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Do the kinds of political joke that get circulated in a polity depend on the structure - page 24 / 46





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Douglas Ayling

USSR ‘88

z In the Soviet Union, no one does anything without written instructions. Thus, when there was a knock at Brezhnev’s bedroom door late one night, the Soviet leader got up, put on his robe and slippers, and walked over to a file box of instructions. Looking under the letter “k,” he found the appropriate instruction card for “Knock on the Door” and pulled it out. Reaching the door, he slowly read out in a loud voice: “Who… is… it?”46

z Each time the Moscow-based foreign press corps saw Gorbachev’s chauffeur, Petya, they would try to pump him for information about the war in Afghanistan. “Come on, tell us,” they would say, “maybe you’ve overheard a conversation suggesting when the war in Afghanistan would end.” “No, I simply don’t know. Gorbachev has said nothing about that,” was the standard reply. One day, though, a reporter had some better luck. “Is it really possible that Gorbachev never says anything at all about the war?” he asked the chauffeur. “No, as a matter of fact just this morning he raised the issue with me,” Petya admitted. “Well, what did he say?” demanded the reporter. “As we were driving from his house to the Kremlin,” the chauffeur began, “he turned to me and said: ‘Petya, do you have any idea when this damned war in Afghanistan is going to end?’”47

z Brezhnev’s deceased mother returned to earth to see how her son, Leonid, was doing. Anxious to make a good impression, he took her to see his well-appointed apartment, his spacious office in the Kremlin, and the several country homes at his personal disposal. He also showed her the cars, yachts, jets, and helicopters that were for his use only. “Well, Mama, what do you think of all this?” he asked her. “Son, I think it’s absolutely wonderful that you’ve done so well,” said his mother proudly, “but I’ve got one piece of advice for you. If I were you, I’d grab the transportable goods, sell the rest, and run before the Communists come to power and confiscate it all.”48

45 46 ib. David A. Harris and Izrail Rabinovich, The Jokes of Oppression: The Humor of Soviet Jews (Northvale: Jason Aronson Inc., 1988), p.166 ibid., pp.199-200 ib., pp.171-2 47 48

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