Have you ever watched a Tucker Carlson segment and thought, I bet this sounded better in the original Russian?
Americans aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed that Carlson’s reliably Kremlin-friendly Fox News show could be right at home on the airwaves in mother Russia.
In fact, for more than three years a 20-something in Western Siberia has been posting overdubbed segments of Carlson’s show to a YouTube channel called Такер Карлсон на русском, or “Tucker Carlson in Russian.” The channel’s logo features Carlson’s headshot, photo-shopped with a rakish unshanka, standing before a Russian flag. It’s been a quiet hit, racking up 24 million views, and more than 170,000 subscribers.
There’s no mystery about Carlson’s appeal to a Russian audience, says Yuri Orlov, the channel’s creator, who also voices Carlson in Russian. “Tucker’s vision largely coincides with the vision of the world of the average Russian,” he says. “This applies not only to political issues, but also moral ones.”
Rolling Stone contacted Orlov via email, and interviewed him in English via text exchanges on Telegram. Orlov is a former broadcast journalist. (If you’re a Russian speaker you can watch a slick biographical video he filmed to tell his backstory.) The young Russian is cagey about his current employment, saying only that he works “in the field of security at a sensitive facility.” And he insists that dubbing Carlson segments is a hobby, for which he’s received only a pittance on Patreon.
Given the current charged geopolitical moment, and the Kremlin’s reported embrace of Carlson as a trusted messenger, however, some skepticism of Orlov’s claims may be warranted, as they could not be independently confirmed.
The transcript that follows has been edited for length and clarity.
What can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Yuri Orlov. I am 29 years old. I live in Western Siberia, in a small town called Beloyarsky. It is possible to get here in summer by ferryboat, and in winter by special snow ferry. Between seasons, you can only get here by plane.
What’s your profession?
I worked on television for seven years for a local TV company called “Square”. Most of the time, I worked as a video editor, the last three years as a videographer. In addition, I also worked as a newscaster there.
Recently, I changed my job. The peculiarity of the place where I work does not allow me to describe it in detail. Especially to [an] American, no offense. The only thing I can say is that I work in the field of security at a sensitive facility.
Why did you start this project?
I started voicing Tucker Carlson in the summer of 2018. I saw several episodes of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” translated into Russian, in which the topic of gender equality was raised. The Russian viewer is always very amused by such “problems.” I wanted to see more of his shows, but couldn’t find any translated versions. So I decided to do translations myself. It would be more accurate to say that I asked other people to translate, including my friends, and I myself took up voice acting.
Was there a specific segment that inspired you?
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the exact video. This is the video I showed to the translator as an example, with a proposal to work on Tucker Carlson in the future.
Why is Tucker so appealing to a Russian audience? And why do you think he’s so often aligned with the Putin government?
Tucker’s vision largely coincides with the vision of the world of the average Russian. This applies not only to political issues, but also moral ones. Coincidentally, recently his position on some issues coincides with the position of our state. I doubt that at the same time he is pro-Russian, just as if Putin says: two plus two equals four, it’s stupid to deny it just because you don’t like Putin.
You’re the voice of Tucker in Russian. Does he ever say things that make you uncomfortable?
I do not always share the position of Tucker Carlson. Before the start of the video, I even started posting the inscription: “The opinion of the presenter may differ from the opinion of the author of the channel.” In particular, I do not agree with his position on COVID 19. It seems to me that regarding this, Tucker Carlson admits quite a lot of conspiracy theories. The virus exists, the virus infects, people die from the virus, and you can protect yourself from the virus — including with masks. It seems to be obvious.
Do you make money on this project?
My earnings are $25 to $30 dollars a month. This is what I get with Patreon. This money is divided with the translators. I leave myself, at best, $10 dollars. I’m not monetized on YouTube due to copyright, so I didn’t get a dime from that platform.
I found your email address via a Russian version of Patreon, and I’ve seen on your VK account that you’re moving your videos to a Russian provider.
As you noticed, now I am leaving these sites for Russian analogues. I made the decision to switch against the backdrop of sanctions regarding payment systems, as well as the decision of our government to restrict the activities of American sites on our territory, in particular, YouTube. Perhaps things will be better with monetization. I also think that it will be easier for our viewers to produce donations in rubles.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Tucker has at moments taken a tougher tone toward Russia. Is that problematic for you?
There’s his criticism of the Soviet government. Just a few days ago, Tucker Carlson — after a stunning analysis of America’s fuel policy — ended the broadcast with of a “horror story” about the citizens of Ukraine killed by Stalin. (Of course, he was talking about millions. When many people talk about Stalin, it’s surprising that they don’t raise the stakes to “billions.”)
[Editor’s note, the “Holdomor,” or man-made famine imposed on Ukraine by Stalin in the early 1930s, killed as many as 7 million Ukrainians and has been denounced by that country as a genocide.]
Personally, it was unpleasant for me to voice such things, but, as we say in Russia, “You can’t throw words out of a song,” so this nonsense was voiced. Many people in Russia, including myself, are proud of the Soviet past and regret that it was not possible to preserve it. However, looking at the comments, many [Russian viewers] do not hold a grudge against Tucker Carlson for such speeches, complaining [instead] about the American upbringing.
Do you worry about consequences for translating Carlson directly into Russian?
No, I have never faced any threats for what I do. The only thing I’m afraid of is getting a video or the channel blocked. I think this is the worst thing that could happen to me.
From Rolling Stone US