In simplest terms, a dacha was a portion of land given out by the tsar.
The apportioning of land to servitors and favorites was hardly an innovation, but over the course of the eighteenth century the dacha became ever more closely associated with the expansion of the empire. Early in the century, Peter I imbued the dacha with a distinctly strategic character, distributing grants both as a form of incentive and a coercive strategy for affecting the physical transformation of his new capital at St. Petersburg.
Devoid of any associations with wellness, leisure, comfort, or domesticity – this came later in the nineteenth century – the earlier iteration of the dacha referred to a plot of uninhabited, unbuilt, uncultivated land located some distance away from the proprietor’s primary residence. A diligent proprietor might convert it into an usad'ba (country estate), with formal or mature gardens and permanent dwellings, or into an agriculturally-productive site – a farm, an orchard, a cultivated woodland.
The essence of the dacha was that it implied a dynamic relationship between owner and property and the conversion of empty spaces into usable, definable places.
Related narration: Dacha Geography