People Are Getting Naked Near Russian Landmarks, and No One Knows Why

The police are unamused, however

Red Square
People are taking salacious photos here, apparently.
Artem Beliaikin/Unsplash

Every country has its landmarks, whether they’re geological or architectural. And in the age of social media, it’s become de rigeur to see photos taken in front of these notable sites, whether it’s the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon. Certain public places even seem to be designed with Instagram in mind, from the Vessel in Hudson Yards to a controversial sculpture of Marilyn Monroe. However wide-ranging these sites are, the people photographed there generally have one thing in common: they’re all clothed.

Evidently, this is not the case in Russia right now. At The Guardian, Andrew Roth reports on a recent phenomenon taking place in spaces like Moscow’s Red Square. As Roth phrases it, it involves “taking partially nude or sexually suggestive photographs” in front of landmarks around the country — and, as one might expect, law enforcement has been looking into it.

As anyone familiar with the case of Pussy Riot’s 2012 protest in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior — and their subsequent arrest — can attest, Russian law enforcement is not terribly fond of gestures considered irreverent or obscene. Roth notes that one couple who “[took] a photograph suggestive of oral sex in front of the distinctive onion domes of St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow” were sentenced to 10 months in prison.

Unlike the case of Pussy Riot, however, these photographs don’t seem to have an overt political purpose. As The Guardian reports, this has not stopped more reactionary elements within Russia from leading a crackdown and notifying law enforcement when they find certain images online. Are we seeing irreverence used as a genuinely subversive act, or is this a Russian equivalent of (for example) the Bird Box challenge? And — more ominously — if law enforcement reacts in the same way, does it make a difference?

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