What a difference 88 years makes.
After the 1991 economic collapse of the Soviet Union and its Communist bloc nations in Eastern Europe, newly established entrepreneurs rushed in to squeeze profits out of the new Russian economy. Russia was a nation gorging itself on capitalism like a starved man at a banquet table.
The entrepreneurs who rose from the ashes of communism were aggressive, intelligent and adaptable. After first satisfying the needs of their own citizens for previously denied luxuries such as modern electronics, they turned their steely gazes outside their borders in the search for new ways to maximize profits and opportunities. Aside from vodka, caviar, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, what else did Russia and its neighbors have to exploit and export to the West?
"I've seen a proliferation of online adult content coming from Eastern Europe," says Socks Manly. "It's a very profitable business for an enterprising person to be involved in, especially in countries like Russia, Hungary and Czech Republic."
As the owner and editor of AdultSiteSurfer.com, Manly has been exposed to trends and changes in content that websites have used since the company first went online in 2002. AdultSiteSurfer currently offers 1,163 comprehensive paysite reviews. The company's highest-rated site is Met-Art.com, an Eastern European site that features a whopping 188,170 photos of Russian and European models as well as 262 movies with up to 4,000-pixel resolution. Last year, Met-Art launched Met-Live, a live cam video chat service with three different shows per day featuring "beautiful models from Siberia."
A phenomenal success in the world of online erotic content, Met-Art, says Manly, has never been about hardcore porn, which he believes is a very significant component to its success.
"It's the natural beauty of the models," Manly tells XBiz. "And for the consumer, I think it's more about finding something new, seeing fresh faces."
Ray Hoffman sees the online Eastern European invasion as "part of a bigger issue."
Hoffman is the editor of FleshNexus.com, a popular usable mixture of link site and blog, a "guide to the nonestablishment exotic world of sex and other related websites."
"What has made the Russian and Eastern European influx possible?" Hoffman asks. "The demand shift is the biggest thing. After 20 years of 'Silicone Valley' defining porn in America, myself and many others are looking for something different. Avidly looking."
What consumers and web surfers are searching for and finding at sites like Met-Art, ATK Exotics, Galitsin News and scores of others, Hoffman tells XBiz, is "porn that, at the very least, goes outside the establishment bounds."
"Let's say I go into my neighborhood porn shop," Hoffman says. "Sure, we've got some girls that look like Pamela Anderson, others who are 28-year-olds dressed up in schoolgirl uniforms trying desperately to look 18. But they've all got heavy makeup on, and the box cover photos are all airbrushed. You've got the semi-explicit box cover and then you flip it over and with utter predictability there's the graphic genital and 'cum-covered slut' shots."
According to Daniel Boone, owner and editor of ErosBlog.com, the European invasion is widespread. "All I know about the rise of Eastern European models in online porn is that it's happening," Boone says, adding that the burgeoning "sex blog" segment of the Internet is a major proactive force in promoting and encouraging Eastern European content.
"I assume it's popular because the girls are pretty and tend to have that starved heroin-chic look that's all the rage these days," Boone says. "It makes them look more like runway models than porn stars, especially since they don't all have horrible, huge fake boobs."
The other big reason surfers are ogling nude young women with large eyes and high Slavic cheekbones, Hoffman asserts, is distribution.
"The Internet is a wonderful leveler," he says. "Not only does it mean that porn made in Russia overnight can be on my computer when I wake up in the morning, but it also means that the cost of distributing said torrents of flesh is negligible."
Petter Hegre, winner of the Photographer of the Year Award (2001) at the Erotic Oscars in London, operates the very successful Hegre-Archives.com that offers 68,295 images and 162 videos. Hegre believes that most sites offering content produced in Eastern Europe have a very distant and impersonal relationship to the region, culture and people.
"My first meeting with the Eastern bloc was in the early 1990s when I was doing a photo project for a humanitarian organization," Hegre tells XBiz. "That is when I discovered the unique female beauty that had been so well hidden and suppressed during the communist regime, and that's when I first starting taking nudes comprehensively. Since then, I have visited and photographed in every corner of Eastern Europe, married a princess from Kiev — even my webmaster married a Ukranian woman — and as a well-traveled photographer, I can attest that nowhere else will you find greater natural beauty."
Hegre-Archives.com was launched in 2002, says Hegre, to be a counterpart to all the tasteless and often abusive material presented on many websites. "Hegre-Archives is operated very much like a magazine," Hegre explains. "We have a full editorial staff of graphic artists, writers, editors, webmasters and PR people. We clearly see that surfers like our respectful and personal way of portraying female beauty."
Born out of the success of the online launch of Hegre-Archives, in the summer of 2005, Hegre launched his own offline magazine, New Nude World, with worldwide distribution.
There is one area where the trend toward Russian and Eastern European content is not new, Boone says.
"That's an area where Eastern European content is quite dominant and has been for at least five years," he says. "Spanking and caning content from Eastern Europe is some of the best in the market. Producers include SpankingDollars (East Germany), Mood Pictures (Hungary) and Lupus Pictures (Czech) and a lot of anonymous Russians."
Beyond U.S. Scope
Being beyond the reach of American and British obscenity laws, "with inconsistent notions about the relationship between BDSM and obscenity," according to Boone, producers have been given more freedom to make realistic videos in which models are spanked or caned quite hard, often resulting in vivid marks and welts and bringing the models to real tears.
As harsh as that description may sound to the non-aficionado, it precisely describes the product that hardcore BDSM fans are looking for.
By contrast, Boone points out, U.S. and British productions tend to feature simulated situations with very light spankings with a lot of menacing posturing and not much actual spanking. Indeed, the models often seem to be having difficulty concealing their levity over the absurdity of these productions.
Whether pretty girl or BDSM, the Russian and Eastern European content providers and webmasters are also capturing significant market share by sheer volume alone. The website for Russian erotic photographer Grigori Galitsin, for instance (Galitsin-News.com), features more than 78,000 highquality softcore photos. And the aforementioned ATK Exotics Galleria is updated seven days a week with an average of 4,200 fresh, never before seen images.
"The Porn Valley establishment is completely out of date," Hoffman says. "The world is changing, and 818 is producing the same old shit it's been producing for ages."