Russians are known for their black and scathing humor. But not everyone accepts being made fun of.
If you are with a Russian, it is seldom long before you hear an anecdote. When life has gotten too heavy and sad, Russians often tell political jokes to ease the pressure. This was true even during the Josef Stalin terror in the 1930s.
A joke from that time goes something like this: A flock of sheep panics and rushes towards the Finnish border, and they ask to be allowed inside.
– Stalin has ordered the arrest of all the elephants, explain the sheep.
– But you are not elephants, the Finnish border guards say in amazement.
– No, but try to explain it to Stalin.
Political jokes have not gone out of style. Otherwise. In recent years, comedians have become very popular in Russia. Beneath the humor there is usually a criticism of society.
Earlier this year, a comedian joked about the xenophobia of Russians. It had surprisingly great consequences.
It started on March 1 at Comedy Club No. 1 in Moscow. Several comedians sat and joked, while the audience clapped and laughed. The session was broadcast on Youtube. Idrak Mirzalizade was born in Azerbaijan, has Belarusian citizenship and has lived in Russia for many years. He joked about how difficult it is for people with names like him to rent a house. Advertisements for homes often say “for slaves only.”
When you call an owner, avoid saying their name for a long time. The goal is for the person to hear that you speak Russian without problems. But when it finally shows up, the reaction is: Get …
Just three months later, a Christian television channel published a Article: “Comedian insults the Russians.” A nationalist organization sent Message to half a million followers who had “insulted the Russian nation while the public applauded.” Vladimir Solovyov, who runs a talk show on state television, required that the comedian had to be prosecuted.
Mirzalizade received thousands of hate messages. Two men beat him and demanded that he apologize.
In August, he stayed convicted to ten days in prison for hate propaganda and for humiliating a group of people. The comedian thought he was not guilty, but apologized to those offended. He said the goal was just to poke fun at xenophobia.
A few weeks ago, the Interior Ministry declared him an unwanted person. He was deported from Russia for the rest of his life. The reason for the severe punishment was completely different, commentators believe.
The Belarusian is not alone:
- Last week, two actors were sentenced to 10 days in prison for mocking local politicians in the far east of the country. Reported a local television channel.
- Earlier this year, Yuri Khovansky was arrested for justifying terrorism after composing a song about a terrorist attack. He faces up to seven years in prison.
- In 2018, Danila Poperechny was investigated for mocking Orthodox priests.
Less political satire
Several popular artists have abandoned political satire. Instead, they have started joking about everyday things. Writes Jan Sjenkman, newspaper columnist Novaja Gazeta.
He believes that there is a tendency for the authorities to persecute comedians. The message is that they must stay away from politics. The police come regularly and film performances. Then they line up behind the scenes and give the artists a clear message to avoid political trouble.
– In the future, fewer people will dare to create political humor and satire, he believes.
In practice, it has become taboo to joke in public on various topics. That is the opinion of Oleg Zintsov in Republic magazine. Is:
- President Vladimir Putin and other powerful men.
- Stalin. Russia banned comedy, among other things. Stalin’s death.
At the same time, he believes that there is no problem in making fun of gay, lesbian or liberal Democrats. He points out that even Putin does it without anyone reacting.
Isn’t it humor?
Critics wonder if the authorities lack humor. However, several Russian tops have become known for their pranks. Putin also tends to joke. A few years ago, Aftenposten was at a conference opened by the president. He reviewed the list of participants.
– I see there is a Mr. Engels from Germany on the list. Thank God he came without Marx, Putin joked, referring to the founders of communism.
Two decades ago, the nuclear submarine “Kursk” sank, and it was a rescue operation that the whole world followed. There was a lot of speculation about the incident. Putin was interviewed by the now-deceased Larry King on CNN. King asked what had really happened to the nuclear submarine.
“It sank,” Putin replied.
I don’t like to be laughed at
Russian leaders like to joke, but not everyone likes to be made fun of. This should also apply to Putin:
- A few years ago, the Kukly program was pulled from the poster. The name means “dolls” and was a political satire. Putin is said to have disliked the way he was portrayed.
- Several politicians reacted strongly when the housewife Noldus in the Harry Potter films looked like the president.
- Last summer, comedian Alexander Dolgopolov escaped from Russia when police investigated him for a joke about the president.
Are hair ulcers rich?
And that brings us back to the comedian Idrak Mirzalizade from before. Therefore, he was expelled from Russia for the rest of his life for insulting the Russians.
But what was the real reason for the severe punishment? It must be that he insulted Igor Setsjin, analysts believe. Setsjin is an oil billionaire. He has close ties to Putin.
The comedian joked that he usually takes a photo of Sechin at the demonstrations to scare the police.
Mirzalizade has now sued authorities for the decision to evict him. And a court has temporarily reversed the decision while it examines whether the lawsuit should actually be prosecuted. Experts doubt that he has any chance of winning.
In Russia, leaders have always been ridiculed. In periods of heavy repression, Russians in distress have often turned to the only weapon available: humor. It has been a form of political protest.
Sometimes in the Soviet Union, however, it was dangerous to tell such jokes or laugh at them. If the wrong person heard it, one could be sent to a prison camp in Siberia.
– Laughter is a very serious matter, Soviet artist Aleksandr Raykin remarked during Stalin’s terror.
Putin also does not prevent him from being mocked. Putin’s circle has become tyrannical during his presidency. Many Russians believe that the president has also become a strong man:
Putin, how much is two divided by two? Putin responds: As always. One for you and three for me.
(If you want to read more Russian jokes, you can scroll down.)
More jokes from the east
Here are a lot of jokes that Russians have told in different time periods.
In the Soviet Union, it could be dangerous to tell a joke. Even the Russians joked about it:
A judge leaves the room laughing. A colleague asks him what he’s laughing at.
– I just heard the funniest joke ever.
– Then you have to tell it, says the other judge.
– Can not. I gave a person ten years in prison for it.
Lack of various foods:
Before the collapse of communism in 1991, many of the grocery store shelves were often empty. And those were long lines.
A man walks into a grocery store and asks an employee: – Do you have meat? The clerk responds: – No, we do not have fish in this store. It’s the store across the street that doesn’t have meat.
During the dictator’s purges, hundreds of thousands of people died. Many were forced to confess something they had not done. The head of the secret police was Lavrentij Berija for many years.
Stalin loses his favorite pipe. After a few days, Lavrentij Stalin asks:
– Did you find your pipe?
– Yes, I found it under the sofa, Stalin replies happily.
– Yes, but it is impossible, exclaims Lavrentij. – Three men have already confessed to the crime.
Many Russians believed that the Soviet leader was senile. He was known for mumbling while reading endlessly long and boring speeches.
1) Someone knocks on the door of Brezhnev’s office. Brezhnev walks to the door, puts on his glasses, takes a sheet out of his pocket and begins to read: – Who is it?
2) After Brezhnev gives a speech, he is angry with the editor of the speech. – I asked for a speech that would last 15 minutes, but this lasted 45 minutes.
– I gave you three copies of the speech.
The last leader of the Soviet Union started a campaign to make Russians drink less alcohol. It was not popular.
A worker stands in a long line to buy vodka at the liquor store.
– Now I’ve had enough. Can you keep my place? I’ll go shoot Gorbachev, he tells the person in front of him.
Two hours later he returns.
– Did you shoot him?
– No, the line there was much longer than here.
Critics say the president is authoritarian and cracks down on opponents, and does not shy away from any media.
1) Putin is asleep and Stalin approaches him in dreams.
– I have two tips for you: kill all your enemies and paint the Kremlin blue, says Stalin.
– Why blue? Putin asks.
2) Putin opens the fridge and sees a plate of skeletons shaking. – You don’t need to shake. I’ll just have milk, says the president.
(Source: Ben Lewis: Cock and tickle)