Russians are yet another subject on which Ken Wheeler feels qualified to opine. Find out why his claims of expertise on this topic don’t add up and what he gets wrong about the Russian character.
The beginning of the end of the Soviet Union came in 1985 when the Politburo elected Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary. Relatively young, energetic and idealistic, Gorbachev stood for change.
He introduced gradual domestic reforms called perestroika and foreign policy reforms called glasnost. The USSR would never be the same.
Although his reforms were popular with everyday Russians, beginning in 1988, Gorbachev’s gradualism triggered impatience and revolutions that spun out of control. By 1991, Gorbachev saw no choice but to resign, and the Soviet Union officially dissolved at the end of that year.
Soviet Union Dissolved in 1991, Russia Became Republic
As part of that process, Russia became a presidential republic under Boris Yeltsin. In 2000, Yeltsin passed on the leadership to his handpicked successor, Valdimir Putin.
Putin is profoundly bitter about the Soviet Union’s collapse and represents a tight-knit group of wealthy oligarchs. Russia’s jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny calls them “cynical and corrupt Soviet imperialists.”
Russians play an important role in Ken Wheeler’s claims of expertise. He tells his viewers that he lived in the Soviet Union for “a few years” at the height of the Cold War.
The Angry Photographer offers his purported insights into Russian language and culture on YouTube. He rates himself an “expert on Russians” because he once stayed there as an expatriate American.
Ken Wheeler Was 13 When USSR Began to Collapse
The difficulty with the Angry Photographer’s claim is that he also tells us that he was born in 1972. This means that he was just thirteen years old back when Gorbachev became General Secretary and began his monumental reforms of Soviet Russia.
If the YouTuber behind Theoria Apophasis lived for any extended time in the old Soviet Union, it must have been as a child. Yet, he purports to have followed domestic politics, Pravda, and related Soviet propaganda during Russia’s communist heyday.
The Angry Photographer also reports on extensive discussions he had with everyday Russians while he was there. He uses his accounts of these conversations to present himself as an expert on Russian politics and society.
Claims to Have Met KGB Agents in Soviet Union
The Theoria Apophasis host even claims to have met KGB agents during his time in the Soviet Union. Did he discuss intelligence operations with them before he became an adult? This seems unlikely.
And yet, the KGB disbanded when the Soviet Union collapsed. Modern Russia has four intelligence agencies: the FSB, the SVR, the FSO and the GU. No credible Russia expert would use the term KGB to refer to any of these contemporary intelligence gathering organizations.
So, as always, Ken Wheeler’s story doesn’t make sense. Ideas that don’t make sense aren’t true.
Says He’s Lived in Both Soviet Union and Today’s Russia
The Angry Photographer says he’s lived in both the Soviet Union and today’s Russia. It’s plausible that he lived there as a child under the Soviet regime and then returned to the Russian Federation as an adult.
Even so, the Angry Photographer couldn’t possibly have lived in the old Soviet Union as a grownup. He also couldn’t have met with active KGB agents after the Soviet Union collapsed. So, his stories simply don’t add up.
The University of Kentucky’s registrar confirms that the Theoria Apophasis creator was attending college in his hometown of Lexington between 1991 and 1993. That would have been during the tumultuous final months when the remaining handful of republics broke away from Moscow’s rule and Yeltsin took over the new republic.
Couldn’t Have Lived in “Cold War, Communist Russia”
This timeline precludes Ken Wheeler living in “Cold War, Communist Russia for many years.” Yet, that’s what he claims to have done.
The Angry Photographer says his high school teachers identified him as a language prodigy and sent him to study college-level Russian as a teenager. Presumably, this also took place at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.
The Theoria Apophasis host says he “spent four years at the University of Kentucky” but doesn’t elaborate. According to the registrar, he studied Russian there for just two years between 1991 and 1993 and didn’t graduate, so presumably he’s including his high school experience to mislead his viewers.
Says He Studied Russian Translation in City of Vladimir
His university career might have included, or been followed by, some overseas study. Ken Wheeler tells his viewers that he studied Russian translation in the city of Vladimir.
Kentucky Ken claims to speak “perfect Russian”, and he does have some facility with the language. Even so, native Russian speakers find his Russian grammar flawed and hard to follow. They also note that his pronunciation is incorrect, giving him a thick accent.
The Angry Photographer brags about having done “dangerous work” for several “three-letter agencies” of the US government. He never elaborates, although he has dropped the name of the Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT).
Mentions DOCJT Ties – Nothing to Do with Russians
DOCJT is a State-level training facility for local police officers in Kentucky. It has nothing to do with Russians, the federal government, or foreign intelligence.
Like many gun enthusiasts, Ken Wheeler took a brief DOCJT certification class. It entitled him to teach Kentucky’s concealed weapon permit course. That civilian credential has nothing to do with Russian language skills, and in any case he’s let his instructor’s permit lapse.
This doesn’t sound like high-risk US intelligence work involving Russia. The Angry Photographer also claims to have acted as a police translator for interrogations involving Russian suspects.
Why Would Kentucky Police Need a Russian Translator?
One wonders how much demand there could be for that service in Lexington, where Russians make up far less than 1% of residents. In any event, it’s hard to understand how translating Russian into English constitutes “dangerous work.”
The YouTuber behind Theoria Apophasis claims he also studied in Leningrad. Yet, the new Russian republic changed Leningrad’s name back to St. Petersburg when the YouTuber behind Theoria Apophasis was 19 years old.
If Ken Wheeler lived in that city as an adult, “hanging out with KGB agents,” why would he use its old name instead of what everyone called it at the time? Once again, his claims make no sense.
Likely Did Visit Russia – Three Decades Ago
There’s no reason to doubt that the Angry Photographer’s extravagant claims might contain a grain of truth. He likely was an overseas or exchange student in Russia at some point, and perhaps more than once. Assuming that’s true, it would have been roughly three decades ago.
Amyway, it’s a logical fallacy to claim that this brief experience makes Ken Wheeler the “expert on Russians” he purports to be. He’s come to see himself as the self-appointed spokesman for the entire former Soviet Bloc.
Yet, Ken Wheeler’s claims about Russia don’t jibe with the facts. For example, he tells viewers “Russians are ten times more capitalistic than Americans,” defying his critics to prove him wrong. This challenge on such a subjective point imposes an impossible standard of proof on his detractors.
Russian Support for Markets and Democracy Declined
Even so, in a Pew Research poll, support among Russians for a market economy fell from 54% to 42% between 2001 and 2011. The same poll saw support for a multi-party system fall from 61% to 50%
In more recent polling, support for Vladimir Putin, an autocratic former KGB officer and communist, rose from 60% in 2020 to 67% in 2021. Ten times more capitalistic than Americans? Not by the numbers.
The Angry Photographer also insists that there is more freedom in Russia than in Australia due to the pandemic measures Down Under. Freedom House ranks Australia at 97% (free) for freedom, while scoring Russia at 20% (not free).
Apologist for Russian Government’s Abuses
Ken Wheeler’s nostalgia for his long-ago Russian visits leads him to cherry-pick historical and current events. It also makes him an apologist for the abuses of the Russian government, such as Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines off the coast of Denmark.
Although Kentucky Ken professes not to take sides in Russia’s war with Ukraine, nor to be anti-American, he unfailingly denies Russia’s responsibility for any of the invasion’s manifest, practical consequences. For example, he blames rising global food and fuel costs on US monetary policy and not on Russia’s deliberate attacks on Europe’s oil and agricultural industries during the unlawful occupation.
The Angry Photographer’s self-satisfaction with his tenuous Russian ties has also made him some unsavoury online friends. Specifically, he’s hooked up with an odd fellow – a fake expert who posts about politics on YouTube under the handle Aussie Cossack.
Hooked Up With Founder of Alt-Right Paramilitary Group
This other YouTuber’s real name is Simeon Boikov. Born in Sydney, and of Russian descent, Boikov is the founder of a loose-knit, alt-right paramilitary group he calls the Australian Cossacks. Ironically, most Cossacks are Ukrainian, not Russian.
Ken Wheeler’s new down-under BFF is under a Firearms Prohibition Order. Simeon Boikov is extremely well-known to police in Australia. Most recently, they arrested him for violations of Australia’s Public Health Act.
Boikov explains that he founded his Russian expatriate militia group of about 50 men because “we have a unique opportunity to support Russia from within an enemy state”. The “enemy state” to which he refers is Australia.
Tied to Racist, Anti-Immigrant, Hypernationalist Party
These pro-Russia militants maintain intimate ties to the Australia First Party (AFP). For example, Boikov uses an Australia First flag as the backdrop for his YouTube videos. The AFP is racist, anti-immigrant, hyper-nationalist, and thankfully, viewed with derision by the vast majority of Australians.
Members of the Australian Cossacks are fanatical supporters of Vladimir Putin. They tirelessly promote his invasion of Ukraine while vehemently denouncing Putin’s more moderate political opponents like Aleksei Navalny.
Could the Angry Photographer be a Russian asset? That seems highly dubious. No competent intelligence officer would consider Ken Wheeler stable or trustworthy enough for that kind of role.
Ken Wheeler is What Lenin Called a “Useful Idiot”
More likely, the YouTuber behind Theoria Apophasis is what Lenin called a “useful idiot.” He believes and spreads whatever official Putin party line the Australian Cossacks feed him without any enticement or coersion.
Ken Wheeler’s motives for claiming to be an expert on the Russians are unclear. However, it’s crystal clear that his videos about Russia spread dangerous misinformation about them and their government, undermining freedom in Ukraine, other eastern European countries and the world.
Confidence in Democracy and Capitalism Wanes in Former Soviet Union
In Russia, nostalgia for Soviet Union and positive feelings about Stalin
Collapse of the Soviet Union
The Russians: Truth versus MSM Narrative
Pandemic – Why Ken’s Wrong