16 Classic Russian Jokes

via Getty Images / Mikhail Svetlov

Russian humor can be difficult to understand even if you speak fluent Russian. This is often because many Russian jokes play on cultural stereotypes, political events, popular culture, and Soviet-time movies.

Russian jokes are called анекдот and have a unique history. The first анекдоты came to Russia through the European tradition of telling interesting, often funny stories. They were popular in the aristocratic circles and eventually developed into the classic joke similar to those in the West.

However, these jokes took on a very political slant during the 70 years of the Soviet era. This unique perspective allowed for the development of an unusual, specific Russian humor characterized by its themes of political or cultural relevance.

Soviet Jokes About Political Leaders

Like father like son - portrait with big moustaches
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Soviet political leaders provided a lot of material for new jokes, especially Stalin, Brezhnev, and Khrushchev, due to their odd or funny behavior as well as the paradoxical and claustrophobic nature of the Soviet life.

1."That's enough of messing around," said Brezhnev, gluing his eyebrows under his nose.

2. Brezhnev is speaking at a party meeting. "Who said that I can only speak when I have the speech in front of me? Ha, dash, ha, dash, ha, dash."

3. - "Do you have a hobby, Leonid Ilyich?"
- "Of course! I collect jokes about myself."
- "Have you got many?"
- "Two and a half labor camps already!"

Jokes About Everyday Soviet Life

Life was difficult in the Soviet Union, with stores often displaying empty shelves and politics generating a high level of stress and suspicion. People were painfully aware of the lack of things that were considered completely ordinary abroad. All production was done within the country and everything was grey and clunky compared to what was being produced in the West. People responded by coming up with jokes that played on the contrast between life in the Soviet Union and life elsewhere.

4. Two cassette players meet up. One is Japanese, the other is Soviet-made. The Soviet one says:
- "Is it true that your owner has bought you a new cassette?"
- "Yeah."
- "Can I have a chew?"

5. - "What would you do if they opened the borders?"
- "I would climb a tree."
- "Why?"
- "So I don't get killed in the stampede."

Jokes About Contemporary Life in Russia

6. They caught Bin Laden. Washed him, gave him a haircut, turned out it was Berezovsky.

7. A factory worker in a Western country shows his house to his Russian colleague.
- "Here's my room, this one is my wife's, this is my eldest daughter's, that's our dining room, then the guest bedroom..." etc.
The Russian guest nods and says, after a pause:
- "Well, it's basically similar to mine. Only we don't have the internal walls."

New Russians Jokes

Young woman in kokoshnik.
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New Russians appeared in the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, as the Russian nouveaux riches. They quickly became the subject of many jokes due to their lack of culture, education, and manners, as well as their garish tastes. New Russians were usually depicted as low in intelligence and reliant on money to solve everything.

8. Two New Russians are driving in a Jeep and see a sign "Traffic police - 100m." One of them takes out his wallet and begins to count the money. Then he sighs and says "You know what, Vovan, I don't think we have enough for a hundred cops."

9. A New Russian says to an architect:
- "I want you to build three swimming pools: one with cold water, one with warm water, and one without any water."
- "Why would the third one not have any water?"
- "Cuz some of my friends can't swim."

Jokes About Lenin

Two sea shells with googly eyes, lie on the sand and look at an old Soviet banknote. Ten rubles USSR with Lenin portrait close-up.
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Just like other political leaders, Lenin has been the butt of many Russian jokes. His character traits, his manner of speech, and his post-death stay at the Moscow mausoleum are all popular topics.

10. A tired father of six comes home after a night shift. The kids surround him and demand to play. He says:
- "Okay, let's play a game called Mausoleum where I'll be Lenin and you'll be the guards."

11. A journalist interviews Lenin.
- "Vladimir Ilyich, how did you come up with the slogan 'Study, study, and study'?"
- "I didn't come up with anything, I was just trying out a new pen!"

Jokes About Lieutenant Rzhevsky

Lieutenant Rzhevsky is a fictional character in a play by Aleksandr Gladkov and the movie based on the play, "The Hussar Ballad." Possessing both negative and positive character traits, Rzhevsky became a popular subject of Soviet jokes after the release of the movie. Although the original character is not that much of a womanizer, it is this trait in particular that dominates the jokes about him.

Interestingly, the jokes usually also feature Natasha Rostova, one of the main characters of Tolstoy's "War and Peace." The reason for this is that while Rzhevsky represents a vulgar, highly sexualized military man, Natasha Rostova depicts the more traditional ideals of a woman as seen in Russian culture as a demure and charming character. The contrast between them creates plenty of opportunities for jokes.

12. Natasha Rostova is at a ball.
- "It is terribly hot in here. Lieutenant Rzhevsky, perhaps we could open something?"
- "With my greatest pleasure! Would you prefer champagne or cognac?"

13. - "Chaps, I'm so tired of the same old card games! Why don't we go to the theatre instead? They are putting on 'Three Sisters'."
Lieutenant Rzhevsky:
- "This is going to work out brilliantly! There are three of us, too!"

Jokes About Little Vovochka

angry little brat enjoying making a grimace for misbehavior
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Equivalent to Little Johny, Little Vovochka originated in the early 20th century as a nameless little boy who would shock others with his vulgar behavior. Eventually, the little boy became Little Vovochka as an ironic homage to such leaders of Russia as Vladimir the Great and Vladimir Lenin. More recently, Vladimir Putin also joined the ranks of the Vovochkas.

14. A teacher asks:
- "Children, who has a pet at home?"
Everyone raises their hands and shouts out "Cat!" "Dog!" "Hedgehog!"
Little Vovochka raises his hand and says "Lice, ticks, cockroaches!"

15. Little Vovochka decided to become president when he grows up. And he did.

Jokes About Chapaev

Chapaev was a celebrated Russian army commander during the Russian Civil War. After a Soviet movie was made about him in 1934, Chapaev became a popular subject of Russian jokes. His sidekick, Petka, is usually present in the jokes, too.

16. Petka asks Chapayev:
- "Vassily Ivanovich, can you drink half a liter of vodka?"
- "Of course!"
- "What about a full liter?"
- "Sure!"
- "How about a whole barrel?"
- "No problem, I can drink that easily."
- "Can you drink a river of vodka?"
- "Nah, I can't do that. Where would I get such a giant gherkin?"