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“Nudity is not indecent”: “Naked Gardens” directors on baring all, even themselves, for documentary

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“Nudity is not indecent”: “Naked Gardens” directors on baring all, even themselves, for documentary

“Naked Gardens,” which is having its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, is Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas’ immersive, observational documentary about Sunsport Gardens, a Florida naturist community. The filmmakers, who shot the film in the nude themselves, depict the quotidian life of the residents. Men and women of different ages and races are seen cleaning a motorcycle, playing tennis or basketball, and — gasp! — even cooking and using power tools. 

The film eavesdrops on board meetings and attends parties. (In one of the more memorable shots, resort owner Morley sits naked on Santa’s lap.) But “Naked Gardens” is never exploitative; it presents life in this so-called “paradise” without judgment. The film culminates in a Midwinter Naturist Festival that captures the residents and guests participating in various activities that people often do in the nude, such as swimming and meditation.  

Bresnan and Lucas immerse viewers in the safe space of this community, and conversations address issues of body shame, and the issues that some residents have about having to wear clothes. But “Naked Gardens” is not skin deep; the film reveals underlying concerns about the housing crisis, education, and economic inequity, among other topics.

RELATED: Paris museum welcomes nudists for a day

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The filmmakers spoke to Salon about their modest, absorbing documentary.

How did you come to learn about this community and decide to make a film about it?

Patrick Bresnan: I had seen Sunsport pop up on the cover of the “Palm Beach Post” for years. There was a very particular headline I saw where Morley was naked on the cover of the “Palm Beach Post” and it said: “Nudist Resort Tries to Get Back to Normal after Stabbing.” I just thought, that was so wild, like something you’d see in a tabloid. I became interested in Sunsport, and was thinking of shooting a short film there to learn more about it. Then, when we were shooting “Pahokee” and I was in a Costco parking lot and this woman in her late 60s came up to me and said, “There is a drum circle and a big bonfire at the nudist resort, and you don’t have to pay an entrance fee! You should really come!” I just thought that was so wild. But it was also really beautiful, because she was kind of a hippie and she thought I was a likeminded person. What we came to learn is that they really tried to recruit younger people. They don’t want this way of life to die off; they want to hand it off to the next generation, so there is a campaign to recruit young naturists. Once I was propositioned in the parking lot of Costco, I thought: We have to make a film here!

Can you talk about your own thoughts on nudism or naturalism, and the appeal of this topic? Why are we all so fascinated with nudity?

Ivete Lucas: I think mainly because we are covered all the time. [Laughs] When Patrick told me about the place and we went there the first time, I was interested in making a film because the portrayal of nudity I’ve seen in the media has always been very sexy or sensualized, and very aspirational in terms of bodies. It was really amazing to see these body types walking freely. I liked the opportunity to capture it in a way that was not sexualized or sensationalized, just matter of fact. We cover ourselves so much that we don’t know what real bodies looks like. We see models or guys with six packs and almost never penises. It was an interesting challenge to show the naked body non-stop. All naked, all the time!

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Naked GardensNaked Gardens (Patrick Bresnan)

What was it like to shoot the film in the nude? 

Bresnan: Ivete and I are very counterculture people and not mainstream documentary filmmakers. This was an exciting topic for us because it’s not a topic for “traditional” documentary — find an athlete, a musician or a politician, and follow them and sell it to a streamer. We are trying to go against that methodology. What was so exciting was that it was a film that required an enormous challenge for us, which is to bare ourselves to the community. A lot of filmmakers can hide behind camera or come and go. But here, the community wasn’t going to let anyone into their interpersonal lives if they had clothes on. 

Lucas: There was a level of trust that has to happen to be naked in front of each other, so if we were wearing clothes, we were breaking that [trust]. It was important for us not to be wearing clothes. We make experiential films, and it takes months of living with the community. We wanted to get naked and see what that was like. Why is nudity so appealing to us? There is still this childish thing of taking your clothes off and laughing. This resort is such an extreme lifestyle that they are often the laughingstock, so for us to break through that layer of “we’re all naked, let’s giggle,” we had to really embody that and make a film that was much deeper.

What decisions did you make in telling the residents’ stories?

Bresnan: What was so appealing upon our first tour of the resort was that it wasn’t a retirement resort; it was an attempt at an alternative, socialist community, but also a community where there were Republicans, people who were not nudists, and a community that was trying to address the housing crisis. It’s the cheapest place to live in southern Florida. People were trying to make it work. Sometimes it doesn’t work very well. If you are a retiree from Quebec, and you have a $200,000 camper home, you are living side by side with people who are on government assistance. It is an interesting and complex world. We explore a lot of that visually.

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Lucas: They talk about themselves as a “family naturist resort,” and you see retirees. We wanted to know more about what this family nudism and naturism meant, and who were the families that were living there year-round. We are not asking for the backstories; we want audiences to be active participants. There are clues that make you understand why they are there, and that was the way we followed them — to understand why they were there, and what did it mean to make this choice with their family. When we were filming, I was pregnant and nude. Because I was pregnant, I was interested in the mothers living there with their children, and what that life was like.


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You are not very invasive in your approach. I like that you often keep a distance and just present lives without defending or condemning these people. Are you advocating this lifestyle? 

Lucas: What we tried to do is not simplify things. In documentary, especially, people are told how to morally think about what they are about to see or try to simplify it as all good or all bad, but the reality of human existence is that there are good and bad and difficult things. The meaning of the film is in the journey you go through watching the film. There will be different journeys for each viewer and a questioning of your preconceived notions. The people in the film talk about judgment. It’s natural for us to judge, so you are confronting that within yourself. 

Having done it, I was scared being a woman. I have always felt sheltered in being covered. It is an extreme thing to do to vow to be naked all the time. We had to use a lot of sunblock and bug spray because we are in Florida. We got to appreciate a lot of functional things about wearing clothes, such as clothes catch your sweat, and they have pockets. If you ask me, I’m not a nudist, but I like to have the freedom to take my clothes off and not feel ashamed about my body. 

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Bresnan: I do think we are advocating for the people you see in the film. They are living behind a wall in a gated community. In the world outside that wall are a lot of churches. There are people in our film when they said where they lived, they were shunned from their church. The film advocates that these are valuable people who have complex lives and situations that have led them to this lifestyle. They are very decent people who commune in the nude. 

I am curious about cooking and using power tools in the nude . . .

Bresnan: There is a lot of performance in all of cinema and documentary. For people opening their bodies up for a film like this, it is fun to show off cooking or building a deck or cutting wood. 

Lucas: I think there are people who are more extreme about their beliefs and how much nudity they need to live. Jeremy, one of the participants, will not put on clothes. It could be super cold, and he would not get dressed. People who garden do wear pants. It’s that debate about nudism vs. naturalist. The younger generation wants to be naked when they want. The more extreme, pure nudists believe you have to be nude all the time. 

Do you think that being in a nudist colony creates a greater sense of self-worth as several participants suggest? 

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Bresnan: There is a tribalism. Some of our main protagonists are castaways from their previous lives. Gretchen had just lost her spouse and barely receives visitors from the outside world. The idea of coming together and connecting while naked is something that we, who are at our computers or in the world all day long, lose.

Lucas: When we cracked the surface of just seeing naked bodies and started getting to know people, we understood most of them had trauma they are trying to get over. Whether it was sexual trauma or having different bodies — the owner [Morley] had polio as a child. Coming together for something deeper than just being naked together — to heal together and empower each other and care for each other. It does provide a sense of community that is very strong.

Naked GardensNaked Gardens (Patrick Bresnan)

I need to ask about the child nudity in the film. Child nudity been controversial in the photographs by Sally Mann. Can you discuss filming the young children, or scenes like Serenity’s birthday party, where she is clothed but surrounded by older, naked men?

Bresnan:  What we are recording is very much life as the way it is there. They did allow us to film — we weren’t censored unless someone didn’t want to be recorded. What you are seeing at Serenity’s birthday and other scenes in the film is everyday life there. I think they are hard scenes to watch, for sure. 

Lucas: We are not used to that. But we set out to make this film about a family naturist resort. We were filming everyday family life, and that included children who were naked, or surrounded by naked men and women. It is part of our obligation to include scenes that could be controversial or scary for some who are not used to seeing that. 

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If you didn’t show it, viewers would wonder about it.

Lucas: It would be as if we were almost hiding it. Mann was posing the children. We are capturing what was unfolding. We did make a rule not to have full-frontal nudity of children, so it wasn’t misused, and we talked to the parents about that; we were all in agreement. That’s how we could show the reality without being intrusive. We [show] that these lives are being led in this way.

Bresnan: Having been the cinematographer of the film, I didn’t have an inspiration from Sally Mann. It was more the work of Diane Arbus and Dorothea Lange, who was photographing very poor families on the margins in the dustbowl. All of the frames were chest to head. We were extremely sensitive when filming around families. We were never alone with children. There were never crew members alone at the resort. We always had a minimum of two people together at all times. There were rules and protections for the community. We also thought about Frederick Wiseman’s “Titicut Follies” because there are scenes where we see fully nude incarcerated mentally ill adults. Those scenes are incredibly hard to watch. Wiseman laid a foundation on how to make a film like this. We have to portray these scenes so that judgments can be made as to whether this is something that needs to be looked at further. 

What can you explain about the nature of the culture? I was concerned about the lack of education for the youth, and there is a discussion that some residents were living in Sunsport Gardens because it was cheap. 

Lucas: We wanted to limit to what happened inside the resort and in a way that is effective. Once people say, “I’m going to be nude,” then you can’t be nude the way you want in every environment in society, because social nudity is not accepted outside the walls of the resort. The more that you spend time there, the more you find ways to continue your lifestyle to be as nude as much as possible. People get employment in the resort. Jeremy works there. Some do have to go outside [the resort] and get dressed to make a living, but they try to find ways to make a living without having to wear clothes. In terms of education, a lot of kids are homeschooled. That is an American reality, too. They are protecting themselves from the outside world. When the kids would go to school and people found out they lived in the nudist resort, they were bullied. 

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The scene of 11-year-old Serenity struggling with simple math was very painful to watch. 

Bresnan: The backstory with Serenity is very complex. They were living in a car in Miami. They needed a place to live and fell in love with a camper for sale at Sunsport resort for a few hundred dollars. The needed a place to live and the rent was so cheap, they stayed. Serenity’s education was on hold before they arrived at the resort. The scene is very hard, but we have to face the fact that children living in poverty and on fringes of society are not getting the education they need. We have a great deal of sympathy for her. It is very important scene; we need to think about kids like her who are not getting a proper education.

Lucas: It’s obviously not representative of the nudist lifestyle. It’s a cheap place to live when you can’t afford to live somewhere else. 

There are discussions of social nudity, nudism, and naturalism. People talk about their issues with wearing clothes. What do you want viewers to consider as they watch your film?

Brosnan: We have a whole system that classifies films as NC-17 or X that has vilified nudity and the human body when it is exposed in a non-sexual manner. What we are hoping people take away is that the human body is not something offensive, that we should hide away, and there are many beautiful forms of the nude body regardless of weight or size, or physical appearance. 

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What is very profound is that many people at the resort had extreme trauma because they had genitals that were considered imperfect, and by exposing themselves in a healthy, non-sexual manner, they were finding acceptance from people in this community and healing from pain sadness and shame. I think that those are just some things that I took away that I hope some of the audience can gather.

Lucas: Nudity is not indecent. It is what we do with our naked bodies that could be. If we could take away that fear of the naked body . . . As a woman who grew up around a lot of women who are extremely traumatized by the imperfections of the human bodies, I would say that if I had seen more naked bodies growing up, my friends and I would have saved ourselves some eating disorders. After having this experience, when I had my baby, I was not afraid of breastfeeding in public anymore. I always thought when we walked into resort, that it would be this image of everybody naked, but after being there and walking out in the “textile world,” as the residents would say, I would look at everyone dressed and question it. I saw what we do with our clothes to show each other who we are, or what our social status is. What are the contexts where we can be dressed and can’t be dressed? It’s questioning our perceptions of nudity. 

Brosnan: There is a real sense of freedom they are trying to achieve — and achieving. Hopefully, some people will see the film and get the courage to explore, even if it is something as simple as being comfortable at the gym taking a shower. We all suffer some form of shame over our bodies. We hope it is inspiring to see people who are really taking action.

More stories to read:

  • A nude cruise brought us closer together
  • How prosthetic penises on shows like HBO’s “Minx” reinforce existing stereotypes and taboos
  • The naked truth about nude art modeling

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‘Super-Earths’ Could Host Alien Life for 84 Billion Years, Study Finds

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‘Super-Earths’ Could Host Alien Life for 84 Billion Years, Study Finds

Life on a rogue Super-Earth would be difficult, but organisms have been shown to thrive even in very extreme conditions on regular Earth.

Concept art of Super-Earth. Image: 

Evgeniy Ivanov via Getty Images

210329_MOTHERBOARD_ABSTRACT_LOGO

ABSTRACT breaks down mind-bending scientific research, future tech, new discoveries, and major breakthroughs.

A special class of planets could potentially host life for as long as tens of billions of years, according to a new study.  

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Super-Earths, which are rocky planets that are more massive than Earth but smaller than ice giants such as Neptune, are abundant in star systems across the Milky Way; indeed, our own solar system may be somewhat of an outlier in lacking this type of world. 

Now, scientists led by Marit Mol Lous, a PhD student studying exoplanets at the University of Zürich, have presented new evidence that so-called “cold Super-Earths” that orbit their stars at more than twice the distance between Earth and the Sun, “can maintain temperate surface conditions” for up to give to eight billion years, a timespan that “suggests that the concept of planetary habitability should be revisited and made more inclusive,” according to a study published on Monday in Nature Astronomy.

In addition, Mol Lous and her colleagues found that some Super-Earths that are kicked out of their home star systems by gravitational perturbations, or other mechanisms, could potentially maintain liquid water habitats for as much as 84 billion years, because these rogue worlds would not be affected by the death of any host star.

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“Here we argue that it should be considered that habitable planets could be very different from Earth, and that we should remain open-minded when investigating such potentially habitable planets,” Mol Lous said in an email. “Of course, it is also important to remain cautious and not jump into conclusions when considering such ‘exotic’ habitats as we know very little, and a lot can be left to speculation.”

The new study is built from theoretical models of these tantalizing worlds, rather than real observations, because it is challenging to spot these cold Super-Earths with current telescopes. Most exoplanets are detected when they pass in front of their star relative to our perspective on Earth, causing a slight dip in starlight. As a result, all known Super-Earths have relatively short orbits that produce frequent brightness dips, making them simpler for telescopes to pinpoint.

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However, scientists have suspected for years that Super-Earths in more distant orbits could be compelling targets in the search for extraterrestrial life. Models suggest that these planets could retain their primordial atmospheres, which are dominated by hydrogen and helium gas, for billions of years. These atmospheres are distinct from those surrounding some rocky planets in our own solar system, including Earth, which evolved atmospheres with more complicated compounds, such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen gasses.

“The hypothesis that there could be liquid water on a planet that has a primordial atmosphere has been around for over 20 years and since then more studies have worked on this idea,” Mol Lous said. “We wanted to further investigate the evolutionary aspect, in other words, we calculated how long liquid water could be present and what would be necessary for a planet to have the longest possible duration of liquid water.”

Liquid water is the magic ingredient for life as we know it on Earth, which is why scientists prioritize it in search for aliens elsewhere in the universe. To delve into the “potential exotic habitability” of cold Super-Earths with primordial atmospheres, in the words of the study, Mol Lous and her colleagues ran over 1,000 simulations of planets with different masses, atmospheres, and orbital distances.

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The team discovered that planets between one and ten times the mass of Earth, with atmospheres that are 100 to 1,000 times thicker than Earth’s skies, might occupy a hospitable sweet spot. Worlds that orbit too close to their stars are expected to lose their primordial atmospheres under the harsh stellar glare, but planets that are located at distances beyond the orbit of Mars could hang onto this hydrogen-helium envelope. At this potentially safe distance, these atmospheres could act as greenhouse gasses by absorbing infrared radiation, providing a source of heat that might nurture life in liquid water oceans. 

This class of planets could provide habitable conditions for five to eight billion years, but would eventually become inhospitable once their stars began expanding during their dying stages, reports the study. In a mind-boggling twist, the researchers found that rogue planets that are ten times as massive as Earth, with atmospheres that are about one percent the mass of Earth, could be habitable for an astonishing 84 billion years, according to the models. The study suggests that these unbound worlds would probably be too hot for life at this point in the universe’s 13.8-billion-year lifespan, but could become hospitable over the next several billion years.

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Any speculative aliens on these worlds would have to grapple with very different conditions compared to Earth, including enormous surface pressures and a lack of direct sunlight as a result of thick atmospheres. However, the team notes that extreme lifeforms on Earth can deal with high pressures in deep ocean trenches, while some organisms rely on chemical energy sources instead of drawing fuel from the Sun.

The implications of the study are exciting, but Mol Lous and her colleagues cautioned that it will take more research, and hopefully direct observations, to back up these initial findings. 

“There are three important things to address in the future,” Mol Lous said. “The first is if our results hold when we make our model more realistic. We did a few studies on how robust our results are for changing parameters, but we still make simplifications and that should be improved in future work. For example, we don’t really let the water interact with the atmosphere in our model and that could actually be important.” 

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“The second is to study how likely it is that planets can form with the ‘right’ conditions for liquid water,” she continued. “The third is to think about observations: what can we measure about such planets to determine if they have liquid water or not?’

To that end, the team emphasized that these special exoplanets might be detectable to the next-generation observatories, such as the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope or NASA’s forthcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. 

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“There are no accurate predictions on the occurrence of super-Earth-sized planets with these initial conditions, but it is likely enough that these alternatively habitable planets constitute a fraction of the habitable worlds in the galaxy,” the researchers said in the study.

We “expect that our understanding of this exoplanetary population and its potential habitability will substantially improve in the near future,” they concluded.

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The #1 Period Tracker on the App Store Will Hand Over Data Without a Warrant

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The #1 Period Tracker on the App Store Will Hand Over Data Without a Warrant

​Stardust app screens via Apple Store

Stardust app screens via Apple Store

Stardust, an astrology-focused menstrual tracking app that launched on the App Store last year, is one of Apple’s top three most-downloaded free apps right now. From sometime around Sunday evening until Monday mid-morning, it was in the number one spot. It’s also one of very few apps that has put in writing that it will voluntarily—without even being legally required to—comply with law enforcement if it’s asked to share user data. 

After the fall of Roe on Friday, ending the Constitutional right to an abortion and making abortion illegal in more than a dozen states, many people used Twitter to urge others to delete their period tracking apps for privacy and security reasons. A widely-shared concern is that law enforcement can use personal data created in apps against people who’ve sought or gotten abortions illegally. 

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Despite this, more people are downloading Stardust—which combines astrology with menstrual cycle tracking— right now than some of the most-downloaded apps in history. As of Monday morning, on the iOS App Store, Stardust was ranking above hugely popular apps including TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. It was ranking above BeReal and NGL, two apps that have recently gone viral with teens. 

Stardust seems to have done a decent job of jumping on this moment when everyone is screaming into the Twitter void to “delete you period tracking app!” by marketing itself as the choice for safety-conscious people to track their cycles. The app has less than 300 followers on Twitter, but has made viral TikToks talking about privacy and landed coverage in Mashable. Its Twitter bio is “Privacy first period tracking app.”

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Despite all of its privacy-first marketing, Stardust states in its privacy policy that if the cops ask for user data, it’ll comply, whether legally required to or not, and claims that the data is “anonymized” and “encrypted.” The privacy policy states:

“We may disclose your anonymized, encrypted information to third parties in order to protect the legal rights, safety, and security of the Company and the users of our Services; enforce our Terms of Service; prevent fraud; and comply with or respond to law enforcement or a legal process or a request for cooperation by a government or other entity, whether or not legally required.”

“Whether or not legally required” is an unusual phrase to include in a privacy policy. Most apps simply state that they will comply to the extent legally required. There’s no reason for companies to comply with the cops if they don’t have to. But Stardust says it will. 

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Stardust advertised that what differentiates it from other apps is an “encrypted wall” that they claim keeps data safe. “What we did was implement an encrypted wall between our users personally identifiable information (email/phone/apple id/ etc) and what they actually do on the Stardust app,” the company tweeted in a thread on Sunday about its data practices. 

This feature isn’t implemented yet: it will launch on Wednesday, according to Stardust, along with its Android app launch. It is not entirely clear what Stardust means by an “encrypted wall,” but Stardust explained that users create an encrypted identifier on their phones that the company doesn’t store, and that links users to their activity on the app. 

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Still, Stardust claims that if it receives a subpoena asking for data on a particular user, it will not be able to hand anything over. “If the government issues a subpoena to find out about your menstrual tracking data, we will not be able to produce anything for them,” Stardust claims. Whether that’s true depends on how and what it stores. Stardust did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Its privacy policy states that it collects and may share “general age demographic information and aggregate statistics about certain activities or symptoms from data collected to help identify patterns across users.” In a section about sharing to third parties, it states it will not share anything except in a laundry list of cases, including subpoenas: 

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“In response to subpoenas, court orders or legal processes, to the extent enforceable, permitted and as restricted by law (including to meet national security or law enforcement requirements); (ii) when disclosure is required to maintain the security and integrity of the App, or to protect any user’s security or the security of other persons, consistent with applicable laws; (iii) when disclosure is directed or consented to by the user who has input the Personal Data; (iv) in the event that we go through a business transition, such as a merger, divestiture, acquisition, liquidation or sale of all or a portion of its assets, your information will, in most instances, be part of the assets transferred. Information that is encrypted will remain encrypted and cannot be shared by us in decrypted form.”

Stardust tweeted that it offers an “an app experience on Stardust that lets our people share their tracking with their friends” and protect users from “bad actors” at the same time. The founders call this a “unique problem to solve.” These are diametrically opposed goals, unless security practices are airtight: either you can create an “app experience” that involves storing data with sharing features, or you can let people use the app without making accounts, and make your app less data-rich and valuable in the process.

The company tweeted that it’s still “working on an option” for anonymous use of the app, without creating an account. 

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Russia Defaults on Foreign Debt for First Time Since 1918

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Russia Defaults on Foreign Debt for First Time Since 1918

Russia defaulted on its foreign-currency sovereign debt for the first time in a century, the culmination of ever-tougher Western sanctions that shut down payment routes to overseas creditors.

For months, the country found paths around the penalties imposed after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. But at the end of the day on Sunday, the grace period on about $100 million of snared interest payments due May 27 expired, a deadline considered an event of default if missed.

It’s a grim marker in the country’s rapid transformation into an economic, financial and political outcast. The nation’s eurobonds have traded at distressed levels since the start of March, the central bank’s foreign reserves remain frozen, and the biggest banks are severed from the global financial system.

But given the damage already done to the economy and markets, the default is also mostly symbolic for now, and matters little to Russians dealing with double-digit inflation and the worst economic contraction in years.

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Read more: How Sanctions on Russia Will Hurt—and Help—the World’s Economies

Russia has pushed back against the default designation, saying it has the funds to cover any bills and has been forced into non-payment. As it tried to twist its way out, it announced last week that it would switch to servicing its $40 billion of outstanding sovereign debt in rubles, criticizing a “force-majeure” situation it said was artificially manufactured by the West.

“It’s a very, very rare thing, where a government that otherwise has the means is forced by an external government into default,” said Hassan Malik, senior sovereign analyst at Loomis Sayles & Company LP. “It’s going to be one of the big watershed defaults in history.”

A formal declaration would usually come from ratings firms, but European sanctions led to them withdrawing ratings on Russian entities. According to the documents for the notes whose grace period expired Sunday, holders can call one themselves if owners of 25% of the outstanding bonds agree that an “Event of Default” has occurred.

With the final deadline passed, focus shifts to what investors do next.

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They don’t need to act immediately, and may choose to monitor the progress of the war in the hope that sanctions are eventually softened. Time may be on their side: the claims only become void three years on from the payment date, according to the bond documents.

“Most bondholders will keep the wait-and-see approach,” Takahide Kiuchi, an economist at Nomura Research Institute in Tokyo.

During Russia’s financial crisis and ruble collapse of 1998, President Boris Yeltsin’s government defaulted on $40 billion of its local debt, while declaring a moratorium on foreign debt.

The last time Russia fell into default vis-a-vis its foreign creditors was more than a century ago, when the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin repudiated the nation’s staggering Czarist-era debt load in 1918.

By some measures it approached a trillion dollars in today’s money, according to Loomis Sayles’ Malik, who is also author of ‘Bankers and Bolsheviks: International Finance and the Russian Revolution.’

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By comparison, foreigners held the equivalent of almost $20 billion of Russia’s eurobonds as of the start of April.

Russia Debt Held Abroad Below 50%, First Time Since 2018: Chart

“Is it a justifiable excuse to say: ‘Oh well, the sanctions prevented me from making the payments, so it’s not my fault’?” Malik said.

“The broader issue is that the sanctions were themselves a response to an action on the part of the sovereign entity,” he said, referring to the invasion of Ukraine. “And I think history will judge this in the latter light.”

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov dismissed the situation on Thursday as a “farce.”

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With billions of dollars a week still pouring into state coffers from energy exports, despite the grinding conflict in east Ukraine, he reiterated that the country has the means, and the will, to pay.

“Anyone can declare whatever they like,” Siluanov said. “But anyone who understands what’s going on knows that this is in no way a default.”

His comments were prompted by the grace period that ended on Sunday. The 30-day window was triggered when investors failed to receive coupon payments due on dollar- and euro-denominated bonds on May 27.

The cash got trapped after the US Treasury let a sanctions loophole expire, removing an exemption that had allowed US bondholders to receive payments from the Russian sovereign. A week later, Russia’s paying agent, the National Settlement Depository, was also sanctioned by the European Union.

In response, Vladimir Putin introduced new regulations that say Russia’s obligations on foreign-currency bonds are fulfilled once the appropriate amount in rubles has been transferred to the local paying agent.

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The Finance Ministry made its latest interest payments, equivalent to about $400 million, under those rules on Thursday and Friday. However, none of the underlying bonds have terms that allow for settlement in the local currency.

So far, it’s unclear if investors will use the new tool and whether existing sanctions would even allow them to repatriate the money.

According to Siluanov, it makes little sense for creditors to seek a declaration of default through the courts because Russia hasn’t waived its sovereign immunity, and no foreign court would have jurisdiction.

“If we ultimately get to the point where diplomatic assets are claimed, then this is tantamount to severing diplomatic ties and entering into direct conflict,” he said. “And this would put us in a different world with completely different rules. We would have to react differently in this case — and not through legal channels.”

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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