For many years Lenin (1870-1924), the revered
leader of the Russian Revolution of 1917,
had remained an "untouchable" subject for
joke-tellers. Most of the jokes about him were told
in retrospect, after Nikita Khrushchev condemned
Stalin's crimes and the cult of personality around
him and declared the need to cleanse Leninism of
But the real proliferation of jokes about Lenin did
not begin until Brezhnev's time and coincided with the marking
of the one hundred anniversary of Lenin's birth in 1970. To a great
extent, the jokes reflected the revulsion many people felt toward
the overdose of the Lenin propaganda and the desire to debunk the
one-dimensional sugary image of Lenin created by countless films
produced to mark his jubilee.
The jokes about
Lenin typically made
fun of the features of his character popularized by propaganda:
kindness, love of children (Lenin never had children of his own),
sharing nature, kind eyes, etc. Accordingly, the jokes
debunk the myth of Lenin as a kindly man presenting him
as sneaky and hypocritical.
Lenin jokes also make fun of his accent:
the joke-teller would take care to imitate his
A popular joke set-up is
Lenin interacting with the head of the secret police,
Dzerzhinsky in the
Smolny Institute, seat of the revolutionary communist government
Petrograd, or with khodoki, peasants that came to see
During the famine of the civil war, a delegation of starving
peasants comes to the Smolny, wishing to file a petition.
have even started eating the grass like horses," says one
"Soon we will start neighing like horses!"
Don't worry!" says Lenin reassuringly. "We are drinking tea with
honey here, and we are not buzzing like bees, are we?"
(Concerning the omnipresent Lenin propaganda
and the cult of personality that was built up around him.)
station announcement in Moscow underground: 'This is Lenin station.
Proceed to Lenin line and line of Lenin. Cross over to Lenin line.
Next station is Lenin station.'
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