When Russian influencer Anastasia Ivleyeva held a party in Moscow entitled “Almost Naked” on 20 December, few of her celebrity guests could have guessed the furore that would ensue over the next few days.
As photos and videos of the extravagantly dressed guests began to appear on social media, self-identifying Russian “patriots” and others close to the state quickly worked themselves up into a pearl-clutching state of consternation at the partygoers for their obliviousness to the fact that Russia was at war.
One guest, the rapper Vacio, who attended the party wearing just a sock, was sentenced to 15 days in custody for hooliganism, while Ivleyeva has reportedly lost a number of commercial deals for her role hosting the party. Other guests, including singers Filipp Kirkorov, Dima Bilan and Lolita Milyavskaya, have all subsequently issued public mea culpas in the hope of earning forgiveness from the Russian public.
The morning after the party, pro-war Telegram channels expressed outrage that such a party was held during the war at all. Volunteer fighters stationed around Bakhmut complained that while soldiers were dying at the front, “the show business world is corrupting our youth”.
“How tone deaf can you be? Our boys are fighting at the front. How little can you know about the country, about Putin? The Supreme Commander raises a glass to our Victory, and you bastards — who are you for? You can’t even begin to imagine how people hate and despise you,” wrote TV propagandist Vladimir Solovyov.
Anastasia Ivleyeva at the ‘Almost Naked’ party. Photo: Social media
Yekaterina Mizulina, the head of the Safe Internet League, said it was “cynical to hold such events while our boys are dying in the special military operation and children are losing their fathers”. She also called for the state to “boycott” all the attendees.
On 22 December, rapper Vacio, real name Nikolay Vasilyev, was sentenced to 15 days in custody for hooliganism and was fined 200,000 rubles (€1,965) for LGBT propaganda. After the party, he described himself as “a simple Russian guy who loves his country and knows that it isn’t having an easy time right now”.
Police turned up at the Mutabor club where the event was entering its second day on 22 December and prevented partygoers from entering the building for a long time. Having searched the premises, the police allowed the party to resume.
The Telegram channel Beware, News reported that Russia’s largest mobile network operator MTS had removed Ivleyeva from its list of brand ambassadors, while another Telegram channel, Baza, reported that Tinkoff Bank had also ended its contract with her.
Ivleyeva appeared not to have realised the scale of the backlash her party had caused when she first reacted to criticism from those in power the morning after the night before. “It was just beautiful people in beautiful outfits, half-naked. When we look at beautiful, slender models in the West, we say, ‘Damn, they’re so beautiful, they’re so cool’. And our beautiful, fit artists go out, and everyone is like, ‘Fuck, how could they! Showbiz has really gone downhill,’” she wrote on 21 December, later deleting the post.
However, within days, partygoers began issuing public apologies for attending the event. One of the first to do so, on 24 December, was Ivleyeva herself, promising to donate the proceeds from ticket sales to charitable causes, although she didn’t indicate which ones. She even took a moment to thank law enforcement for their visit to the club on the second day of the party, saying that their presence had helped her “avoid the mistakes of the first day”.
On 21 December, Russian TV anchor and journalist Ksenia Sobchak, who attended the party, maintained that “no mourning can last forever”, writing on her Telegram channel that the world was unfair: “It was, it is and it always will be. Somewhere there are people killing people, somewhere children are starving, and somewhere people are drinking champagne…”
On 26 December, Sobchak changed tack and issued an apology. “If anyone was offended by my appearance, I apologise. I love my country. I am a journalist working in Russia. I don’t want to rouse feelings of hatred towards me or others for such a stupid incident,” Sobchak wrote.
Sobchak and Yevleyeva during the ‘Almost Naked’ party. Photo: social media
On 22 December, singer and actress Lolita Milyavskaya said she felt wonderful after the party. “This organised hate from out of the blue made me laugh. The party was ironic, not about sex, otherwise, you know, they wouldn’t have invited 60-year-olds,” Milyavskaya said.
On 25 December the singer completely changed her tune, saying that a living person could be distinguished from a dead person by the fact that they “analyse what is happening, understand, draw conclusions and rectify mistakes. It turns out many people didn’t like it and are justified in asking I be banned from all New Year shows. I am used to taking responsibility,” Milyavskaya said.
Lolita during the ‘Almost Naked’ party. Photo: Social media
Et tu, Kirkorov?
Kirkorov has been making excuses for attending the party ever since 24 December. On Sunday, the singer was videoed discussing the event with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov at an ice show organised by his wife Tatyana Navka.
“What were you doing there?” Peskov asked.
“I promised I’d go. She was in one of my videos. She invited me, said it was a New Year ball, with a naked dress code. I settled on Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga. And then, when I arrived and saw what was going on, I said to Katya, my assistant, we’ll go backstage, give her flowers and leave,” the artist explained.
Kirkorov recorded a video apology on 26 December, in which he called himself a patriot. “In every person’s life, there are moments you walk through the wrong door. … I am aware of the mistake I made. A People’s Artist of Russia is obliged to be more careful about the events he attends. What I want least of all is for such events to be a reason to curtail my creative work in Russia — the only country where I am an artist and citizen,” he said.
Filipp Kirkorov in his apology video. Photo: video screenshot
The rapper GeeGun, full name Denis Ustimenko-Veinshtein called the event “disgusting” and “some kind of prank”. “It wasn’t a party. It was Sodom and Gomorrah. Bacchanalia. Ivleyeva set everyone up. A shameful occasion,” he said on 25 December.
Singer Dima Bilan posted a video on Instagram on 26 December, in which he also tried to justify the outfits of party attendees.
“I knew about the dress code, but everyone had their own understanding of what that meant. Attending events is part of my profession. It’s my job. I couldn’t have known in advance what other people would wear. I can only be accountable for myself,” he said.
Bilan also said that going to Ivleyeva’s party was “not a reflection“ of his personality, and reminded people of a speech he made on 5 December ”for the families of those fighting in the special military operation".
Host of problems
The Federal Taxation Service (FTS) has started auditing Anastasia Ivleyeva, according to the head of the Safe Internet League Yekaterina Mizulina, who added that there was “every chance" criminal proceedings would be launched against the blogger. Mizulina was keen to stress that the inspection was a direct result of Ivleyeva’s now notorious party.
“On 26 December, the FTS began an on-site tax audit of blogger Ivleyeva. I thank the Russian police for their prompt response to these wild celebrations held during the special military operation,” Mizulina wrote.
Earlier, Ivleyeva recorded a video apologising for the party. “They say Russia knows how to forgive. If that is true, I would very much like to ask you, the people, for a second chance. I am ready for any outcome,” she said.