Russian humour

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Russian humour gains much of its wit from the inflection of the Russian language, allowing for plays on words and unexpected associations. As with any other culture's humour, its vast scope ranges from lewd jokes and wordplay to political satire.


The most popular form of Russian humour consists of jokes (анекдо́ты — anekdoty), which are short stories with a punch line. Typical of Russian joke culture is a series of categories with fixed and highly familiar settings and characters. Surprising effects are achieved by an endless variety of plots and plays on words.


Jewish humor is a highly developed subset of Russian humor, largely based on the Russian Jews' self-image. These Jewish anecdotes are not the same as anti-Semitic jokes. As some Jews say themselves, Jewish jokes are being made by either anti-Semites or the Jews themselves. Instead, whether told by Jews or non-Jewish Russians, these jokes show cynicism, self-irony, and wit that is characteristic of Jewish humor both in Russia and elsewhere in the world (see Jewish humor). The jokes are usually told with a characteristic Jewish accent (stretching out syllables, parodying the uvular trill of "R", etc.) and some peculiarities of sentence structure calqued into Russian from Yiddish. Many of these jokes are set in Odessa, and to some extent the phrase "Odessa humor" is synonymous with "Jewish jokes," even if the characters don't have Jewish names and even their religion/ethnicity is never mentioned. To Russians, it is sufficient to begin a joke with: "So, an Odessan woman gets on the bus...", and her Jewishness is implicitly understood by the listener.


Drinking toasts can take the form of anecdotes or not-so-short stories, concluded with "So here's to..." with a witty punchline referring to the initial story.


A specific form of humour is chastushkas, songs composed of four-line rhymes, usually of lewd, humoristic, or satiric content.

Black humour[edit]

Apart from jokes, Russian humour is expressed in word play and short poems including nonsense and black humour verses, similar to some of the macabre "nursery rhymes" of Edward Lear.

Often they have recurring characters such as "little boy", "Vova", "a girl", "Masha". Most rhymes involve death or a painful experience either for the protagonists or other people. This type of joke is especially popular with children.

A little boy found a machine gun
Now the village population is none.
Маленький мальчик нашёл пулемёт —
Больше в деревне никто не живёт.
A boy played in the sandbox with no one to mind him,
When quietly a mixing truck pulled up behind him.
He peeped not a peep, cried out nary a cry —
Just his sandals stuck out when the concrete was dry.
Маленький мальчик в песочке играл,
Тихо подъехал к нему самосвал.
Не было слышно ни крика, ни стона —
Только сандали торчат из бетона.
A girl in the field had once found a razor
"What is this, daddy?" She asked in amazement.
"It is a harmonica," Daddy then says.
... and wider and wider the grin on her face.
Девочка бритву на поле нашла.
"Что это, папа?" Спросила она.
Папа ответил: "Губная гармошка".
...Всё шире и шире улыбка у крошки.
Could machine replace a man?
The answer to this question is long known by cannibals.
Может ли машина заменить человека?
Ответ на этот вопрос давно уже знают людоеды.

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