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Political Humor under Stalin

An Anthology of Unofficial Jokes and Anecdotes

edited by

Publication Year: 2009

"Political Humor under Stalin" is an anthology of jokes, wisecracks, and satire from the Soviet 1930s and 40s that provides a glimpse of everyday dissembling and dissent in one of the modern world s most repressive societies. More than merely a joke book, it offers no less than a folkloric counter-narrative to the official history of the USSR, as well as a ground-breaking discussion of the culture of joke-telling under Stalin.

Published by: Slavica Publishers

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This study was begun in Moscow in 1996 during a research trip supported by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) and completed between 2003 and 2007 with funding supplied by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University and the Arts and Sciences Research Committee ...

Terms and Acronyms

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pp. xi

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pp. 1-26

At first glance, the idea that political humor existed under Stalin seems rather unlikely. What could there have been to joke about? Who, aside from a handful of party card-carrying cartoonists at Pravda and Krokodil, would have risked telling jokes in such a repressive state? Was political joking even imaginable within a country ...

Unofficial Jokes and Anecdotes of the Stalin Era

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pp. 27-28

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The Revolution, Civil War and "War Communism"

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pp. 29-34

In February 1917, the Romanov dynasty was swept from power by popular protest from below and elite intrigue from above. A series of clumsy and ineffective provisional governments followed—the infamous "dual power" arrangement—which accomplished little aside from compromising the credibility of liberal politicians and moderate socialists alike. ...

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The New Economic Policy

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pp. 35-50

Often remembered nostalgically as "the calm before the storm," the New Economic Policy dates to Lenin's realization in 1921 that the Bolsheviks would have to find a modus vivendi with Soviet society in order to retain political power. In spite of the fact that the Bolsheviks had essentially won the civil war, ...

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Stalin's Revolution from Above

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pp. 51-62

Toward the end of the 1920s, the party signaled that the exigencies of the NEP era had come to an end and that it was time for the construction of "socialism in one country" to proceed as planned. Struggling with popular doubts about his status as Lenin's successor, Stalin used his power within the central bureaucracy to outflank the party's left wing ...

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pp. 63-74

A key component of Stalin's "revolution from above" was the establishment of central state control over agriculture. Official attempts to shift the terms of trade to the state's advantage during the second half of the 1920s had driven the peasantry to withdraw their grain from the market, precipitating shortages and bread rationing in urban centers ...

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pp. 75-86

Collectivization in the countryside was matched by a redoubled effort to expand the USSR's industrial sector during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Recruitment of a new generation of factory hands was intended to swell the ranks of the working class and replace the last vestiges of the traditional, peasant economy with a rational, ...

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Everyday Life

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pp. 87-106

Amid the celebratory propaganda surrounding collectivization, industrialization, Stakhanovite labor enthusiasm, and Five-Year Plan productivity targets, 180 million Soviet citizens trudged through an everyday existence that was considerably less heroic and triumphant. Along the way, they grumbled about a stunning array of complaints that complicated their daily lives, ...

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The Great Terror

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pp. 107-120

Between 1936 and 1938, rumors of conspiracies fomented by German, Polish, and Japanese secret agents or renegades like Trotskii triggered an explosion of popular fear and xenophobia in Soviet society. The show-trial confessions of Old Bolsheviks supposedly involved in these conspiracies fed the flames, as did reports of treachery throughout the Red Army high command. ...

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Storm Clouds Gather

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pp. 121-132

Although the Great Terror receded toward the end of 1938, Soviet society received little respite. World events led many to believe that the long-predicted showdown with capitalist forces abroad was imminent. A proxy war in Spain against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy dominated headlines amid reports of more sporadic clashes with the Japanese in the far east. ...

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The Great Patriotic War

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pp. 133-138

Although by 1941 the USSR had spent over a decade preparing for war, the Nazis' launch of Operation Barbarossa on June 22 of that year caught the society unawares. Stalin had suspected that rumors of imminent attack were the work of Nazi counterintelligence and was determined not to succumb to provocation.1 ...

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The Early Postwar Years

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pp. 139-144

Many in the USSR hoped that victory in 1945 would leave the Soviet government secure enough to abandon the heavy-handedness of the interwar period. Ordinary citizens felt they had proven themselves by resisting the Nazi onslaught and deserved credit for their service. Peasants hoped that the hated collective farms would be disbanded. ...

Appendix: Jokes from the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System

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pp. 145-158

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780893578510
E-ISBN-10: 0893578517
Print-ISBN-13: 9780893573515
Print-ISBN-10: 0893573515

Page Count: 168
Illustrations: 36
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Russian wit and humor -- Translations into English.
  • Soviet Union -- Politics and government -- 1917-1936 -- Humor.
  • Communism -- Soviet Union -- Humor.
  • Soviet Union -- Politics and government -- 1936-1953 -- Humor.
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