We got the opportunity to chat with Alexander Vinogradov, one of the official translators of Star Wars books and comics in Russia. He spoke about the 5 minute Star Wars samples shown on the Leningrad television, the Russian fanbase and how he did become one of the translators of the works from a galaxy far far away.
– How was Star Wars screened for the first time in Russia? I know there were exciting poster arts for the movies.
– Almost nobody knew about Star Wars in USSR, so most fans began their acquaintance with the prequels. I watched Star Wars for the first time in 2005. Although in the late 80s one program on Leningrad (now Saint-Petersburg) television showed little pieces of A New Hope. Approximately 5 minutes per day. So some lucky people still saw some Star Wars before our «Empire of Evil» collapsed in 1991.
– How did it become popular? There were pirated VHS tapes around Russia, or the television broadcasted it after the fall of USSR? Or something else happened?
– There were a lot of pirated VHS’ and later DVD’s and CD’s with movies and games in Russia, yeah. So, I think this partly served to popularize Star Wars. And later, of course, the films were translated and showed on TV. But in my opinion,
it’s the prequels that have become the main impetus for the popularity of Star Wars in Russia.
– How the Russians see this franchise, why is it fascinating for you?
– In general, Star Wars is quite popular in Russia today. But not so popular as in the USA or Western Europe. Sells of books and comics are pretty poor. Personally, I love this universe for a wide variety. So many stories have happened (and still will happen) in it, so everyone can find something to their liking.
– If we are speaking of books: did you have interesting non-official Star Wars stories published in the ’90s as we, Hungarians did have?
– Not in USSR, nor in Russia. We haven’t had any “original” Star Wars novels like Han Solo books of yours.
– How did you become an official translator of Star Wars books?
– In the 90s we had some translated works, but translations were awful because people who made it knew almost nothing about Star Wars. Later in the 2000s, another publisher bought the license. But
these translations were also terrible because some translators thought that they knew the material better than original authors and tried to change some scenes in the books or even to add something new. Fans hated it.
Later, some fan groups emerged on the Internet who made unofficial correct translations of books and comics; they published these works freely on the web. I was a member of one of these groups. We translated novels, short stories and comics. In 2014, a couple of new publishers decided to publish Star Wars books and comics in Russia again, and this time
they asked my group to help them with the translations. So I became one of the official Russian Star Wars translators.
– So do you translate novels or the so-called reference books like Visual Dictionaries, etc.?
– Right now, I mostly translate comics and edit novel translations that are done by my colleagues. Yet sometimes, when we have strict schedules, novels are translated by a whole group of translators so that the work can be finished faster. In these cases, I also participate in the translation.