The American has arranged to meet me at a kitschy bar, featuring walls lined with wooden spoons and Soviet-era posters. Tim Kirby, who has been living in Russia for seven years, considers himself a Russian patriot, speaks Russian fluently – albeit with a thick accent – and regularly posts short, lively videos about Russia’s tourist attractions on YouTube and on his LiveJournal blog.
At the beginning of the first video of his “Tsar Podcast” series, Tim asks a drunk man on the street: “Excuse me, where is Red Square?”
“F*** you, there is no Red Square!” the man replies.
And yet, Tim went on to make videos about various things in Russia unknwon to the West like the Arbat, VDNKh, the Space Museum, Suzdal, Kirov, and more. There are a dozen or so in total. Tim acts as a guide, while radio DJ and blogger Pavel Kartaev directs the videos. “Tim is going to show you his Russia… Historic… Tasty… Beautiful…” says the text at the start of every episode over images of St. Basil’s Cathedral, a painted bowl of Russian dumplings, and a sexy girl wearing a fur hat flash on a crimson screen.
“I originally made my podcasts for Westerners, so that they could see that people in Russia aren’t evil and don’t want to kill them,” said Tim. “Then I started receiving comments from Russians. And many of them were shocking, many people were angry that I was showing Russia in a positive light! It is hard for me to imagine a Russian guy making videos in the USA about how great America is being told ‘you are a naive idiot, our country is shit, go back home’.”
“One guy even wrote me: ‘Our Russian playgrounds suck, in Russia we can’t do anything right!’ looking at a photo of a playground in the USA that my wife took. However he failed to notice that there were absolutely no children to be found. In
America right now we are living in a time of fear, my native Cleveland is far more dangerous than Russia.”
Tim has another project done exclusively in Russian. Basically, it’s one of the venues for his crusade entitled: “War of Words.” Tim explained part of the reason for doing the Russian language podcast: “There are tons of websites made by Russians themselves about why Russia is an awful place and that any sane person should/would leave. This is madness and their ‘logic’ for justifying this position is questionable at best” he says. “I’ve also found a LiveJournal community called ‘It’s Time to Get Out of Here.’ I cannot imagine a website in America, made by Americans, about how to leave America for good… I’ve created a counter-community on LJ. If you want to discuss how to become leaders rather than how to flee Russia, let’s get together in my community and talk about how to make Russia a better place!”
“Who is producing these websites calling for people to leave Russia for other countries? What’s their goal?” Tim asked me.
“Perhaps it’s people who are unhappy with the Russian authorities and the model of government they’ve created,” I suggested. “What do you think, Tim, about our authorities? About our managed democracy?”
“Well, there’s no such thing as democracy anywhere,” he replied. Democracy is about as real as goblins and pink unicorns. The main problem with Russia’s authorities is that they aren’t ideologues and they can’t create a dream. They have no passion, and that’s what’s killing this country. That said, I can attest that Putin and Medvedev are better than any of the presidents America has had in my lifetime.