Russians have had a rather fatalistic view of things, and it is reflected in their sense of humor.
One of the many things I was tasked with during my time in the US Navy was to “study our greatest potential adversary,” the Soviet Union. Not only did I study their ships, aircraft and weapons systems, but their culture as well.
Their outlook in life has been cynical, fatalistic, massive, crushing. Tsar or Communists, it did not matter. Yet, the twist revealed in their humor would cause the most biting haiku to weep with jealousy.
Q: How do all jokes start in the Soviet Union?
A: By looking over your shoulder.
A Russian and an American were talking one day. The American says, “I have the freedom to walk into the White House, into the Oval Office and pound my fist on the desk of the president and tell him, ‘Mr. President, I don’t like the way you’re running things.”
The Russian was non-plussed. “I can do that too” he says. “I can walk into the Kremlin, into the General Secretaries office, pound my fist on his desk and say, ‘Comrade Gorbachov, I don’t like the way the President of the United States is running things.’ “
In the late seventies, Soviet party members decide on establishing the first strip club in Moscow. They plan out everything, yet somehow there's next to no income. After some discussion, they decide on inviting two American experts to inspect the place. The Americans look around for a minute, then tell the head of the Soviet delegation:
"The position of this club is perfect. The food is excellent. The atmosphere is grandiose. The drinks are extraordinary. But the stripper has to go."
"Impossible!" says the Soviet organizer. "She is the perfect woman for the job, she has been a loyal member of the Communist Party for the past 60 years!"
A man goes into the streets of Moscow and yells, “I am tired of this guy with a silly mustache and stupid rules being a leader!”
A soldier heard him, so he goes and catches him. Later the soldier brings the man to Stalin. The soldier tells Stalin what happened and Stalin asks the man, “Who were you talking about when you yelled in the streets?” Man responds, “Comrade Stalin, I was talking about Hitler!” Stalin lets him go but then he stops the soldier to say, “Who were YOU thinking about?”
Why do Stasi [German Secret Police] officers travel in threes?
One can read, one can write and the third keeps an eye on the two dangerous intellectuals.
Two Soviet women are waiting in a bread line. After 2 hours standing in the cold the one woman says to the other, "Can you believe we have to wait over 2 hours in line to get bread?"
"You shouldn't complain" Said the other woman, "I hear in America they don't even have bread lines."
In a Siberian gulag a prisoner says to his cellmate:
"Worst thing is, no news reach us here... For example, I don't even know what the end result of the Fischer-Spassky chess match was."
His cellmate answers:
A member of the Communist Party talks with a kid in Moscow in the late 1940s.
"Hey, kid, who is your father?"
"My father is our great and glorious leader, Comrade Stalin!"
"Excellent. And who is your mother?"
"My mother is the Great Motherland, the Soviet Union."
"Very good. And what do you want to be when you grow up?"
"Well, for the most part, orphaned."
An artist is commissioned to create a painting celebrating Soviet–Polish friendship, to be called "Lenin in Poland." When the painting is unveiled at the Kremlin, there is a gasp from the invited guests; the painting depicts Nadezhda Krupskaya (Lenin's wife) naked in bed with Leon Trotsky. One guest asks, "But this is a travesty! Where is Lenin?" To which the painter replies, "Lenin is in Poland."
At a factory, every night one of the workers would run a wheelbarrow loaded with sawdust out the gate. The guard there would check the sawdust and the wheelbarrow to see of the worker was stealing something, and every night found nothing. For forty years this went on. On their last day before retirement, the guard told the worker, "Look. I know you've been stealing something all these years, I have to know."
The worker looked around, leaned in close to the guard, winked and smiled, then said one word: "Wheelbarrows."
(Reagan told this one during a speech)
Privately-owned automobiles are rare in the Soviet Union. Only 1 out of 7 families in the Soviet Union own an automobile. There’s a ten year wait and you have to go through quite a process to buy one, and you have to pay the money in advance. One man went through the process and finally laid down the money. The salesman tells him to come back in ten years to get his car. And the man asks, “Morning or afternoon?”
The salesman says, “Well 10 years from now, what difference does it make?” And he said, “Well, the plumber’s coming in the morning.”