I admit it was a blonde kneeling on the bar baring her breasts that lured me under the canopy. She had taken off her leather batman mask and her fishnet body suit was in tatters.
The drum and bass rhythms of electronic music pumped from a nearby club, while a dozen men, mostly Georgians, stood by, telephones out, recording her drunken impromptu striptease. The Russians and Ukrainians just smirked and went on with their banter: they have seen it all before. In Kazantip, Europe’s most renowned beachside rave, breasts are window dressing, the pulse of electronic music is unremitting and debauchery is the axiom. The Georgians, however, were wholly unused to this.
Sashka Toykinen, owner of the Zapravka Bar, introduced himself and bought me a shot, then another. A Georgian got on the bar and began groping the girl while other men crowded closer with their phones and started reaching out with their free hands. In an instant, a tall Russian girl stepped in and chased the men away with cusses, kicks and swings.
The Burning Man of the East
“You want to work the bar?” Toykinen asked me.
Kazantip, which takes its name from the cape in northeastern Crimea where the festival started, is the brainchild of Segway-riding Ukrainian, Nikita Marshunok. He is the self-declared “prezident” of the so-called Ex-Democratic Republic of Kazantip, who charges around 200 euros for a multi-entry visa to enter his country. It started as a windsurfer’s beach party in 1992 and morphed into an annual month-long electronic music party attracting tens of thousands of revelers—mostly Ukrainians and Russians—and the world’s top DJs to an abandoned nuclear reactor on the Crimean peninsula. When he moved his “country” in 2001 to the underdeveloped village of Popovka in western Crimea, the event was already being called the Burning Man of the East. Last year it attracted a record 100,000 people. But when Russia forcibly annexed the Crimean peninsula in March, Marshunok was faced with new legal and political complications for Kazantip. The prezident had to find new borders for his republic.