Known for being the first person to make an attempt at gay marriage in Russia, Slava Mogutin had gained critical acclaim and official condemnation for his outspoken queer writings and activisms before seeking political asylum in the US in 1995. Since then, his photography has appeared in international publications worldwide including, of course, Visionaire. Today, Mogutin releases his first book of English writing.
Food Chain, as is the name of the book, “is a blend of memoir, political satire and magic realism,” says Mogutin. “I think of it as a novel, with every chapter written in a different voice and style.” Written as a brief summary of the artist’s life, the book includes accounts of his time as a homeless hooligan poet in Moscow, his exile from Russia and his explorations of New York City “as a professional SM Master and photographer of sorts.”
Below, you have the opportunity to read one of Mogutin’s memories from Food Chain.
Romancing the KGB (NYC, 1995)
In America, far away from my haunted Motherland, random images of my Russian past come up in my dreams. Most recently, I dreamt of Kolya Nikitenkov, my first love who was my classmate at a provincial school in the town of Vyazma.
Tall and slender, with pale skin and dark shaggy hair, Kolya was the son of a KGB colonel, and my parents didn’t approve of our friendship. Some kids at school teased him, calling him “KGB.” While visiting him after classes, I couldn’t help feeling overwhelmed by the collection of antique firearms confiscated by Kolya’s heroic dad. We played with those beautiful phallic barrels, holding our breath, desirously stroking the muzzles, pointing them at each other and posing together naked in front of the mirror, seriously aroused and armed to our teeth.
Kolya ended up getting a record with the juvenile services after being stopped on the street with a rifle made in the years right after the Bolshevik revolution. I found him unbelievably handsome and his Dad’s rifle suited him well. He was considered a rowdy hoodlum, the menace and misfortune of our school. I was a straight-A student and teachers loved me. He attended a sports school and I studied music—the classic story of the prince and the pauper.
But what brought together two boys who, besides a shared passion for guns and collecting foreign stamps, were so different from each other? A very simple thing: physiology. Before meeting Kolya I believed onanism is what people do when they anonymously report on their neighbors to the authorities—snitching—a very bad and low thing to do. However, Kolya opened my eyes and we wrote “anonymous reports” together several times a day. And although it didn’t go further than that, I was madly in love with him.
He traded me for a notorious local whore who’d been fucked by just about every boy from our school and all the soldiers from the nearby garrison. She generously presented him with a whole bouquet of STDs. The first heterosexual experience ended tragically for him: in despair, poor Kolya burnt his penis, having poured a bottle of cheap cologne over it.
Shortly after that, our family moved from Vyazma to the suburbs of Moscow and I gradually started forgetting Kolya. But here in the US, I’ve been dreaming of him. It’s scary to imagine what’s become of him. Perhaps he’s turned into a degenerate drunkard and lost his beauty. Or got married and begot a crowd of little Nikitenkovs. And maybe he isn’t even alive anymore, like many of my friends and classmates who were killed in the Baltics, the Dniester Republic, or Chechnya. The best thing that could’ve happened to him was to follow his father’s path. Even this supposition gets me excited—God forbid me from falling into his paws after so many years.
“Citizen Mogutin, we have received an anonymous report concerning your publications,” Colonel Nikitenkov Jr. will say. “Why do you advocate pornography? Why do you provoke ethnic, religious, and social unrest? What right do you have to behave in a rowdy manner, characterized by exceptional cynicism and extreme insolence?”
“What’s with you, Kolya?” I’ll cry to him. “It’s me, your prince, who turned from an exemplary boy into a hooligan, a criminal, a menace to the society! Kolya, we’ve just traded our parts, right? Don’t you remember how we…”
No, Kolya won’t remember. His stature forbids him from remembering those things.
All images and text courtesy of ITNA Press and Slava Mogutin.