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What do Russians laugh about?

Welcome to our new edition of Matryoshka’s Diary. Today we will be exploring one of the most mysterious topics for those visiting Russia (as it is surrounded by lots of stereotypes) – Russian humour. Do Russian people have a sense of humour? Many foreigners think that the Russian sense is poignant and rough, and often rude and obscene. Oppression and censorship in Russia gave birth to a special folk genre, that of the political joke, or anekdot, which being oral was able to develop uncensored, though if caught telling or even listening to these jokes you could get up to ten years in a concentration camp. When the Iron Curtain was raised jokes became self-deprecatory:

A Western worker is showing to a Russian colleague his house. “This is my room, this is my wife’s, that one is my dining-room, then comes the guest room,” The Russian nods and says, “Well, I have got more or less the same. Only without the partitions”.

The old Russian saying: There are two 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”. The attitude to the latter can be illustrated by a merciless assertion: “One of two traditional Russian calamities may easily be managed by an asphalt-laying machine and a steam roller; managing the roads would demand considerably more effort”. In fact, Russians are unsurpassed in the skill of being able to laugh at oneself:

One Russian, a drunk; two Russians, a fist 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 State Symphony Orchestra.

If you would like to learn more about Russian sense of humour (and other aspects of our culture), sing up for one of our courses, including Russian online by Skype.