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Lost in translation: Russian state TV cuts Putin mentions from US hit show Fargo

AFP , Sunday 14 May 2017
Fargo, season 3 (Photo: still from the TV series trailer)

Russia's state-controlled Channel One is airing the hit US series "Fargo" with a twist: mentions of President Vladimir Putin have apparently been excised from the dubbed Russian translation.

The channel, the most popular in Russia, is showing this month the third season of the show, a dark comedy series based on the 1996 feature film of the same name by the Coen brothers.

In the season's fourth episode, called "The Narrow Escape Problem," the character Yuri Gurka -- a henchman who speaks English with a heavy Slavic accent -- delivers a monologue about Putin and untruth.

"When Putin was a boy, he already knew he wanted to be FSB... And this boy Putin, he learns sambo (Russian martial art), rules the yard school by his fist," he says in the episode, which aired Friday.

"In Russian there are two words for truth - pravda is man's truth, istina is God's truth, but there is also nepravda, untruth. And this is the weapon the leader uses because he knows what they don't -- the truth is whatever he says it is."

In the Channel One version, however, Gurka says: "The boy dreamt of becoming a spy since childhood... and this boy started sambo."

"Untruth is a weapon because somebody knows and you don't. The truth is only what exists in reality," he says.

The curious mistranslation was first reported by the independent news website Meduza, which said that mentions of Russia made in connection with a crime were also dropped in some other episodes.

Putin, a former intelligence officer who has practised judo since his school years, headed Russia's FSB security agency, the successor to the KGB, before he was president.

A representative of the studio that provided translation services to Channel One told the Govorit Moskva radio station to direct any questions about the apparent censorship to Channel One, which could not be reached for comment.

Many Russians commented on the mistranslation with some dark humour of their own.

"It's strange that they didn't cut out the episode with a homosexual family -- what an outright violation of the foundations of Russian state," read a message posted by a Facebook user presented as Mike Ilyin.

"Haha, censorship here and now," wrote another user, Alexey Fabish, as he shared Meduza's article.

American television series are popular in Russia, with most people viewing them via various internet channels or downloading them illegally.

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