Russian state television channel Pervy Kanal’s translation of the third season of American series Fargo has cut out mentions of Russia and President Vladimir Putin. This was brought to Meduza’s attention by a reader.
At the time of the writing of this article, four out of the season’s ten episodes had aired. Russia and Putin were mentioned in only two of them: the second and fourth.
In the second episode (The Principle of Restricted Choice), the script provides the following musings on the virtues of authoritarian countries (45:45):
Original script: Yes, you can still find some relative stability in the brutal nation states: North Korea, Putinʼs done some great things with Russia. You just have to know which palms to grease.
Pervy kanal’s translation: Относительная стабильность существует только в тоталитарных государствах. В Северной Корее, например, где надо лишь точно знать, кого подмазать.
Meduza’s translation of Pervy Kanal’s translation: Relative stability exists only in totalitarian states. In North Korea, for example, where you just need to know whose palm to grease.
In the fourth episode (The Narrow Escape Problem), Ukrainian character Yuri Hurka (played by Croatian actor Goran Bogdan) talks about Putin’s childhood and the particularities of the word “truth” in Russian (12:45). The translator had to change the meaning of the phrase to omit Putin, who was simply referred to as “the boy”.
Original script: When Putin was a boy, he already knew he wanted to be FSB. He lived in the well, kept a photo of Berzin by his bed. Berzin, who squats in 1920 dirt, gives birth of GRU, later KGB. Godfather. And this boy, Putin, he learns sambo, rules the yard school by his fist. You see, in Russia, there are two words for truth. «Pravda» is manʼs truth. «Istina» is Godʼs truth. But there is also «nepravda», untruth. And this is the weapon the leader uses. Because he knows what they donʼt. The truth is whatever he says it is.
Pervy Kanal’s translation: Мальчик с детства мечтал стать разведчиком. Он жил в коммуналке, держал на тумбочке портрет Берзина. Берзин — который в 1923-м создал ГРУ, а впоследствии КГБ — крестный отец. Этот мальчишка вскоре пошел на самбо и стал грозой школьного двора. Видишь ли, в каждом языке два слова «правда». Правда — это правда людей, а истина — божья правда. Но есть еще неправда — ложь. И это оружие, потому что кто-то знает, а ты — нет. Правда — лишь то, что существует в действительности.
Meduza’s translation of Pervy Kanal’s translation: The boy had dreamt of becoming a secret service agent from his childhood. He lived in a communal apartment, kept a portrait of Berzin on the bedside table. Berzin – who, in 1923, created the GRU and later the KGB – was [like] the Godfather. This boy soon started [learning] Sambo and became a thunderstorm on the schoolyard. You see, in each language there are two words for “truth”. Truth (Russian word правда (Pravda)) is the truth of people and truth (Russian word истина (istina)) is God’s truth. But there is also an untruth – a lie. And this is a weapon, because someone else knows and you do not. Truth is merely that which really exists.
The characters also periodically mention Russians who are directly related to the plot. In these instances, Pervy Kanal makes no effort to conceal the nationality of the people in question.
Pervy Kanal’s had ordered its translation of Fargo from Moscow-based studio A B Video.
In response to a request for comments by radio station Govorit Moskva, A B Video said that all questions regarding the translation of Fargo should be directed to Pervy Kanal.
Russians are mentioned in the third season of Fargo in the context of a murder investigation and the Ukrainian character Hurka is a member of a mysterious organization which took money from one of the main characters.
The series Fargo came out in 2014 and is based on a 1996 Coen brothers’ film of the same name. The picture won two Academy Awards, including one for best script. The series has won two Golden Globes and two Emmys.