You bet it gets hot in Moscow in the summer: 36 degrees today and climbing. In times like these, poor people take a dip in the Moskva, rich people drive to their dachas and very rich people drive to their dachas in Zhukovka, 10 km outside the city center on the Rublyevo-Uspenskoye highway. In this village's elite settlements, new cottages start at $1 million, with things like helicopters thrown in to sweeten the package. These gated communities bear spacestation names — Zhukovka-3, Gorky-22 — or else evoke faraway American suburbia: Green Hill, Apple Garden, etc.
Subbing birches for beaches, Zhukovka is Moscow's Hamptons, a pretty place soured by urban vs. townie, richy vs. poory tension. A long time ago, Tsar Aleksei decreed that no industry shall ruin Zhukovka's natural beauty, making it the prime destination for black-lung city dwellers in the years to follow. Standard-issue huts were distributed among the proletariat in the late Soviet era. In the present day, many owners have held onto these and tend chickens in them year-round, despite the creeping onset of very important neighbors. At the neighborhood potluck you'll find the political elite (many members of the State Duma and the FSB (ex-KGB), Ukraine opposition leader Yanukovych), captains of business (Roman Abramovich, Nornikel head and skiing whore-monger Mikhail Prokhorov) and pop singers (Eurovision loser Alsou). Putin's brigade, heading deeper into Rublyovka, chokes the highway twice daily.
Poor people living in huts, rich people complaining of the livestock smell — a class war is a'brewing, if you listen to the old man on the porch in the rocking chair. As demand for luxury housing in the suburbs increases, things are getting nepriyatnie. The Guardian reported in February of mounting land grab "casualties," including the car-bombed Valery Yakovlev, formerly a community property official. The more civil are leaving it at strong suggestions that stubborn people surrender their land titles. The plebes have responded with harshly worded graffiti.
Before the Revolution comes, don't forget to enjoy Veranda u Dachi (Summer Terrace of the Dacha), part of Zhukovka's upperclass retail/dining neighboorhood, which was named the Best Out-of-City resturant by Menu.ru the last two years. The theme is pre-revolutionary country living — owner Arkady Novikov calls the restaurant a love letter to one's own home — but there's no Chekovian idyll. Cozy details like rustic cupboards with marinating cloves are undermined by perversely expensive prices and a degenerately rich clientele. A conservative estimate for dinner (Italian, Japanese, Uzbek and Chinese cuisines) is 70 euros.
The restaurant is attached to Dacha, an art gallery started by collector Yemelyan Zakharov and Sasha Vertinskaya, granddaughter of the ballad singer Alexander Vertinsky and niece of director Nikita Mikhalkov. It sells provincial knickknacks, and hosts haute couture shows like the one below.
The entire point of this article when I sat down to write it, arms sticking to the desk, was that it's now summer veranda season. Moscow is really cold more often than its really hot, so we really care about these things, yo. Veranda u Dachi's patio opened; people went.
Veranda u Dachi, 70 Rublyovo-Uspenskoye Shosse, Zhukovka village, Tel. 418-3394, www.artdacha.ru
Photos: readrussia.com, novikovgroup.ru, elite.ru