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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

Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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