It isn’t quite the radio of days past. Soviet-era beacons like Radio Liberty and the BBC have lost their place on Russian airwaves, and now the Kremlin is offering a fresher voice: Tim Kirby, an expatriate from the suburbs of Cleveland, who says he wants Russian citizenship and says Joseph Stalin was a better leader than he has been portrayed in history books.

On radio shows on Moscow’s state-controlled Radio Mayak and in frequent appearances on state television, Mr. Kirby is making a name for himself inside Russia as a kind of Kremlin-appointed Joe the Plumber who explains a broken America to Russian listeners.

“We Russians think that whenever something goes bad here that it must be better in America,” says Mr. Nefyodov, 25, who works in a small family wholesale grocery business. Now he says he knows “that things are worse or the same over there.”