A MUST-SEE BBC SERIES ABOUT TODAY’S RUSSIA
I still highly recommend also the recent piece on Chechnya: La Tchétchénie Maintenant (Chechnya Now)
Russia is the largest country on earth and home to nearly 150 million people. Vladimir Putin is well into his third term as president and with the West imposing tough sanctions, relations are now the frostiest since the Cold War.
“With almost a 90% approval rating Putin is one of the most popular leader in the world.”
Episode 1 Far Right And Proud
In the first of three programs revealing the extreme side of Russia, Reggie Yates travels to Moscow to get close and personal with some of the country’s far-right nationalists.
Reggie Yates gets up close and personal with three very different communities in contemporary Russia. By living with them for a week, he explores what it’s like for young people living here, 24 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. In the first of three programmes revealing the extreme side of Russia, Reggie travels to Moscow to meet some of the country’s most dangerous people – the nationalists. With Putin flexing his muscles and squaring up to the West, Reggie arrives in the Russian capital only days before a march in which thousands of ultra-nationalists take to the streets in a show of strength and unity. Reggie immerses himself into a world where patriotism and loving your country is becoming the norm, one with very dangerous consequences.
He trains with knife-wielding far-right nationalists, talks to the young artists who idolise Putin, and confronts teenage neo-Nazis who believe that if you’re not white then you have no place in Russia. Reggie also meets the non-Russians who live in fear of persecution and hears horrific stories of those who have survived vicious racist attacks. And with the rise of the far right not just in Russia but across many other Western countries, including the UK, Reggie asks if this is what can happen when you love your country too much.
Episode 2 Gay And Under Attack
Reggie Yates finds out what life is like for young people in what has been described as the hardest place in Europe to be gay, after the introduction of the anti-propaganda law.
Reggie Yates gets up close and personal with three very different communities in contemporary Russia. By living with them for a week, he explores what it’s like for young people living here, 24 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. A year after the introduction of the controversial anti-propaganda law, Reggie finds out what life is really like for young people in what has been described as the hardest place in Europe to be gay. He travels to St Petersburg for Queerfest, a 10-day arts and culture get-together for the LGBT community. Reggie spends time on both sides of the battle lines – with the Queefest team as they face the daily fight to keep their festival open, and the homophobes who want to see it closed.
He also meets Dayra, a young lesbian viciously stabbed and left for dead by homophobes, and activist Kiril who is still fighting back and who shows Reggie how Putin’s repressive laws make it almost impossible to protest without risk of arrest. Ivan and Nusrulla are a young gay couple very much in love, but who are so scared of the consequences of coming out that they have made up a pretend girlfriend – and have a huge decision to make about their future.
On the other side, Reggie meets leaders of Orthodox pressure groups like God’s Will, who would stone gays to death if the law allowed it, and Vitali Milonov, the architect of the anti-gay propaganda law. Reggie ends up in a sauna, being beaten with twigs by a naked man, in a bid to understand what it means to be not just Russian in this post-Soviet era, but what it means to be a Russian man.
Episode 3 Teen Model Factory
Reggie Yates- Extreme Russia – 3… by WatchAllChannels
Reggie Yates visits Siberia to meet the young girls who are going to extreme lengths to attract the international scouts and make it as fashion models in the West.
Reggie Yates gets up close and personal with three very different communities in contemporary Russia. By living with them for a week, he explores what it’s like for young people living here, 24 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. An army of Siberian models is invading the West. Siberia is known around the world for its frigid temperatures, but within the fashion world it is famous for being home to the world’s most beautiful women. Reggie joins international scouts as they board the Trans-Siberian railway and cross Siberia looking for the freshest new faces.
At the open castings – the first one in Krasnoyarsk, 2,800km east of Moscow – Reggie meets girls as young as 13 as they parade in bikinis, hoping that their stunning looks will get them noticed. In Novosibisk, Siberia’s capital, he visits some of the city’s 26 modelling agencies and schools – where children as young as five are learning how to walk, pose, apply make-up, and diet.
He meets Anya, who would love to be an artist, but realistically knows that, here in Siberia, there’s more chance of her making money as a model; Vika, who has been eating buckwheat for breakfast, lunch and dinner in a bid to lose those extra two centimetres for the casting; and Katia, whose parents are distraught when they have to make a decision about whether she goes to work in China – at the age of just 15.
But how likely is it that they will really succeed? What are the pitfalls of the modelling industry? And what is the life they are leaving behind like?
Reggie Yates: “The opportunity to challenge myself in another corner of the world was one I couldn’t turn down”
Reggie Yates writes about his unbelievable experiences meeting the Russian nationalists for his new series, Reggie Yates’ Extreme Russia.
Off the back of my initial series shot in South Africa telling the story of what it is to be young and South African across three episodes, the opportunity to challenge myself yet again in another corner of the world I’d yet to visit was a one I couldn’t turn down.
Coming face to face with some of the unavoidable issues in South Africa such as poverty and the palpable apartheid hang ups made the experience tough at times, but the advantage of sharing a first language and not feeling entirely alien wherever I went made for some brilliant moments of light both on and off camera.
Jumping from being a member of the majority in my African exploits to continuously being the only black face in a room full of Russian nationalists while filming this series made for some incredibly uncomfortable situations, but challenging and eye-opening ones nonetheless.
Reggie meets a group of nationalists who promote a positive image of Putin.
My journey began on a nationalist march along side a few thousand young Russian men and women vocalizing their distaste with the current immigration situation and generally the direction they feel the country is headed.
Between monkey chants and a constant diatribe of derogatory comments from the braver vocal few, the feeling at no point was fear; it was desolation.
To see so many young people en masse displaying ignorance in a time when there really is no excuse to not culturally self educate via the amazing tool that is the internet left me sullen. Being that this was the beginning of my time in Russia, things unfortunately didn’t get much better as I further embedded myself within the ranks of two very different nationalist organizations.
Dmitry Demushkin, leader of the Slavic Union, is a force to be reckoned with. Guiding a growing group of young men and women in both their belief system and (believe it or not) expertise in self-defense – predominantly with knives – has gained him both cult and father figure status among his followers.
Attending the packed weekly knife club put into perspective just how potent the blurring of traditional Russian values and political standpoint have become in the world of Demuskin and his supporters.
The desire to carry a large knife and learn how to use it by all attendees was explained away as being traditional. Strength, protecting one’s family and as a result, learning some form of self-defense are apparently very Russian traits.
Between my first hand experience of the march and the level of combat instruction, this desire to carry and use knives In the context of the ‘Russia for Russians’ Slavic Union mandate can only but increase the chances of conflict with immigrants.
Hearing harrowing tales of violent knife attacks by young nationalists on immigrant victims and gaining a broader picture of the growing trend to join such organizations further confirmed my suspicions that being young and Russian is challenging in more ways than the word cap placed upon this article will allow me to cover.
How young Russian national pride manifests can take several forms and to be clear, what I witnessed wasn’t consistently extreme nor by any means threatening in its entirety. The scary thing I found was the pull and growing influence of the groups that are.