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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

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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