MOSCOW -- When Russian state TV aired popular American TV show Fargo, viewers saw a version not only dubbed into Russian, but also tailored for their desired political beliefs: namely one lacking criticism of President Vladimir Putin.
Channel One, the country's most watched network, is currently airing the third season of the dark comedy crime drama in which Russians are referenced in the context of a murder investigation.
Several mentions of Russia's president, however, were omitted in the translation aired on the network, as were a loose comparison between Russia and North Korea, and a reference to corruption in Russia.
In The Narrow Escape Problem, the third and current season's fourth episode, a Ukrainian character named Yuri Gurka with a thick Slavic accent expounds on Putin's security service background and on the notion of "untruth."
"You see, in Russia, there are two words 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."
The Channel One translation removes all references to Putin, substituting the president's name for "a boy," and then writing around it. It also removes the link between untruth and Russia.
"You see, in all languages there are two words for truth," the Russian version goes. "But there is also untruth -- a lie. And this is a weapon because someone knows and you don't. Truth is only what exists in reality."
Moscow Times editor Kevin Rothrock posted a clip of the scene from the original on Twitter:
The Kremlin-friendly translation was exposed by the independent Riga-based news site Meduza on May 13.
In the second episode, a reference to Putin and corruption was also curiously edited.
"Yes, you can still find some relative stability in the brutal nation-states," goes the original, singling out North Korea. And "Putin's done some great things with Russia," it adds. "You just have to know which palms to grease."
Russian TV offers a simplified version: "Relative stability only exists in totalitarian states -- in North Korea, for instance, where you just have to know which palms to grease."
Monica Beletsky, who wrote the episode of Fargo, made use of a crystal ball while commenting on the apparent censorship to Current Time TV, a Russian-language network, run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.
AB Video, the Moscow studio that handled the translation, told the Govorit Moskva radio station on May 14 that all queries about the translation should be directed to Channel One.
Russians took to social networks to deride the editing, some making reference to Russia's conflict with Ukraine and a large demonstration on May 14 against the proposed demolition of Soviet-era social-housing blocks in Moscow.
"In Channel One's translation of the new Fargo series, the heroes will ask for their five-story homes to be demolished, praise Putin, and scold Ukraine," wrote a user identified as Oleg Kozyrev.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, a liberal opposition politician, wrote: "They even edit criticism of Putin out of Fargo. Tsk. Weaklings."