Time for another levity break!

Q: What do Leonid Brezhnev, Sherlock Holmes, and the Chinese have in common?

A: They’re all regular characters in the fount of humor that is Russian jokes.

Not jokes about Russians, that is, though there are plenty of those as well, but jokes from Russia, or anekdoty. Wikipedia has a good selection with some background information. Some of them rely on puns or cultural references that don’t translate well, but most are hilarious even to a non-Russian with no particular familiarity with Russian culture. (Be warned, by the way, that many of them also are not family-friendly by any stretch of the imagination.) I especially like the older ones poking fun at Communism. Here’s a Stalin joke from the page about Russian political jokes:

Stalin reads his report to the Party Congress. Suddenly someone sneezes. “Who sneezed?” Silence. “First row! On your feet! Shoot them!” They are shot, and he asks again, “Who sneezed, Comrades?” No answer. “Second row! On your feet! Shoot them!” They are shot too. “Well, who sneezed?” At last a sobbing cry resounds in the Congress Hall, “It was me! Me!” Stalin says, “Bless you, Comrade!”

Lenin doesn’t get away any easier:

Lenin coined a slogan on how to achieve the state of communism through rule by the Communist Party and modernization of the Russian industry and agriculture: “Communism is Soviet power plus electrification of the whole country!” The slogan was subject to popular mathematical scrutiny: “Consequently, Soviet power is communism minus electrification, and electrification is communism minus Soviet power.”

And that’s just the beginning—these things get elaborate. (By the way, East Germany seems to have had a similar tradition of anti-Communist political jokes. Wikipedia has a collection of those as well.) I guess we were wrong to think of Russians as dour and humorless all this time. We Scandinavians are sometimes subject to similar stereotypes, and we have a long tradition of ridiculing each other, generally in good fun. Here in Norway, we love jokes about stupid Swedes (a common example: “How do you sink a Swedish submarine? You swim down and knock on the door”), and I’m told they have the exact same jokes in Sweden—except, of course, that the Swedes tell them about Norwegians.

Though anekdoty were around long before the October Revolution, it’s easy to see how the Soviet system was further grist for the comedic mill; when you’re stuck in an evil, reality-denying tyranny, there’s little to do but laugh or cry, and it looks like the Russians decided they might as well laugh. An object lesson for us, maybe?

8 thoughts on “Time for another levity break!

      • You’re supposed to look it up on Google, but;

        So so they can see the old Polish Navy. 

        Then there was the time Gorbachev restricted vodka sales, and this drunk found a long line at the store. He stalks off, vowing to kick Gorby in the crotch. An hour layer he comes back..

  1. Alas I didnt scroll down far enough in Wikipedia article. The vodka joke is there.

     But about Swedes and Norwegians:

    Some years back a small college in Nebraska had a number of intramural football teams. 
    Two strong rivals were the Swedes and Norwegians. The Norsky jerseys bore the legend:

    Ten thousand Swedes ran through the weeds,
    Pursued by one Norwegian!

    Two other teams were the Theologians and the Philosophers, but that’s for another day. 

  2. Oh my gosh, I just followed a link from the Wikipedia page to another on the World’s Funniest Joke, and I can’t stop laughing. Here it is:

    Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed. The other guy whips out his phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps, “My friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says “Calm down. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead.” There is a silence, then a gun shot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says “OK, now what?”

  3. Will Americans ever generate such jokes? They require a tragic sense of life and the ability to laugh at it. Americans like mirth but have absolutely no sense of tragedy. Mark Twain is not Nikolai Gogol. It’s always happy time here, even when the jackboot cracks the neck. I would guess that the jokes Americans will generate–once they figure out they live in a tyranny–will be funny because of misplaced optimism and hope. For example:

    A motorcyclist has a bad accident. He wakes up in the hospital. The doctor comes in and he asks him, “doc, how am I doing?” The doctor says, “I have good news and bad news.” “Give me the bad news first, doc!” “The bad news is–you know those really nice leather boots you had? They’re trashed.” The guy lightens up–if that’s the bad news… “What’s the good news, doc?” “You won’t be needing them.”

  4. Pingback: Father Knows Best: Early August Edition « Patriactionary

  5. It’s 1960. God decides to test the mettle of humanity, appearing in succession to an American, a Frenchman, and a Russian.

    God asks the American, “What is your heart’s desire?”

    The American answers, “Well, my neighbor has the latest, most luxurious Cadillac El Dorado. I’d really like one just like it.” God nods and voila! – The American gets his fancy car.

    God asks the Frenchman, “What is your heart’s desire?”

    The Frenchman answers, “Well, my neighbor has a mistress who is vraiment belle et très douce. I’d really like to have a mistress like that.” God nods and voila! – The Frenchman gets his voluptuous and agreeable mistress.

    God asks the Russian, “What is your heart’s desire?”

    The Russian says, “Well, my neighbor has a goat; he gets milk from that goat, from which he makes yogurt and cheese, with which he fills out his larder so that he can trade with others and eat well. Please, God, kill that goat.”


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