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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In Bed With Perplexing Pinoller

Pinoller, Russia's self-styled flagship of "alternative" magazines, has burst back onto the literary stage like a streaker at Queen Victoria's funeral. A strange mixture of countercultural buzz-themes, offbeat interviews, pop art and eclectic features, Pinoller's second edition (following a mere two years after the first) aims to provoke, horrify, shock and amaze.

"We didn't try to make it deliberately 'alternative,'" said Georgy Ramazashivi, 20, one of the founders of Pinoller. "We're just interested in writing about cultural themes that others don't cover."

Indeed. Pinoller's content is eclectic, to say the least; the latest issue includes an interview with the death metal band Slayer's lead singer Tom Araya, an interview with Roy Ratcliffe, the man who baptized Jeffrey Dahmer in prison, and a revealing expos? of the world of Cheburashka, a popular children's cartoon character, racily entitled "In Bed With Cheburashka."

But what distinguishes Pinoller from the rest of the stable of so-called "alternative" magazines, say its fans, is the pedigree of its founding editor, Alexander Volkov, who published "real" underground samizdat magazines in the 1980s about then-forbidden themes such as Western youth culture.

"All the fashionable magazines today are written by a small clique of high-society, self-promoting people who just want to publicize themselves," whined Ramazashivi. "They just write about drugs, homosexuality and raves. They are not serious about alternative culture."

The "fashionable magazines" in question are Ptyutch, a glossy 'zine published from the eponymous club which features the latest on Moscow's ultra-trendy club kids, and OM, a Details-style magazine for fashionable 20- to 30-somethings. But here's the rub: When Pinoller's first issue came out in the heady days of 1994, there was nothing to rival it as a voice for the new generation of youth hungry for information about the alternative youth culture of the West. Now things are different; Pinoller is still as off the wall as ever, but its niche has not only been filled by others, but bricked up and cemented shut too.

Pinoller's pretensions to being on the samizdat cultural cutting edge doesn't do its style any favors. Its interview style is, for example, unorthodox. When Ramazashivi questions Slayer's Araya he asks gravely, "Did you know that in the New Testament it says, 'Allow the dead to bury their dead.'? Do you feel that you are the dead who can help the other dead through your lyrics?" Araya is predictably nonplussed, replying, "Oh [perplexed]. That's definitely a strange question [quietly thoughtful] ... How do I feel about burying who?"

Pinoller rollercoasters on in this vein for 96 pages, a veritable tour de force of countercultural themes, as seen through the idiosyncratically Russian eyes of its three editors. The content is not calculated to be attractive to advertisers, so the print run is small (around 3,000) and the readership rarified. The name apparently comes from a dream recounted by a famous Moscow hippie, in which a naked woman appeared wearing nothing but a pair of unusual high-heeled boots. When he asked the dream-woman what the boots were, she said "They're a pair of Pinollers."

"We are totally outside the mainstream of contemporary Russian culture," explained Ramazashivi grandly. "We are fully isolated in our own cultural ghetto."

That may be, but one gets the feeling Pinoller's particular brand of eccentricity takes itself far too seriously. That said, the motto "Freedom of the press goes to the person who uses this freedom" runs above the masthead: Pinoller, despite its rather teenage aspirations to rebelliousness, does at least demonstrate that anyone is free to publish anything they want, no matter how bad it may be.