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Humour in Russia

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Olga Olga | 14:41 UK time, Friday, 11 February 2011

....Well Russian habit of having dismal face, is just a manner. We are not gloomy inside at all, apparently we have a great sense of humour!

Humour in Russian is a year-round conception and virtually round-the-clock. Disposition to humour now and then can seem kind of paradoxical. Why are we laughing on where we should cry? I would say it helps to survive. In a joke one can find a grain of vitally important persistence.

What is a Russian joke? The form of Russian humour, are short fictional stories or dialogues with a punch line. We call it an anecdote. However sometimes anecdotes are not just jokes because their first purpose is not only to arouse laughter, but to reveal a truth more general than the brief tale itself. Russian joke culture includes a series of categories with fixed and vastly familiar characters and settings. Russian jokes are on topics found everywhere in the world, like sex, politics or mothers-in-law.

Humour is being used as an "antidepressant" by Russian people since far from now. The whole dramatic history of Russia can be described if based on its humour.

It is a pity that the real Russian jokes, cool ones are unlikely to be translated. And examples that are given in the Internet are not funny at all. Believe me!
But I think I should give you at least one anecdote otherwise you will not excuse me for that. So the joke I am going to give you is about seven paradoxes of the socialist state:

Nobody works, but the plan is always fulfilled. The plan is fulfilled, but the shelves in the stores are empty. The shelves are empty, but nobody starves; nobody starves, but everybody is unhappy; everybody is unhappy, but nobody complains; nobody complains, but the jails are full! This joke gives an insight into what Russians really felt during Soviet times...

And don't forget about chastooshka. It is a type of traditional Russian folk poem, with an abcb abab, or aabb rhyme scheme. As a rule chastooshka has humorous, satirical, or ironic content. They are usually put to music with balalaika or accordion accompaniment.

It is worth mentioning about Russian profanity ("mat"). It is the term for strong obscene words in Russian and other Slavic communities. It can enhance the humorous effect of a joke by its emotional impact but such an effect is difficult to render into other languages. Despite the public ban, "mat" is used by Russians of all ages and in all social groups, with particular fervour in male-dominated military and the structurally similar social strata. I don't like that kind of expression, but it exists, if it is not your cup of tea just avoid it in your speech.

Although a huge number of jokes related to date-to-day things, Russians are quite proud in daring social content of their humour and also diverse range of knowledge which their jokes contain.

So, as a bottom line I can say that Russian humour is subtle yet cuts like a blade!


  • Comment number 1.

    it is beautiful

  • Comment number 2.

    i like this blog

  • Comment number 3.

    Hello. It's my first time and I don't how it works. Is there anybody who can help me please?

  • Comment number 4.

    I may only assume what is the equivalent of a word 'mat' in my mother tongue :).

    Michal (Poland)

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi everybody! Hi Olga! :)

    I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to comment on your first blog and tell you "Nice to meet you" but you know that better late than never so I tell you now: "Nice to meet you". It's such a pleasure to encounter a compatriot ;-)

    I must compliment you on your writing style and on your theme choice. You've managed to get to the heart of the problem without unnecessary expanding. Even for a Russian like me your post was very interesting to read. Well done!

    To Manyica: the site is quite easy to use - just post your comments on Olga's (this month's student) blog or your questions to her if you have any. You may also communicate with other commenters asking them questions and sharing your experience with them. I know I don't explain very well but I'm sure you'll understand how the site functions if you visit it. And there's no doubt that the BBC LE Community will be very glad to have you as its member :) By the way, where are you from?

    Best wishes,
    Nastya, Russia

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Olga! My name is Adielson and I am Brazilian. I would like to be your friend. Well I'm looking for people to conversation because I am a student in my country and I still don't know speak English very well. It does will be a pleasure for me if you want to be my friend. Thanks!

  • Comment number 7.

    Hey please say me how I do to put my photo in this blog!

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Olga ,
    Thank you for your informative entry . To tell the trust I didn't know about them and it was interesting to know about them ! by the way I liked the Joke very much and it tells really thousands of words . With this theme I 'm thinking what would be your next entry ….. Good luck
    @ dear Nastasia , How long time no see no hear ! Happy to see a comment from you . Hope you have had a good start of 2011 year ! please be in touch and take care
    I can see there is a tend to upload photos by commentator specially among new fans of BBC LE Blog . How knows maybe in close future it would be possible ! For me it doesn't matter so much and I 'm happy with it 's current situation . I recommend For those readers to use other social network programs like Facebook at the same time : )
    Greeting every one
    Pary from Iran

  • Comment number 9.

    To Pary: Thank you so much for your warm words. And I'm really sorry for being absent for so long, but I'm a student and I had some exams to take. Fortunately they are all over :-) I promise to be in touch. Lots of love to you and your family (^.*)

    Nastya, Russia

  • Comment number 10.

    Hello everybody. I`m new here and recently I studying english in my country and I want to learn so much this language. Thank for your help.

  • Comment number 11.

    Humour in Russia Sex in China,how about that?

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Olga! Pleased to e-meet you too!! I found this post very interesting cause we barely know this aspect of Russian society. I cannot wait to read your next posts. Meanwhile, have a good week ahead!!!

  • Comment number 13.

    @ dear nastasia , best of luck for your study . I know being a student is not a easy Job specailly in exam season but belive me in the future when you look back your life the uni time with your friends is one of the best moments of your life so take advantages of it as much as you can .

  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Olga,

    I'm Igor but I'm not a russian guy...I come from the frogs country (France). It is a very nice idea to post articles about Russia, I think this country is poorly understood by people ; to lift some taboos is great.

    I found this joke on the internet and I would like to share with you : "In America, you can always find a party, in Soviet Russia, the party finds you" ... funny

    Thanks Olga and keep going !

    (You are very cute on picture :) )

  • Comment number 15.

    ...Hello, Olga ! It is nice reading your Blog.(..by the way, this is Neel from Dubai).."Russian habit of having dismal face"- is it a common phenomenon ?..but i have found some Russian always having cheerful face though...I think, you study literature..I like your topic and nice presentation...

    ....Your Anecdote fused in Paradoxes is amazing...."everybody is unhappy, but nobody complains; nobody complains, but the jails are full! "....the world lacks good people, but more Bombs are being 'given birth'; more Bombs are being given birth, but the world is peaceful; the world is peaceful, but revolutions are going on everywhere.....hahah..does it make sense...?...

    ...waiting for your next move..

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi, again I like the humour in the political poem and I think i could modify it to the capitalism. In fact there are few differences between capitalism and Soviet dictatorship. but I promised I am going to do it.Nobody has a job ;everybody is unemployed ;everybody is unemployed but the economy is good all the time the economy is good all the time . People are surrounded by prosperity ,people is surrounded by prosperity but every is hungry everybody is hungry,people live in freedom people live in freedom but nobody is free ,nobody is free, How is it ? Do you like it ? heyy i guess there are only two parties in the Usa The joke must have a problem bye :)(sorry for punctation marks :( )

  • Comment number 17.

    Hi Olga, very nice the joke you gave that explain the paradoxes of socialism. I think too that the humorism help the people to sustain the bad governments. Humorism is hepful everywhere in the world and I think I'm lucky in this moment to be italian: I have a prime minister that is a joke.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hi Olga
    You couldn't be clearer.
    Pepole often think sense of humor is connected with the countries latitudes rather than pepole. I honestly think that what we generally call sense of humor is a personal attitude and I disagree with those who think that the country where you live has a good/bad influence on your sense of humor.
    Incidentally, is there any CAE students around this blog ?

  • Comment number 19.

    hi oliga
    nice and beautiful.i like it

  • Comment number 20.

    I enjoy your entry which gives me a great sight russian's humour . Then i

    wait others to learn mor about your country and your people customs .I

    like too the style which you write with .Good luck Mohammed from Morocco

  • Comment number 21.

    Hi Olga
    It was interesting to read your anecdote. It rised to my mind a finnish joke "Two possibilities"

    It tells how a souldier goes around in his mind how to avoid the army and the war. The story is old and it can be created during the second world war as finnish and russians have had a common history.

    The end of the story is a bit dirty, and I just give the hints and you have to guess the end.
    Here it goes...

    There was a souldier who was thinking what to do with the army.
    " If I go to the army, I became a soulder. If I don't go to the army, that is good but If I choose the opportunity to go to the army, I have two possibilities. I will be a walking gun man or I will be a driving gun man. If I am a driving gun man, that is good but If I am a walking gun man, I have two possibilites. I will be on the front war yard or I will be on the back war yard. If I will be on the back yard, that is good but If I am on the front yard, I will have two possibilities. I will stay alive or I dye. If I stay alive that is good but if I dye I have two possibilites. I will be barried under the ground to the cave or I will not. If I am barried under the ground that is good, but If not, I have two possibilites. I will grow hay or trees. If I grow hay that is good but if I grow trees I have two possibilites, I will be made for a paper or a toilet paper. If I am made a paper that is good, but if I am made a toilet paper, IN THAT CASE I HAVE TO SAY THAT MY WAR HAS GONE FORWARD TO A....H....E!

    Best day all of you
    Taru, Finland

  • Comment number 22.

    hello Olga,
    Very nice hear something about russia here.
    My father was Russian, from St.Petersburg and when I red these phrase ''I would say it helps to survive'', it sums up the Russian reality.
    Sometimes life is so hard in russia that it is not possible to live in tears, then you need to laugh, to move on.
    That...holds our emotions... listen Tchaikovsky , the emotion is too hard, like explosions.
    why this humor cut as a blade ? to feel with intensity. Always with intensity !!

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Olga!
    For learners of English, it's sometimes quite difficult to understand jokes, I know the main trouble is because of different cultures in our countries, but I should add too that paradoxes keep my attention to follow the joke.

    @Taru: I love reading your comments,your level of English is so clear and you have a good command on your vocabulary. I found your joke interesting but to tell you the truth I didn't understand the ending, oh and that it's the best part in jokes (endings:) I will re-read it again:)
    Have a wonderful day,


  • Comment number 24.

    Hi Olga i like your humour too because I am from Azerbaijan (city Baku) and I know instrumental balalaika. Balalaika like guitar but balalaika triangle. Do you know where I know Balalaika??? because we were born and lived in Soviet Social Republic an we are neighbors just now. I learn English language in my country and my teacher said to me that enter to BBC site and there is you can Learn English and you will find friends.

    Good bye!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Dear all,
    This is Cristianini, from Pindorama. It is nice to join this group.
    My best wishes.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Olga,

    thank you for blogging. Your try to explain the Russian sense of humor was a very successful one und I loved reading your text. I think the joke with the seven paradoxes meets exacly the situation in Soviets time.

    Love from Austria


  • Comment number 27.

    To manyica: Hello. We already are two

  • Comment number 28.

    Hey Olga,

    I write robot/human romances, and in the latest one in order to spice up part of the dialog I brought in a Russian computer programmer.

    The programmer was cussing out the Robot when they woke it up, and started off calling it, "Wed'ma Tvar" and there were a host of other words I cannot use here.

    Then of course, as these romances go, they fell in love, and she became the, "Malyh Wed'ma."

    It was the most tremendous fun learning how to pronounce the words. I asked some Russian friends of mine and it was the dismissive way they said "Wed'ma Tvar," that I got the meaning. The Russian actually helped with the writing.

    Russian is a VERY cool language, very expressive.

    brendan (Atlanta)

  • Comment number 29.

    Hi Everybody! It`s my first post on this website. I`m very happy that I joined to your bbc learning group of friends.
    Olga, I admire your fluency in English and ligtness of writing.
    I hope that this website and Everybody help me improve my English!
    Best wishes,
    Magdalena (Poland)

  • Comment number 30.

    hi, everybody, how are you today..:)

  • Comment number 31.

    i love your blog, i love your picture too.i am your student,i hope you are my teacher.good bye!

  • Comment number 32.

    Good luck

  • Comment number 33.

    hi, every one i want just tell you i like russian people

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Dearest Olga, Jan, Marina, Svetlana and all other girls from ex-USSR!
    I congratulate you on the 8 March, the International Women's Day! I Wish you good luck and great love in your lives!
    See you,

  • Comment number 35.

    Indeed Russian humour cuts like a blade in the literary terms like you have put it and even in reality as it cuts into the lives of ordinary minority ethnics which you as a Russian sometimes do with your chastooshkas and sometimes FM stations, like russkaya radio and others, laughing at other nationalities as a joke and even your "skazkas" about "Don't go to Africa for a work" and your "chernomazovksky" expression for all that is black and from Africa, causing "pains and athritis" for all those kids born here in Russia to parents of African and Russian marriages.
    I cannot but really laugh at the suggestion that "Russian Mat" is fun, knowing fully well that there are certain regions where even the authorities are trying all their best to stop this phenomenon by introducing fines, Belgorod, for instance, the reason being that it is just another way of degrading the society and making it a lot more uncivilized - that is the use of "Russian Mat" in every day language. There is nothing amusing about making the subject of laughter a matter of another race but you do this and get away with by saying it is a joke, i only want to amuse you, why not about yourself?


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