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Did Russia pioneer YouTube?

A Russian did invent television, after all

The short answer is ‘no’, but the longer answer is that the Soviet Union pioneered a YouTube attitude which favoured realism in content and efficiency in low-cost production methods that is far more akin to a home-made YouTube video of the 21st century than an overly polished, overly rehearsed, contrived Hollywood production.

Furthermore, a Russian man called Vladimir K. Zworykin did invent television, the medium that inspired YouTube.

Although Soviet films were epic events, many productions, especially those using live elements which aired on Soviet television were very much ‘real’. One could tell for example, that the filmed audience was comprised of real people and just like any audience, some loved it, some were indifferent, some were shy and some were just grumpy.

Take for example this legendary production from 1982. A television-film of traditional folk and military music from the Soviet Union featuring outstanding musicians playing and singing well known pieces.

Few YouTubers have advanced Soviet missiles, helicopters or tanks and the production required many people, but nevertheless there was something very real about the performance.

Real musicians, real singers and a real audience interacting with each other in various locations. The expressions were candid and interactions were genuine.

Take a look at this Soviet news broadcast from the same year. Compared to highly rehearsed western newscasters, the man and woman in this video appear far more normal.

Indeed, the DIY attitude of the Soviet Union where every man could fix a Lada car with hardly any sophisticated tools, permeated the entire culture. Yes, the USSR was a one-party state, but within that state, humanity came before perfection.Realism came before expansive fantasy.

Today’s on-line YouTube culture is filled with self-made videos of ordinary people playing guitar and singing,cats falling into piano’s, men and women ranting about the news in front of a basic background and even home made dramas without the glitz of Hollywood but often with better story telling….did I mention the cats yet?

Young people conditioned on YouTube would look at Soviet television and say ‘it looks pretty standard to me’, whilst a child of the 1990s in America might look at the programming and say ‘where is the dramatic music, the perfectly tailored suits, plastic surgery and elaborate lighting’?

In this sense, the DIY attitude of the Soviet Union, something which many modern Russians still value, is not only more relevant than ever, but it is more international than ever.

DIY is back in fashion. In many parts of Russia, it always has been.

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