A homeless man finds online fame in Russia after launching a video blog that shows his daily struggles on the streets of Moscow.
MOSCOW, RUSSIA (RECENT) (YOUTUBE CHANNEL OF ZHENYA YAKUT) – A homeless man creating an online journal of his daily struggles on the street of Moscow has become an internet sensation in Russia.
Zhenya Yakut, who started his video blog in late May, has already gone viral with over 38,300 subscribers to his YouTube channel and receiving over 1.1 million views.
The self-proclaimed “bum-blogger” says he wants to show viewers a side of Moscow life that they have not seen before. The series of videos uploaded to his online page vary from showing viewers how to travel for free in the Russian capital, find places where they can wash with hot water and ways of making money by selling on items others have discarded in waste bins.
Yakut says he moved to the Russian capital in the hope of finding a better life, but he soon found himself at loose ends in a difficult city with a high cost of living. Yakut was forced to live on the streets and he says over time has learnt to find ways of making his daily life easier.
The homeless man now hopes his new found online fame could offer him a way off the streets. He uploads at least one video per week to his channel and spends time responding back to online users who pose questions and request details about his life.
Yakut says some people now recognise him on the streets, but that he has not changed.
“People have started recognising me more, asking to take a photo with me. Otherwise, everything is as it used to be, the same, the street is my home,” Yakut told Reuters TV recently, as he filmed a clip for his latest video.
Asked how his friends on the street were responding to his online popularity, Yakut said some didn’t understand his goals.
“Some watch with envy, they say ‘you will be famous, and so forth.’ Others (say) ‘what will I get out of this?’ when I ask them to appear on the TV show. ‘What will I get out of this’ – they ask these question. Why necessarily get something? At least you show yourself to the country, so that they see and realise you exist.”
Yakut is not alone in bringing the project together – 24-year old Muscovite, Andrey, who goes by the online name ‘Voodoo’ was walking along a street in the capital one day when Yakut approached him for money.
Andrey says that he refused to give Yakut money and instead offered to feed him. Over a meal at a cafe the young man took an interest in Yakut’s life story and offered to help start a project where more people would get access to him.
“I met Zhenya on the street by chance, he asked for money. We went to a cafe, I didn’t give him money, I instead fed him a little. We talked and I asked Zhenya if he knows what is YouTube, it turned out that he knows of it and that he uses different social networks. We talked, I suggested it (the idea of a video blog), Zhenya said that he had also thought of something like that in his own time. We found this common interest and started doing it and slowly started filming videos,” said Andrey, who acts as Yakut’s cameraman and helps run the YouTube channel.
Using a smartphone to record short clips, the pair walk around Moscow as Yakut discusses his life and gives viewers a window into his daily experiences.
Yakut hopes to attract online advertisers through his videos, but his online profile also gives details of how fans can make financial contributions.
Yakut tells Reuters his greatest aim is not to be famous, but rather to secure a quiet life away from the busy Moscow streets.
“I have a purpose, as I have said many times before, it is to improve my health, to fix my teeth, and (get) a small house, to have some livestock, (by) a river, hunting, fishing – meaning to live a little for myself. And quiet – It is hard to live in Moscow, there are a too many people and too much bustling. I want quiet and calmness.”