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Mocking Moscow

Historically, mistrust of the government-controlled dispersal of information forced ordinary Russian citizens to rely on jokes in order to bring a measure of truth to the falsehoods manufactured by the State. In the wake of any newsworthy event, jokes sprang up like mushrooms after a rain.

The criminal Soviet past, for example, has always been glossed over in the official media, but recently, when the history textbooks were once again re-edited to avoid any mention of Stalinist crimes, this joke appeared: Failing to build a great future for us, Putin decided to give us a great past.

Putin’s links to corruption and organized crime are communicated simply: Every country has its own mafia, but only in Russia does the mafia have its own country. [Editor’s note: Not anymore!]

Even though Putin is known as a decisive reformer, his economic program has only two points: 1) Make the Russian people happy and wealthy. 2) The list of names is provided — which means that only Putin’s inner circle is allowed to grow rich, while the rest of the country continues to suffer.

Nevertheless, Putin’s popularity among the Russians remains high. But this joke helps us to understand the reason: Putin’s ratings reached ninety percent. If this trend continues, soon we will learn the names of those who voted against him.

Putin’s KGB past is certainly troublesome. It is said that Putin loves political jokes. He collects them. Along with those who tell them.

As a result, even the sanctions that the United States imposed on Russia beginning in 2014 did not hurt Putin’s reputation: Moscow issued a warning; it will retaliate against the U.S. sanctions by raising Putin’s ratings.

The United States had always been a problem for Moscow until Putin took the matter into his capable hands, allegedly interfering in the 2016 U.S. election: Since early morning, world leaders have been calling to congratulate Putin on Trump’s victory.

Another proof of Putin’s influence on other countries’ democratic process is the fact that in preparation for the German elections, Angela Merkel put on her agenda: Find out from Trump the Russian hackers’ hourly rates.

And Trump himself has become the butt of many jokes: The Pentagon announced that it will lengthen the nuclear codes up to 140-plus characters so that Trump can’t tweet them.

From the May/June 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Humor.

Eugene Yelchin About Eugene Yelchin

Russian American author-illustrator Eugene Yelchin's novel Breaking Stalin's Nose (Holt) was a 2012 Newbery Honor Book. His forthcoming book is The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge (Candlewick), co-authored with M. T. Anderson.

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