Kiev Commonwealth of Naturists

"What's On"
# 30/2002 6-12 September

Back to Bare Basics!

Text Peter Dickinson

When it comes to being outrageously under-dressed, Kyivites are not renowned for their reserve or conservativism, but even hardened veterans of Khreschatyk's avalanche of micro skirts and panty lines may be surprised by     the level of nudity on display on Kyiv's one and only semi-official naturist beach. Located over in Obolon, this venue is fast becoming the focus of the embryonic Ukrainian naturist movement, which until the past couple of years was actually operating outside the law and even fell vic­tim to occasional official harrassment. Nude Kyiv, it appears, is only now getting the 'exposure' it's huge potential deserves!

Nudism, or naturism, as devotees prefer the lifestyle to be referred to, is nothing new, of course. Dating back to the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and originating in its organised  form in Germany, the naturist movement picked up support among intellectuals like D.H. Lawrence in England during the inter-war years.

Since then the idea of nudist beaches has become common-place, and the whole lifestyle has mushroomed into a multi-billion dollar, international industry featuring whole holiday complexs, world-wide summits and quite literally millions of devotees

What enthusiasts coming to Ukraine have noticed is the inno­cence of the scene here. They report that there is little of the seediness or sexual undertones evident here that the lifestyle has inevitably attracted elsewhere. Whereas in many countries the whole industry that has grown up around naturist activities has become semi-pornographic in nature, this is yet to be the case in Ukraine, where a family-oriented atmosphere dominates the friendly proceedings.

There is also little of the extremist views so often associated with the naturist lifestyle elsewhere to be found here in Ukraine. Whereas characters like the militant Vincent Bethel can often be found getting arrested for being naked outside famous London landmarks as part of his 'Freedom to be Yourself protest movement, naturist activities in Kyiv rarely extend beyond snashlyk-ing and beach volleyball. The whole movement in Kyiv is the brainchild of Andriy Litovchenko, an energetic local who has had an interest in -Ukrainian naturism dating back to the middle of the last centu­ry. As the man himself explains while seated (and partially clothed) in his Obolon apartment, he was living in Georgia at the time, and used to like to go up into the mountains to study for his exams, where he would usually strip off. Back in Soviet Kyiv, he would regularly go out on day trips beyond the Kyiv city limits to indulge in his passion for nudity, along with his wife and friends, who were gradually persuaded to participate. The real breakthrough, however, came in the late nineteeneighties with the collapse of the Soviet system and the conse­quent relaxing of restrictions on such things as nudity on Kyiv beaches.

"What's On"

"What's On"

Taking advantage of this rather lax policing, nudist spots quickly sprang up down in Gydropark. However, towards the later nineteen nineties, a new round of repressions began, with the naturists chased off their Gydropark spots, and, occa­sionally, arrested and physically manhandled. To escape the clutches of the law, Kyiv's nudists moved over the Dnipro to Truhanov island, thinking that this would enable them to remain isolated and left in peace. While this new location improved their lot, local naturists were still prone to harsh treatment at the hands of the local authorities, with mounted police raids even recorded, and a better solution was sought. Unable to guarantee their security and offer the kind of family atmosphere that Andriy associated the lifestyle with, he eventually decided to set up an official body to unite naturists in Kyiv and fight for their rights. Thus in 1997 the Kiev Commonwealth of Naturists was officially registered.

One of the organisation's main objectives was to secure a beach for naturist use, and although officials within the city administra­tion remain reluctant to officially declare any area set aside for naturist use, they have given unofficial approval for use of a strip of beach in Obolon. Andriy explains that one of the main difficulties is simply that government officials are loathe to be directly linked with naturist activities, although many profess to going nude when on holiday. "Nobody is prepared to be the first signature on any kind of documentation linked to us," he explains, adding that in reality Mis hasn't proved a problem, as a blind eye is turned by all officials these days. If you're thinking of trying out the naturist lifestyle for yourself, you don't have to rush to catch the last of the summer sun, as this is an all-year-round pastime. Snow nudity is not unheard of, while, as you'd no doubt imagine, the winter months see Kyiv's naturist community moving en masse to the sauna. Newcomers are generally welcomed, and even non-nudes are not totally frowned upon. Dubbed Textile-chicki' by the naturist crowd in a reference to their swimming costumes, clothed bathers are often to be found in among the naturists, either accompanying a part­ner or simply trying to build up the courage to strip off. As a rule, though, it is one-hundred percent naked, and on an aver­age day the crowd is a mix of old and young, male and female, although the ladies are said to be slightly more inhibited than the men, something which will surely surprise most local ama­teur anthropologists, who would surely have put money on Kyiv's dyevushki being the most liberated nudes around!

Text: Peter Dickinson
Photography: Courtesy of Andriy Litovchenko

You Bare Essentials - Contacting Local Naturists
Kiev Commonwealth of Naturists
Obolon Naturist Beach
(behind Kyiv yacht club. Follow the no. 24 trolleybus
to the end of the line and follow the bank round)

www. naturism. kiev. ua
kcn@i.kiev

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