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Mid-Moscow’s “Fairy-Tale World”.Moscow Guardian.1992.

Behind mysterious metal doors at 12 Petrovsky Boulevard in central Moscow hides Independent Territory—a bizarre, fairy-tale world invented by veteran underground idol Petlyura. Dozens of people live here in isola­tion, defying the state, society, and all offi­cialdom. This world has its own laws, designed to turn life into a spectacle lasting hours, days, months and years. Several old buildings house the modern- day “resistance fighters”—painters, poets, musicians and actors—who settled here ille­gally two years ago. Apocrypha has it that Tsar Peter the Great once lived in one of these buildings. As Soviet underground artists emerged from hiding, their art lost the hard edge its fervent anti-authoritianism gave it. Many artists, poets, composers, and actors moved West for commercial success. Others grew nostalgic for underground art. The young Petlyura lead the counter-trend.

Considered a founding father and prime ideologue of Moscow’s underground, Petlyu­ra cuts an extremely colorful and artistic figure.

Along with cats, dogs, rabbits and hens, more than 30 people live here in this close- knit society, modelled on the post-Civil War anarchists’ communes. This big creative fami­ly is ruled by Petlyura, nicknamed after anar­chist Simon Petlyura (1879-1926), who led resistance against the Bolsheviks in Ukraine during the Civil War. Petlyura leads his own kind of resistance.

On September 22-25, hundreds of avant- garde painters, musicians, writers, hippies, gays—anyone at odds with official culture— gathered for the Festival of the Territory’s Independence.

Well-known rock bands performed, and several exhibitions, performances, and films were staged and shown.

City authorities and police provoked vio­lence. Two drunks who staged a fight, after which police arrested and beat up several innocent people, turned out to be police offi­cers in plain clothes.

From the roof of his house, Petlyura ges­tured about. Independent Territory, he said,

was coming under attack from even1 direc­tion. On one side it is flanked by a church, whose priests want to occupy one of the building, on the other, by a posh tennis court frequented by new Russian businessmen. “We arc not doing any harm to anyone. We just want to be left alone to be creative and live our own lives. We don’t want to leave our voluntary underground world and make compromises with officialdom. But on the other hand we don’t want to be victimized, we don’t want anyone to kick us out into the street in order to set up some stupid office, shop or casino here.” Many artists seek refuge in alcohol or drugs, and many commit suicide. Petlyura aims to unite these people, society’s scum, and help them express themselves in art. Dozens of junkies and drunks have kicked the habit in Pctlyura’s family. They do the house­hold chores, draw pictures, write poems, orga­nize shows, shoot films and design clothes.

There are many bizarre and extravagant characters in the commune. One man master­fully feigns insanity, another is a genuine schizophrenic. They invent their own biogra­phies  and lives and then play them out like in the theater. One says he is Vladimir Lenin; another, Goebbels. “I can forget about everything at any time and go anywhere: to Germany, Finland, Aus­tria,” Petlyura said. “I could live there, enjoy things I do not have here. I could have every thing. Blit this is where my Motherland is.

I am a sunny boy, who can live only in the dark of the underground. This is my choice and my life.”

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