This is a collection of Russian jokes collected, translated and published by the late Professor Mark Perakh in his book Under the Covers. Over the next few weeks we will attempt to publish some of the 557 jokes or anekdoty as he tends to call them. Perakh states that his collection of anekdoty detail an “amazing phenomenon which probably had no exact equivalent in the entire history of the humankind”. And of course this is true. The Communists held control for 73 years beating the “propaganda drums” attempting to suppress or control “every manifestation of free thinking”.
In this atmosphere of “disinformation, lies, boasting and slander” one of the only outlets for the people’s self expression was these anekdoty. The world shared the same meaning as it’s English counterpart prior to 1917 but with the revolution the word aquired an alternative meaning. Instead of “denoting accounts of a real event, it now referred to invented” scenarios or situations which we presented as jokes.
The jokes were very rarely written down as to do so would be to put yourself at risk of detection by a KGB informant. This would more often than not mean jail for “anti soviet propaganda”. The author has therefore produced the jokes from the memory of his early life in Russia in particular his time climbing in the “mountains of Caucasus, Tien-Shan and Pamir” or from interviewing other Russian immigrants.
The total number of these anekdoty has never been totted up but most sensible estimates put the number in the thousands. All events of public life could be subjected to a new anekdoty be it “anti-imperialist” propaganda in the press, speeches by the General Secretary, or official governmental reports by the Central Statistical Authority on the “continued success” of different sectors of the economy.
The author states that “only a few other languages and cultures can compete with the Russian language and the underground culture in the USSR during the years of the communist rule” in their “richness, scope, ingenuity and wit” with “revealing…a highly compressed form the feelings, opinions, desires, and expectations of the oppressed and suppressed people of what used to be the Soviet Union.” On that note I invite you to spend some time reading though them, maybe crack a smile and of course feel free to retell them to your family and friends.
Joke 1.1 – Ivanov applied to the Communist Party. The party committee conducts an interview
“Comrade Ivanov, do you smoke?”
“Yes, I do a little.”
“Do you know that comrade Lenin did not smoke and advised other communists not to smoke?”
“If comrade Lenin said so, I shall cease smoking.”
“Do you drink?”
“Yes, a little.”
“Comrade Lenin strongly condemned drunkenness.”
“Then I shall cease drinking.”
“Comrade Ivanov, what about women?”
“Do you know that comrade Lenin strongly condemned amoral behavior?”
“If comrade Lenin condemned, I shall not love them any longer.”
“Comrade Ivanov, will you be ready to sacrifice your life for the Party?”
“Of course. Who needs such life?”
Joke 1.2 – An old Jew was expelled from the communist party. His buddy wanted to know why. The old Jew told the story.
“When Khrushchev was in power, and Brezhnev in the second place, I had in my office the likenesses of both of them hanging on the wall. The day Khrushchev was kicked out, I happened to miss the news. The Party Secretary walked into my office, looked at the two pictures and said, “When will you kick out the likeness of that idiot?” I said, “Which one?”
For that, I was given the first written reprimand.
Then one day I failed to attend the Party meeting. The Party secretary asked, ‘Why didn’t you come to the last party meeting?” I answered, “If I knew it was the last one, I would come with the entire family.” For that, I was given the second written reprimand.
Then, one Party member died. The Party secretary told me the Party committee decided to grant 500 rubles for the funeral. I said, “That much? For such money I could bury the entire Politburo.” For that, I was given the third written reprimand.
Then, we had a lecture about communism. The lecturer said that when communism will be built, there will be no money. I said, “And will there be butter?” For that, they expelled me from the party.”
Napoleon was resurrected and came to Moscow on November 7, when a military parade is held to commemorate the 1917 Bolsheviks’ upheaval. Brezhnev invited Napoleon to watch the parade. Napoleon, instead of watching the tanks and rockets, read the Pravda newspaper with a great interest. The Minister of Defense whispered, “Your Majesty, look at this military technique. If you had such tanks, you would’ve won at Waterloo.”
To that, Napoleon answered, “If I had such press as yours is, nobody would ever know I lost at Waterloo.”
A Jew submitted a complaint that the local authorities illegally deny him an apartment. He addressed his complaint to Lenin in Moscow. Soon he was summoned to the party committee and reproached, “We received your letter which has been transferred to us from Moscow. Why did you address it to Lenin? Don’t you know Lenin died many years ago?”
The Jew exclaimed, “When you need him, he’s alive for ever, but when I need him, he’s dead?”
Karl Marx was resurrected and came to the USSR. He was shown factories, hospitals, cities and villages, etc. Finally, he requested to be allowed to make a speech on TV. The Politburo hesitated as they were afraid he might say something they wouldn’t approve. Marx promised he would say only one sentence. Under this condition, the Politburo agreed. Karl Marx uttered the following sentence: “Workers of all countries, forgive me.”
At Lenin’s funeral, a poster above the hearse said, “Lenin freed us from the capitalist chains.”
A Jew says to a buddy, “This is true. Remember, I had once a golden chain, from my mother. They came and took it.“
A policeman says, “Comrades, don’t hold the line, just pay your last respect and move.”
“See, we still have to pay,” the Jew says.
Joke 1.14 – In a research institute a selection is to be made to send one of the researchers to a scientific conference abroad. Only three candidacies met the qualification requirements. Now they are questioned by the Party Committee.
“Comrade Ivanov, what were your parents doing before the Great October Revolution of 1917?”
“They owned a store. Of course, it was not a big store, not like the Moscow GUM store. It was just a very small grocery store….”
“Sorry, Ivanov, as you come from a family of capitalists, we can’t send you abroad.”
“Comrade Petrov, what were your parents doing before the Great October…..”
“They owned a factory. Of course, it was not a big factory, not like the ZIL automotive plant. It was just a tiny factory making candles….”
“Sorry, Petrov, as you’re a descendant of capitalists, we can’t….”
“Comrade Bernstein, what were your parents doing before 1917?”
“They owned a brothel. Of course, it was not a big one, not like this…” and the Jew makes a wide gesture by his arms as if embracing all the country.
Joke 1.15 – At a meeting in a factory, a lecturer from the district Party committee tells the workers about their bright future in the USSR.
“See, comrades, after this five-year plan is completed, every family will have a separate apartment. After the next five-year plan is completed, every worker will have a car! And after one more five-year plan is completed, every family will own an airplane!”
From the audience, somebody asks, “What the hell one may need an airplane for?”
“Don’t you see comrades? Let’s say, there are shortages in potatoes supplies in your city. No problem! You take your own plane, fly to Moscow and buy potatoes!”
Joke 1.22 – A man was sentenced to fifteen years of imprisonment in a high security prison for calling Brezhnev an idiot.
The man’s wife asked the judge, why such a harsh sentence was meted out as by the law the maximum term for a personal insult must not exceed a few months. The judge said, “He’s sentenced not for a personal insult, but for revealing classified information.”
In some country, communists managed to get elected to govern. In a few months the economy had become as it could be expected from anyone following the Soviet model. As the USSR promised help, the country’s President sent a telegram to Brezhnev, “Please send food.”
Brezhnev answered with a telegram, “Tighten the belts.”
The next telegram from the new communist-ruled country said, “Urgently send belts.”
Two brothers, John, and Bob, who lived in America and were members of the communist party, decided to emigrate to the USSR. Even though they didn’t believe the American media’s negative reports on the conditions in the USSR, they decided to exercise caution. First, only John would go to Russia to test the waters. If, contrary to the media reports, the living conditions would be found good, and the reports about persecutions by the KGB false, than John would write a letter to Bob using black ink whose color would signify that the letter is to be taken at face value. If, though, the situation in the USSR happened to be bad, and John would be afraid of writing the truth, he would use red ink thus indicating that whatever he says in the letter must not be believed.
In three months John sent his first report. It was in black ink and read, “Dear brother Bob! I’m so happy here! It’s a beautiful country, I enjoy complete freedom, and high standard of living. All the capitalist press wrote was lies. Everything is readily available! There is only one small thing of which there’s shortage, namely red ink.”