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Stranger Things fans have a love-hate relationship with Yuri the Russian smuggler

Alexandra Ciufudean May 27, 2022
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As Vol. 1 of Stranger Things’ fourth and final season drops, perhaps one of the hottest takes is what fans think of Yuri. From “I love Yuri” to “I will Vecna him!”, this character is nothing if not polarising. So who is Yuri, who plays him in Stranger Things 4 and why the love-hate reaction?

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. Proceed at your own peril.

  • STRANGER THINGS: Meet the actor who plays goth journalist Fred Benson in Season 4

Where we left off

First off, a little recap: season 3 ended with a tearful goodbye for the Scooby gang, as Joyce Byers (played by everyone’s favourite TV mum, Winona Ryder) finally decides to move her family to California. After Hopper’s implied death, Eleven doesn’t really have a reason to stick around, so she joins them. In one of the season’s final scenes the Byers and El drive off, leaving the gang splintered. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Kedibone | Official Trailer | Netflix

Meanwhile, Hopper’s fate seems doomed. The last time we see him, he’s sacrificing himself in an attempt to destroy the Russians’ Upside Down machine as Joyce is forced to pull the lever before he can escape. Hopper’s death, it’s implied, puts a stop to the Russians’ nefarious experiments.

Remember the Russians? In an attempt to figure out what’s going on, Joyce, Hopper and private detective Bauman do some snooping into the secret facility outside of town and get more than they bargained for. It turns out the Soviets were trying to open a portal to the Upside Down – right under Hawkins Starcourt Mall! In the final shots of season 3, we learn the rabbithole goes even deeper: the Soviets have got their hands on a Demogorgon of their own.

Speaking of things that do not bode well for our main characters, Eleven seems to have lost her powers after her final boss battle with the Mind Flayer. This is seemingly confirmed later, in the season 4 trailer, where she can be heard saying “I don’t have my powers.”

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Finally, Billy Hargrove is dead. After spending a whole season possessed and doing the Mind Flayer’s bidding – and incurring the hatred of every Stranger Things fan ever – Billy dies in the confrontation at Starcourt Mall. For a moment, he seems to return to his old self and, in a final act of defiance, sacrifices himself to protect his sister, Max, and her friends.

Whew! That’s a lot. So, where do we go from here? And more importantly, how does Yuri fit into all of this?

Who is Yuri in Stranger Things season 4?

According to the Stranger Things Wiki, Yuri is a “seedy Russian smuggler who enjoys bad jokes, cold hard cash, and crunchy style peanut butter.”

Our first glimpse of Yuri’s storyline comes from the same teaser, From Russia With Love, where we learn that Hopper might still be alive. The scene opens on a forbidding landscape, seemingly a Soviet labour camp, where bedraggled prisoners are building a railroad to nowhere under the close supervision of guards.

And one of those prisoners is Hopper. He’s alive!

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As it turns out, Hopper has a plan to get out of there: he’s grown close to a guard called Dmitri and, with his help, sends a ransom letter to Joyce letting her know he’s alive and in a Russian prison. The note asks Joyce for $40,000 to be delivered to Alaska in two days’ time. There, Dmitri has arranged for Yuri to fly the plane that will take the money back to Russia and deliver Hopper safely back to Joyce.

However, things quickly go awry and Yuri betrays them. He drugs Joyce and Murray and informs Dmitri that he’s sold him to the warden, and will be delivering the Americans to the KGB, in exchange for a handsome reward. How will the gang get out of this one?

Backstabbing Yuri is played by popular Serbian actor Nikola Djuricko. Despite being a new face on the international scene, Djuricko is a big deal back at home, boasting an acting career of four decades and lifelong membership in the Yugoslav Drama Theatre.

The actor was born on 9 July 1974 in Belgrade and began his career at the age of 6, in 1980. His first notable film role came in 1989 and he’s received a number of awards for his performances, including Best Actor at 2021’s FEST International Film Festival.

His English-language breakthrough came with playing Darko in In The Land Of Blood And Honey (2011), followed by a small role in 2013’s World War Z and The Living Man in 2020. He’s also had several TV roles, including in National Geographic’s Genius, where he plays Hungarian-American Physicist Leo Szilard opposite Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein.

In his personal life, Djuricko has been married to production assistant Ljiljana Nešić for almost two decades, after meeting her on the set of his film, The Cordon. Together, they have a daughter and a son.

Fans love to hate Yuri from Stranger Things

With a storyline like that introducing the character, Stranger Things fans are understandably divided about Yuri.

These two tweets might sum it up the best:

Meanwhile, an overwhelming number of fans absolutely hate him and they’re not holding back.

Others, on the other hand, are all in for backstabbing Yuri and this crazy ride of a storyline.

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Alexandra is Head of Entertainment at The Focus, managing a growing team of outstanding graduate and experienced writers. She has worked previously as an editor, writer and content specialist across web, video and social platforms and has a bachelor's in English Linguistics and a master's in Comparative Literature.