First in an occasional series of Vkontakte adventures…
Ukrainians will behave on Facebook much as they will behave in a westernized bar. They’ll speak English, be on their best behaviour. Go to Russian social networking site Vkontakte and suddenly you’ve walked into a Ukrainian bar, there may well be a pile of dead, dried fish on the bar and the chairs possibly garden furniture. Everything is cheaper, wilder, freer and more fun. Ukrainians will speak to you in Russian or, perhaps Ukrainian (if they are trying to impress upon you that ‘in Ukraine you should speak Ukrainian’), and they will act in an unrestrained, uninhibited manner. There are around 200 million accounts registered, with around 43 million daily users, placing Vkontakte comfortably within the top 5 sites in most FSU countries.
One time, upon browsing the photos of a girl I knew, who was by no means of the highest or lowest of characters, I came across another bald chap in her friends. Only it wasn’t a bald chap, it was simply a great big penis. The wielder of such proudly displaying several similar on his profile, many of which had multiple ‘likes’ from young ladies. He is by no means alone, a simple search throwing up plenty more profiles of men letting their member represent them to the world.
Vkontakte offers a search facility completely unlike that of Facebook – you can scan for girls, or guys, based on country, town and then further specifications such as age, whether they are online at that moment, ‘single’ or even ‘on the active hunt’. A simple parameter set for girls in Kiev brings up over a million profiles, and in itself, some revealing discoveries. Of the 1.1 million thrown up by ‘Kiev’ and ‘Girls’, the one at the very top of the list has around 450,000 ‘subscribers’ for no particular reason I can discern other than her towering list position. By no means an unattractive girl, nor is she of spectacular note. If one were being uncharitable, homely could even be bandied about. However, due to her being at top of the pile, she has accumulated close to half a million men who have requested to be her friend, pending approval (thus, subscribers), with the lady in question already sitting on nigh on 100,000 friends. Each photo of her has thousands, often multiple thousands of likes. To put it into context, one of Russia’s and Ukraine’s most popular pop stars, Irina Zabiyaka, has a subscriber number some way shy of 1,500. On VK, as it’s known, this girl’s a star. On the streets, an ordinary Ukrainian girl.
VK all day
Some of these lofty-listed young ladies are clearly revelling in the attention, with profiles simply stating ‘Add me to your Friends’, and a number even providing contact details, including phone number, on their homepage. These girls are seemingly ‘online’ most of the time, with the barrage of Vkontakte communication they must be receiving presumably taking much of each day to deal with. Many of them you cannot message directly, without first going through the ‘add friend’ process (something which, with waiting lists sometimes in hundreds of thousands, may take a considerable waiting period). Wishing to probe further, I sent some questions to a few girls fairly high up, although not quite at the giddy realms of the summit. The exigency of writing this to a deadline meant I simply couldn’t dally until those VK Queens worked their way past the hordes of hunks and erections down to a bald Englishman.
A little lower down, though still VK-vertiginous, Svetlana Vishnevskaya was fairly succinct and told me she does get a lot of messages from men, she is indifferent to that, they are almost all from Turkey, they write nonsense to her and they do so in Russian. Tanya Rekun went into a little bit more detail, telling me she averages around 30 messages a day from men she doesn’t know, but that she is on the site only to communicate with friends and relatives, not to meet guys. She divulges that most of her messages come from Turkey, generally ask how she is, and give her a few compliments, in Russian and English. Anuta Pryahina told me she also receives a lot of mail from men, which she sometimes answers, though in a brief manner as she already has a boyfriend. She reports many of her admirers as being from Ukraine, sometimes Russia and once again, Turkey, that they write fairly standard phrases saying she’s beautiful and how they’d like to get to know her more, and that they do so in Russian.
The VK Verdict
Using Vkontakte to look for Ukrainian girls certainly punctures a number of preconceptions. Any response rate is likely to be low, giving lie to the idea that these girls are simply sitting around waiting for a foreign man to message them. Similarly, the notion that beautiful Ukrainian girls are walking about unappreciated or undervalued. Any girl can find a photo of herself in a bikini on a beach, post it on Vkontakte and be assured that online masses of searching men will find her and inform her of the ampleness of her charms. Indeed, the love of a Ukrainian girl for a photo session dovetails into the popularity of Vkontakte. For men, it is rare to receive an unsolicited message from a girl on Vkontakte, at least from asking around my male friends registered there (but I don’t think I have any male friends who post their nobs as their avatar).
On Vkontakte in general, the experience is akin to being a club with Ukrainian girls and the world’s ravenous western men. VK has the integument of a real social networking site, and it’s rather fabulous for that with functionality extending beyond friends to film, video and more. The intent of many men there is entirely venereal, but from my experience it’s unclear whether VK fulfills more that, or the understandable desire of any comely Ukrainian lovely to be adored.