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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Painfully, Gainfully, Willfully Hip

Just how cool is Moscow? Not quite as cool as Rave Nation London but a small cut above super-square Tirana, perhaps? Or somewhere in between the funky weirdness of club-kid Berlin and the '70's vibe of Tomsk? The answer is that Moscow is, in fact, much cooler than you think, and there's even a super-hip magazine to prove it.

"Young Russian people are as full of ideas, wild and free-spirited as any in the world, if not more so," said Igor Shulinsky, 26, editor in chief of Ptyuch, Russia's answer to ID, The Face, Wired, Rolling Stone, Interview and Raygun all rolled into one.

With a Russia-wide circulation of 80,000, the large format 20,000-ruble glossy deals with club and contemporary culture in all its manifestations: drugs, cyberspace, raves, fashion, music, personalities and art. From features on avant-garde French artists Pierre and Gilles to body piercing and the latest news on the Internet, Ptyuch is punchy, avant-garde and outrageous without being obnoxious.

"We are a hooligan magazine," said Shulinsky proudly. "We are provocative. We break the rules."

The one-year-old magazine's coverage of drugs has raised hackles among the conservative-minded. Articles about the quality, effectiveness and history of Ecstasy, favorite drug of club-going youth, as well as a piece of drug fiction by veteran junkie William Burroughs, a cover photograph of two girls kissing, and a full-frontal male nude photo as part of a Pierre and Gilles feature has put Ptyuch firmly outside the homely fold of traditional Russian glossy magazines.

"People always fear the new," said Dina Kim, 25, commercial director of Ptyuch, which has begun making money after a year of scraping by. "We write about live issues like drugs, but we aren't stupidly moralistic about it. We don't preach, so some people have negative reactions to that."

The popularity of Ptyuch is symptomatic of a huge, frustrated interest in youth culture all over Russia, said Shulinsky; though Moscow and St. Petersburg are the powerhouses of club culture in Russia, Ptyuch is read as far away as Vladivostok and Kazakhstan.

"There's only one real club in the whole of Russia, and only a couple of places to buy club clothes" said Shulinsky of the eponymous Ptyuch club, near Paveletsky Station, from which the magazine is run. "It isn't just a disco, it's the center of a whole cultural movement."

As well as the magazine, Ptyuch organizes exhibitions, parties and special events, including the recent "Alternative Miss Moscow Competition" for transvestites. Although there is a definite Ptyuch "crowd," by comparison to the club kids of New York, London or Berlin, their numbers are tiny.

"There are about 500 people in Moscow who come to the club more or less regularly," said Shulinsky. "And about 30 trendsetters who wouldn't look out of place in a club anywhere in the world."

Thirty hard-core trendies in a nation of 150 million may seem small, but the problem of developing a vibrant alternative youth culture has more to do with financial restrictions than a lack of enthusiasm and originality.

"We don't want to be like a teenage pop magazine with just American celebrities," said Kim. "We feature people who move Russian contemporary culture." In the six editions which have come out in the last year, Ptyuch has featured Moscow cult figures like model and artist Vladik Mamyshev and DJ Ivan Salmaksov.

"Our plan is to open up a bigger club, organize huge raves in a disused factory and to start more Russian record labels," said Kim. "Unless we get sent to Siberia in cattle trucks first."