Beavis and Butthead from Belarus

Having the flu is not a pleasant experience. You cough, your body aches, and you have fever. However, if, despite all of these sypmtoms, you can smile and make jokes, then your recovery is just around the corner. With multiple chronic ailments, Belarus is a heavy patient. Still, our fellow Belarusians haven’t lost the ability to poke fun at themselves; whiсh is a very good sign.

In 2002 the audience of the “First Music Channel” (a Belarusian version of MTV) were surprised to see two weird characters named “Sasha and Sirozha” appear on their screen. In contrast with the ever-glamorous VJs, Sasha and Sirozha were much more like clowns or tramps. The program was called “Kalyhanka dlia daroslyh” (‘lullaby for grown-ups’). It was a talk show-- in the sense that Sasha and Sirozha did all the talking. Or, to put it another way, talking was just about all they did. But – it was fun! They told funny, scary or simply weird goodnight stories, usually giving some absurd or provocative advice to their audience. On one hand, these two strange dudes with swollen noses, weird hats, and explicitly tasteless clothes were analogous to MTV‘s “Beavis and Butthead”. On the other hand, “Sasha and Sirozha” were not just doing stupid stuff, but creating political and social satire, which associates them more with the popular American animated series “South Park”. 

The persons behind the masks of Sasha and Sirozha were Aliaksey Khatskevich, free artist from Minsk, and Siarhey Mikhalok, frontman of “Lyapis Trubetskoy”, the rock-band, which had become tremendously popular in the post-soviet period. Several years ago Khatskevich created a video clip to one of the songs by “Lyapis Trubetskoj”, which was the beginning of the long-lasting fruitful cooperation of Mikhalok and Khatskevich.
A key secret of the duo’s success was the language they used. Sasha and Sirozha spoke “trasyanka”, which is a mix of Belarusian and Russian, found practically everywhere in Belarus. The most prominent person speaking “trasyanka” is president Lukashenka himself (although he will not admit this publically). No wonder, the audience of the state-owned “First Musical Channel” nearly fell of its chairs at the first sounds of Sasha and Sirozha. It seemed as if they were mocking the president. However, the artists themselves continually denied doing so, and for a good reason. Indeed, their characters never criticized or mocked the establishment directly. In fact, they appeared to be average Belarusians. Sasha and Sirozha enojoуed simple things like baked potatoes stolen from a nearby field, a good strong drink and women. At the same time they wanted justice and better life. The duo attempted to make the world a better place, but in trying so hard, it always resulted in various catastrophes. For example, having heard about the campaign aimed at promoting new technologies, Sasha and Sirozha decided to reorganize a local state-owned pig farm. They substituted old brutal methods of slaughter with brand-new psychological pressure. Instead of using a knife, they drove pigs to commit suicide by influencing their sub consciousness with various tactics, including video. The results were so good, that they decided to apply for a Nobel prize. It’s funny yet also horrible. You’ll never prove any direct relation between this sketch and present-day Belarus, but you will always be able to find the parallels, if you give it some thought. what chaos is happening around them, because of their laid back attitude.
The show spent several months on the “First Music Channel” after which Sasha and Sirozha moved to the First National TV Channel, which is a major source of the state-produced information in Belarus. In 2003 they suddenly disappeared from Belarusian television screens. A direct result of too many limitations and controls being imposed on them. Unlike most Belarusian artists in a similar situation, they didn’t go to Moscow. Instead, Khatskevich and Mikhalok headed straight to Kiev, where they began sending out promotional versions of their program to Ukrainian TV producers. As a result, the major Ukrainian music TV channel “M1” agreed to put “Sasha and Sirozha” on air. “The first two months were kind of sad – no one understood what this program was really all about”, says Aliaksey Khatskevich. Five months later the “Sasha and Sirozha” talk show became the most highly rated show of “M1”, having even surpassed “the Simpsons” in popularity. In 2004, the Ukrainian magazine “FHM” acknowledged them as the best entertainment program of the year.
Nevertheless, after many successful years as television stars, Khatskevich and Mikalok shut down their Ukrainian TV show in March 2007. They decided to put more effort into creating their own internet television project Additionally both artists are now actively pursuing their own projects. “Lyapis Trubeskoy”, the band of Siarhey Mikhalok, recently won several prestigious music awards for its music video Capital”. The clip mocks the world’s dictators by showing them as glamorous pop-culture icons. Aliaksandar Lukashenka also appears in the video, which resulted in the video being banned from Belarusian television. Aliaksey Khatskevich is actively working as an artist – recently he organized a personal exhibition in Minsk.
Meanwhile, “Sasha and Sirozha” continue to exist – now on the first independent Belarusian satellite channel BelSAT. You can also find their comic strips in the Belarusian magazine “pARTisan” and in the internet-version of the currently shutdown independent newspaper “Solidarity”.
Sasha and Sirozha are still making fun of themselves and more importantly, still show no signs of giving up.
By Ales Kudrytski for the ODB
No matter how brutal this may seem, Sasha and Sirozha are not aggressive. They are natural-born losers, but their attitude helps them to survive in this crazy world. They have fun no matter