Photographer Denis Sinyakov recalls a popular saying: “There are two countries – one is called Russia and the other is called Moscow.”
In Moscow, he says, things are a little different.
One only needs to step through the doors of the Marusya nightclub to see what he means. Young, brawny, often shirtless men — bathed in the glow of red light — can be found serving drinks, dancing and entertaining women who pay them to do so.
The male employees, with their bulging muscles and scant clothing, age roughly between 26 and 30, Sinyakov said. They hail mainly from other parts of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Many have day jobs, and a number of those Sinyakov spoke to work as circus performers outside of the club.
“They say that they actually like this way of living; it’s easy to get money,” he said. “They say if they dislike some of the guests, they can refuse their advances. All of them are very polite, and that’s why a lot of women go there.”
These women come often, even multiple times a week.
But who are they?
One of them is Eva, a 25-year-old divorcee who has made her fortune selling designer dresses. Sitting in one of Marusya’s private rooms in a black cocktail dress with champagne in hand, she seems completely comfortable and unapologetic in her surroundings. Another is Ksenia, 22, who comes frequently to the club’s parties, even bringing her dog in tow.
Neither turns away from Sinyakov’s lens. Neither hides in the shadows of the club, away from detection.
“It’s a new type of Moscow woman,” the photographer said. “They are smart, they are confident, they are attractive, and they are wealthy.”
For many women, Marusya is a place where they feel they can be in control. They pay to be danced with, flirted with and cuddled with. And they choose the person with whom they do it.
“Every woman has their favorite man in the club,” Sinyakov said.
While some women may frequent Marusya in hopes of finding a relationship, many others simply seek a good time, he said. But whatever a particular woman is looking for, she’ll call the shots.
Sinyakov said the club opened in the center of Moscow just about a year ago. The owner stylizes it as a “club-cabaret” devoted to serving a female clientele. It’s decorated with several Soviet military symbols, and some of the male workers even sport costume military helmets and guns.
Clubgoers can order from the house “crazy menu” that offers services such as a half-hour dancing session, an intimate massage, or reserving time with an employee in one of the club’s “private rooms” equipped with a couch and a shower.
Services on the “crazy menu” begin at approximately $35 and can go up into the thousands. According to Sinyakov, women easily spend $2,000 in one night alone.
“Russians are not rich people in general,” Sinyakov said, but money seems to flow in Moscow and at Marusya.
Sinyakov believes that the popularity of Marusya and clubs like it may have something to do with a lack of eligible men in Russia.
“It’s a shame, but it’s our reality,” he said. “I take into consideration our economic situation here. It’s already worse than it was one year ago. Many men have lost their jobs, having taken up drinking or drugs, and have become lazy. It’s a real problem.”
However, some women in Moscow are clearly thriving and willing to spend their money at Marusya — to socialize, to party, to flirt, to dance, to enjoy the affection of an attentive employee — if only for just one night.
- Laura Ly, CNN