Leonid Brezhnev (L) and Vladimir Putin (R). Collage: RFE/RL
In the post-Soviet countries, an anecdote almost always refers to any short humorous story while the word’s typical English meaning of an interesting story about a real incident or person is rather rare in the region. The Soviet epoch saw plenty of political jokes that ridiculed every Soviet leader, the USSR, and communism itself. Under Stalin, telling political anecdotes could bring you to GULAG for decades. Later the authorities perceived the “anti-Soviet” jokes not that harsh, however, you still could lose your social status, it could cost you a career, etc.
In his late years, Leonid Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist party who remained the Soviet leader for 18 years up to his death in 1982, became the target of a particularly large number of political jokes due to his vanity and constantly deteriorating physical condition.
In Putin’s Russia, the citizens traditionally continue making up anecdotes about their leader who surpassed Brezhnev in longevity in power two years ago, and here is a short selection of the jokes.
Igor Chubais correctly observes that “a Revolution of Anecdotes” in Brezhnev’s time was a major factor in the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika and ultimately the dismantling of part of the Soviet system.
In Russia today, there is a rising tide of anecdotes about Vladimir Putin, a trend that raises the question as to whether these jokes, now given added power by the Internet, may play an equally fateful role in the future of Vladimir Putin and his system. At the very least, they pose a challenge he can’t entirely ignore.
Below is a baker’s dozen of new anecdotes about Putin assembled by the editors of Maxim:
- Will you run again for president? Putin is asked. He responds: I have a season ticket to do so again and again.
- Putin comes into a restaurant with his colleagues. The waiter asks what he will have. Putin says he’ll have steak. And then the waiter asks what about the vegetables. And Putin says that they’ll have steak too.
- An elderly Russian reflects that he lived under Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and Yeltsin, but Putin is the first president who asked him to eat less.
- Unlike Lenin, Putin will have a complete collection not of works but of promises.
- A governor gives a pensioner who hasn’t been able to reach Putin on the phone a two-room apartment.
- Putin and Merkel speak about how to fight the coronavirus. Merkel talks about providing aid to the people; Putin about fines for violating self-isolation rules.
- It isn’t so bad that Putin won’t go on a pension; what is is that he won’t let anyone else do so either.
- The good news is that Putin promises not to interfere with the Internet. The bad news is that Putin earlier promises not to raise the pension age or change the constitution.
- Putin visits a maternity hospital in Abkhazia. Just before his arrival, twins are born to a woman there. It is decided to name them Volodya and Dima (Medvedev). The only problem is that the two babies are both girls.
- Running for president after serving as prime minister, Putin promises to correct the mistakes of the government which premier Putin didn’t correct from the time of former president Putin.
- Putin’s main cadres problem is that he appoints people on the basis of loyalty but expects them to be smart as well.
- Putin is asked how much is two times two. He responds: “I will be brief. You know, a few days ago I was at the Russian Academy of Sciences. I spoke with many scholars including young ones. All very smart people. We talked about that problem and also about the economic situation. They outlined their plans for the future. I am sure that among them will be the discovery of an answer to your question.”
- Nina Yegorova, 65, from Kostroma, reaches Putin on the phone and tells him that “we do not have hot water, we have to use an outhouse, half our pensions go for communal services, the hospital has been closed, and ambulances won’t come anymore. I have a question: why does Ukrainian President Zelensky not implement the Minsk Accords?”
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