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A Russian reversal is a type of joke, usually starting with the words "In Soviet Russia", in which the subject and objects of a statement are reversed, usually to reference the propaganda of an enemy that is the exact opposite of the interlocutor.
The jokes are usually told in broken English, without articles, in the way that a native Russian speaker might, which makes such reversals easier. A Russian reversal is an example of an antimetabole, a transpositional pun, and a chiasmus.
- In America, you break law.
- In Soviet Russia, law breaks you!
- In America, you pick government.
- In Soviet Russia, government picks you!
This type of joke has existed since at least the 1960s. In the 1968–73 television show Laugh-In, a recurring character, "Piotr Rosmenko the Eastern European Man" (played by Arte Johnson), delivered short jokes such as "Here in America, is very good, everyone watch television. In old country, television watches you!" This joke alludes to video screens that both reproduce images and monitor the citizenry, as in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The joke form is often credited to Ukrainian-American comedian Yakov Smirnoff, although he only rarely used Russian reversals; one exception was a Miller Lite commercial he appeared in 1985, in which he states, "In America, there's plenty of light beer and you can always find a party. In Russia, Party always finds you."