An Actual Bear Officiated this Russian Couple's Wedding
1. This Russian Couple Gets Married by Bear
2. 21-stone BEAR 'marries' Russian couple in bizarre ceremony
Hoax or Fact:
According to a very interesting story and few pictures that went viral online a 21-stone actual Bear Officiated the Wedding of a Russian Couple in Moscow. Although the story was also reported in some mainstream media outlets, the huge bear officiating an actual marriage of a Russian couple is possibly hoax.
The Story Reported
On 31st of Oct 2016 Russian website life.ru reported the story that a Russian couple from Moscow got officially married by a Bear named Stepan. The rare event was captured by Olga Barantseva, a lady photographer from Moscow, and advertised by Caters News Agency, and the story was published in some mainstream news outlets, which is how it went viral on social media sites and elsewhere online.
On 2 November 2016 an article on BuzzFeed News website buzzfeed.com published their investigation into the matter that revealed the Russian Bear probably did not officiate a wedding. They traced the names of the alleged bride and groom as Nelli Ilyasova and Denis Kalashnikov. Notably, no such wedding activity was published on their Facebook or VK pages (Nelli Ilyasova, Denis Kalashnikov), and they were not even connected on the social networking sites when BuzzFeed checked. Moreover, the Lady Nelli Ilyasova's Facebook page listed her as 'single' and living in the city of Kazan, located 800 kilometres away from Moscow. When BuzzFeed News approached them, they did not comment on the matter. When the photographer Olga Barantseva was approached, BuzzFeed said she would speak to them only on a “commercial basis” via her agents, and that they should buy her photos through a number of agencies before an interview. After they purchased the photos from Caters News Agency and reached out to Barantseva again for a comment, she reportedly declined.
About the Bear & the Photographer
The brown bear named Stepan is in fact a performance bear who is regularly booked for photo shoots and television appearances. Barantseva herself took part in staged photo shoots with Stepan the bear on many occasions (shown below are couple of pictures she shared on Facebook).
Note, the alleged groom Kalashnikov and photographer Barantseva have also worked together earlier (shown below is a picture from Instagram account of the photographer). And Rianna Dzabrailova, the designer of the bride’s dress, told BuzzFeed News that the photographer and the bride had worked on several “scenarios” ahead of the photos with Stepan bear. So all this concludes to suggest that the Russian couple wedding officiated by a Bear is probably staged for photo shoot. Also note that there are no photographs showing people other than the couple and the bear.
Surprisingly, when BuzzFeed News contacted Legion-Media, the Caters News Agency’s partner in Russia, its CEO Tamerlan Gamidov first told that they did not verify anything and later sent a follow-up email saying the couple was real, and that the copyright holder for the images told the couple are just tired of attention and won’t speak to anyone.
The facts and flaws detailed above suggest that the man and woman seen in the photographs are possibly not real couple and the 'wedding event' with the bear was simply a staged photo shoot, so the story saying the Bear officiated the Russian couple's wedding is possibly hoax. Apart from that, as the interesting story caught wide attention of people, captive exotic animal specialist and spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States, Lisa Wathne tells Cosmopolitan.com that the viral wedding photo with a Bear is disturbing. One, because it is dangerous to the people involved and it's not in the best interest of the bear, and two, because it can encourage other people to think they can do the same, have bears as pets, and continue the horrible cycle of cruelty. The way the bear was raised and treated to domesticate as pet is also questioned.