Wait for Me (Жди мне) is a Russian talk/reality show, though quite unlike what that that genre usually means. It’s not only a TV show but a government service for finding missing people. It’s termed an international social project, just just a TV show—the show notes that “We search throughout the entire world and unite people who have been separated for the most varied reasons: wars; revolutions; everyday, family, and love dramas; conflicts between generations; environmental cataclysms.” The show started in 1998, when it was called I’m Looking for You (Ищу тебя), and still continues to this day, though the name changed in 2000.

It’s an oddly popular show, particularly among those looking for a cathartic (i.e., tearful) experience, as reunions are filmed live on the show. In the first 10 years of the show’s existence, 150,000 people were found; according to the site’s official website, to date 203,277 people have been reunited through the show, and 2,578,809 applications for help have been submitted to the show. It’s possible to submit a missing-persons report through the website (or check to see if anyone is looking for you); a search may then commence.

More than 500 volunteers work for the show, looking for missing people. Volunteers work alongside the Department of Criminal Investigations of the Ministry of Interior Affairs of the Russian Federation (Департамент уголовного розыска МВД РФ). The show also has international ties with networks in the CIS and even farther abroad. Apparently, the show has found missing people from every country in the world except Antigua and Barbuda and Cape Verde.

The show was initially hosted by journalist Oksana Naychuk (Оксана Найчук), but a few years later it was decided that the hosts should be famous people unconnected to news or social services, so actors Igor Kvasha (Игорь Кваша) and Mariya Shukshina (Мария Шукшина) took over. After a number of other changes, the hosting pair settled in 2014 with Kseniya Alfyorova (Ксения Алфёрова) and Aleksandr Galibin (Александр Галибин).

The series has 18 seasons and a full 786 episodes. In addition to these, there is a documentary film, Unbelievable Stories about Life (Невероятные истории про жизнь) about the show, and a series of books, Wait For Me: An Encyclopedia of Human Destinies (Жди мне. Энциклопедия человеческих судеб), Wait For Me: The Line of Love (Жди мне. Линия любви), and Wait for Me: The Line of Fate (Жди мне. Линия судьбы).

 

Directors: Svetlana Bodrova (Светлана Бородин), Valentin Tarasov (Валентин Тарасов), Inna Anishina (Инна Анишина), Viktoriya Leonova (Виктория Леонова)
Hosts: Aleksandr Galibin (Александр Галибин), Kseniya Alfyorova (Ксения Алфёрова)
Production company: Telekompaniya VID (Телекомпания ВИД)
TV channel: ORT/Perviy Kanal (ОРТ/Первый канал)

 

The show’s official site.

 

A recent episode of Wait for Me, 2016:

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.