“Is this Communism, or will it be even worse?”

Unofficial comedy tells a nuanced (and delightful) story of how people and politics interacted under Khrushchev
| 12-05-2012

Extensive residential construction under Khrushchev provided private space to a large portion of the Soviet population throughout the 1950s and ‘60s. The resulting urbanization created conditions for urban culture and folklore to spread widely. Jokes at the expense of the regime, incidentally illegal until the early ‘60s, became one of the few safe forms for Soviet citizens to express disagreement with the official discourse of Communism.

Authorities in the Soviet Union saw political jokes as tools for weakening and undermining Soviet governance, and a similar view can be found in academic literature, which often considers jokes as part of the so-called “kitchen dissent” phenomenon.  This approach may be blunt – in joking, many weren’t necessarily speaking out against the regime, so much as attempting to make sense of their bizarre surroundings, of the disconnect between politics and reality.

 

On Communism itself

Самый короткий анекдот – коммунизм. Самый длинный анекдот – Программа строительства коммунизма, принятая на XXII съезде партии.

The shortest joke is communism. The longest joke is the Program of constructing communism adopted by the 22nd Party Congress.

 

On Communism as a bright future

Что такое вобла? Это кит, доплывший до коммунизма.

What is a sardine? A whale that has reached communism.

 

Скажите, это уже коммунизм или будет еще хуже?

Tell me, is this communism, or will it be even worse?

 

Один старый большевик другому:

– Нет, дорогой, мы-то с вами до коммунизма не доживем, а дети... Детей жалко!

One old Bolshevik says to another, “No, my friend, we won’t live to see communism, but our children… our poor children!”

 

Социалист, капиталист и коммунист договорились встретиться. Социалист опоздал.

– Извините за опоздание, стоял в очереди за колбасой.

– А что такое очередь? – спросил капиталист.

– А что такое колбаса? – спросил коммунист.

A socialist, a capitalist, and a communist agree to meet up. The socialist is late.

“Sorry I’m late,” he says. “I was in a queue for sausages.”

The capitalist asks, “What’s a queue?”

The communist asks, “What are sausages?”

 

Расцвет коммунизма. Объявление на дверях продуктового магазина: «Сегодня в масле потребности нет.»

Communism is in its heyday. A notice on the door of a grocery store reads, “There is no need for butter today.”

 

– Правда ли, что при коммунизме продукты можно будет заказывать по телефону?

– Правда. Но выдавать их будут по телевизору.

“Is it true that under communism, one will be able to order things over the phone?”

“Yes, that’s true. But they’ll be delivered through the TV.”

 

Наступил коммунизм.

– Алло, Манька, включай скорей свой цветной телевизор – красную икру показывают.

Communism has come. “Hey Annabelle, turn on the color TV! They’re showing red caviar!”

 

On Communism as a science

– Является ли коммунизм наукой?

– Нет. Если бы он был наукой, его бы сначала попробовали на собаках.

“Is communism a science?”

“No. If it was a science, they would have tried it on dogs first.”

 

– Какая разница между математикой и научным коммунизмом?

– В математике что-то дано и что-то требуется доказать, а в научном коммунизме все доказано и ничего не дано.

“What’s the difference between math and scientific communism?”

“In math, something is given and something must be proven, but in scientific communism, everything is proven and nothing is given.”

 

Rephrasing communist slogans

Лектор говорит, что коммунизм уже на горизонте. Ему задают вопрос – А что такое горизонт?

– Это воображаемая линия, в которой небо сходится с землей и которая удаляется от нас, когда мы пытаемся к ней приблизиться”.

A lecturer says that communism is on the horizon. A student asks, “What’s the horizon?”

He responds, “The imaginary line where the sky meets the ground, which gets farther away when we try to approach it.”

 

На гранитном берегу канала – трехметровые буквы: «Да здравствует советский народ – вечный строитель коммунизма! »

Three-meter-high letters emblazoned across a granite canal bank: “Viva the Soviet People – the Eternal Builders of Communism!”

 

– Одной ногой мы стоим в социализме, а другой уже шагнули в

коммунизм” – говорит лектор.

– Старушка его спрашивает – И долго, милок, нам эдак раскорякой стоять?

“We have one leg standing in socialism, and the other has already stepped into communism,” a lecturer says.

An old lady asks, ‘And how long, my dear, must we remain in such an awkward position?’

 

On Khrushchev

– Чего не успел Хрущев в жилищном строительстве?

– Не успел сделать уборную проходной, объединить унитаз с ванной и соединить пол с потолком.

“What wasn’t Khrushchev able to do in his residential construction?”

“He wasn’t able to create a passageway through the bathroom, combine the toilet with the bathtub, or connect the floor with the ceiling.”

 

– Как изменил Хрущев ленинскую формулу коммунизма?

– Коммунизм – это советская власть плюс кукурузизация всей страны.

“How has Khrushchev changed Lenin’s formula of communism?”

“Communism is Soviet power plus the cornification of the whole country.”

 

–Правда ли, что за последнее время здоровье товарища Хрущева ухудшилось?

– Да. Он страдает грыжей от поднятия целины, язвой желудка от кукурузы, одышкой от соревнования с Америкой и словесным поносом неизвестно от чего.

“Is it true that Khrushchev’s health has recently deteriorated?”

“Yes. He has a hernia from raising up the virgin lands, an ulcer from corn, he’s out of breath from competing with America, and he has verbal diarrhea from who-knows-where.”

 

Aleksandr Fokin, Ph.D., is a lecturer at Chelyabinsk State University. He teaches courses on the history of international journalism, the history of Russia, and quantitative research methods in history.

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