Kazantip Dreaming

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I don’t remember the dreams in the morning, but I know there is music, color and happiness and that I am in the land of Kazantip. It’s been two weeks since I returned from Anaklia, where Kazantip hoisted its freak flag for 10 days, and these reoccurring dreams won’t let me alone.

I first heard about Kazantip when I stumbled across a VICE feature report about the month-long Crimean rave packed with sex, drugs and electronica. Great party, I thought. Then we received the most incredulous news that the gig was moving to Anaklia, Georgia, just across the administrative border of Abkhazia. It was too good to be true, at least for some of us.
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Kazantip presents itself as a hedonistic gathering of young people with a sharp focus on tits and ass.  It was only natural that Georgia’s Orthodox Church and its deranged ethno-nationalists would protest against it, for they live in a medieval past and fear the corruption of their youth by western temptations, like dance music. I gave the government of Georgia a lot of credit for inviting the revelers to Georgia and giving the residents of Anaklia an opportunity to finally cash in on some tourism. Done right, this annual event could be manna from heaven for the impoverished region.

As it turned out, Kazantip was not an orgy. And Georgia’s strict narcotic laws were enough to prevent a large scale overdose of hugs and bug-eyed laughter from happening. Unlike a typical Georgian wedding that ends up in a brawl at some point, there were no fights – at least not between the Ukrainian and Russian visitors, which is quite remarkable considering the massive amount of alcohol that was consumed by people whose countries are at war with each other. I would like to think that the hundreds of police swarming around the nonstop party realized they weren’t needed.

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Sadly, the expected number of Kazantip “citizens” didn’t come this year. Still, Kazantip threw the most studiously carefree event in Georgia’s history. However, instead of throwing its support to nurture it, the ministry responsible for inviting it has called Kazantip an “inferior festival” and “a failure.”

5,000 people is not 40,000, but it is 5,000 more than the government attracted on its own to Anaklia. Instead of mocking Kazantip, the Minister of Sustainable Development and Economics Giorgi Kvirikashvili, should be applauding it. He rented the land, businesses sold the material to build “the city” and the (sole) beverage distributor made off selling more alcohol in 10 days than he had in the past year. Yet Kvirikashvili believes the state can do a better job attracting tourism to the area and can “provide a different kind of assistance to the people;” he just can’t say how or what. Let’s keep in mind that the state already provides assistance to the people – it’s called a “pension” and amounts to about $50 a month. With help like that, what more should the people of Anaklia expect from the state?

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Kazantip is not for everybody; it is not meant to be. It is a gathering of thousands of like-minded people who for 10 days in the year revel in the freedom of drinking and dancing and having fun. It is not forced on anybody and this year was held on an isolated strip of seaside land, separated by a footbridge. If you didn’t want to go, you didn’t have to. But ask each resident of Anaklia what they think and they’ll tell you, they not only want these day-glo colored kids back in Anaklia, they want more of them.

I had the great fortune of writing two stories about Kazantip. One for Eurasianet and the other for Roads & Kingdoms.

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