Moscow nudists targeted in campaign against 'depravity'

Barry Neild, CNNPublished 25th August 2015
Mosow sunbathers
(CNN) — Summer temperatures may be cooling in Moscow, but the city's nudists are starting to feel the heat.
A leading politician is reportedly mounting a campaign to ban naked bathers from a popular riverside hangout they've used for decades, calling their behavior "depraved."
"Their shindigs often end in fights, drinking or sex in public," says Lyudmila Stebenkova, deputy leader of the Russian capital's duma, or legislature, according to the Moscow Times.
"But the police can't put a stop to this orgy because there are no laws regulating nudism."
Stebenkova, a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, makes the comments about nudist activities in Moscow's Serebryany Bor natural park in her own blog. She adds that the issue will soon be put before the duma.
The Times sees the politician's comments as part of ongoing efforts in President Vladimir Putin's Russia to promote "conservative values" and outlaw non-traditional culture -- a trend that has already led to a clampdown on what officials term gay propaganda.
Speaking to the Times, Stebenkova describes the nudists as "depraved" and "completely out of their minds."

'Harmful to morals'

The newspaper reports that another nudist beach in St. Petersburg was closed by local authorities as "harmful to public morals" after being used by naturists for four decades.
Sergei Mityushin, head of the Moscow branch of Russia's national naturist organization, agrees that the presence of naked bathers in a popular city park isn't ideal but laments the lack of dialogue with city officials.
He tells the Times that a nearby alternative site allocated to nudists has become unusable due to trash left by "alcoholics and criminals" and neglect by authorities.
The paper says, however, that there isn't necessarily unanimous support for Stebenkova's anti-nudist campaign.
Oleg Soroka, a fellow duma member with responsibility for town planning, is quoted telling the Russia News Service earlier this year that any attempt to close the beach would be a "radical decision."
"I think we should decide this in a civilized manner... It's a subculture, and if it exists, it's wrong to ban it," he said.
Nudism isn't uncommon across Europe, where many beach areas are specially designated clothes-free. It was popular in many Eastern Bloc states during the Soviet era, where it was seen as part of a healthy, outdoors lifestyle.