Two Russian Jokes

August 29, 2008

There are two Russian jokes (although likely they’re both Polish in origin) I was reminded of while reading Scatt’s Those Missiles over at Polandian. Both come from the 1980s and refer to propaganda.

This is the first (and likely the only) joke in my life I actually managed to memorize, and I still remember it, even though I was maybe 14 when I first heard it. It’s from the repertoire of the Bez Jacka (Without Jacek) cabaret. Commercials, as we all know, refer to product promotion – something virtually unknown in Poland back then, with this one exception:

A brisk stream winds down the deep tundra or taiga scenery. A deer nibs on grass on a nearby meadow. Birds sing a cheerful tune. The sky is blue and clear.

There, at the brook’s bank a woman crouched, and with sweeping movements of her hands washes her cloths, pressing the fabric against a stone.

Suddenly, a Cossack emerges from behind a tree, and tiptoes towards her. When he takes his hold of her from behind, she screams: “Help! They f*ck me!”

Off voice: “They f*ck you, and they’ll keep f*cking you, as long as you don’t buy an automatic washing-machine.”

That more or less explains Russian methods of persuasion and enticement as seen through Polish eyes. It might be not certain whether we need those missiles, but it’s certain that we wouldn’t need them at all if we weren’t f*cked by them so often. In the end one needs to buy the automatic washer anyway, the only difference now is that we can choose our supplier.

The second joke refers to Public Relations that is how information is being presented:

– Is it true that Victor Semyonych won a car in a lottery in Leningrad?

– Yes, it is. – Yes, it is. But it wasn’t Victor Semyonych it was Fyodor Kovalenko, and it wasn’t in Leningrad it was in Moscow, and it wasn’t in a lottery it was in the Red Square, and it wasn’t a car it was a bicycle, and he didn’t win it but they stole it from him.

One might think that Russia bitches now over the missile defence system because they’re unhappy. While I don’t know whether they’re happy or not, I know that in Russian tradition it’s always good to bitch when one has a good pretext, even if it’s not necessarily a real reason.

Of course the anti-missiles in Poland are not a threat to Russia in the least, but there are other benefits coming from bitching that should be considered:

  • it’s always good to make some rumour – people notice you

  • it’s good to present yourself as a victim, especially when your usual image is more of an oppressor

  • it’s even better to do it in order to turn everyone’s attention from Russian troops in Georgia – at least not all of the news lately were about the victims of Russia, some were also about Russia the victim

  • it is a great opportunity to let the Russian people, whose democracy looks somewhat too closely to autocracy, know that their lives are endangered and only Putin can save them – after all there are millions of them and it’s easier to keep them quiet that way

  • it’ll come off handy when Russia puts a new embargo on Polish products

  • it’ll be a good point in Russia’s negotiations with the EU

  • whatever Russia does now they’ll say that we started it

  • there’s always a chance that someone will believe them

  • there’s always a chance that someone will be scared by their threat

Does that mean that Russia is going to attack Poland? No. But when they do you bet that they’ll use the missiles as a pretext. However, the missiles will never be a true reason. As Poles say: every pretext is good.

Yet, as long as they make the rumour there’s nothing to worry about. Whenever Russia attacks it’s done quietly and without any prior announcement, just like the Cossack in the first joke.

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