Nearly all of Russia’s favorite smartphone apps are from the West. But China’s Kuaishou has managed to buck the trend.

The video app -- known as Kwai overseas -- shot to the top among all free programs in Russia’s App Store in late April, surpassing Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat. It’s also managed to nab the number one spot in Ukraine, Turkey and South Korea in recent days, according to data from App Annie.

Kwai currently ranks number one in the Photo and Video category in Russia's App Store. (Picture: Apple)

Kuaishou is already one of China’s most popular video-sharing and live-streaming apps, known for featuring users doing pranks and stunts, such as eating sharp objects or lighting firecrackers in their pants. It’s especially popular among users in lower-tier cities and the countryside.

But the aggregator of offbeat content has drawn the attention of state media. Last month, it was slammed by broadcaster CCTV for hosting videos of teenage moms live-streaming their babies. It was also ordered by a state watchdog to remove “harmful” content. Kuaishou deleted hundreds of videos and blocked several accounts in response. 

So why is it going viral in Russia? Russian media outlet RBC suggests a simple reason: Kwai’s active promotional campaign in the country. It says the company hired a Russian marketing agency and ran a lot of video ads on YouTube.

Tencent-backed Kuaishou told the South China Morning Post it’s been trying to reach overseas markets since last year, and now has more than 10 million daily active users outside China. It says Russians are ideal Kuaishou users, because they are “very good at singing and dancing."