Before you can say “chicken” or “Chernobyl”, OutUK's Adrian Gillan explodes onto the horny
gay, post-Soviet chic scene in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.
The former Soviet state of Ukraine is a land of extremes. Despite bordering the
Black Sea, its continental climate can make winters as cold as summers are hot!
And bootleg vodka-fuelled Bentleys ride rough-shod over begging Babushkas!
TODAY & YESTERDAY
The Ukraine has had a rollercoaster history. Ever since its famous kick-ass Cossack
farmers rebelled against the Poles, it has fought to assert its independence and
identity – most recently against the Nazis, and the Soviets. Ukraine declared
independence from the USSR in 1991.
Memories of the 1986 Chernobyl blunder and attempted Soviet cover up may have
faded, along with the radiation; but disillusion has crept back after the famous 2004
“Orange Revolution”. President Yushchenko was swept into power on a ticket of
loosening the lingering, corrupt economic and cultural grip of old “Mother Russia”.
Little has changed, and pro-Russia parties are regaining ground.
The new President Petro Poroshenko remains fairly silent on LGBT issues although in 2015 he
did express some support for the annual Pride Parade, saying that taking part was a "constitutional right of every
citizen of Ukraine". However the extended influence of Russia and Vladimir Putin's extreme view of
homosexuality still have some influence over parts of a country which only a year or two ago were
re-annexed back to their mother nation.
Although there's a thriving gay scene in Kiev outside the capital - or other big cities like Odessa
in the south - people are more conservative, and can be openly homophobic. There
are no plans to introduce civil unions or other equality measures.
Age of consent here is 16 for all persuasions and homosexuality has been legal
since post-Soviet decriminalisation. However, the Ukraine enjoys none of the EU’s
protective laws - not that they’ve helped queers in EU members Poland or Latvia much,
anyway - and the country remains under the sway of its old conformist Soviet culture,
not to mention the queer-loathing Russian Orthodox Church.
SCENE & SIGHTS
Kiev’s 2.5 million inhabitants straddle the mighty River Dnepr, with most interesting
sights perched on the west bank. Museums, opera houses, monuments, parks, shops and
rich pastel-hued, gold-domed churches crowd around Maidan Nezalezhnosti (“Independence Square”).
A little north, you descend into the old merchant district of Podil by steps or funicular from St
Andrew’s and St Michael’s monasteries. To the south, explore the “old town” Pechersk district,
with its famous Caves Monastery – an underground warren of cadaver-filled tunnels and grottos
beneath an imposing cathedral.
But Kiev’s real glory is her men.
Younger guys with their natural, non-steroid-ridden
physiques, picture perfect glowing skins and winning smiles – seem naively, unselfconsciously
sexy; physically and mentally unspoiled by the artificial stimuli and excesses of the West.
Seemingly oblivious to how utterly gorgeous they are, they waft from street to street, as
between takes in some city-wide horny porn movie.
The main gay hub - night in, night out - is Kiber: a bar-eatery-club combo, just off
the main Indi Square. You cannot help but be swept along by the nightly drag and cabaret acts,
whatever the hell it is they’re saying. Caution: foreigners whiff of cash, so expect
to be surrounded by local rent on entry.
Kiev’s main gay club proper, Androgin – about a 10 minute cab ride west of Indi Square –
could teach UK club promoters a thing or two. In an imposing building of palatial
proportions, local lads (thankfully minus the rent) flock here in droves, weekend-long,
to bop to the latest sounds in a state of the art space, dominated by massive plasma
screens awash with digital, psychedelic art. Muscle boys fill podiums; the loos have
leather sofas; and the dark room is vast and brimming with luscious talent.
Perhaps their lovely skin comes from all the nocturnal, open air cruising these guys
get up to? You are spoilt for choice. The main haunt is central Shevchenko Park, a mere
five minute walk from Kiber - in front of the imposing red-brick building of Kiev State Uni.
Sometimes it’s so busy, the action spills out onto nearby Kreschatik vulitsa - from Metro
Kreschatik to Bessarabsky market. And, by day, not least mid-summer, locals flock to the
southern sections of the huge mid-stream island in the mighty Dnepr, whose Hydropark
boasts a nudist beach, including a gay zone.
ALL STEAMED UP
Although Kiev’s gay sauna is closed, you’ll enjoy a uniquely homoerotic experience at
any of the city’s traditional all-male, clothes-free bath houses, or “banyas”. The main
one - Tsentralnye Torgovye Bany is a mere spit-and-a-spunk off Indi Square. In just
two hours, I met a pair of stunning identical 21-year old twins; had myself flogged
silly with birch twigs in the sauna by a complete stranger (a delightful local custom,
renowned for its health benefits, so just enjoy); and had a long, full-body massage for
less than a fiver! And everyone’s starkers! All pretty macho tho’,ugh, so do be sure to be discrete.
BED & BOARD
Accommodation, like everything else here, is pretty cheap. Though there’s nothing
overtly gay-run, we could certainly recommend Hotel Kozatskiy, actually on Independence
Square - near scene and sights. It’s probably simpler and easier to just ask for two
twin beds, which – I assure - readily push together. You’ll get a spacious apartment
overlooking their equivalent of Trafalgar Square - with balcony and breakfast for a very reasonable rate.
Though there are as yet no budget carriers to Kiev, Europes leading scheduled airlines all offer
flights to the city's two airports. You can check the latest discount fares at
THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Androgin (26/2 Garmatna vulitsa)
Hotel Kozatskiy (1/3, Mykhailivska vulitsa, on Independence Square; T: +38 (0)44 279 49 25; Website)
Kiber (Proreznaya 21)
Tsentralnye Torgovye Bany (Malaya Zhytomyrskaya 3a)
Revised November 2015