Crimea raver: What will Russia think of the Autonomous Republic of Kazantip and its legendary music festival?

There’s one part Ukraine’s seized peninsula that Russia has ignored: the self-declared Republic of Kazantip, home to a decadent music festival

Media coverage of Crimea’s “conscious uncoupling” from Ukraine has missed out one quirky anathema that was already doing its own thing: the self-declared Autonomous Republic of Kazantip. Sometimes jokey, sometimes serious, this enclave near the western tip of Crimea’s diamond has been run like an independent nation since 2001. Kazantip has its own flag and national museum detailing its history. It boasts its own Putin-style strongman – “President” Nikita Marshunok, who styles himself as Nikita I. Kazantip also has its own laws – when I was there to write about it in 2012 a fellow French hack was “deported” for the infraction of urinating off a walkway.

An annual summer music festival happens at Kazantip, then it lies in stasis. In truth, the festival is the raison d’être for the “republic”. In the 1990s, this bash took place near Cape Kazantyp (hence the name) at the abandoned Shcholkine nuclear power station – construction on which was halted following the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. Some people call Kazantip “Burning Man on the Black Sea”, in reference to the annual “anything goes” event in Nevada’s desert.

Will Crimea’s new masters in Moscow tolerate Kazantip’s eccentric ethos? “I’d say they would,” mulls Will Lynch, Kazantip festival veteran and associate editor of electronic music website Residentadvisor.net. “Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian oligarch and 2012 presidential candidate, owns one of the stages.

The Russian elite don’t have to hide their love of Kazantip.” Lynch jokes: “It’s hard to imagine, say, Mitt Romney professing his love of Burning Man and bankrolling one of its sound systems.”

For more than a decade, Kazantip has sat on the shoreline next to the village of Popovka, whose name sounds like it was dreamt up by the writers of a Carry On film – Carry On Up The Crimea perhaps? The sprawling, sandy site looks exactly like the set of The Crystal Maze. Except, rather than winning a crystal, the goal for many of Kazantip’s temporary male “citizens” is to win the affections of one of the thousands of perfect, alabaster-skinned maidens who are wont to wander around in next to nothing.

Mafiosi comb the republic for molls, and happy couples who’ve just met can “marry” in mass, cult-like ceremonies. Nikita I, whose day job is promoting music, selflessly announced he will grant free access to all Ukrainian and Crimean women this summer. The “space station” section of the republic, laced with high walkways and pavilions in which DJs such as Skrillex play, is impressively weird; its gargantuan architecture is a dead ringer for Archigram’s 1960s theoretical Walking City.

The wackiness of Kazantip’s annual blowout – motto “Summer Without Pants” – is legendary. It used to be even more debauched, as Vice detailed in an X-rated 2009 video dispatch. Kazantip has since shed its sex tourism image. Interestingly, it seems oddly drug-free too, but vodka and fags are consumed in prodigious quantities (the republic has no prohibitions against smoking or boozing) and the hedonistic August closing parties evoke the Satan’s Ball that Mikhail Bulgakov depicted in his sublime satire The Master and Margarita. Bulgakov was born in Kiev, then lived in Moscow – indeed Kazantip attracts both Ukrainians and Russians. Can that continue?

Kazantip’s festival is slated to go ahead this summer – but the Foreign Office advises against all travel to Crimea, plus British citizens now need a Russian visa. I ask fellow writer Andre Mcleod – who joined me there in 2012 – whether he’d go back to Kazantip. “I would – if they could guarantee Vladimir Putin would be topless and riding a majestic bear along the beach, waving a rainbow flag in the air.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup