Yury Dud, a former sports journalist, has an impressive 4.7 million subscribers and nearly 500 million views on his channel, making him RuTube royalty, alongside the likes of veteran journalist and vlogger Leonid Parfenov. His videos always follow the same format: interviews with Russian celebrities of various degrees, from fellow YouTube stars and journalists to the country’s biggest rockstars, viral rappers, businessmen, and politicians. The interviews are long — all run for about an hour — and go deep and personal, or at least as close as it’s possible for him to get. Interviewees are often initially guarded, as Dud bombards them with questions that border on the tabloid-esque, probing into personal lives, drugs habits, political views, and money. Some of the videos go truly viral and talk of them spreads offline — TV commentators have said that the format, calibre of guests, and reach of the show are at the level of prime-time TV, rather than YouTube. In a restricted media landscape, YouTube offers more freedom to Dud than Russian TV channels, and it seems his success will only keep growing.
If Yury Dud is RuTube’s main interviewer, Nika Vodwood, or NixelPixel, is its main feminist blogger, with over 400,000 subscribers and more than 45 million views on her videos. Her screen name has even become a mild insult used by people online to quickly dismiss someone as a feminist not worth arguing with. NixelPixel extensively uses anglicisms, plays the ukulele, and makes comic books and zines in her vids. Her explanations of various aspects and concepts of intersectional feminism are simple, accessible, and systematic, with videos like ‘Why I Don’t Argue Online’, ‘Internalised Sexism’, and ‘Abusive Relationships’. In one of the clips she explains that she makes the videos she wished she could have seen when she was growing up. Apart from explainer videos, she does frequent Q&As, where she answers her followers’ questions on feminism and gives advice on living as a feminist in Russia; she also vlogs about her everyday life and travel, and updates her followers on the tremulous relationship between her two cats.
BadComedian is RuTube’s star film critic, with emphasis on the word critic. All the reviews he publishes are harshly critical and demolish the films in question. The concept of his videos is simple — he reviews films, Russian and foreign, while joking about and criticising them, generously inserting clips from the films in question to illustrate his points. It turns out that the format of relentless and unkind humour directed at Hollywood and mainstream Russian films strikes a chord with hhis audience, who can’t get enough of his mockery, as can be seen from his channel’s stats. He has over 3 million subscribers and over 600 million views on his videos. The person behind the account, Evgeny Bazhenov, appears in the clips as the host, and obviously takes delight in taking down both Russian and international film industry heavyweights — he has even been sued by some Russian directors, for copyright violations and “non-constructive criticism” (yes, really). Famously, some of his reviews have been longer than the films he was reviewing; the most viral example was a review of the Russian sports drama Going Vertical, which was over two hours long and was so influential it helped knock the film out of the Russian film charts.
There wouldn’t be much to distinguish this RuTuber from any other, were it not for his criminal record: Ruslan Sokolovsky is the blogger convicted for playing Pokémon Go in a church in Yekaterinburg, given a 3.5-year suspended prison sentence, and put on a terrorist watch list in 2017. The ordeal put the blogger on the map of Russia’s most well-known YouTubers, and now his channel has over 600,000 subscribers and over 82 million views. In his clips, Sokolovsky shares his experiences ranging court procedures, jail, and dealing with police and investigators, as well as producing broader videos discussing political and social issues in Russia — from the recent Reebok oral sex joke ad furore and gig cancellations to beef between YouTubers and political news.
Elena Pavlovna Kolotilova, known by her YouTube nickname Mama Otlichnika (Russian for “Mother of an Excellent Student”) is 54 years old and has over 200,000 subscribers and nearly 38 million views on her videos. In them, she talks about her everyday life and shares mayonnaise-heavy post-Soviet recipes and style tips. Her initial viral fame came after Kolotilova uploaded a travel vlog detailing how she found out that her husband was cheating on her, which displayed her extreme, unedited honesty and positive attitude. The fact that she reminds younger generations of their mums and grandmas, and older generations of themselves or people close to them, seem to be a winning combination. The trend also extends outside of her channel, with an older generation becoming more prominent on Russian-speaking YouTube in recent years. Some popular blogs include the Diary of Grandma Vera, which mostly focuses on reactions to popular music videos; Sarancha, a channel where an adventurous middle-aged couple tries exotic new foods; the foulmouthed vlogging grandma Baba Raya; lifehacking Ukrainian grandma Olga Papsuyeva; and video game-playing Baba Anya.
Viral street fashion show Louis Vagon takes street style to a new level, as host Chuma Vecherinka (real name Viktoria Chumanova) chats to people on Moscow streets and at events about the clothes they are wearing, focusing on the overall cost of the outfit. What could be a rather dull format focused on people showing off their wealth is taken to a new level thanks to the host’s playful attitude. But what truly makes it a viral blog with a cult following are the characters Chuma interviews — people wearing second-hand and hand-me-down outfits, babushkas in Russian kokoshnik headdresses, rich kids joking (or perhaps not) that they won’t settle for anything cheaper than Gucci socks, and mysterious, beautiful women walking on Moscow’s most expensive avenues pretending they are oblivious that the sneakers they are wearing cost over £600. Somehow, it manages to be honest in discussing the overwhelming wealth and style (or lack of it) concentrated in Moscow, all while being fashion-forward and entertaining. The channel, which now has over 320,000 subscribers and 26 million views, also features videos demonstrating how to tell a designer item from a fake, and makeup videos in collaboration with Russia’s main male makeup star Gevorg Petrosyan.
Youtube channel Seventeenine is run by a lesbian couple from Moscow: Marina and Nastya. In their videos they talk about everyday life, travel, homophobia, and answer their subscriber’s questions about coming out to the parents, dating, meeting new people, and navigating life as a gay person in a hostile, homophobic environment. They also debunk myths about lesbianism, explaining that there is no “man” in their relationship among other popular misconceptions. There is also the kind of rare content that is hard to find elsewhere in Russian media or on other YouTube channels, like an interview with a Moscow-based lesbian couple who frankly talk about getting IVF and raising a child in Russia as lesbian parents, both in practical terms and in relation to mental health. The channel now has over 148,000 subscribers and 7.5 million views.
Andrey Petrov is a 22-year-old vlogger and makeup artist from Moscow. His channel consists of makeup tutorials, reviews of new products, and comparison of items from luxe and affordable makeup brands, plus vlogs about everyday life. Petrov also does muk-bangs, a genre of video blogging where the host eats food while chatting to the audience, and holds honest and thoughtful discussions about his life, cosmetic surgery, relationships with boyfriends and parents, and being a young man who wears makeup in Russia. There are also more serious videos, such as the one where he talks about the importance of doing HIV tests regularly, and recounts his experience of taking a test himself. As he explains over a series of videos, Petrov comes from a small town and grew up in a conservative family, and has had an interest in video-blogging since he was in high school, although he has only started his YouTube page once he’s moved to Moscow aged 18. His videos now have over 76 million views, and, judging by the number of ads — which appear almost every minute in most of his videos — he makes a good profit off of them.