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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 editors 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 Earths surface.

It is Russian culture. There are many fights at weddings. Probably 50 percent of weddings in villages have fights. Its 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 didnt 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 dont 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

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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