Grigory Pasko: Russia’s New Dark Political Humor

Recently, my German acquaintance phoned and asked how people in Russia are weathering the crisis. I replied: they tell each other jokes. He, apparently, did not understand. I will explain in this article. Inasmuch as there aren’t so many owners of steamships and factories and stocks in Russia, then the quantity of jokes about those who do own them, naturally, has increased.

The statistics, for example, on the new website [the word “sokratili” means “they laid me off” in this case–Trans.], of course, are not happy. But the people rejoice. Probably this is a kind of way to get oneself out of a state of depression and to avoid a lousy mood from getting lousy news.

Specialists assert that humor in Russia since Soviet times, when strict censorship reigned, is the revenge of the little person, a safety valve with the help of which he or she makes the often unbearable reality bearable and with the help of laughter becomes its master. I don’t know if this is so. For example, I like my humor without all those socio-political inferences. When the people laugh – that means they’re alive and are going to keep on living.

Bringing attention to itself is the fact that once again there haveappeared jokes about the leaders of the state. This signifies that ourpeople have begun to think about the effectiveness of the methods ofrunning the country of these, to put it mildly, specialists.

Here’s one of the first jokes on the subject. Minister of financeKudrin is reassuring the simple citizens of Russia: «You shouldn’t beafraid of the crisis. You should have been afraid earlier, but now it’salready too late».

And so I say: earlier, during the time of the elections, you shouldhave been serious, so that later you wouldn’t laugh so nervously and solong.

And now, the jokes themselves:

* * *

One autumn day in the year 2010, two street sweepers meet and stareintently at one another for a long time. One asks the other: “Your facelooks so familiar”. The other: “And I’ve seen you someplace before too.What bank did you work at?”

* * *
What’s the difference between a divorce and a crisis? In both cases youlose half your capital, but during the time of a crisis the wife stays».
* * *
One bank worker telephones another.
“Greetings, old man, how are things?”
“Oh, excuse me, I must have dialed the wrong number…”
* * *
In connection with the financial crisis, the light at the end of thetunnel will be turned off for the purposes of economizing onelectricity. And since they will be turning off the light not one timeand for four years, but one time and for six years, that will give anincrease in economy of one and a half times. [This joke involves adouble-entendre with the Russian word ekonomiya, which means both “theeconomy” and “cost savings” in Russian; the reference to the numbersfour and six has to do with the recently passed constitutionalamendment increasing the presidential term, hence removing any hope forlight at the end of the tunnel in the near future–Trans.]
* * *

When the firm NNN in its advertisement asserts that:
“Credit from the firm NNN has become even more advantageous…” – it’s not deceiving you.
It simply isn’t specifying for whom it has become more advantageous…
* * *
Looking at Russian billionaires today, we understand at last how wealthy was the Soviet Union!

* * *
Up to 20 years with confiscation of property” – is not an item in the Criminal Code, but a brief summary of a mortgage contract.
* * *
The government of Russia is once again reassuring citizens: «There areno causes of the increase in prices for products, the prices are simplyrising for no reason at all».
* * *

Questions for the premier:
“Vladimir Vladimirovich, why are we selling crude oil abroad, but notgasoline? How long will we remain the raw-material appendage of thewest?
“Next you’re going to ask why we sell non-ferrous metals abroad, and not «Zhiguli» [Lada-Trans.] automobiles.”

* * *

The housing problem has been solved in Moscow. The government hasdeclared that now the price per square meter is not going to increase.The square meter is going to decrease.
* * *

Putin arrives in yet another region with a working trip. He’s ridingfrom the airport and thinking: “Why are people complaining about badroads and traffic jams? Here I’ve travelled through Russia from one endto the other in eight years, and the roads everywhere are wonderful andI haven’t been stuck in a traffic jam once.”