Changing Planet

The First (And Only) Russian Ranch Video Awards

A Russian cowboy swings a lasso as he gets ready to rope a calf. PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN BELL (@COMRADECOWBOYS)

With all the hullabaloo of The Oscars died down, I direct your attention to Russia’s movie industry where Westerns are the rage.

Not Westerns of the Clint Eastwood variety, but promotional Western videos about Russia’s ranch industry. The cattle bonanza has created a pool of customers — ranchers — who are eager to show off their accomplishments.

Without further ado, here are the winners of the first (and only) Russian Ranch Video Awards.

Best Soundtrack

Miratorg, “The Path of Steak”

Whomever chose the music for this video was having a very good day. Pairing Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” with scenes of steak being cooked and served in a restaurant was a stroke of genius. And the opening tune (which I can’t identify) has a driving blues riff that goes well with scenes of cowboys working cattle.


Best Cinematography

Chaban House, “From Pasture to Plate is Closer than You Think!”

At first glance, I thought this was a promotional video about tourism in Kalmykia, Russia. That, I think, is the point. Long before American cowboys brought Black Angus cattle to Russia, native herdsmen were raising a beef breed called “Kalmyk.”

Best Picture

Zarechnoe Group, “Made in Voronezh”

This video has it all: fascinating characters, moody lighting, heroic soundtrack, and trippy graphics. But the most surprising thing this video has is: a plot line. I would guess that it’s considered a risky move in the marketing world to make plot-oriented publicity videos. If the story comes across flat, or untrue, you could lose the trust of your customers. Worse, you could look vain or amateurish. However, this video succeeds by zeroing in on a fundamental question: what makes a cowboy do their job? This video explores where that passion comes from.


Ryan Bell is traveling through Russia and Kazakhstan for his project #ComradeCowboys. Follow his adventure on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Get updates about his work at Storify.






Ryan Bell is a writer/photographer exploring "cowboy" cultures around the world. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Fellow, he traveled through Russia and Kazakhstan where farmers have been working to rebuild their cattle industries. Back in the U.S., Ryan works freelance and teaches as an adjunct professor of creative nonfiction at The University of Montana.

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