“History of Communism through Jokes”

Neatorama turned me on to this nice little feature from The Times Online.

A Jew was stranded in a Moscow trainstop and needed to find a telephone. He turned to the man next to him, asking, “Are you anti-semitic?” “Of course not, what an awful thing to ask,” the man quickly replied. The stranded Jew asked several more Russians the same question, but they denied being racist.

Worried and exasperated, he finally turned to a disgruntled comrade in the back corner of the train’s bar.

“Comrade, are you anti-semitic?”

“Hell yes, I can’t stand them!”

The Jew paused for a moment, sizing up the hulk of a man that sat in front of him. Then, he said, “Finally, an honest man. Here, would you watch my luggage while I go find a payphone?”

There are more where that came from.

It occurs to me that jokes like these, while they’d at first go over the head of my students, would effectively cement everything they learned about communist Russia.

To get the jokes, they have to know basic history, and the quality of life back then. While many Soviet jokes run on the premise that everyone ate potatoes and had to wait a really long time for basic goods and services, there are some wonderful exceptions.

Lenin, Stalin, and Brezhnev are on a train crossing Siberia when the conductor comes back to them, saying that it broke down.

Lenin says, “Re-educate those responsible.”

The conductor comes back, saying, “This has been done, yet the train isn’t moving.”

Stalin says, “Shoot those responsible!”

The conductor comes back, saying, “The driver and the engineer have been shot — but still the train isn’t moving.”

Brezhnev says, “Paint the windows black and tell everyone we’re moving.”

What I worry first about is the student who sits in the back of the room, frankly not caring and not even pretending to be interested. With enough personality, and with enough preparation, this might work marvelously.

Thoughts on how this might work? Or, if you have no qualms, any favorite communism jokes?

  1. First year college student here: I always have enjoyed the jokes integrated into history lessons, but when you’re telling jokes about things like anti-semitics, you just need to be VERY careful. You get one student that takes it the wrong way, and complains to his or her parents or the administration, and you’ll be in a heap of trouble. After seeing good teachers get screwed by some students with a grudge, I just have to urge you to err on caution.

  2. Good advice, and I’ll take it to heart.

  3. Well – it’s tough to imagine a student who’s not paying attention being able to get the joke!

  4. That was my point, but I suppose I wasn’t clear about it. Your comment was my stated trepidation.

  5. this is the funniest i have ever heard in my entire life

    i love these jokes they are so funny even though i dont understand them

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