During the period of the greatest freedom in the early 1990s,
political jokes essentially vanished in Russia. The very reason for
their existence disappeared. It was no longer necessary to whisper
together in the kitchen if people could go out onto the street and
shout whatever they felt like. Therefore, it is possible to argue
that the number of jokes about one or another leader is an indicator
of the degree of freedom under them.
In this regard, it is interesting to note that
political jokes under
Vladimir Putin (2000 - 2008)
once again gained popularity,
as a coping mechanism or a primary part of the
Initially, jokes focused on Putin's victory in the 2000 election.
According to one:
The Americans sought help from the chairman of the
Russian Central Electoral
Commission Aleksandr Veshnyakov when they could not determine a
US presidential candidates Bush and Gore. After conducting a
Veshnyakov declared Putin the winner.
Jokes about Putin
reached a peak when he launched a crackdown on NTV television
channel in 2001, which in
and of itself was symptomatic.
These jokes can be divided into three main groups: Putin's past
(Petersburg and the KGB), Putin-style freedom and democracy, and
Putin the person.
Putin's KGB background is alluded to in the
Have you heard, Putin ordered the
government to stop the
Well, not exactly, he ordered
to have it held back...and jailed.
(It is a pun:
Russian zadierzhat means both to hold
back and to detain.)
Putin's perceived hard-line
approach is the theme of this
Stalin's ghost appears to Putin in a dream,
and Putin asks for his help running the country.
"Round up and shoot all the
democrats, and then paint the inside of the
"Why blue?" Putin asks.
says Stalin. "I knew you wouldn't ask me about
the first part."
Perhaps, the most interesting category is the
jokes about Putin the person.
In almost every respect, he could not be more different from his
Soviet and post-Soviet (Yeltsin) predecessors.
His youthfulness, physical health, and energy were in stark
contrast to the aging and ailing leaders, such as
Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, or Yeltsin.
Putin cultivated an image of machismo
and manliness, cool and
collected leader. Well-known as a downhill skier and black
belt in judo, he appeared on national
television driving a truck, operating a train, sailing on a
submarine and copiloting a fighter jet.
For this reason, if jokes about Brezhnev or Yeltsin were mainly
making fun of their senility, Putin is generally the positive hero of the jokes about him.
He is always in control, always on cue. He dresses well, speaks well
and drinks in moderation.
Russians like their leaders powerful and in control. And Putin is
just this kind of leader.
While his popularity is certainly tied to his image –
leading to everything from Putinka brand vodka to the girl-band pop
song "Like Putin" (whose singers look for a man who is "like
Putin/full of strength/like Putin/who won’t drink) – Putin’s image
is, in turn, mirrored by his era,
an era in which Russia is getting stronger, reasserting itself
internationally, becoming more stable at home and growing
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