Anatoly – (USA, 2014)


pg-22-kgb-4-corbis-770x1147For 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.

Guy Francis de Moncy Burgess (1911-1963) was an openly gay British diplomat and a Soviet spy, a member of the Cambridge 5 spy ring, and a defector from the United Kingdom to the Soviet Union. His life, from Cambridge to the Foreign Office and then behind the Iron Curtain is richly documented in several biographies which read as veritable spy novels, and as such are absolutely incredible. For the last decade of his life, Burgess was in a relationship with a Russian man named Anatoly. We do not know Anatoly’s family name. They met in Moscow, where the infamous defector fled to in 1951. Their relationship was well known, and quite possibly arranged, by the authorities at a time when male homosexuality was a criminal offense—punishable by up to five years in prison—in the Soviet Union. All we really know about Burgess’ Russian lover today is his first name and that he worked as an electrician in Moscow and was an amateur musician.
71eee20bf6a579b611536aed401a0ba1Yevgeniy Fiks, a New York-based conceptual artist, is attempting to imagine and construct Anatoly’s life before, with and after Burgess. Fiks’ Anatoly is brought back to life through voices of the Russian-speaking gays and lesbians who currently reside in the U.S. Their personal experiences inform their imagination – it is not a historical, but rather a personal fantasy reconstruction, a mosaic of reflections on (and by) each of the participant’s individual identity and understanding of the Soviet history.

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