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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Blog Where Life Is Stranger Than Fiction

Englishrussia.comA car balancing upside down on the handrail and wall of a metro entrance after having taken too sharp a turn.
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.


Englishrussia.com
An officer saluting two men who have no interest in sharing their vodka.




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.


Englishrussia.com
A schoolgirl naming objects. The photo is one of many increasingly popular vintage images on EnglishRussia.com.




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.


Englishrussia.com
Several of the 130 cats that share an apartment with a Moscow woman.




"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."


Englishrussia.com
A passenger sleeping on the metro.




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.

The rules for picking a post are simple: The material must simply be "cool," he said. He doesn't worry about whether visitors might deem a posting pro-Russian or anti-Russian.


Englishrussia.com
A man cleaning a gun on the metro.




EnglishRussia.com was rated the 155th most popular blog in the world by Technorati, a U.S.-based search engine that indexes more than 94 million blogs. On high traffic days, more than 200,000 people visit EnglishRussia.com. Tim said he has turned down one offer to buy the site. He wants to see the blog break into the top 100 on Technorati, an outcome he thinks is likely.

Fifty percent of the traffic to the site comes from the United States, with only 5 percent from Russia. The country has just over 12 million Internet users, far fewer than the United States.


Englishrussia.com
A Stalin look-alike riding the metro.




The most popular posting is a fish caught in the Far East that resembles a dinosaur. Pictures of strange people on the metro, such as a Stalin impersonator, are not far behind. A more recent hit is a video of a woman who lives with 130 cats in what looked like a surprisingly clean Moscow apartment.

Many of the more recent postings have moved away from what Tim called "yellow" postings, using the color normally associated with sensationalist newspapers. There are fewer pictures of the freakish and more of the nostalgic -- such as pictures of a dozen Soviet cigarette packages.


Englishrussia.com
A man wearing a monitor for a hat.




"At the beginning, we were working out the style," he said. "We noticed some people are very fond of some stories of old Russia. We try to satisfy those people as well."

The site clearly has struck a chord, although it has not impressed everyone.

"There's nothing original," said Mikhail Chekanov of Rambler Media, owner of Russian search engine Rambler.ru. Chekanov said the site just takes items from Russian web sites.

The site has a comment section, which often collapses because of abuse by commentators. If a reader wants to leave a comment, he must type in a security word -- usually Lenin, Stalin, KGB or vodka.

The captions on the site are often deliberately obtuse, playful or simply untrue. Under a picture of what looks like nuclear missiles, the caption reads: "While we all are peacefully sleeping, there are people in Russia who don't sleep. They work." Under pictures of drunken police asleep on the metro it reads, "Just another example of how you can get tired after the righteous job."

No one, Tim said, has ever requested that the photos be removed. This may be because the wedding guests who attacked each other not have seen it yet.

Some people have even sold their photos to magazines because of first having appeared on the site, he said.

Tim defended publishing a video of a plane crash in Ukraine that killed more than 80 people at an air show in 2002. "It was to honor the memory of those people. ... We carefully chose the least violent video."

"We don't publish blood. We don't publish violence," he said, before remembering the wedding video. Unless, he said, it's funny.