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Second life

Published: August 24, 2007 (Issue # 1300)



  • Scenes of Soviet life are popular on EnglishRussia.com because they evoke nostalgia.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • An image of Russian life as seen through the eyes of the editor’s of EnglishRussia.com.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

The wedding seemed peaceful until the first punch was thrown. Then the camera jolted between various fights, capturing men chasing one another and finally focusing on a man who was lying unconscious — then faded to black.

Welcome to the world of EnglishRussia.com, the brainchild of a young web designer that has become, in less than a year, one of the most popular blogs on the Internet. The site warrants daily visits for those who want to see the weird, freakish realia of Russian and Soviet life. The slogan reads, “Just because something cool happens daily on 1/6 of the Earth’s surface.”

“It is Russian culture. There are many fights at weddings. Probably 50 percent of weddings in villages have fights. It’s fun,” said the founder of the web site, a secretive 28-year-old Russian who goes by the name Tim. He refused to give his full name, saying in a telephone interview that as a serious web designer, he did not want his name associated with the web site.

He said the idea for the site struck him one day. “Just imagine how many unknown stories and photos are hidden in Chinese web sites and available only to a Chinese audience,” he wrote in a subsequent e-mail. “So we decided to start from the country we know, or, to be exact, Russia and the countries comprising the former Soviet Union.”

The site is a smorgasbord of the best photos and videos from Russian web sites, plus those sent in by readers, which both confirm and undermine national stereotypes. They are labeled with laconic introductions.

On a typical day, there are photos and videos of attractions such as a heavy metal wedding, Russian students playing Tetris by turning on and off the lights in their hostel and Belarussian police tractors. There are photos of drunks sleeping on the metro, cars buried under snow and trucks with missing wheels.

One video shows two Dagestanis who stop their car in the middle of Makhachkala and start to do the lezginka, a traditional dance, before getting back in their car and driving away.

Some readers have attacked the site, calling it anti-Russian and a disgrace.

“Someone always claims that it is anti-Russian propaganda. I assure you we didn’t receive any financial support from any foreign state or secret service,” Tim said, in the gently broken English that has become the trademark of the site. “It was started just for fun. Even now that it earns money, we don’t treat it seriously.”

Tim, who lives in both Russia and Israel, refused to say how profitable the site was a year after its creation in August 2006. The money, however, has allowed him to hire one employee, who spends most of his day searching for things to post.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Oct. 20


Amateur pictures from World War I are on display for only one more day at Rosphoto’s exhibition “On Both Sides,” chronicling the conflict through the eyes of observers on both sides of the trenches. The price of entrance to the exhibition is 100 rubles ($2.50).



Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organization’s office.


Take the chance to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Center’s series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this month’s lessons being “visual arts.”



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