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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Produces Own Latin Soap

ST. PETERSBURG -- Relief may soon be at hand for the long-suffering soap opera addicts of Russia.

After years of putting up with bad dubbing, fans of the sudsy daytime melodramas will no longer have to suffer though episodes of Mexico's "The Rich Also Cry" or the U.S. soap "Santa Barbara" to get their dose of love, lust and tears.

Beginning early next year, viewers will have their very own Russian-produced soap, "Se?ora," the saga of a Russian woman who rose to Evita Peron-like glory on the plantations of Argentina.

Created by local director Mikhail Bogin and Lenfilm, the 18-part series promises to be one of the first Russian-language soaps in history.

The soap opera in general is a recent arrival to Russian television screens, with the only possible exception being the '80s serialization of the hit film "Seventeen Moments of Spring," a popular, 12-part story about a Soviet spy working in the German intelligence service.

When serialized dramas from the Americas hit Russian television during perestroika and the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian audiences became glued to their sets.

But Russian studios, lacking the funds to produce new shows, have been slow to follow up with their own soaps, which makes the production of "Se?ora" something of a breakthrough.

Bogin doesn't glamorize his role in Russian television history, but he believes soap operas fill a deep social need.

"At this period of time, people need easy entertainment," he said. "But as a result, we are creating a generation that doesn't care to read a couple of lines of Pushkin."

"Se?ora" is based on the life of the female president of the world's biggest vegetable oil company, Molinos, located in Argentina. The heroine made her fortune under the name Conchita Molinos -- a variation on her Russian birth name, Katya Malinina.

"Her story is the story of the quest for identity, which especially appealed to me since it was so closely connected with Russian history," Bogin said.

According to Bogin, Georgy Stepanovich Malinin, Conchita's grandfather and a well-known Russian specialist in plant cultivation, immigrated from revolutionary Russia to Argentina and changed his name to its Spanish equivalent, George Esteban Molinos. Molinos' son grew up in Argentina and married a Jewish immigrant from Hungary. They produced a daughter, Katya.

When Katya was 5 years old, her parents died, and she was adopted by an Argentine family. And, as all adopted soap opera heroines do, Conchita went on a quest to find her origins -- a quest that provided a lifetime of discovery, pain and enough juicy material to sustain an ongoing series.

"At a certain age Conchita felt something strange about her status and started a long and hard investigation of her roots," Bogin said. "And that's exactly what the series is about."

The first 18 parts of the series, which Bogin and Lenfilm have completed over the last five months, chronicle Conchita's childhood and youth.

"To cover the rest of her story we'll need to stage 40 more parts. It is financially tough, although we received Argentinean sponsorship for the first portion," Bogin said.

To imitate Argentine landscape, Bogin and his production crew went to the Crimea to find locations with a South American look. The crew also filmed in the Moscow and St. Petersburg regions.

Bogin estimates that "Se?ora" will hit a national television network by the start of next year and some St. Petersburg channels -- most likely channels 5, 6 and 51 -- during the second half of this year.