Crimea has long tradition of nudism and communudism. It was the first place where Russians (repressed first by the Tzars and more recently by Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Putin) were able to gather together to enjoy a nudist lifestyle and social naturism. In the early 20th century, shortly after the German naturist movement emerged, the Ukrainian born Russian language symbolist poet, painter and freemason, Maximilian Voloshin established a nudist colony at his home in Koktebel.
Max Voloshin was inspired to pursue public nudism by the activities of a German organisation called the Freier Bund. Voloshin begins his essay On Nudism, first printed in Dnevniki pisatelej 1 (March 1914, pages 34-40), with a sketch of that organisation:
The Freier Bund is the name of a German society whose goal is the physical and moral improvement of humanity through nudity. The society is located in Berlin. It has its own park at Grünwald, where members of both sexes gather for games in the open air. The Society was founded by Dr. Küster, a physician who was able to assert the Society’s right to exist before the most bashful of all police forces, the Prussian police.
Dr. Küster says, “There are two reasons keeping people from nudity: the fear of catching cold and bashfulness. The first reason does not stand up medically to criticism, because our skin is an astonishing regulatory mechanism, thanks to which we, once we are in motion, do not have to attend to any atmospheric changes whatsoever. As for bashfulness, if your sensibilities are annoyed by semi-nudity, take my nudity cure and you will see how your nerves will be soothed and what a profound sense of physical and moral liberation will remain with you after visiting our park.”
Voloshin concludes On Nudism with the following:
Compared to the Russians, the French are almost free of a sense of shame about their own bodies. But they are always struck by the Russians’ freedom to bare themselves spiritually. In all spheres of spiritual life they are insurmountably bashful and reserved. (Thus, for example, insanity in a French family is carefully concealed.) The Russians’ openness about themselves attracts the French and disturbs them, as does the innocent shamelessness of children and savages, as does a freedom that is inaccessible to them. The spiritual shamelessness of the Russians can only be explained by the absence of external forms of psychic life. The Russian spirit feels itself only from within, and does not yet know its own epidermis. And in this area all bashfulness is concentrated in the covering of the skin.
We experience an acute sense of confusion and awkwardness when we accidentally see undressed a woman well known by us and respected by everyone. This is natural.
Once in the theatre I happened to meet a woman whom I know well but had never seen dressed. (She was a model.) At first I felt exactly the same feeling of awkwardness and embarrassment.
Going bathing, I undress at home, put on a bathing robe, cross the thirty metres separating my home from the sea, and throw myself into the water. The local inhabitants are profoundly shocked by this behaviour.
Local decency insists that each individual undress in full view of others, on the open beach ten steps from the road.
In my memory remains a model who did not dress during her breaks but sat in the corner of the studio and laid out her needlework. In this pose there was as much beauty and modesty as when she appeared clothed in a long morning dress. The eye refused to recognize her nakedness.
In 1913, when a Russian Orthodox zealot named Abram Balashov used a knife to stab Ilya Repin’s realist painting Ivan The Terrible Killing His Son, Voloshin was the only native Russian speaking intellectual to defend the man, indicating that it was an aesthetic statement appropriate to the painting, which displayed gore and bad taste. Like Repin’s pictorial realism, Balashov’s political views were reactionary: while stabbing the painting three times Balashov shouted: “Enough blood! Down with blood!” Balashov was incarcerated in a mental hospital and the average Russian intellectual of the time appeared more shocked by his attempt to destroy a famous painting than the repressive nature of the Russian state.
Max Voloshin’s house in Koktebel attracted the most open-minded people of its time: artists and their models and mistresses. It was a place where male painters would strip off to work in the buff with their nude models on the seashore, shocking the locals with their “impermissible behaviour”.
Immediately after the October Revolution in Russia, nudism was tolerated by some Bolshevik leaders including Lenin, who claimed he thought “it has a healthy proletarian source”. Although the Bolsheviks merely replaced the formal with the real domination of capital in Russian, to establish their grip on the country they had to pretend to be more radical and further to the left than they actually were, hence their early toleration of communudism. Once Stalinist glaciation set in and the Bolsheviks came to believe they had an iron grip on Russia, the radical pro-nudist Soviet organization “Shame Off!” was disbanded in 1925, and nudism was repressed.
Following on from the thawing of Stalinist glaciation and tankie repressiveness came the emergence of a Soviet hippie movement in the late-1960s and early-1970s. At this time, echoes of the international sexual revolution began to be felt in both Russian and Crimea (as well as throughout the Ukraine and in other Soviet Republics and eastern bloc satellite states). Soviet hippies hit upon the remote location of Lisya Buhta (Fox Bay in English), near Koktebel in Crimea, for their nude encounters and communudist social experiments. Fox Bay not only had a beautiful beach, it was a suitable location for camping, since there is small forest nearby where firewood can be collected and drinking water is available at the foot of the Echki-Dag mountain.
Feeling Fox Bay was becoming too popular, some communudists decided to find a wilder place to camp about and get nekkid. They chose Meganom, a headland near Sudak with many small bays and pebble beaches. Since it’s difficult to get to Meganom, and there are no shops or houses, this location was considered a paradise for communudists who wanted to contemplate each other’s bodies and engage in outdoor communal sex in complete tranquillity.
There’s another communudist beach close to Sevastopol called Fiolent. The water is very clean and is a pale greyish green in colour. While it is easy to get to Fiolent from Sevastopol, the communudist beach itself is hard to access due to landslides. Communudists reach it by jumping across rocks. There’s only a few places flat enough to pitch a tent at Fiolent. The Southern coast of Crimea has fewer nudist beaches than the area around the regional capital of Sevastopol. However there is one communudist hang out in Simeiz, beneath Koshka Mountain. Nudists trek to Simeiz to enjoy the spectacular landscapes and to take photos of each other posing buck naked with huge rocks and thickets of juniper all around them.
The long tradition of nudism and communudism in Crimea is currently threatened by the invasion of the peninsula by Russian soldiers directed by ultra-reactionary Vladimir Putin. Nudists and communudists from around the world must protest against the threat to their activities posed by Putin’s plans to annex Crimea. Proletarian nudity could become a crime in Crimea if Putin takes control of the peninsula…