Authorities in Moscow are threatening to close down the city's only nudist beach calling the area's visitors "depraved" and "out of their minds."
The campaign to close the clothes-free bathing area in Serebryany Bor was announced last week in the Live Journal blog posted by Lyudmila Stebenkova, a member of Putin's ruling party United Russia and Moscow City's Duma deputy.
Writing about the beach, Stebenkova claimed that the area had been "occupied by nudists" whose antics often ended "in fights, drinking, or sex in public."
"We can't encourage vice," she added. "The police can't put a stop to this orgy because there are no laws regulating nudism."
The beach, known as 'Number Three,' is one of around half a dozen sandy enclaves in Serebryany Bor Park; a nature reserve in the northwest of Russia's capital popular with city-dwellers during the stifling summer months.
Aside from the naturist beach the area's attractions include a family-orientated bathing spot with a mini-zoo, water-sports facilities, cafes, bars, and hordes of weekend barbecuers.
The attempt to ban nude sunbathers from beach Number Three has been seen as part of Russia's turn towards "traditional" values and the increased presence of the Orthodox Church in political and social spheres.
Earlier this year, a popular clothes-free beach in Saint Petersburg — known for volleyball, frisbee and dancing — was "freed of nudists" after the city's authorities who branded it harmful to "public morality." The bathing area on the Gulf of Finland coastline had been open to naked sunbathers for more than five decades and was voted among the top 1,000 naturalist beaches in 2008.
The increasingly hardline conservative movement has also targeted the LGBT community. In 2012 the government passed a law banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations," and last year a legal amendment to a road safety bill appeared to potentially ban transgender, transvestites, and cross-dressers from driving.
The creation and distribution of pornography was prohibited under Soviet law and, in a seeming return to that era, in April this year a Russian court ordered the state-controlled internet watchdog Roskomnadzor to block 136 websites hosting "pornographic material." Rulings related to that move cited legislation dating from the early 20th century Czarist Russia and the USSR.
Commenting on the nudity ban at the Saint Petersburg beach Vitaly Milnov, a conservative Russian lawmaker known for his firebrand politics, said that the closure had been necessary to "protect… children from some old hairy naked pervert passing by."
The crackdown on Russia's naturist beaches may have a economic as well as ideological motivation, however.
In a interview with the English-language newspaper, the Moscow Times, Sergei Mityushin, branch head of the Telord Naturist Federation, alleged that the officials may be trying to take control of the beach due to its proximity to luxury real estate and the area's development potential.
According to Mityushin, the nudist bathing area had developed a seedy character in recent years because the local authorities had not provided cleaning and other services that are received by other nearby beaches.
"It's very popular with alcoholics and criminals," he told the newspaper. "They sit there, drink and leave a lot of trash that no one cleans up."
A fan website of the Dunes nudist beach in St Petersburg, now a non-naked bathing area, also speculated that the area around had become a hotspot for tourists and that development land "grabs" in the area may mean that the nudist bathing area would come "under threat" in the future.
In a foretelling 2010 interview in Mityushin said that the heart of the problem was that Russia's nudist beaches didn't provide a "commercial interest."
"As you know everything here revolves around money," he told Moscow News. "So I wouldn't be surprised if the [Serebryany Bor] beach doesn't survive."
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