Staunton, November 18 – A leader, someone has said, can tolerate almost any attack, but he needs to worry if people begin to laugh at him. Russians have a long history of telling anecdotes about their leaders – jokes allow for deniability – and this humor has not always cost those in charge their positions even if it has invariably undermined their reputations.
Now, it appears, Russians are beginning to laugh not with but at Putin and his policies, often in ways that recall their response to Brezhnev and his. That can hardly be something the Kremlin leader welcomes. Russian human rights activist Elena Vasilyeva has posted some of these jokes on her facebook page (facebook.com/profile.php?id=1686617069 also at obozrevatel.com/abroad/89536-kogda-bolnoj-chelovek-lechit-mir-v-rossii-sochinili-desyatki-novyih-anekdotov-o-putine.htm).
Among them are the following:
- A man comes into a drug store and says he isn’t feeling well. The druggist asks if he has a prescription. The man replies, “Isn’t a Russian passport enough?”
- One Russian says he has watched “Planet of the Apes. The Revolution.” Another replies that he has listened to Putin’s latest speech.
- A Russian is asked to name the Russian product which enjoys the greatest demand in the population. His response: Putin’s lies. “Why not vodka?” he is asked. To which the first responds: “Because the number of consumers of vodka is much smaller.”
- Putin says that the Russian army will be supplied with the most advanced offensive and defensive arms. A Russian replies that this means he is again going to use women and children “behind the backs of whom will be concealed polite ‘little green men.’”
- Putin decides that he will in no case fall behind the leaders of Western countries. When they introduce sanctions against Russia, Putin does the same, not only imposing sanctions but also imposing them against Russia.
- Asked whether he plans to put up the iron curtain again, Putin replies that no, he will only use barbed wire this time around.
- Putin acknowledges that the ruble of Russians has fallen but points out that Russians have risen from their knees.
- The Russian Federal Service for Narcotics Control comes out against the legalization of drugs in Russia. Their reason? “Putin and Moscow television are more than sufficient.”
- Given the number of airline accidents with which Russia is involved, it appears that Putin served not in the KGB but in the Anti-Aircraft Forces.
- Two prisoners are talking. One asks “For what were you convicted?” The other says he created a comic strip showing that President Putin is an idiot. Under what paragraph of the law were you sentenced, the first asks, hooliganism or extremism? The second replies: no, not either of these, rather for revealing a state secret.
- After Moscow occupies Crimea, Yanukovich asks Putin whether he can go to Foros and be the lawful president there. Putin replies: “No, you are only a lawful president in Rostov.”
- When Putin is flying away from Brisbane, his press secretary finds him in tears. Peskov says he shouldn’t be upset by what the G-20 leaders said. To which Putin replies, “But I cannot forget that koala and how he embraced me!”
In thinking about these and other new Russian jokes, many of which of course are recycled from Soviet times, one should remember the Polish observation about such humor: When times are bad, Poles say, people tell political jokes. When they get worse, people stop.