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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dress Code: Take It Off

Itar-TassMoscow's best-known hangout for naturists is a nudist beach at Serebryany Bor.
Nudism has nothing to do with sex, members of Moscow nudist group Telord wearily repeat.

  But it seems that no one told group member Igor Nurmukhametov, who admits to nudist beach and banya flirtations going a bit further.

"If I see a woman on the street, I'll look at her butt, breasts, whether she's pleasant-looking. It's the same here," said the musician, 39, wearing a towel after skinny-dipping at a pool complex where everybody, including this reporter, shucked their clothes.

Forty people stripped at the recent three-hour Telord meeting, including the CEO of a mid-size firm, a scientist who makes candy building blocks, and two children -- though they all then donned sandals for hygiene reasons, and some women tottered about in heels and pink lipstick. Most were middle-aged or older, portly or with their ribs showing, some pendulous, others hirsute. None were gay, as homosexuals are banned.

Telord (www.naturism.ru) is Moscow's largest group of naturists -- a term usually used interchangeably with nudist. Other groups of naturists regularly rent out 10 Moscow banyas, each drawing up to 40 people at a time. In the summer, hundreds congregate on a traditional nudist beach at the Serebryany Bor recreation area, though it isn't very comfortable, as city authorities have planted their beach with pines.

Authorities take a dim view of their activities. Nudism is "a violation of social morals," said police spokesman Igor Bashev, adding that if nude people appeared in, say, the city center, it would upset tourists, women and children.

A Russian Orthodox Church spokesman pointed to scripture. "The first feeling to visit Adam and Eve after the Fall was the realization of their nakedness," said Father Mikhail Prokopenko, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's press service. "A person naturally covers his body. And all in all, it's in the traditions of our people. Public nudity was considered a shameful occurrence."

Naturism was outlawed in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, and naturists only began practicing openly here in the late 1980s. Telord was registered in 1995 -- a Moscow Times report from that year said it was created after leader Sergei Mityushin was confronted by nude heavies at Serebryany Bor and ousted as leader of his previous club.

And another crisis is looming, said Mityushin. Like all NGOs, Telord has to register with the authorities. Mityushin despairs that he'll have to pay a bribe of about $800, and have difficulty convincing the government to support a bunch of naked people. Federal Registration Service press secretary Gennady Alibekov reassured, however, that every group had an equal right to be registered.

For now, members don't look very worried. A woman wearing only goggles whooped as she plunged down a waterslide.

In the sport center's tiny banya, both sexes cheerfully squashed up against each other, rows of pink thighs glistening with sweat. They did exercises said to expel bacteria from the nose and esophagus, unclenching their fists at nipple height and simultaneously snorting. "Not bad," a woman said, smiling to a friend.


Vladimir Velengurin / Itar-Tass
Moscow's best-known hangout for naturists is a nudist beach at Serebryany Bor.
According to Telord etiquette, if a man gets aroused, he should take a cold shower. A couple once caught having sex in the pool was ejected. And while members don't think their bodies are sinful, they can be dirty. Everybody spreads towels before sitting down.

"Although we have beautiful young people here, I've never thought I wanted to carry on with them beyond this place," said Alexander, 60, a stout businessman sprawled on a sofa who declined to give his surname. "We're above that here."

Mityushin ensures there's an even number of men and women, and if someone comes alone, he interviews them to ensure they're normal. Single men have to pay more. The main naturist organization in Britain, for example, does not have these rules.

Irina Selesnyova, 38, said she would shun any clearly gay or lesbian visitors.

"We have little kids here, normal families -- normal, standard families. A dad, a mom, a child," she said, supporting her breasts with her arms lest they become saggy.

As the session drew to a close, the naturists sat round a table contentedly munching sausages and cucumbers. Come New Year's and Women's Day, they play traditional games: Women do stripteases and sit on chairs covered with chocolates, and men try to move a box with a bottle dangling from their waists. They also slow dance, which is when the cold showers are required.

"We entered this world naked, and it's nothing sinful, nothing dirty," Nurmukhametov said.

"People look into your eyes more here," he added.