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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Souls Bared in Nudist Beach War

Every Eden has its apple. And in the case of Serebryanny Bor, the pastoral frolicking ground of Moscow's nudists, the idyll has been shattered by the second oldest human instinct: lust for power.

Since its foundation in 1991, the Moscow Nudists' Society has been racked with internal strife as its founder Sergei Mityushin, 38, was deposed in an ugly power struggle by would-be doyen of naked Moscow Igor Nezavibatko, 32.

Today, with the society split in two and separate areas of Serebryanny Bor staked out by the rival groups, the dispute smolders on with no sign of reconciliation.

Of course, most of the 1,000 nudists who come to this suburban beach on sunny weekends to swim, sunbathe and play volleyball are blissfully unaware of the passions among the hard-core naturists who run the rival clubs.

"I come here to get an even tan, which I need for my job," said Ira, 22, a model. "I don't really take it that seriously."

Natasha, 19, said she liked the freedom of being naked. "My skin can breathe and I feel healthy. Moscow is so dirty."

"I come because I can't afford a swimsuit," laughed her companion Olga.

Sadly, others among the Adams and Eves at Serebryanny Bor share the weaknesses of their biblical conspiratorially as teenage nymphs minced by.

But whatever draws them to the cause, few realize how hard-won their carefree sunbathing at Serebryanny Bor has been. After enduring initial setbacks -- including an OMON raid in 1991 when three nudists were arrested, and an initial refusal from the Justice Ministry to register the Moscow Nudists' Society -- Sergei Mityushin thought that all would be well for Moscow's naturists once the authorities finally granted them a license in 1992.

But Nezavibatko, then a student at the Moscow Drama Institute, had other ideas.

After an unsuccessful bid to unseat the chairman of the All-Russian Federation of Nudists at the 1993 conference, Nezavibatko was expelled from the federation, according to Mityushin. "He wasn't content to have power just in Moscow, he needed power in the whole of Russia".

"I understand Sergei perfectly," said Nezavibatko, a freelance journalist and theater director. "He is suffering from the very understandable human weakness of pride. Such conflicts arise in nudist societies all over the world.

"The truth is that the power of being vice president and secretary at the same time was going to his head. We tried to control his activities, so he left in a huff."

His rival says it was old-fashioned revenge. The blow came on July 21, 1993 -- putsches seemed to be in the air at the time -- when Nezavibatko and five hefty naked supporters lured the unsuspecting Mityushin -- also naked -- into a glade in Serebryanny Bor and told him, Ides-of-March style, that they were taking over the Moscow club.

"Of course, I was very upset to be kicked out of my own club," said Mityushin. "But there was nothing I could do."

Deciding that it would be better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven after his fall from grace, Mityushin went solo with the breakaway "Body, Mind and Spirit" club, which he affiliated to other clubs in Russia via the "Association of Russian Naturists," also set up by himself.

"Nezavibatko tries to slander us by saying we are some kind of sex club," said Mityushin. "This is a lie, of course."

Nezavibatko countered that he had evidence, on video, that one of the leaders of Mityushin's club also organizes a group sex ring. "The film was shown on German television and caused a huge scandal," he said.

"Body, Mind and Spirit" is forging ahead despite its rogue status and the personal animosities of its leaders. The 100 members meet for regular naked gymnastics and swimming sessions, and on Monday nights hold communal sweating evenings in the Warsaw banya.

Other social activities include a naked cafe, held periodically at a secret location, and naked discotheques.

"The discos didn't really go too well," mused Mityushin. "You know how people can get excited during those slow dances. It was a little embarrassing."a