Dacha Geography

One of the most common claims made by those who write the history of Crimea after 1783 is that Russian rule radically altered the regime of landownership and land use throughout the former khanate, shifting the vast majority of property into the hands of Russian settlers and in so doing disenfranchising the Crimean Tatar population. 

On one level, it would be foolish to contest that claim, as there is no shortage of evidence attesting to its accuracy. On another, it would be foolish to accept that claim as the sole conclusion we can draw about the fate of the land in the aftermath of annexation. 

In fact, there is a great deal more to say about the land (far more than could possibly be said in this modest narration). The idea here is not to provide a counter narrative - some sort of apology for empire - but rather to open up possibilities for a more nuanced understanding of patterns of landownership and land use. 

This narration echoes many of the arguments made in a far more detailed way in Claiming Crimea. It insists that we ask whether change was systematic, universal, and immediate. And it proposes that we consider the implications of each of those findings. Does the fact that dozens of Crimean murzas remained landowners well into the 19th century, or that almost all Russian settlers received grants of land interwoven with parcels owned by Tatar peasant communities, require us to amend the overarching narrative of loss and dislocation? Perhaps it does. Perhaps it does not. 

Either way, there is much to learn about the geography of landowership and land use. Some of those lessons are articulated here. Others remain implicit, embedded, or otherwise awaiting your own interpretation.