by Dave Essel
Back in the good old Soviet days of the gulag, samizdat, political psychiatry, and two newspapers – Pravda (The Truth) and Izvestiya (The News), with no pravda in Izvestiya and no izvestiya in Pravda – Russians relieved the pressure of living in the schizophrenia-inducing dichotomy between what their own brains and eyes reported and what was in the party line by telling jokes (although one had to take care with the most telling ones). It was in jokes that one could find the last vestiges of sanity and a clear-sightedness that was forcibly absent everywhere else.
One East German Stasi policeman to another:The West doesn’t get to have this dangerous and illicit pleasure. (All we can do is watch our politicians in action; so we just get the disappointment without the thrill). The political joke has its life in societies where it is dangerous to think. Yet – this is what’s so great about humanity – people can’t stop themselves from doing so.
“What do you think of our régime?”
“The same as you.”
“Oh dear, then it’s my duty to arrest you”.* * *
Which is the most neutral country in the world?
– Czechoslovakia. It doesn’t even interfere in its own internal affairs.* * *
Will there be theft under communism?
– No. There’ll be nothing left over after socialism.* * *
An Englishman, a Frenchman, and a Russian are discussing what in their views real happiness is.
“I feel truly happy,” say the Englishman, “when after a day’s hunting in winter, I get back home and sit down in front of the fire with a good brandy.”
“For me,” says the Frenchman, “happiness is to be in a good restaurant with a beautiful woman, eating fine food and drinking fine wine, knowing that a night of passion awaits.”
“You don’t even begin to understand,” says the Russian. “When, after an exhausting shift at the factory, I get back to my room in the communal flat where my wife, two children, and mother-in-law are already sleeping, and, just before dropping off to sleep myself, there’s a knock at the door and I open it to find 2 men who ask me threateningly “Are you citizen Paramonov?” and can answer “No, next door down” – now that’s true happiness.* * *
If the above is true, then it follows that, given the way Russia is going, the Russian political joke must be on the rise again. And it is. Here are some recent ones.
RF President V.V. Putin Puts Forward His New Idea:
“I propose that the Head of State should be elected by the head of state from a candidature put forward by the head of state.”
At a press conference, Putin announced that a different person would govern the country in 2008. One of Putin’s aides added that it was universally felt in the West that after eight years as president Vladimir Vladimirovich had become a different person altogether.
The future president is seated at the desk in his office. The telephone rings. He lifts the receiver to his ear, listens, then rings off and dials another number.
“Hello, Mum!? You can congratulate me! I’ve won the presidential election!”
Mum, joyfully: “Wow! Honestly!?”
“Oh Mum, why do you always dig at me…”
Putin’s Reform Programme:
1. Make people rich and happy
1a. List of people attached.
Putin is leaving the house but has not shaved. His wife calls after him:
“Vladimir, you’ve forgotten to shave. That beard and moustache make you look like Nikolai II.”
“Quite right. The people need a hint.”
Putin to Minister of Finance Kudrin: “From July 1, the rouble is to become fully convertible. This will enable Russian citizens to use roubles when travelling.”
“But what if foreign banks decide not to take roubles?”
“They’ll take them – or we’ll cut off their gas!”
Ad on notice board: Once Putin’s reforms have been successfully completed, will swap two televisions sets for one good radio receiver.
Russian President V.V. Putin at a press conference:
“I would like to express my profound condolences to the American people following the death of US President George Bush Jr."
From the audience:
“But he’s still alive and well, Vladimir Vladimirovich!”
Putin to Head of FSB:
“Bloody hell, you’ve let me down again!”
“Please don’t worry, we’ll put that right immediately.”
Vladimir Putin, Igor Sergeyev [Minister of Defence], Аnatoli Kvashnin [former Chief of Staff], and Sergei Ivanov [another Minister of Defence] get together to discuss what to do about the Russian army.
“Why is our army so f*ucked up?” asks Putin.
“It’s f*ucked up, all right,” adds Sergeyev.
“Can’t deny it’s f*ucked up,” Kvashnin adds his support.
“Too true it’s f*ucked up,” concludes Ivanov.
The evening TV news reports that a consensus has been reached on the state of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation…
“Have you heard: Putin’s broken a hand!”
“The miners are on strike!”
“Pay them their wages!”
The teachers are on strike!
“Pay them their wages!”
“The doctors are on strike!”
“Pay them their wages!”
The miners, teachers and doctors are ALL on strike!”
“Pay the OMON riot police their wages!”
Putin makes a PR visit to a Russian school accompanied by Voloshin, head of presidential admin. Asks the headmaster what problems, if any, he has.
Headmaster: “Well, the building itself is in a state of near collapse and needs massive repairs. As for the pupils, none of the children have seen a computer in their life and we need money to set up a computer class. But we have no funds.”
Putin: “I sympathise with your problems but at the present time the country is in deep economic crisis and we are unable to cover such things from the budget. Your difficulties will not be forgotten however, and as soon as it becomes possible, we will do something in the budget.”
Next day, Putin is on a PR visit to Lefortovo prison in central Moscow. The governor presents his complaints. Putin is all attention. “Issue instructions for the overcrowding problem to be dealt with immediately. Each cell is to have a TV and each prisoner his own PC!” As they travel back to the Kremlin, Voloshin is curious: “Why, Vladimir Vladimirovich, did you refuse to help the school yet immediately helped the prison?”
“Well, basically, because we won’t ever to have to go back to school…”
What goes around, comes around… The same jokes in new guises foretell the failures and collapse to come. Odd how Russia loves to re-invent the wheel in a new, disimproved, version every time. Makes for good jokes, though...