out in front of me is a pile of articles and collections of reports seriously discussing the question of how many people should live in an eco-commu- nity — a population of no more than 150 is advised. Considerable attention is paid to the governing bodies of such communities and their spiritual leadership.
But Russia’s dacha co-operatives have existed for years, some-times comprising 300 families or more. Each co-operative is managed by one or two people, usually somebody retired from their regular job — if in fact you can call the chairman of a Russian dacha co-operative a manager. He’s actually more like a registrar, or a manager who simply carries out the will of the majority
Russia does not have any centralised management system for its dacha movement. However, according to data published by Goskomstat (the State Statistics Committee), in 1997 14.7 million families had fruit-growing plots, while 7.6 million had vegetable plots. The overall land area cultivated by these families amounted to 1,821,000 hectares. These households independently grew 90% of Russia’s potatoes, 77% of its berries and fruit, and 73% of its vegetables.
No doubt the theoreticians who have been designing eco- communities and eco-villages for years will protest that a dacha co-operative is not the same as an eco-community To which I wish to immediately respond: it is not the name but the content that is important.
The overwhelming majority of Russia’s dacha co-operatives conform to eco-community guidelines. Not only that, with no thunderous declarations on spiritual self-improvement and the necessity of a careful approach to Nature, the dachniks have proved their spiritual growth not by words but by their way of life. They have planted millions of trees. It is thanks to their labours on hundreds of thousands of hectares thought to be infertile and good for nothing — so-called marginal lands, that orchards are now flourishing.
We keep hearing how in Russia part of the population is on the verge of starvation. We see strikes by teachers, then by miners, and our politicians are scratching their heads in their attempts to bring the country out of crisis after crisis. More than once during the perestroika period Russia was but a hair’s breadth away from a massive social upheaval. But it didn’t happen.
And now let’s try mentally deducting from just the past few years of our lives the 90% of potatoes, 77 % ofberries and 73% of vegetable production, and substitute a heightened anxiety level on the part of millions of people. This you would have to do if you were going to exclude from the past few years the calming effect of the dachas. You don’t have to be a psychologist to see how dachniks are calmed by their contact with the vegetable plots they have planted. So, if we take away that factor, what would we have been left with in 1992, 1994 or 1997? In any of those years a colossal social upheaval could have come about. What kind of result might such an upheaval have led to on a planet chock full of deadly weapons?
But no catastrophe occurred. Anastasia maintains that in 1992 a catastrophe on a global scale was avoided thanks only to Russia’s dachniks, and now, having read all the reports explaining the situation, I tend to agree with her.5
It’s not so important any more to know just which ‘smart head’ in our nation’s government came up with the idea of giving the green light to the dacha movement in Russia (still the Soviet Union back then). Or maybe it was Providence itself that saw fit to accord this privilege specifically to Russia? What’s important now is that the movement exists! And it is proof positive that there is indeed a possibility of achieving stability in human society — maybe even that stability so many peoples on various continents having been trying without success to achieve for thousands of years!
Anastasia says that the dacha movement in Russia represents a momentous turning-point in the development of the human commonwealth. Dachniks are the harbingers of a splendid future which will come after them, she has said, thinking of the future communities she has sketched out. And I myself would very much like to live in one of these splendid communities — a community located in a flourishing country, whose name just happens to be... Russia.