3 Homemade Russian Machines You Can Buy On The Internet

Sometimes I sit around pining for the good old days in Russia. You know, when you had to use your elbows while occupying a queue at 3 a.m. or saran wrap your bag to be granted access to a grocery store.

It’s almost like life is too easy these days in Russia. You can do most of your bureaucratic hoop-jumping online and for those moments when you need to visit the government entity in question, you can normally “take a number”. There is, of course, home restaurant delivery, together with just about any other service you could imagine. I recently saw a service that will even take your trash out for you. All of this is boring… and degrading, to say the least.

To be serious, Russians are more in a hurry these days, less likely to drink tea for hours, and more likely to be busy making money. Sometimes it feels like they took capitalism and put it on steroids. Can’t say as I blame them, but it also feels like something valuable went missing.

Another fantastic part about Russian culture that seems to be particularly absent in Moscow is mechanical ingenuity. I remember the brake system of my brand new UAZ being jerry-rigged in the freezing cold of January along a lonely highway in the Urals with a random piece of wire (obviously, by a Russian, not me) in the late ’90s. But in 21st century Russia, an increasing number of folks are coasting into the American way of not using any mechanical skills but just calling roadside service.

With this deterioration of mechanical ingenuity, I decided to go to Avito, Russia’s online classified portal, to get some much-needed reassurance that Russia was still held together in the hands of Russia’s genius village engineering wunderkind. And here are a few items I found that you too can purchase for the right price:

Homemade Tractor:

If you have enough spare parts, through the miracle of evolution, they could possibly fall together in the correct configuration to produce useful machinery.

Alternatively, you could end up with something like this:

Imagine pulling up to the village disco on this bad boy on a Friday night. You would be Vasya #1 in your neighborhood and all the local Tanyas would be clamoring for a ride.

Why waste your hard-earned money on a store-bought tractor, when you can always have a repair job to occupy any free time in your life?

The lack of apparent usefulness in this particular model is compensated by, um, personality? This wonder of village technology, boasts new tires, according to the ad, and can be yours for one low price of 46,000 rubles. This is an exclusive offer, available only in the village of Orlik, you know, the village of Orlik in the Belgorod region. There is no mention in the ad if the chicken and dog will be part of the deal.

Homemade Freight Truck:

If farming isn’t your cup of vodka, and you’re more into transportation and logistics, but on a budget. You can make your own homemade freight truck. Or not to waste any time building your own, you can buy this beauty.

With a price tag that is suspiciously lower than a homemade tractor, you can soon be transporting the harvests of the Motherland for just 36,000 rubles.

According to the ad, there is need for some work on the brake system, BUT the rear axle is from a Studebaker. And now, as so often happens in this great nation, I’m left with more questions than answers.

Bonus Homemade Freight Truck: Have more metal and random buckets of paint than you know what to. do with? Spend your Saturdays combining the two and this will be the result:

This reminds me of a vehicle I rode around in Tunisia on once. Please note the windshield wipers and flags. I feel like I need to stand and take off my hat.

Homemade Snowmobile:

Perhaps you’re more into the out of doors and relaxation than any kind of work? And winter’s just around the corner!

Or maybe because you’re Russian, you don’t have any wheels laying around, just some skis.

Well, here you go:

This sleek Arctic fox will set you back 41,000 rubles, but the ad boasts a Honda engine and lots of fun for both kids and adults alike.

Alternative popular homemade snowmobile model:

Russia, please never stop building whatever idea just randomly popped into your head. Only you know how to make humor and resourcefulness collide in such a way to inspire both amusement and a little bit of fear from comrades worldwide. Never stop doing that.

Russia Upsets Switzerland At American Football 36-9

Football isn’t their day job, but it is their lives. There is a small but growing and wildly energetic American football movement in Russia.

There was an attempt to start an American football league in the early 90’s, but it fizzled out and the American Football league in Russia was reborn in 2002 and now boasts 11 teams from 6 regions.

The “underdog” Russians coming out of the tunnel in Switzerland

According to the American Football International web-site, the Russians were coming, hoping for an upset.

But if you thought the Russians were coming “just for fun”, allow me to show you their rousing rendition of “Katyusha” as they exit the tunnel before the game. And I must admit, this video, which I originally saw on the social media page of the Vologda Vikings is the real inspiration behind this post. The Russian teams is amped for some American football, and proud to represent their homeland.

The first half was slow, with the Swiss holding the lead at the two-minute warning 3-0. The Russians took the lead with a Russian (sorry, I mean “rushing” touchdown) with 1:48 left in the first half. The score at the end of the 3rd quarter was Russia 16, Switzerland 9, the Swiss lurking just a touchdown away from Russia.

But with under 8 minutes left in the 4th Quarter, Team Russia decided to go into superpower mode, adding another Russian/rushing touchdown to extend the lead. The announcer stated, “As I said just a few minutes ago, I don’t think Team Russia can run the ball down Team Switzerland’s throat, but that’s exactly what they just did.” The score was 22-9 on a botched extra point.

The power of the energetic off-tune Katyushka singing in the tunnel was felt again with a short passing touchdown with 2:35 left in the game. And the final nail in the coffin was administered with yet another TD with 0:42 left on the clock. What Team Russia lacks in understanding about running down the game clock when you have a commanding lead left with only seconds left was compensated by Team Switzerland taking a short run in the resulting series to end the game. Final Score Russia 36, Switzerland 9.

You can watch the full game here, with most of the action taking place in the 4th Quarter. Enjoy!

And to all the Russians who not only are on Team Russia but give so much of their energy to their local teams around Russia, please accept my congratulations. Your energy inspires me, this is a big win for all of us in Russia!

Torzhok: Ancient Crossroads Between Moscow and St. Petersburg

Russia seems to have a never-ending supply of historical cities. And if you’ve lived in Russia for 22 years, like me, you might start getting a little cocky thinking you know all of the historical and even lesser-known cities such as Kostroma, Petrozavodsk, or Vyborg. So, when my Russian friend Zhenya suggested we visit Torzhok with our Russian-language YouTube channel, I wasn’t just surprised, I honestly had no idea what he was talking about, but we quickly agreed to make the trip.

Torzhok is conveniently located halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg. This was doubly convenient in our situation as I am in Moscow and Zhenya hails from St. Petersburg. You can travel to Torzhok by train from Moscow via Tver, for less than 1000 rubles. There is a direct overnight train from St. Petersburg. And, of course, travel by car has become much easier to Torzhok from either city with the new Moscow-St. Petersburg superhighway.

The Tvertsiy River courses through the heart of the ancient city of Torzhok

Torzhok was first mentioned in an ancient chronicle in 1139 as “Novy Torg”, which means “New Trade”. It was a commanding point on a trade route to Novgorod. And although it once held a key position in trade, it now has the feel of a sleepy provincial town that has been left to remember its rich history.

A birds-eye view of the Boris and Gleb Monastery that overlooks Torzhok from a hilltop.

I understand there is a Shell oil refinery on the edge of town that perhaps keeps the local economy alive, but when in the city there is only a very real sense of history.

Of course, Moscow and St. Petersburg are cities that have invested massive resources into renovating their historical architecture, and rightly so. But sometimes, the feeling is that the renovation has been done so well, that the feeling of history is lost. And this is what I loved about Torzhok most: They are renovating, but there is much work to do, and this is a chance to not just see, but feel the history.

Zhenya and I met a church photographer who argues that renovations must be done using ancient tools, rather than modern construction methods. An interesting point.

If you’ve been to both Moscow and St. Petersburg and are looking for a short getaway nearby, or on your trip between the two major cities, Torzhok is definitely worth stopping overnight and for a day. Or you can do what I did, and meet your friend from the other city at what is roughly the halfway point.

Trying out some of the local cuisine at the “Onyx” restaurant, with our guide Sergei

If you’re looking for a guided trip, check out this site. We weren’t able to work out our schedule to make it to any of their events, but they recommended Sergei to be our guide, and he was fantastic.

A local man presumably enjoying the weather and the fact that he is avoiding the hustle and bustle of Moscow

I would be interested to hear what other less-famous and historical gems are worth visiting in Moscow? Please comment with your ideas.

And here is the Russian-language video version of our visit to Torzhok. Enjoy.

American Football 🏈 In Russia

The city of Izhevsk, Russia is probably best known as being the birthplace of the AK-47.  But the hidden surprise for me in my visit to this industrial city located a 16-hour train ride east of Moscow was the local American Football team.

Russians are known both for their love and mastery in sports from hockey and gymnastics, to weight-lifting and cross-country skiing.  But in 20 years of living in Russia, I had no idea that there was a small, but incredibly enthusiastic American football movement around Russia.  These are men who have taken the effort and time to learn the rules of American football, train, acquire the necessary equipment, and even travel around Russia to compete with similarly fanatical teams.

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A muscular Rafis looks more like a linebacker than nose guard to me, but as he happily exclaims “It’s fun to beat up people!”.

We caught up with the team during an evening practice and were able to hear their views on playing a completely obscure sport that they love, and also their views on their favorite NFL teams.

It was fun to ask them their opinion on my beloved, yet historically beleaguered Cleveland Browns, and be pleasantly surprised as they rattled off some of the Browns’ players’ names.

The team’s defensive coordinator gave an interesting viewpoint, saying that for the team members, playing football is a fight, and seemed to suggest that it is metaphorical for the fight that they face every day in their jobs and other life circumstances.

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Even acquiring the necessary equipment is no easy task as it must be sourced from the United States.

My Russian friend Zhenya is also a big American football fan.  He and I run the Russian language “The Amerikanets” YouTube channel.  I even wrote a blog post on why my YouTube channel is in Russian, instead of English.

But the passion of these American football players in Russia challenged Zhenya and me to start another very big project:  an English-language YouTube channel about life in Russia.

With that, here is our English-language video report from our time with the Izhevsk American Football Team:

I love the fact that every Russian city holds so many hidden surprises, and I hope that we can continue to show them to you as we travel around the nation.  Who knows, we might even break some stereotypes as we journey together.

And we will continue to create Russian language videos as well.  Here is our Russian video report of the same team:

I would love to hear your ideas for future videos.  What would you love for me to not just write about, but show?

BONUS: Check out the Izhevsk team in action as they take on the American football team from Perm, Russia.


A Moscow Herbal Steam Barrel and “Normal” Massage

I mean, I guess there are folks who specifically go for a massage because they want it to be “weird” (if you know what I mean).  And this concern can be doubly troubling when one is sojourning in foreign lands.  But it is because of fear of weirdness that I’ve only gone for a massage on personal recommendation.

But when a friend called and told me that she had just gotten a job at a new Moscow massage salon, I knew that it wouldn’t be that kind of weird.  She had done massage for my family in the past.  But it was when she told me about the Herbal Steam Barrel, I knew I was going.


Herbal Steam Barrel Ready For Business

Actually, I was only told that it was something like a Herbal Barrel, and I only found out upon arrival that it was a Steam Barrel.  I had thought about how it would be filled with water… and cleaned between customers.  But no worries on that, much to my relief. 🙂


Wondering what happens next, also glad you can’t see the disposable “pants” they gave me to wear

I love the Russian banya experience, and since this is Russia, I expected the heat to be extreme.  Would I be less of a man to admit that I was happy that it wasn’t overly hot? They told me that the Herbal Steam Barrel was first invented in ancient times, but only came into it’s modern form in Russia during the 1970’s.

They also told me about the mix of herbs in the steam, now removing the toxins from my body.  There was a whole list that I can’t remember, mostly from the Altai region of Russia.


During the procedure, I did work up a sweat.  But Vitaliy was kind to offer me some bottled water.

There is a shower stall right there in the room, so I thought that I would jump in for a rinse before the massage, but they informed me that I was to immediately get on the massage table.  Because that’s how it works.

They turned down the lights and put on some relaxing music.  The lyrics of this particular song did cause me to chuckle a bit.

The massage was well, relaxing, and this affected my eloquence, but this is what I had to say.

I had lots more work to do that day, so I am happy to report that after some “reviving tea”, I felt great and ready to go.

I am thrilled to find a massage salon in my neighborhood in Moscow (it’s located between the Universitet and Profsoyuznaya metro stations) that is clean, professional, has some Russian uniqueness, but is also free of the “weird”.

What Russian spa treatments, other than the Herbal Steam barrel do I need to try?  Let me know in the comments.

Russia’s Authentic Pop-Star Babushkas (VIDEO)

“Party for Everybody, Dance! Come on and dance!”

It was 2012, and a ensemble of babushkas from an unknown Russian village were taking the Europe pop-music scene by storm.

Eurovision is an annual song competition, where each country in Europe can submit one song and then vote for the other countries.  In recent years, it has offered a mix of some quality music, but also some bizarre performances.

But no one saw the babushkas from the village of Buranovo coming.  Their smiles, glowing faces, and mix of English, Russian and native Udmurt language lyrics disarmed the audiences.

In the end, they won 2nd place in the Eurovision contest with their hit “Party For Everybody”

Fast-forward 7 years later.  A couple of weeks ago I was traveling through the Udmurtia Republic with our YouTube channel, and was told that the Buranovo Babushkas were only a 60-kilometer drive away.

To be honest, I thought it might just be a cute or entertaining story, but then I met the Babushkas of Buranovo.

Not only are they incredibly authentic, but their story and continued drive to serve those around them with what they have is a direct challenge to everyone they meet.

As it turns out, their dream was for a church for the village of Buranovo.  And with proceeds from Eurovision and other concerts, they built that church.

The babushkas are all now 80 years old or older, but they are not stopping with the church.  Their new project is building an assisted-living facility for the elderly in the area.

Be sure to watch this video until the end, and allow yourself to be challenged by the Buranovo Babushkas.

“It is only the love of the people that supports us and we continue to live…”

A Guy In Russia Is Carving 1000 Stone Rabbits

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Perhaps it was this ageless wisdom that inspired Sergei Gapanovich, Petrozavodsk, Russia businessman, to remove graffiti on a rock face next to the road… with multiple rabbit sculptures.

The “Rabbit Valley” project has now received attention by media from all over Russia, and when our YouTube channel team was visiting the capital city of Russia’s Republic of Karelia, I knew we needed to visit Sergey and try our hand at the art of stone-rabbit sculpting.

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This humble blogger’s first attempt at Russian stone-rabbit sculpting

Why rabbits?  “When I was six years old, I became lost in the forest,” recounts Sergei, “and as I lay shivering in the cold, some rabbits came and kept me warm throughout the night, and in the morning led me home.”

Never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story, Sergey also doesn’t seem to let his successful business ventures in Petrozavodsk get in the way of his passion of stone-carving.

He is currently working on a giant rock bench on a Karelian island, and plans to take on even more difficult stone-sculpting projects.  At the moment of this publication, Sergey has sculpted 400 rabbits, which means there are only 600 rabbits to go.

Have you ever dreamed of having a certificate of your own personal rabbit sculpture from the Republic of Karelia.  It’s possible, by visiting the Rabbit Valley web-site.  You can choose the type of rabbit that you love the most and will get a certificate of ownership.  Dreams can come true.  And with just a flew clicks of a mouse, you can have your own stone rabbit.

Because “only in Russia” is only possible because of people just like Sergey.

Check out our video of the project and more from the city of Petrozavodsk:


Cherepovets: Russian City of Steel and Hockey

You know Moscow and St. Petersburg, of course.  And you probably have at least heard of cities such as Novosibirsk, Sochi, and Vladivostok.  But what do you know about Cherepovets?

In my traveling with my Russian language YouTube channel, I have particularly enjoyed going to cities where I knew almost nothing about the city.  And the visit to Cherepovets was no exception.

A quick diletant-level history of Cherepovets will quickly take us from ancient times and a pagan tribe that lived on the shores of the Sheksna river to a Soviet “Mono-City” to a modern city working to develop and diversify.  During Soviet times, there were quite a few cities created around one major enterprise, and in the case of Cherepovets, that would be the Severstal steel factory.

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The Severstal steel factory dominates much of the horizon in Cherepovets

The Severstal factory is the largest steel factory in Russia, so it would be hard to miss, particularly since it’s located right next to the city.  I reckon this harkens back to a time when ecology wasn’t the first thing on anyone’s mind anywhere in the world.

I will leave the subject of ecology to others as it is not a topic that I pretend to know much about.  I can only say that when I arrived in Cherepovets, the smell from the factory in the city center was quite strong, but in talking to locals, it seemed to not be a major concern.  Most folks pointed to the fact that the factory has been working hard to filter much of the emissions in recent years.  And it seems that new apartment buildings in the city are being built in areas farther away from the factory.

Cherepovets is located almost the exact same distance from both St. Petersburg and Moscow.  It is working hard to attract investment and also diversify, and has created tax incentives for new business in the city.

But what I learned the most when I was in Cherepovets is that the local people are incredibly proud of their city and also are crazy about ice hockey.  Their team, also called “Severstal”, is in the professional Continental Hockey League.  We were able to go to a match that Severstal played against the visiting team from Chelyabinsk and also talk with a couple of Severstal’s Canadian players.

The atmosphere at the match was incredible.  Imagine a city, anywhere in the world, where their local team, regardless of the sport, is THE main event in town.  The arena held about 5000 fans, and everyone seemed to know each other and really enjoyed supporting their hometown team.

The word on the street is that there is some fear that the Continental Hockey League will exclude Severstal from its ranks in the future.  I think that would be a criminal move.  You take a city like Moscow- there are at least 5 major league hockey teams in the city.  Each of those teams, of course, has die-hard fans.  But none of those teams are as vital to the city life as the Severstal team is to Cherepovets.  For in this steel-town north of Moscow, I found real Russian hockey.

We thought it would be fun to also video me trying to train with some hockey players.  The Severstal press service, ever so diplomatically suggested I start out with their ten year old team.  This is how that training event went:

In Russia, whether it be art, music, or sport, the children often have to choose one discipline to focus on and become excellent at.  The guys in the Severstal boys team were a lot of fun, and also not only happy to share their opinion on my budding hockey skills, but also give me some quick pointers on working as a goalie.  I found it interesting that they pay nothing to be a part of the team; from what I understood costs are covered also by the steel factory.

We enjoyed walking the streets and talking with the locals.  We had done a video last year in the city of Vologda, and were later inundated with comments that Cherepovets is better than Vologda.  We decided to ask folks why they think that Cherepovets is better than Vologda, and I was sort of surprised to find that Cherepovets has some of the most positive citizens from any city I’ve ever visited in Russia.

Of course, coming in from the outside, this city rivalry was mostly amusing.  I think Vologda is a fantastic city with tremendous tourism potential, and Cherepovets is an industrial city with investment opportunity.  But in both cases, I really enjoyed getting to know a couple cities that are a bit off the beaten path in Russia.

Now, I’m thinking where to travel next.  Any ideas?

Just Some Zhigulis Winter Drifting In Russia

I always knew that driving a Zhiguli during the winter was a sport.  But I didn’t know that the Russians had taken it to this level.

Wikipedia statesDrifting is a driving technique where the driver intentionally oversteers, with loss of traction in the rear wheels or all tires, while maintaining control and driving the car through the entirety of a corner.”

And winter drifting in Russia is mainly a sport for Zhigulis.  While visiting a drifting event in St. Petersburg, I found out why.

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They (fortunately) didn’t allow me behind the wheel, but the view from the passenger seat is fantastic.

The track was a figure eight.  And I learned that drifting has everything to do with technique, not speed.  And for winter drifting in Russia, the track is prepared to be icy and the Zhigulis sport studded tires.

My Zhiguli driver Aleksey is a professional driver, and while during the summer he drifts with a much more modern car, his team still puts together a Zhiguli for participating in the winter drifting events.

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A shot from inside Aleksey’s car while summer drifting.

My first impression was something like “you mean we all get together in a field on a freezing winter day to see who can spin out the best?”  But as I observed, it seemed that although the drifting itself was the highlight, the hidden treasure here is in the process.

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Not everyone made the turn on the first try.

The drivers love to fix and prepare their cars, paint them in vibrant colors, and cover them with stickers.  And as I also learned, they love to blog, particularly on Instagram.

It seemed to be a point of pride among several of the drivers how they build the cars from various car parts, and the number I heard more than once was that they had kept the total cost under 45,000₽ (roughly $670 USD).  There is a joy in the process leading up to the events.

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Anton showed me his rear-wheel drive VW Golf, with (you guessed it) a Zhiguli engine.

Anton showed me his rear-wheel drive VW Golf with a Zhiguli engine and car parts from a list of cars of the world.  The only items on the instrument panel in the car were the oil pressure light and temperature gauge.

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Dmitry took me for a ride in his BMW (with a Toyota engine)

As far as I saw, there was only one non-Russian engine at the event.  This was Dmitry’s car:  a BMW with a Toyota engine.  Dmitry told me that he is “trying to break the stereotype that you can only drift during the winter in a Zhiguli.”

The ride on the BMW felt smoother than in the Zhiguli, but as I learned, the Zhiguli in winter drifting has the advantage because it is lighter than most foreign cars.

Whether it be traveling to Kamchatka, visiting a harvest combine factory, or winter drifting, I’m loving not only observing, but joining the Russian people.  Because we might be having more fun over here than you are over there.

Here is the video (with English subtitles) that I made of the winter drifting event:

Tony Robbins’ Epic Moscow Fail

The news cycle will quickly forget the fiasco of Tony Robbins in Moscow, but it is important to take what lessons we can from such fails to improve cross-cultural understanding.  And for those who plan to do business in Russia, this sad event is a treasure trove of how NOT to do business in the Motherland.

If you don’t know who Tony Robbins is, that’s perfectly ok.  But a quick snapshot is that he is billed as being the #1 Life Coach in the World and the most expensive business consultant in the world.

If you check out his upcoming events, you will see statements such as this:

“4 days with Tony in London will help you to break through your fears and limitations, to reconnect with your inner power, to awaken your hidden energy in your body, and to set global fearless goals for decades!”

Tony Robbins has coached the likes of Bill Clinton and Oprah.  I have watched a few of his performances and listened to some podcast interviews.


Tony Robbins

And to be clear, I do think that there is some usefulness to motivational speakers, but I don’t know of any motivational speakers that I will pay $440 (the minimum price for one day at Olimpiisky Stadium in Moscow with Tony) to listen to for a day.

With that, I never had a second thought, I had no plans to go watch Tony.

It seems that I made the right choice as, judging by the internet, the event was a disaster.  Here are my thoughts on what went wrong, why, and what could have been done differently.  Some of these points will be as obvious as some of Tony’s “Disappointment destroys you!”, for that I apologize in advance, but I think when opening a business in Russia, we often overlook the most obvious.

Choose Your Russian Business Partners Wisely

Regardless of your opinion on Tony Robbins, he is a professional, and he runs high-end professional events around the world.  Unfortunately, those he partnered with in Russia proved incapable of running a large-scale event, let alone an event with tickets that ran up to $7300 per person.

This is really too bad, because Russia is more than capable of managing large-scale events.  The World Cup as an obvious example, went off recently without a hitch, and the two matches that I attended (including the final) were absolutely flawless.

Russians Don’t Like Standing In Line

Perhaps your view of Russia is one long bread line.  If so, that stereotype is more than antiquated.  There are still lines in Russia but even after all these years it’s not like anyone has become used to them, particularly at an upscale event.

In the case of Tony Robbins in Moscow, folks were left standing in line for more than an hour, waiting for translation headsets.  And according to Russia Beyond, many of those headsets didn’t even have batteries, so they were left scrambling to local stores to buy some before the event started.

And most attendees, like Twitter user Dmitry Glazunov, took to social media to complain about the chaos.

Punctuality Matters In Russia

In the book that I recently wrote in Russian for Russians on “how to do business with foreigners”, I discuss in length the need for punctuality.  This is because punctuality is not Russia’s most distinguishing trait.

At the same time, if you have come to Russia on business, you had better be on time.  This is particularly if you are focused on the type of clients who will pay thousands of dollars to listen to you for a couple of hours.

Tony’s Moscow show started 3 hours late (!).  That would have been absolutely okay if there had been fighter jets flying around inside the covered stadium with champagne flowing from the rafters.  But there weren’t, and I think, most importantly, this made the crowd feel played.

Russians Love Authority

So, why did Russians pack out the stadium in what was Tony’s largest one-day crowd, paying more than folks in the West pay for a similar event with Mr. Robbins?

One Facebook friend “Dmitry” wrote after the event that he had gone to “learn more about business seminar styles, since he was running business seminars himself, and that he had wanted to show his girlfriend a great day out, full of emotion”.  And he felt that in these regards he had been successful.

The point that Russians love authority is something that I have written about concerning negotiations in Russia.  But if you are #1 in the world, at practically anything, you will draw a crowd in Russia.  The marketing campaign for Tony Robbins in Russia was very smartly focused on the points that he is #1.  Russians love authority.

And some of my Russian friends seemed to enjoy casually mention that they were going to see Tony Robbins even months before the event.  This also was a display of authority.  Or at least disposable income.

If you are planning to market a product or service in Russia, remember that authority matters, but also as we learn in this almost fable-like experience with Tony Robbins, so does execution.

Russians Value Substance Over Feelings

Ok, this is a theory.  But since I am running business seminars myself, I began to watch more closely what Russian business trainers do.  I was surprised and impressed at the volume of information they would produce in a very short amount of time during their training sessions.

Compare this to what I have seen with Western business trainers, and the motivational/informational ratio in the West seems to shift away from the informational side.


This Russian Tony Robbins meme says “Close your eyes.  See how everything immediately became dark?”

I don’t have a strong opinion on this one way or another, since both sides have value.  I question the ability of the audience to absorb all of the facts of a Russian business trainer, and I also question the value of a motivational performance.  In my case, if I don’t want to work, I just need to remember that I have a family.

I saw an evening TV talk show where one of the guests said that the only difference between Billy Graham coming to Moscow in the early ’90’s and Tony Robbins in 2018 was the cost of admission.  I do not share this sentiment, but I understand the point, and it might be worth considering by Western church organizations who wish to reach out to Russia.

In the case of Tony Robbins, I suspect that the Russian attendees expected more hard material for their money, particularly since the hype didn’t measure to the level of the entry fee.  This point is proven by Russian Esquire reporting that one attendee has now taken the event organizers to court claiming that Tony Robbins simply repeated phrases and made everyone clap for four hours.

Instagram user @art.coaching asks is Tony Robbins a genius or a scam artist and then proceeds to give a much more balanced view of the Tony Robbins event than most of the Russian internet.  She says she didn’t have to pay full price, wait in lines in the heat, and says she didn’t receive new information, but was reminded of important points that are easy to forget.

Fool Me Once Shame On You, Fool Me Twice Shame On Me

I heard that Tony Robbins is planning to visit Moscow again.  I think it will be very difficult for him.  In any case, the prices will be much lower, and the crowds much smaller.

The main reason for this, in my humble opinion, is that going to watch Tony Robbins a week ago in Russia was a sign of success, and today it is a sign of mind-feebleness.

As a matter of fact, the word I saw most used for the event in Russian cyberspace was лохотрон, which when translated into English means something like “automated idiot machine”.

Anyone who goes to a Tony Robbins event again in Russia will do so in disguise and in the dark of night.  Because in Russia, what others think about you matters.

I think it is a sign of envy to those who have more money, but immediately following the fiasco, the Russia internet was jam-packed with taunting of those who had gone to watch Tony Robbins.  If everything had started on time, if the event had been run in a way to match the price tag, then following events would be a slam dunk for the organizers.  Now, I believe, it would be a tremendous waste of resources.

Moscow Might Have Higher Standards Than You

Perhaps if Mr. Robbins had run this event in another city in the world, it would have gone great.  The folks would have reacted “with understanding” to the lines and the tardiness.  They would have gone home and told all their friends about their life-changing experience instead of their tails between their legs, like what happened in Moscow.

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The mega-city of Moscow is incredibly difficult to impress.  It even seemed to take it a couple weeks to even be won over by the World Cup this summer.

So, if you come to Moscow for business, you had better come with your A-Game.  Moscow is much more than the stereotypes you have perhaps unwittingly accrued over the years.

In Conclusion

I don’t fault Tony Robbins for any of this, and I think it will only be a blip on the screen of his worldwide brand in business. I would expect he is disappointed with this even if “Disappointment destroys you!”, and perhaps has also reached the conclusion that he should have partnered with different folks for the event management.

Perhaps Mr. Robbins will even be able to use this experience to improve his work around the world.

And I don’t fault my friends who went to watch Tony Robbins.  That’s their personal decision, and I wouldn’t want to be judged for the different ways that I choose to spend my money.

For my Russian friends who have enjoyed making fun of those who participated, get a life.  Small people discuss people.

But I do hope that for those foreigners who want to do business in Russia, that we can learn from the mistakes of others.  And avoid becoming part of a лохотрон or even worse becoming the automated idiot machine ourselves.  Because if you become the лохотрон your business in Russia is done.