For the last decade of his life, the British Soviet spy Guy Burgess was in a relationship with a Russian man named Anatoly. They met in Moscow, where Burgess lived after fleeing the United Kingdom in 1951. Their relationship was well known and accepted by Soviet authorities at a time when male homosexuality was a criminal offense—punishable by up to five years in prison—in the Soviet Union. Very little is known about Anatoly: he was born in the village of Yasnaya Polyana, outside of Moscow. When he met Burgess in his late-twenties, Anatoly worked as an electrician in Moscow and was an amateur musician.
The film Anatoly looks at the USSR’s legacy of sexual difference and reflects upon the experiences of working-class homosexuals in the Soviet Union. Through the lens of one historical narrative—Anatoly’s—the project considers the plight of queer persons under Soviet socialism and mourns the failure of the Russian Revolution’s promise of universal liberation. Anatoly is the only gay working class person known to be granted sexual „freedom” in the Soviet Union; the state brutally repressed thousands of other people just like him throughout its history.
In the fall of 2013, Yevgeniy Fiks asked nine post-Soviet LGBT people living in New York to speculatively write the story of Anatoly’s life for this film. Drawing on their knowledge of Soviet history, personal experiences, and imagination, the contemporary LGBT post-Soviets participants reconstruct Anatoly’s narrative and in so doing, raise their own consciences and reclaim the Soviet gay and lesbian histories as their own.