Russians are yet another subject on which Ken Wheeler considers himself 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.
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” during 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” due to having stayed there as an expatriate American.
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 sixteen years old when the Soviet Union began to collapse.
Was Sixteen Years Old When Soviet Union Began to Collapse
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 the heyday of Communist Russia.
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.
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.
KGB No Longer Exists in Modern Russia
The KGB no longer exists in modern Russia. Today, Russia has four intelligence services: the FSB, the SVR, the FSO and the GU. No credible Russia expert would use the term KGB to refer to any of these current intelligence gathering organizations.
So, as always, Ken Wheeler’s story doesn’t make sense. Ideas that don’t make sense aren’t true.
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.
Couldn’t Have Lived in the Soviet Union as a Grownup
Even so, the Angry Photographer can’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 claims simply don’t add up.
The Theoria Apophasis creator was attending college in his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky 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.
The timeline precludes Ken Wheeler living in “Cold War, Communist Russia for many years.” Yet, that’s what he claims to have done.
Studied College Level Russian in High School
The Angry Photographer says his teachers identified him as a language prodigy and gave him the chance to study college-level Russian as a teenager. Since he grew up in Lexington, presumably, this took place at the University of Kentucky, which is based there.
The Theoria Apophasis host says he “spent four years at the University of Kentucky” but doesn’t elaborate. The registrar’s office there confirms that he studied Russian there for just two years between 1991 and 1993 and did not graduate, so presumably he’s including his high school experience in that misleading claim.
That appears to have been followed by some overseas study. Ken Wheeler tells his viewers that he studied Russian Translation in the city of Vladimir.
Claims He Speaks “Perfect Russian” – Russians Disagree
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 mentioned the Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT) by name.
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.
Criminal Justice Training Has Nothing to Do With Russians
Like many gun enthusiasts, Ken Wheeler took a brief DOCJT certification class. It entitled him to teach Kentucky’s course for those seeking a license to carry concealed weapons. That civilian credential has nothing to do with Russian translation and in any case he’s let his instructor’s permit lapse.
This doesn’t sound like dangerous US intelligence work involving Russia. The Angry Photographer also claims to have acted as a police translator for interrogations involving Russian criminal suspects.
One wonders how much demand there could be for that service in Lexington, Kentucky. In any event, it’s hard to understand how translating Russia into English constitutes “dangerous work.”
Leningrad Became St. Petersburg When Ken Wheeler Was 19
The YouTuber behind Theoria Apophasis claims to have also studied in Leningrad. Yet, Leningrad was renamed St. Petersburg when the YouTuber behind Theoria Apophasis was 19 years old.
If Ken Wheeler lived there 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.
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.
None of That Makes Ken Wheeler an Expert on Russians
The real issue is that none of that 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 his viewers that Russians are “ten times more capitalistic than Americans are.”
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 the autocratic former Soviet official Vladimir Putin rose from 60% in 2020 to 67% in 2021. Ten times more capitalistic than Americans? Not by the numbers.
Insists There Is More Freedom in Russia than in Australia
The Angry Photographer also insists that there is more freedom in Russia than in Australia due to pandemic measures enacted Down Under. Freedom House ranks Australia at 97% (free) for freedom, while scoring Russia at 20% (not free).
Ken Wheeler’s nostalgic affection for the Russian people makes him an apologist for the abuses of the Russian government, such as recent computer hacking incidents.
The Angry Photographer’s self-satisfaction with his tenuous Russian ties has made him some unsavoury online friends Specifically, he’s hooked up with an odd fellow – a YouTuber with 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 an alt-right paramilitary group that he calls the Australian Cossacks.
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 Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin. They tirelessly promote his expansionist foreign policies 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 the official Putin party line the Australian Cossacks feed him without even having to be enticed or coerced.
It’s unclear what Ken Wheeler’s motives are in claiming to be an expert on the Russians. However, it’s more than clear that his videos about Russia spread dangerous misinformation about them and their government.
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