Wednesday, September 28, 2022

An Old Soviet Anecdote Returns: What is the Maly (Little) Theater? The Bolshoi (Large) after a Foreign Tour

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Sept. 28 – Vladimir Putin has been bringing back so much of the Soviet past that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Soviet humor is making a comeback given how many Russians are fleeing to avoid mobilization, with the classic remark about how the Maly (“small”) theater came into existence after the Bolshoi (“large”) made a foreign tour thanks to defections.

            But this is only one of the growing number of jokes and anecdotes Russians are coming up with or reviving to describe their current situation. Among those assembled this week by Moscow journalist Tatyana Pushkaryova ( are the following:

·       Central Asian countries are now inviting Russians fleeing from mobilization to come and work at construction sites on their territories.

·       A Russian with only one leg says that he can’t possibly be mobilized, but a recruitment official says that he can because Putin’s order is only for a partial mobilization.

·       Russian scientists have made a breakthrough discovery: if a Duma deputy is mobilized and loses his head, he will still be able for a certain time thereafter be able to vote for new laws.

·       The Russian media say Putin has now assumed personal direction of the military operation in Ukraine, something that has led historically minded Russians to recall that at the end of 1915, Tsar Nicholas II did so as well.

·       Russia’s Doomsday Clock is about to be renamed Stopwatch.

·       When Defense Minister Shoygu is asked why the mobilization campaign hasn’t touched any children of members of the government or the Duma, he responds that the questioner obviously hasn’t read Putin’s order. It doesn’t affect people with dual or more citizenships.

·       Russians assume that when Putin announces the annexation of the Donbass, he will say that “Lenin created Ukraine and therefore it is not legitimate, but I and Girkin  created the DNR and therefore it is.

·       Russians are rushing to purchase miracle candles from Orthodox Churches because some say these candles can cause draft boards to forget about those who have them. At least, such candles cost thousands of times less than flying abroad.

·       According to the VTsIOM polling agency, Putin has been recognized as the most influential person within his  bunker where he lives alone. 


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