Sasha Raspopina for The Calvert Journal
The Internet has changed celebrity culture. Regular people can now become rich and famous with the help of a webcam, a YouTube channel and some charisma. Some aspiring digital stars make tutorials on makeup and DIY, showing off their skills in making headphones from 40-caliber bullets or using cosmetics to transform into a blue and completely convincing alien from "Avatar." Some review films, television and computer games; others go further, responding to funny Internet videos by making their own, often made up of existing funny videos. YouTube is full of such meta-jokes. A large part of its community, however, use YouTube as a personal diary, sharing their daily thoughts with the World Wide Web, like blogs and social media, but updated to video format.
Kate Clapp (real name Katya Trofimova) is a classic entertainment YouTuber from Moscow. Her short, funny videos range from her talking about Justin Bieber and the "Twilight Saga," to rapping and giving advice to schoolkids about the importance of staying true to yourself. Even though she's 21, she follows Tumblr trends typical of a teenager: she says she's sociophobic, addicted to the Internet and obsessed with cats and dogs. She's also a part of the current online phenomenon, which features young women and teenage girls sharing their obsession with snack foods, with Clapp regularly singing her praises to pies and her grandmother's dill pickles.
Kate Clapp has got two million subscribers with her funny mix of videos.
St. Petersburg-based Usachev has vlogged since 2010, specializing in gadgets, gaming and films. Usachev also happens to be one of the most politically oppositional vloggers in Russia, frequently expressing his own opinion, commenting on various news stories, and not avoiding political affairs. In addition, he has created and hosted a four-part documentary-style film, "Insulting Religious Feelings," named after a recently approved criminal offense clause of the same name. The documentary, which addresses the issues of the relationship between the state and church in Russia, was crowdfunded through Boomstarter and is already available on YouTube.
Dubbed the Makeup Artist of Moscow and All Russia, a title that mimics the grandeur of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Krygina, from St. Petersburg, may have fewer subscribers than the rest of the vloggers on this list, but her fame is undoubted. As stereotypes of Russian women go, Krygina is a perfect illustration: charming, beautiful, thin, blonde and a pro at makeup, which forms a large part of her content. She is also trying to solve a long-running Internet mystery, with her video about why Russians finish their sentences with closed parentheses online. She is sarcastic and funny, and her makeup tutorials are clear and to the point, with none of the "you know nothing and you've been doing it wrong" shaming that sometimes comes from beauty professionals.
Advocat Egorov (real name Maxim Egorov) is a lawyer and pretty much the only adult with a serious, full-time job in the Russian YouTube scene. He makes post-apocalyptic survivalist videos about DIY, building, fishing and gardening. Most of them are shot amid nature, with the author explaining how to catch lamprey with your bare hands, make cords and ribbons from plastic bottles and knives and axes from everyday objects. Unlike other YouTubers, Egorov's videos feature no jokes or funny cutaways. He usually stays out of shot as he explains why a Karelian axe is his favorite homemade tool. And if anyone has any doubts about his abilities in the case of a zombie apocalypse, he explains how to make an impressive camouflage bow from PVC tubes, an axe sharpener and a camp heater that can be used inside a tent.
Taras Kulakov is one of the few Russian YouTubers to make videos in English. In fact, many of his viewers aren't even sure if he is in fact Russian. RT has suggested that he's faking his (very strong) eastern European accent to give his channel an exotic aura.
Kulakov's videos range from life hacks with typical viral names like "You've Been Eating Shrimp Wrong" and "10 New Life Hacks That Will Change Your Life" to curious science experiments like "How to Cut Wood With Water" and "Self-Freezing Coca-Cola." He also has a series of Zombie Apocalypse Survival Tips on making a stove from a tin can and striking matches on any surface. Some say that Kulikov's tools/advice for getting views is too obvious: He has lots of videos about cooking bacon, the Internet's favourite food bar pizza and pranking your friends using air horns and expanding styrofoam cups.
Roma Acorn (real name Ignat Kerimov) is an 18-year-old YouTuber-turned-pop singer from Moscow. He might also be Russia's most hated vlogger, with a reputation as a local Justin Bieber, ever since other YouTubers and fans made fun of him for trying to be like the singer whose career also started on YouTube. In fact, Acorn even participated in Bieber's Russian tour as one of the support acts, taking a share of the star's teenage fandom, the "Beliebers," and coming up with a name for his own fans — the "squirrels." Acorn's own debut album was released in June 2014 and went straight to the top of Russian iTunes in the pop category. While his YouTube channel mostly consists of vlogs, there also are more controversial videos, for example ones where he makes fun of fat people and simultaneously shares a milkshake recipe. Another of his videos, which features clips of children and teenagers licking Chupa Chups lollipops taken from the brand's online campaign, was criticized for its lewd commentary.
Maxim Golopolosov is one of the first Russian Internet celebrities. From the very beginning in 2010 his videos have been compilations of funny and viral Internet videos with his humorous and explicit comments. Golopolosov is often criticized and blamed for being unoriginal and copying American vlogger Ray William Johnson, who has had a YouTube channel of a similar format since 2008.
Following the Internet fame, Golopolosov has recently started appearing on television and collaborating with celebrities, including the infamous Ivan Okhlobistin (an actor and television presenter known for his nationalist and homophobic views) and Nikita Dzhigurda, a flamboyant actor and media personality.
Max +100500's main competitor is This Is Khorosho (This is Good), a Latvian channel in Russian, run by the host Stas Davidov and his partners Vitaly Golovanov and Sergei Fedorenko. Similar in style to +100500, their videos usually consist of an overview of the latest viral videos with Davidov hosting and commenting. Curiously, and unlike +100500, This Is Khorosho is one of the very few Russian-speaking channels that doesn't have any swearing. The channel has several RuNet awards and was featured on major Russian television channels, including Ivan Okhlobistin's show.
This article first appeared in the online magazine The Calvert Journal, a guide to the new east.