This site is our response to everyone who has ever asked us what Russia is like, and for anyone who might have never wondered, but should have. It’s an attempt to put into words Russia as we see it; our go at explaining that big old riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, that in fact, never went away. It’s about understanding the views, opinions and psyche of a nation that hits our headlines daily, without many of us ever really knowing why. And ultimately, it’s about providing a picture of Russia, as seen first-hand by two people, who think that although the journey they’re on to try and understand this country might never end, the process itself is worth sharing.

Monday, 29 December 2008

People of the Year 2008

Photo: Mila Maksimova and Viktor Ribas
From the hallowed halls of the Central Bank to the somewhat less sober surroundings of cyber space, Russian server has also offered its nominations for People of 2008. It has just published a list of the most popular searches of 2008, divided into a series of categories, creating a more representative, if less salubrious, list of who really shaped 2008 for Russians.

Singer of the Year
Narrowly beating boy-band hero, Dima Bilan, sentimental singer MakSim wins the accolade of most searched for Russian singer. Citing her main musical influences as Celine Dion, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, you can probably guess what kind of music she makes. However, here's a clip of one of her best selling songs, if you really must have a listen:
Скачать mp3 МакSим - Лучшая ночь с
And the lyrics go: I don't know how to tell you, but this is the best night/ I don't know you to tell you, but with him was the best night/ I don't know what's true or what's false/ I sing about the sky, but rain falls from the sky/ I don't know how many faces I have seen/ In my book, life has fewer pages.

Size of the Year
Can’t work out what size they’re referring to? Take a look at this year’s winner, Anna Semenovich and all will be revealed. A one time ice-skating star, Semenovich is now described on her website as an 'athlete/singer/beauty', however I think we all know what she's really famous for. And they say size doesn’t matter…

Jokers of the Year
A Western import, but with a decidedly Russian twist. Our Russia is the Russian take on Little Britain, giving us a whole new host of national stereotypes to laugh at. Potentially even less politically correct than it's English mother show, Our Russia's most beloved characters include Snezhana Denisovna, a scamming provincial school teacher, and Ravshan and Dzhamud, poor immigrant workers from Central Asia who don't speak a word of Russian and are constantly abused by their irrascible, but apparently loveable, Russian foreman. Perhaps a little close too close to the bone?

Factory of the Year
Don’t you just love reality TV? This year’s top “star factory” is House Number 2. A barrel of laughs, in which contestants attempt simultaneously to build a house and find a life partner. Presented by Russia’s answer to Paris Hilton, Ksenia Sobchak, (see below) this really is reality TV at rock bottom. Nevertheless, it is currently in its second and a half year, and the original house has ballooned into a lavish mansion complex.

Our Everything of the Year
Putin. Boring. (Pushkin was in second place though. Nice.)

Black PR of the Year
Any fame is good fame? So might argue Russian socialite Ksenia Sobchak. Compared alternately to a horse or Paris Hilton, this darling of the Russian tabloids is at the same time a national joke and a national treasure. She's impossibly well connected (Daddy was mayor of Petersburg and Putin's mentor), hosts Russia's number one reality TV show and even has political aspirations. In 2006 she set up her own youth organisation All Free, which ostensibly seeks to help deprived youths, but is considered by many as a not very covert attempt to extend Kremlin influence, by preventing the anti-government uprisings that have caused havoc in neighnouring Ukraine and Georgia.

However, despite being the host of one of the most popular TV shows in Russia, she is far from universally loved, and consequently travels at all times with an armed body guard. When asked if the animosity she arouses bother her, she replied: 'No. What I really dislike is when anyone is indifferent. As long as I'm getting a reaction, it's OK. When people are nasty I don't feel anything.' Indeed, any PR is good PR.

Before writing her off completely, I'd just like to draw your attention to an event that happened in Moscow's Sheremetevo airport yesterday afternoon. Ksenia and her fellow 300 passengers were waiting to depart on an Aeroflot flight to New York, when the pilot made a rather unusual address to the plane. Ever alert, Ksenia realised that something was amiss and marched up to the cockpit, suspecting the that pilot was not 100% sober. She told a Russian magazine:" When he started speaking in English I immediately knew. I speak pretty good English and can tell when someone's under the influence. He wasn't definitely drunk, he was slurring all his words. I was furious and marched up to the cabin... which stank of alcohol."
According to eyewitnesses, a struggle then ensued, and the flight was canceled. "Ksenia saved us all!", one overjoyed passenger was overheard to say. It would seem there's much more to Sobchak than meets the eye...

So, there we have it: blondes, boobs, poetry and Putin. The Russian web in a nut shell.

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