One Direction conquers young Russia on Twitter
Young Russians are using Twitter en masse to share their reverence for Western pop bands and TV series - in sharp contrast to Russia's mainstream state-controlled media.
One Direction, an English-Irish boy band, is particularly popular. For most of November, the top hashtags trending in Russia either directly referenced One Direction or were promoted by the band's fans.
On most other days, the top-trending hashtags in Russia were also associated with Western pop culture, or its fans. Particularly active were followers of the bands My Chemical Romance and 5 Seconds of Summer, and TV or film series such as The Hunger Games, Teen Wolf and Shameless.
There was only one day in November when the top hashtag had anything to do with the day's news in Russia. On 24 November, Turkey shot down a Russian bomber on the border with Syria, and "#plane" was the top trending hashtag.
The starting point is usually a single tweet.
"Wow, I only need 33 more followers, let's trend #PerfectFollowsHistory," says a One Direction fan, mixing English words with Russian slang, and referring to an album and a song authored by the band.
The hashtag was trending within three hours, being tweeted more than 40 times a minute.
The main point of such "Twitter storms" is to get more followers. This tactic seems to work well, as some Russian One Direction fans boast tens of thousands of followers. User @vodkaforharry, for example, has 82,300.
The tweets are worlds away from the mood music in Russia's mainstream media, which echoes the Kremlin's belligerent rhetoric towards the West.
Russian pop fans, it would appear, do not see Twitter as a place to discuss the Ukrainian or Syrian conflicts.
Twitter is by no means representative of the whole of Russia. But the top-trending hashtags show that despite the political tensions, Western pop culture still casts a spell on many young and tech-savvy Russians.