Russia and the subject of social networks

Studying online, I try to engage as much as possible.

Right now I'm really into "Why we post" MOOC at FutureLearn (based on the same research as the "How the world changed social media" book).

So I try and write detailed comments as I go through course material. Why don't I share them here? The question of social media in Russia is not so widely discussed abroad. I can add my 2 cents., one of the main social networks in Russia

Social media platforms

There are some local platforms that surely get more attention from non-English-speaking people than Facebook.

Facebook in Russia is a place for those who speak English or have friends/family abroad or work at the media/IT or live in the biggest cities.

There are two other huge social networks: and ("VK" meaning "connecting" and "odnoklassniki" meaning "classmates").

Instagram and Facebook are also widely used.

Whatsapp and Viber are common ways to call for free which means a lot of people use them. Twitter is shrinking, Telegram is growing (it has an amazing broadcasting feature!).

Honestly I could connect with the same person in many ways online. Oftentimes I get a message via one network and answer via another. Thinking about messaging, I think in terms of people, not mediums or brands.

There are also many blogging websites that are also social media for me. wasn't Russian originally but was bought several years ago and now is mainly occupied by Russian bloggers. There are also, Tumblr and some more.

It's common when a person writes long posts at Livejournal website and shares the link to the new blog entry with friends via VK/facebook feed.

Social visibility

In Russia, people mainly try to show up online with the "prettiest" and the "most successful" things, looks and situations. I guess this happens because if you open up with vulnerability, there always are trolls that would have fun because of your situation. You cannot be safe in a public space sharing vulnerable issues so you rarely do.

The more likes you have, the more validated the thing you do becomes. A lot of posts happen because a person needs an outer validation (and I know it from my experience, too). You cannot just say "I'm lonely, please cheer me up". You'd rather post a smiling picture and collect likes for self-assurance (like Super Mario collects coins).

Sometimes when a person posts rarely, you understand there's some sadness and can ask in a direct message if everything is ok (but if you are not close, chances are you'd get "yes, thank you" answer).

If something really bad happens, people post it "under the lock" (within the few selected friends, not really public).

I was born in USSR

I was born in USSR.
I'm living in Russia.

I remember reading all the "pioneer is a friend of grandpa Lenin" propaganda children books. I've also read works of Tove Jansson, Pamela Travers, Astrid Lindgren, Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and many others.

I remember growing up without Internet or cell phones. Was it dull and boring? Yes. Was I able to read novels without a need to interrupt myself? Indeed.

I remember being afraid of everything because I entered school about Perestroyka. No future, no past, no fancy stuff, no dreams, no close friends. It was scary and upsetting, being a teenager at that time.

It gets more and more complicated every year. News are awful, people are scared, there is too much information and too little strength.

But you know what? The random acts of kindness, the small details that count, the ability to travel and to write, the warmness in strangers — these are the best things I open up in life, from the childhood and onwards.

Maybe the more complicated it gets, the more I value humanity and other emphatic stuff.

Christian Guémy (C215) in St. Pete

Yesterday I got a huge portion of inspiration.

It happened in Erarta, the museum of contemporary art, during the workshop of Christian Guémy. This Parisian street artist (on the right in the photo, the man in the stripes was translating) is famous because of his meaningful stencil projects all around the world.

He was speaking on means of creativity (I've written down the whole talk in Russian), on how being creative is much the same as when you are not just a cook, but a chef. French food metaphors, you know.

I've asked Christian about him being in St. Pete for the first time. He's already been to Moscow 4 times and disliked the violent atmosphere (he showed how the passengers of the subway are kicking each other with elbows).

He said St. Pete is way more civilized, european-like city (and I can't agree more as I moved here from Moscow 9 years ago with the same thoughts).

He named Wassily Kandisky as his fav Russian artist and promised to stencil him, too.

He did that several hours later near Erarta and published on the Facebook page:

He'd also done some other typical stencils in St. Petes before the workshop, themes being "peace/world" (in Russian it's the same word, 'mir'), "love", "cats" and "Virgin":

All pictures used are taken either from my instagram, or from Christian's.

You're not the real muscovite

— Those Muscovites! — my colleague spills the angry word.

I raise the eyebrow.

— Not you, — he corrects himself. — You're not the real muscovite. You're like us.

"Us" and "them", this everlasting confrontation in every Russian soul who have been born in USSR.

This time it’s about the cultural differences in two major cities. I’ve lived in both.

Moscow folk: uber-efficient, fast-responsive, overworking and loud in self-presentation.
The driver is excellence. And money, of course.

St.Pete folk: quiet, intelligent, thoughtful, snobbish, respectful, intellectual.
The driver is connection. Not the money. You can get along without high income here (never in Moscow).

I’m riding the city bus in St. Pete.

— Have you ever been to Moscow?

I turn off my pink iPod to enter the conversation. Ticket-collector lady is waiting for my answer.

— Yes, I did.

— They do not speak on the bus! Never.

— Maybe they don’t have time. They are always in hurry, — I offer the common reason.

She nods. I smile.

Could she guess I was born in Moscow? Probably not. I’m living here for nine years already.

St. Pete was built by the powerful man, Peter the Great (he also loved the titles, as any tzar should).

I mean, St. Pete was built by the people of his country. Peter ruled feverishly, installing new (European-like) rules and changing the whole game play.

He moved the capital from Moscow to St.Pete in 1712. He borrowed many ideas from the Netherlands. He was thinking strategically. He used a lot of human resources to build a city «on their bones» (as history books say). It was all the swampiness and nothing else here before Peter came.

He founded the city on the swamp, he named it after himself, he «cut the window to Europe», promoted secular education, he sent youngsters to study abroad, insisted on translating books and founded the modern newspaper. It’s amazing how good deeds go along with brutal, even butcher actions. You cannot like or dislike a power of this sort, you’re just amazed by it. It’s really impressive, how much have been done — and how many have suffered in the process.

Then he died. Even the most powerful ones are just humans in the end.

In 1728 the capital status was returned to Moscow alongside with all the government moving back (and many Peter’s initiatives sweeping under the rug).

What was that? A glimpse of the parallel universe, a star from the unknown future, a missed opportunity, a wrongful direction?

All that we are left with is St.Pete.

Italian-like (it was built in stone with Italian architects), breezy (wind lives here all the year round), grey and cold, romantic and intellectual city. The cultural capital. The Northern Venice. The city I now live in.

— I’ve been thinking and I still can’t get why do you live here, — a friend recently said to me. This conversation happens all the time but with different people.

— I cannot explain. I like it here. Moscow is so crowded, so hurried-up, so loud.

— But the weather… the winters are so long… the sky is dark...

— We call it «nine months of winter».

— The white nights in the summer are so disturbing! It’s impossible to sleep when there’s light outside!

— But then we have «dark days» in the winter if you miss the darkness. It’s daytime only from 12 noon to 3 pm.

— I don’t understand.

— I just love it.

Alcohol map of kitay-gorod

I've posted works of Katya Guschina in this blog earlier. Remember her Transsib drawings?

Now she went further:
this semester in my university had a special theme. we had to create a brand for moscow. my interest in maps and alcohol (dangerous) led me to this project. i knew from my friends that the kitay-gorod area is full of bars and restaurants, so the choice wasn't hard.

the map includes several types of information: from advices by experienced people and recommended places for visiting to phrases heard on the street and suitable drinks.

the naming "blue moscow" comes from the russian tradition to call a very drunk person "blue". that's why blue is the main colour there.

I made the guide in addition to the map. It has three routes: cheap, expensive and "get drunk fast" one. On the other side there is variety of benches where you could sleep until the underground opens.

have a light hangover!

More pictures on the project page:

How to shoo away bad luck using wood. Russian superstitions

Russian superstitions are strange, funny, and though they are well documented, the topic remains a favorite for satire. The explanation is very simple: there are a lot — a lot — of superstitions in Russia. So many actually, that one cannot delve through all of them in just one go. If a black cat crosses your path, your day will be filled with bad luck. Don’t offer someone an even number of flowers. Well, that is unless said person happens to be dead.

We bring you another compilation of Russian superstitions and the one universal solution on how to shoo away bad luck using wood, saliva, and a mirror.


Here are a few recommendations to take you through the most important stages of life. For no other reason than this: growing up is hard and you will need all the help you can get!

On marriage

A bride should never wear open-toe shoes at her wedding because all of her blessings will leak through the slit.

On having children

No gifts before the baby is born. Women should not cut their hair throughout the pregnancy, but nobody really knows why. Finally, complimenting newborn babies may put them in the spotlight of evil forces. Don’t do it. No one wants to harm an innocent child!

On life and death

It bodes well for a wedding party to encounter a funeral procession. Indeed who can argue that for new things to bloom, old things must die.


Spider and Bird Droppings

Though a black cat crossing your path is a bad omen in Russia, animals can also turn your day around for the better. Spiders for instance, these multi-legged frightful creatures, are believed to bring good news. Similarly, the unfortunate experience of receiving bird droppings turns out to bring good luck. So here’s to always looking at the positive side of things!


The Pursuit of Happiness

In Russia, breaking plates, cups and glasses supposedly bodes well for the future and brings happiness. There is a common wedding tradition requiring newlyweds to throw their champagne flutes over their shoulders after emptying them. Indeed, what wouldn’t you do for love?

Fortune Cookie Cutlery

Russians are a hospitable bunch. This is why they use cutlery to predict who will be stopping by for tea. If you drop a tablespoon to the floor, expect a female visitor. If you drop a knife, expect a male guest. See that’s how easy it is to be a fortune teller.


Don’t Forget!

If you leave the house hastily and find that you must come back for something you forgot, a mirror will come in handy. Turning back on your steps is a bad omen in Russia. If you absolutely must however, take a few seconds to stare at your reflection in the mirror and you’ll be off the hook!


Friendships are Important

There’s a saying in Russia: “Better to have a hundred friends than a hundred Roubles”. Indeed friendships are important, and to protect these bonds from evil forces, certain rules must be followed.

How NOT to say goodbye

Don’t say goodbye while standing on both sides of the threshold of a doorway, it will lead to an argument. The same will happen if you break a handhold by going around a lamppost from both sides. However, if the worst comes to worst , the relationship can still be saved if both parties say “hello for a 100 years” right after!

Lastly, if you step on a friend’s foot, they have to step on yours as well to prevent an argument.

Salty Sweet

If you inadvertently pour salt on the floor while cooking, expect a quarrel. But since you were already in the kitchen, you can just pour some sugar over it and thus restore your karmic peace. Another alternative, just draw a cross in the scattered salt.



One should never go to an exam wearing new clothes. One may never wash their hair the day before an exam. This would risk washing away all accumulated knowledge.


This one is a favorite in the Peterhof dormitories of Saint Petersburg State University. At midnight, on the night preceding important exams, one must open the window and scream ‘Halyava pridi’ (‘Come thee freebie’). In this way they summon knowledge back to them.

Disclaimer: success not guaranteed!


Abba sings: “Money money money! Must be funny! In the rich man’s world”, but Russian folklore offers concrete advice on how to manage your finances.

No Whistling

Whistling at night will bring one financial troubles and bad luck in general.

Poverty Purses

When you give someone a purse, make sure there is a coin inside. Unless of course it’s an ill-intended gift and you wish endless poverty upon that person.

Million Dollar Baby

On the bright side, there are also ways to know whether being rich is in the cards for you at all. Unintentionally wearing your clothes backwards is directly linked to your financial prospects. Also, when someone you know sees right past you because of a new haircut, don’t take offense. It is actually great news because not being recognized by friends and family is also a sign of future riches.


Travelling is always a bit stressful. Packing, remembering your passport, and let’s face it, turbulence is scary! Russians have devised a verified technique to ensure that all goes smoothly on a long journey.

Sit Down!

After the hassle of packing is complete, right before you step outside and officially begin your trip, you must always — always — sit in silence for a few minutes. But don’t you worry too much if you forget to do it once or twice. Our colleague Valery, who almost never fails to accomplish the ritual says that you can still make it without doing this. Only it is never recommended to mess with in-flight safety!

Some of these superstitions are widely known and some were gathered interviewing people at random. Unfortunately, most are negative forebodings and perhaps that would explain why Russians are known to never smile. Who would want to smile when their day, friendships, nay, their whole lives are threatened on a daily basis?

But do not despair. We have uncovered a verified way to counter these evils. Olga, who studies International Affairs at SPBU knows a lot about superstitions. She believes in most of them and shared with us the “one universal solution” to turn one’s luck around when faced with misfortune. Either knock on wood to keep away from harm or spit three times over you left shoulder. ‘Better yet, do both, one can never be too sure!’


Dance, siberian style at the stage

You may have watched several "So you think you can dance"-like reality shows. But wait to see the opening dance of this Russian "DANCE" project:

Anton Chekhov on the 8 Qualities of Cultured People

… You have often complained to me that people “don’t understand you”! Goethe and Newton did not complain of that…. Only Christ complained of it, but He was speaking of His doctrine and not of Himself…. People understand you perfectly well. And if you do not understand yourself, it is not their fault.

I assure you as a brother and as a friend I understand you and feel for you with all my heart. I know your good qualities as I know my five fingers; I value and deeply respect them. If you like, to prove that I understand you, I can enumerate those qualities. I think you are kind to the point of softness, magnanimous, unselfish, ready to share your last farthing; you have no envy nor hatred; you are simple-hearted, you pity men and beasts; you are trustful, without spite or guile, and do not remember evil…. You have a gift from above such as other people have not: you have talent. This talent places you above millions of men, for on earth only one out of two millions is an artist. Your talent sets you apart: if you were a toad or a tarantula, even then, people would respect you, for to talent all things are forgiven.

You have only one failing, and the falseness of your position, and your unhappiness and your catarrh of the bowels are all due to it. That is your utter lack of culture. Forgive me, please, but veritas magis amicitiae…. You see, life has its conditions. In order to feel comfortable among educated people, to be at home and happy with them, one must be cultured to a certain extent. Talent has brought you into such a circle, you belong to it, but … you are drawn away from it, and you vacillate between cultured people and the lodgers vis-a-vis.

Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions:

1. They respect human personality, and therefore they are always kind, gentle, polite, and ready to give in to others. They do not make a row because of a hammer or a lost piece of india-rubber; if they live with anyone they do not regard it as a favour and, going away, they do not say “nobody can live with you.” They forgive noise and cold and dried-up meat and witticisms and the presence of strangers in their homes.

2. They have sympathy not for beggars and cats alone. Their heart aches for what the eye does not see…. They sit up at night in order to help P…., to pay for brothers at the University, and to buy clothes for their mother.

3. They respect the property of others, and therefor pay their debts.

4. They are sincere, and dread lying like fire. They don’t lie even in small things. A lie is insulting to the listener and puts him in a lower position in the eyes of the speaker. They do not pose, they behave in the street as they do at home, they do not show off before their humbler comrades. They are not given to babbling and forcing their uninvited confidences on others. Out of respect for other people’s ears they more often keep silent than talk.

5. They do not disparage themselves to rouse compassion. They do not play on the strings of other people’s hearts so that they may sigh and make much of them. They do not say “I am misunderstood,” or “I have become second-rate,” because all this is striving after cheap effect, is vulgar, stale, false….

6. They have no shallow vanity. They do not care for such false diamonds as knowing celebrities, shaking hands with the drunken P., [Translator’s Note: Probably Palmin, a minor poet.] listening to the raptures of a stray spectator in a picture show, being renowned in the taverns…. If they do a pennyworth they do not strut about as though they had done a hundred roubles’ worth, and do not brag of having the entry where others are not admitted…. The truly talented always keep in obscurity among the crowd, as far as possible from advertisement…. Even Krylov has said that an empty barrel echoes more loudly than a full one.

7. If they have a talent they respect it. They sacrifice to it rest, women, wine, vanity…. They are proud of their talent…. Besides, they are fastidious.

8. They develop the aesthetic feeling in themselves. They cannot go to sleep in their clothes, see cracks full of bugs on the walls, breathe bad air, walk on a floor that has been spat upon, cook their meals over an oil stove. They seek as far as possible to restrain and ennoble the sexual instinct…. What they want in a woman is not a bed-fellow … They do not ask for the cleverness which shows itself in continual lying. They want especially, if they are artists, freshness, elegance, humanity, the capacity for motherhood….
They do not swill vodka at all hours of the day and night, do not sniff at cupboards, for they are not pigs and know they are not. They drink only when they are free, on occasion…. For they want mens sana in corpore sano [a healthy mind in a healthy body].

And so on. This is what cultured people are like. In order to be cultured and not to stand below the level of your surroundings it is not enough to have read “The Pickwick Papers” and learnt a monologue from “Faust.” …

What is needed is constant work, day and night, constant reading, study, will…. Every hour is precious for it…. Come to us, smash the vodka bottle, lie down and read…. Turgenev, if you like, whom you have not read.

You must drop your vanity, you are not a child … you will soon be thirty.
It is time!
I expect you…. We all expect you.


Sushka is not a booblik

Wikipedia says that "Booblik is a traditional Eastern European bread roll.

It is very similar to a bagel, but somewhat bigger and has a wider hole. Bubliks often also have a much denser and 'chewier' texture than bagels. The bublik is acknowledged to be the progenitor of the bagel."

Also it says that sushka is the sister of the booblik. Which I doubt very much.

Take a look at sushka yourself:

It's small, crunchy and light in weight. You can eat it and crackle to the point where your coworkers hate the sound.

Or, you can brew hot sweet tea and throw it to the cup as my granny did. Sushka turns big and soft, so easy to eat when you so not have your teeth anymore (speaking of grannies).

Instagram of regular Russia

I personally enjoy Instagram from 2010. So it's been already longer than 5 years of me watching how the life goes in many corners of this planet.

I have Spanish friends, Japanese friends, American friends, Australian ones and so forth. I can see the world with their eyes.

Let me show you one of Russian instagramers. He doesn't live in Moscow or Petersburg. He lives in Russia. The city name is Tomsk.

Фото опубликовано @vovadudarev

Фото опубликовано @vovadudarev

Фото опубликовано @vovadudarev

Фото опубликовано @vovadudarev

Фото опубликовано @vovadudarev

Four-day marathon public reading of War and Peace begins in Russia

A marathon four-day Russian public reading of Leo Tolstoy’s vast classic novel War and Peace kicked off on Tuesday morning, with more than 1,300 people in more than 30 cities preparing to make their contributions to the record-breaking project.

Coordinated by Tolstoy’s great-great-granddaughter Fekla Tolstaya, and featuring a number of cultural luminaries including the Polish film director Andrzej Wajda, the readings are being streamed by Russian state television channel Kultura. One volume of Tolstoy’s fictionalised history of Russia during the Napoleonic campaign will be read each day.

The novel opens in 1805, as Anna Pavlovna Scherer, “maid of honour and favourite of the Empress Marya Fedorovna”, is throwing a party with Napoleon being talked of as the man – and possible military adversary – of the hour. The mission to complete the reading of the novel’s more than half a million words is due to conclude by the end of Friday.

“We’re starting at 10am, and we will go through to midnight or two or three am, depending,” Tolstaya told the Guardian. “They’re extremely long.”

As well as the Oscar winner Wajda, the readers were drawn from across Russia, including schoolchildren, politicians, professors and actors – as well as one cosmonaut. More than 6,000 people applied to be part of the project, said Tolstaya, with the successful candidates each given a two-to-three minute excerpt from the novel, to be read in carefully chosen museums, libraries and institutions across Russia. French readers are also being drafted in to read the many sections of the novel written in French.

“This is the biggest reading of War and Peace in the world – a four-day marathon, uniting the whole country and people all over the world. [And] it is very democratic: we can have a minister of culture reading next to a student from Vladivostok, a great actor then an old lady reading from a library in Siberia,” Tolstaya said.

“For me it shows how we are all equal when we speak about literature, when we speak about books – everyone can find something for themselves in this book. Bearing in mind that my name is Tolstoy, I think you would allow me to say that War and Peace is the number one Russian book. And I say that not only because I am a Tolstoy, but because it is something special for every Russian. For me it is about love, about how the young grow up; and the older I become, the more philosophical I find this text.”

The reading marks the culmination Russia’s “year of literature”, and Tolstoys from around the world are also participating, Tolstaya said. “My family is very big – there are descendants of Tolstoy all over the world, so there will be Tolstoys reading from the US, Britain, Brazil and France.”

The Russian branch of the family will read from the Tolstoy family estate, Yasnaya Polyana, where he wrote War and Peace.

“For me it is extremely important to show the world that it is not only problems, and war and difficult things, happening in Russia, but that we can do something like this too,” Tolstaya said. “People argue with each other when they speak about politics, [but] culture, our cultural heritage, great Russian literature – this is the place where we all unite.”

As well as Wajda, other celebrities taking part include Andrei Konchalovsky, another director; Vladimir Urin, the Bolshoi ballet’s director, and Valentina Matvienko, speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament.


Why a pizza can’t fly

The story of a world-shaking innovative enterprise should start in a garage. The story of a flying pizza is no exception to this rule. One day in the spring of 2014, a police department in Syktyvkar, a city in Northwestern Russia, got a call from a concerned person who reported that a few suspicious young men occupied a garage in his neighborhood. They were making a lot of noise and were bothering all the respectable citizens living in the area.

When policemen arrived at the location, they did find a few people in the garage, although the crime scene looked somewhat unusual. The gang wasn’t smoking pot. There was no loud music. No half-naked girls. No parts of (probably stolen) cars could be seen. The space was instead filled with electronic equipment.

One of the men was Fedor Ovchinnikov, an entrepreneur and the founder of Dodo Pizza, a fast-growing Russian pizza chain established in Syktyvkar a few years ago. He was joined by Oleg Ponfilyonok, the founder of Copter Express, a startup company from Moscow.

The pizza guy and the сopter guy teamed up to find out how to make pizza deliveries by drones possible. The challenge was to do the real thing, for actual customers—not a performance for shooting a TV ad. Nobody had done something like this yet—not only in Syktyvkar or in Russia, but in the whole world.

The officer was evidently puzzled by what he saw. It was hard to articulate what exactly these people were doing that was against the law, since drones didn’t even exist when the law was written. He did his best to find the words to voice a complaint.

“People say that your thing is flying around at night making noise, and they can’t sleep,” he said.

“So, your recommendation for us is not to fly after eleven?” Ponfilyonok asked.

“My recommendation for you is to stop doing whatever you’re doing here,” the officer said.

Luckily (for the sake of our story of a flying pizza), they didn’t follow his recommendation. They didn’t stop.

Read all the article with pictures and videos at dodo's website

Weird design: apartment block with "chicken legs"

This apartment block has 22 floors and 221 apartments. It's situated in St. Pete (see on Google maps). It was built in 1988.

More pictures of this remarkably grey building, including of apartments, you can find in this Russian article.

Russian artist Katya Guschina sketches Transsib

She says:
I am really keen on two things: travelling and sketching. When i started my first yeat at university, i got an opportunity to combine my interests in one project - sketchbook about Transsib.
Transsib is nearly 9000 km long and it is one of the biggest railways in the world. Starting its way from Moscow, it goes through Udmurtia, Ural, Siberia, lake Baikal and Far East. This journey takes five days by train. For this project i used sources about the Transsib, blogs, books and personal memoirs of my friend and family. Follow the railway to see all the Russian beauty from the window of the train.
She sketches:

All of her sketches: