In 1925 a society called “Down with Shame” was organised and legally registered. The members of the society undertook not to wear any clothes, and by way of propaganda some of them were sent on tour. One of the groups was proceeding via Moscow, Kharkov, Rostov, Mineral Waters. I saw them with my own eyes, when they were in Rostov-on-Don. I was passing near the Pokrovsky Market at the corner of Friedrich Engels Street and Bogatianovsky Street when I saw a man and a woman absolutely naked standing near a stationary tram. Even the savages of the Polynesian Archipelago wear some kind of cache sex, but this couple only wore a kind of sash, and that across their shoulders! It was a red ribbon with the slogan: “Down with the bourgeois superstition – shame.” In justice to the woman I must add that she also carried a kind of handbag in her hand! While I was looking at them, overcome by astonishment, a crowd assembled, and also a few militiamen to protect the naked couple.The crowd, among which were many people from the market, market girls, etc., were pelting them with tomatoes, eggs, and stones. But when the tram got moving the naked couple triumphantly entered it. In a second the disgusted passengers began to pour out. Once more the tram got under way in a hail of apples, stones, eggs, and similar missiles, empty now except for the naked man and woman and the unfortunate victim of duty, the conductor. About an hour later, when passing the General Post Office, I saw a huge crowd demanding the extradition of the representatives of the “Down with Shame” society. It appears that, fleeing from the wrath of the crowd, they took refuge in the post office. The Communist “cell” of the post office gave them some clothes and let them out by a back door. Such was the effect they produced in the city of Rostov. They produced a much greater disturbance and scandal in other cities. The Soviet powers, seeing that this kind of propaganda was not only abortive but threatened the “people without shame” with lynching, quietly liquidated the society after about a month, and abandoned the attempt.
Source: Moscow unmasked: a record of nine years’ work and observation in soviet Russia by Joseph Douillet. Translated from the Russian by A. W. King. Published 1930 by The Pilot press in London.
Comment: Joseph Douillet (1878-1954) was a Belgian diplomat to the USSR known as the author of Moscou sans Voiles: Neuf ans de travail au pays des Soviets (Moscow Unmasked: A Record of Nine Years Work in Soviet Russia) published in 1928. He lived in Russia from 1891 to 1926. He served as the Belgian consul in Rostov-on-Don. It has been said that he “had spent so long in the country that he was almost more Russian than Belgian.” In 1925 he was arrested in the USSR and was imprisoned for nine months before being expelled from the country. (Joseph Douillet – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Joseph Douillet could hardly be suspected of any sympathy for communist Russia. I’ve heard from an eyewitness that the reaction of the public wasn’t so extreme. Town folks were rather surprised than angry, at least in Ukraine. What is without any doubt is that the normal development of naturist movement was voluntarily interrupted by the communist authorities.
Nowadays it begins to recover, even in Siberia.
Images: Boris Kustodiev’s painting “Bathing” (1921) – Wikimedia Commons
Unofficial nude beach at the Novosibirsk Reservoir, near Akademgorodok by Obakeneko – Wikimedia Commons
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