We know the British humour, the Belgian jokes, the Jewish stories, but do we know that the Russians developed, throughout their tragic and animated history, a particular kind of humour?
Nevertheless, how to imagine that the humour, although difficult to prevent, to limit or to control, was also prolix under the communist system, where the freedom of expression was so controlled?
It is surprising to imagine that the arrival of the democracy impoverished the humour; we would spontaneously tend to say the opposite. Laughter was then a kind of resistance to defend oneself against the ideology. The jokes where no precise name was quoted (but nobody was fooled about all that) were an effective way to by-pass censorship and neutralize the official language of the regime. The humour is a dangerous weapon against the politicians. A weapon witch even shy people can effectively use to defend oneself. These jokes, each in its way, show that the disenchanted, even discouraged workers were not fooled any more about the grandiose promises and hopes of happiness and equality that their leaders repeat.
It is an unexpected but original process to try to define a society through the jokes it conveys. What is better than analyzing a system through its funny stories, when we know that they can lead to a deportation camp for “anti-Soviet propaganda”, “non-denunciation of anti-Soviet propaganda” or “to have smiled in a anti-Soviet way while listening to an anecdote “? During Stalin’s period, the one who had told a joke could, in application of the article 58 of the penal code, receive a punishment going from ten years’ imprisonment to execution. Later, the regime relieved the punishment for those accused of «spreading deliberately ideas hostile to the government and to the Soviet social order to three years’ imprisonment. This humour is thus, not only liberator but subversive: for the oppressor, the victim’s roar of laughter is more disturbing than its tears. Or maybe because it is noisier.
But would the political jokes be only the fact of dissidents? Indeed, in the USSR circulated also the rumour that the political jokes were the fact of the KGB. These “officials” jokes should have function to counter the dissidents’ jokes, by establishing a “competition”. Funny stories represented such a danger for the power that the KGB would have tried itself to control their contents, even if it means inventing them to neutralize others considered as even more dangerous. But this rumour, (difficulty verifiable, who really knows the origin of a joke?) that the power can invent political jokes underlies another more realistic idea: the fear. The fear of an omnipresent institution which controls even the most imperceptible of the different kinds of expression: the funny story.
These jokes are incomprehensible for many, among those born after 1975… But extraordinarily funny for those born before!
Here are some symbolic examples in which the historical, political and economical contexts had a major influence. No big roars of laughter, no cheap dirty jokes, but a razor-sharp humour… Do not forget that several persons knew the Gulag for having told these funny stories.
How died Maïakovski?
Maïakovski committed suicide. He badly took the 1927 turning point and did not understand the necessary changes.
And what were his last words?
Do not shoot companions.
Whitch advice can we give to an intellectual?
At first, not think. If he cannot refrain from it, not speak. If he cannot refrain from it, not write. If he cannot refrain from it, not sign. If he cannot refrain from it, not wonder.
Brezhnev, dying, makes Andropov called .
- Youri, who will succeed me?
- Me, of course, answered the leader of the KGB.
- And if the people do not follow you?
- Then they will follow you, Leonid Ilitch.
A poll in two questions:
- What do you read? How do you live?
90 % of the answers:
- I read the press, otherwise how would I know that I am living well?
An inspector arrives in a school of Zagreb. In the first class where he penetrates, he announces that he was going to question himself pupils taken at random, and choose a boy in the third row.
- What’s your name?
- Ivan, companion inspector.
- Who is your father, Ivan?
- It is the companion Tito, companion inspector.
- And who is your mother?
- It is the Party, companion inspector.
- Very well. And when you will grow up, what do you want to be when you will be older?
- Orphan, companion inspector.
Brezhnev desperately falls in love with a Bolchoï ballerina. After a pressing courting, he succeeds finally in convincing her to have dinner at the Kremlin. There, in spite of all its efforts the ballerina resists to its advances. Short of arguments as well as of patience, Brezhnev promises to grant her the first favour she will ask.
- I want, says the dancer, I want you to open the borders.
- Ah, shy person, you thus want us to remain alone…
- Is there copyright for political jokes?
- Yes, it depends on the quality of the story and it can go from three years to life imprisonment.