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Viral Videos Of 2012

Pakistani-born fishmonger Muhammad Shahi Nazir shot to stardom after a video of him musically proffering his wares went viral.
From a bizarre South Korean dance craze to the trials and tribulations of Pussy Riot, here's RFE/RL's selection of the 10 viral videos that caught our attention over the course of this year.

10) "Gangnam Style" takes the world by storm

With over 1 billion views on YouTube, South Korean rapper PSY's "Gangnam Style" was undoubtedly the Internet sensation of 2012.

Inevitably, PSY's quirky video quickly spawned dozens of parodies, encompassing Kazakh wedding parties and opera versions, with even England's exclusive private school Eton also joining in the fun.

Here's what some Afghan-Americans made of the whole Gangnam phenomenon:

9) Kony documentary

Before "Gangnam Style" burst onto the scene, the most viral video of 2012 was a documentary about the African warlord Joseph Kony by the American charity Invisible Children.

Garnerning more than 70 million views within a week of its release, it spread like wildfire across social media but also quickly sparked much controversy, with many questioning the film's accuracy and the value of Internet videos like this as a campaign tool:

8) One-pound-fish man

As is now customary, there were plenty of eccentric snatches of video in 2012 that caught the public imagination and quickly went viral, including this snippet of a Pakistani fish seller touting his wares with a catchy Punjabi-style ditty.

This video proved so popular that it even landed Muhammad Shahid Nazir a record deal and a slick, hugely popular music video followed:

7) Social experiment on rhesus monkeys

The Occupy Wall Street movement trundled on into 2012 but failed to maintain the prolific media profile it enjoyed at the end of 2011.

Despite largely disappearing from public view, however, the term "1 percent" became common parlance and is now a disparaging byword for the enormous concentration of financial power held by those at the top of the social ladder.

This could explain why so many warmed to a hilarious but poignant experiment showing how Rhesus monkeys reacted to receiving unequal "payment" for doing the same task.

Given the current economic climate, it's little wonder that the dramatic response of one animal to being treated unfairly struck a chord with so many people:

6) Melodramatic hamster

Besides monkeys, there were also plenty of other animal videos that spread rapidly around the web in 2012.

Among other things, this year saw millions of people lap up the antics of a heroic piglet, some furiously spinning rodents, and three baby bears trapped in a Dumpster.

For our money, though, the cutest critter vid of the past 12 months had to be this clip showcasing the talents of a thespian hamster with an acute sense of drama:

5) Russian car crashes

In November, RFE/RL's Tom Balmforth reported on how Russian motorists have been increasingly using dashboard cameras as a tool to help fight corrupt traffic police, as well as insurance fraudsters trying to extort money by deliberately staging crashes.

One of the outcomes of this dash-cam trend is that footage of several spectacular, often horrific crashes have been uploaded to video-sharing sites.

There have also been many clips of dramatic collisions in which the protagonists have somehow managed to emerge unscathed.

Here's an excellent compilation of some of the most hair-raising, near-death driving accidents you're likely to see this year:

4) Staged-death marriage proposal

The advent of video-sharing sites has brought with it a slew of increasingly elaborate marriage proposals that have subsequently ended up charming millions on social media.

This year, one Russian man raised the bar somewhat by staging his own gruesome death before proposing.

Apparently, he wanted to let his girlfriend know for a brief moment what it would be like not to have him around before he popped the question.

Amazingly, the lucky lady said yes (eventually):

3) Scary elevator prank

Short, "Candid Camera"-style pranks are ideal fodder for Internet audiences who seem to eat up these often-quite-cruel antics in their droves.

The most spectacular practical joke to sweep across the web this year has to be this Brazilian elevator scenario, which manages to be both horrifying and terribly funny in equal measure:

2) German ice diving

So-called "epic fail" videos were as popular as ever in 2012. It seems that people never tire of enjoying the farcical misfortunes of others.

The fate of this intrepid German diving into an icy pool proved to be one of the most widely watched mishaps posted on the web this year.

At least this poor chap seemed to appreciate the funny side of what happened:

1) Pussy Riot

It's hard to imagine how the Russian performance collective Pussy Riot would have become such a cause celebre in 2012 if it hadn't been for the power of the Internet.

Their arrest for an anti-Kremlin protest in a Moscow cathedral earlier this year sparked a storm of controversy on social media, which ensured that they remained firmly in the public eye.

The subsequent jailing of three of the group's members for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" caused outrage among rights activists and generated thousands of column inches all over the world.

Here's the original video of the performance that caused all the fuss:

-- Coilin O'Connor
Children eat at an orphanage in the southern Russian city of Rostov-na-Donu. No "puppies" who will grow up to be "good attack dogs" here...
Russian lawmaker Yevgeny Fyodorov of the ruling United Russia party recently told the State Duma that Russian children adopted by U.S. parents were nothing but "slaves who are not even protected by U.S. law."

Svetlana Goryacheva, deputy chief of the opposition A Just Russia faction, went further, claiming that 10 percent of adopted orphans would be "tortured, used for organ transplants or sexual pleasure."

Goryacheva then educated television host Ksenia Sobchak and Dozhd TV's audience about the fate of adopted Russian children, comparing them to medieval Mamluk soldiers who she said were taken away by Middle Eastern captors from their homeland to be trained as warriors against their own people.

"Unlike you, I don't idealize America," Goryacheva said on Dozhd TV. "I seriously believe that these children may be used in a war against us, against my grandson, against my son, and against the grandsons and sons of many people living in Russia."

Russian orphans trained to be slaves in Western lands...

Wait, we've heard this somewhere else. Oh yes, isn't that the plot of the Soviet blockbuster "They Have Their Motherland" ("У них есть Родина")?

The storyline of this 1949 film (watch it here), based on Sergei Mikhalkov's play "I Want to Go Home," centers on two Soviet intelligence officers, Aleksei Dobrynin and Vsevolod Sorokin, looking for a British orphanage for Russian children in the western part of Germany occupied by Allied forces after World War II.

The British don't allow the Russian kids, who were separated during the war from their families by the Nazis and then freed from captivity by Allied forces, to go back to Russia.

The new caregivers even make the children change their names. "With proper upbringing, these puppies will grow to be good attack dogs," says a British captain (at the 5:00 mark).

The main child character is Irina Sokolova, who is forced to assume the name Irma when she is taken in by a German foster parent, restaurant owner Frau Wurst.

Despite attempts by Allied forces to disrupt the Soviet officers' quest, Dobrynin and Sorokin find the orphanage and expose it as a staging post for future slave soldiers and house servants.

At the climax of the film, Soviet officers speak to an allied commission demanding that the children be returned to the Soviet Union (71:50 mark). When cross-examined, Irina Sokolova says her foster mother uses her as an unpaid servant in her restaurant: "I wash clothes, do the dishes, serve beer" (73:40).

In the end, Dobrynin and Sorokin triumphantly bring the children back to Moscow. Irina Sokolova is first to emerge from the airplane.

"Irina, this is your motherland," says a uniformed woman as Irina walks down the gangway to the jubilant fanfare of a brass band and a cheering crowd (80:50).

The film closes with the mother of one of the rescued children making a passionate speech before a Kremlin gathering: "They want to turn our children into slaves. They condemn them to the dreadful fate of people with no motherland. They are preparing them to be used as cannon fodder in a new war."

-- Pavel Butorin

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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