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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Russia falls for cartoon heroine
Masyanya appeals to Russia's "Generation Pepsi"
A profane, drug-taking cartoon character called Masyanya has suddenly become famous in Russia and now has one of the country's top websites.

Masyanya, who has been called the Russian answer to US animated characters Beavis and Butthead, has become a popular phenomenon in just five months.

I started the whole thing for fun

Oleg Kuvayev, web designer
Web designer Oleg Kuvayev first created the female character as a hobby while working as a web designer for a Russian game site.

Now the daily two-minute episodes attract some 30,000 hits a day, and have propelled the website to 16th place on the Russian internet charts.

The success of the website has been a welcome turn of events for Mr Kuvayev, who was sacked by his employer in St Petersburg for spending too much time on Masyanya.

Anna Golovatiouk, internet cafe surfer
Home internet use is low in Russia
Now there is mounting media and business interest in his cartoon series.

"Masyanya's popularity was a big surprise. I started the whole thing for fun," said Mr Kuvayev.

"For me, it's still a mystery why she's such a big hit, perhaps it is because of her special brand of black humour, which is very Russian."

In March, he won five of the 22 prizes awarded at Russia's prestigious National Internet Awards, including the Grand Prix.

Masyanya: "Represents freedom from responsibility"
The young computer designer is now in negotiations with Russian MTV for a televised version of the cartoons.

The crudely-drawn character, with her oversized head, bulging eyes and insect-like arms, seems an unlikely cartoon heroine.

She lives in a run-down apartment and earns her money by singing rock songs in trains so badly that she is asked to leave by passengers.

But Masyanya has struck a chord among a what has been called the "Generation Pepsi," of younger Russians.


Yegor Buikovsky, internet correspondent for the Ezhnedelnik weekly, said: "The audience for Masyanya is young people from 25 to 30 who work in offices in big cities."

"They identify with her because she represents total freedom from responsibility," he added.

Because home internet use is low in Russia, most Masyanya fans log on to her at work, usually, according to Mr Kuvayev, "between 5pm and 6pm, when the bosses leave the office".

Politicians and businessmen in Russia are now reportedly interested in using Masyanya for their political and sales campaigns.

But Mr Kuvayev said Masyanya is not for sale.

"There are too many proposals from businessmen who want to use Masyanya to sell their products. I don't want Masyanya to be used by politicians either," he said.

See also:

18 Apr 02 | Business
Amnesty for Russia's net pirates
10 Sep 01 | Media reports
Soviet leaders show their satirical side
20 Jun 01 | Arts
Asterix conquers the Russians
05 Mar 01 | Europe
Russian internet politics
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