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The Russian sense of humour is poignant and rough, often rude and obscene. Where the British will respond to something funny with a thin condescending smile, Russians will roar with laughter.

Hundreds of years of oppression and censorship in Russia have given birth to a special folk genre, that of the political joke or anekdot, which, being oral, was able to develop uncensored. In spite of the frantic efforts of the KGB or Secret Police, the anekdot flourished throughout the 70-odd years of Soviet power, though if caught telling or even listening to some of those jokes, you could get up to ten years in a concentration camp.

Such jokes are still popular, though with the advent of more relaxed times the satirical sting has become considerably less sharp. When the Iron Curtain was raised and people were allowed to communicate with foreigners, the Russians viewed the living conditions of Westerners with amazement. Jokes became self-deprecatory:

“A Western worker is showing a Russian colleague his house. “This is my room, this is my wife’s, that one is my elder daughter’s, that one is our dining-room, then comes the guest room,” etc. the Russian nods and says, after a moment’s hesitation, “Well, I’ve got more or less the same. Only without the partitions.”

After the complete failure of all the so-called reforms introduced by former Communists who thought more about their own than the nation’s prosperity, people revived the old Russian saying that there are 2 major calamities in Russia: fools and (impassable) roads. One more calamity has been added to the saying which now goes: “There are fools, roads and fools who tell us which road to take.”

Russians are unsurpassed in the masochistic skill of being able to laugh at oneself:

“One Russian, drunk; two Russians, a first fight; three Russians, a local Communist party unit. One Englishman, a gentleman; two Englishmen, a bet; three Englishmen, a parliament. One Frenchman, a lover; two Frenchmen, a duel; three Frenchmen, a revolution. One Jew, a shop; two Jews, an international chess tournament; three Jews, a Russian Symphony Orchestra.”

The story of Russian laws is the story of a permanent war between Ignorance and Injustice.

The severity of Russian laws is moderated by the optional nature of their execution.

The President and his immediate retinue are the usual objects of derision. Kremlin leaders may be infuriated but there is little they can do. Russians have every reason to suspect that the most senior political figures have serious problems with their sense of humour. This is very un-Russian.


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 584

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