Moscow student catapulted to fame by Russian YouTube site

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The Independent Online

Sitting at the wheel of a clapped-out Lada and crooning verses of Borat-style English, Peter Nalitch seems an unlikely music star. But the 26-year-old Moscow music student has become Russia's first YouTube cult celebrity.

The explosion in popularity for "Gitar", Nalitch's joke-sleazy ballad, coincided with the launch this month of the Russian-language version of YouTube, and highlights the increasing use of the web among young Russians.

Nalitch's video opens with the whispered words "I've never been lonely, 'cause me is so cool" and features a heavily Russian-accented chorus of "Gitar, gitar, gitar, gitarrrr, come to my boudoir". The clip is overlaid with brightly coloured sketches of a naked woman and subtitles of the English-language lyrics, littered with grammatical and spelling mistakes. It was filmed on a shoestring budget with some friends at Nalitch's dacha in April and posted online shortly after. But it's only in the past month that it has gathered a cult following, receiving more than 350,000 hits on YouTube. "It just suddenly started becoming popular," Nalitch says.

While Russian users could previously post videos on the English version of YouTube, the company hopes that by adding a Russian interface its hits will double to 600,000 per day by the end of the year. Other popular video clips on the Russian site so far include footage of an old woman jumping in front of a train, and a performance art clip of a young man getting undressed and climbing into a camp-bed in front of bemused commuters on a rush-hour metro carriage.

Other familiar-looking websites are also making a mark in Russia. V kontakte, a Russian site that has almost exactly copied the format of Facebook, claims to have more than 3.5 million users. And the Russian version of the American blog portal Live Journal has more than half a million bloggers – everyone from schoolchildren to opposition politicians rallying their supporters against President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Putin noted yesterday that the number of internet users in Russia had grown tenfold in the past seven years and that almost all schools were now online, but he said it was essential the internet developed in "a highly moral atmosphere," reigniting fears that the Kremlin intends to crack down on internet use.

For now, however, both critics and supporters of the Putin government have online freedom. At zaputina.ru, people can sign an online petition in support of their President and play interactive games such as "Putin Chess".

So far, more than 80,000 have signed up. But that's less than a quarter of the number that have downloaded Nalitch's track and hummed along to the final words: "Jump to my Jaguar, baby. You have a possibility, so play it with me."

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