Why Putin jokes can be good for you?

My translation of an entry in Heikki Aittokoski‘s column Narrien laiva in Helsingin Sanomat from March 26, 2014: Stalinin vinkit Putinille – ja kimara parhaita Putin-vitsejä. Aittokoski gave a permission to post a translation.

Vladimir Putin smiling.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was sound asleep when suddenly the ghost of Joseph Stalin appeared in the bed chamber in Kremlin.

Putin wakes up but is not alarmed. He queries Stalin for some pointers how to best govern Russia.

“You line up all democrats along the wall and you have them shot,” the ghost of Stalin answers. “And then you paint the Kremlin walls blue.”

“Why on earth should I paint them blue?” wonders Putin aloud.

Stalin gives a hollow chuckle: “I knew you’d question only the paint job.”


A great many jokes about Vladimir Putin are making their rounds. And they have been for a long time. Now after the Crimea more than ever.

I assume and hope that they are also told in Russia. The one above is Russian, from the early days of Putin’s reign.

I don’t know how jokes are currently fairing in Russia. The attitudes towards the ruler in authoritarian countries are madly-serious, and laughter isn’t such a likely cause for longevity.

On this side of the Russian border laughter comes easy. My guiding light has been the late author Juhani Peltos’ aphorism: “You become the joke when you can’t laugh at serious matters.”

Laughter may not set everything right, but it soothes – at least for a while – the distressing feeling caused by Russia’s actions.


Humor is often dark at the foreign news desk. When Pekka Hakala, our correspondent in Moscow, was in Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, he related the following: “I was asked on Lenin’s square if I really was from Finland. My reply was: ‘For the time being.'”

Vladimir Putin was on Facebook and saw an update about Ukraine. “They need to share this,” said he.

Most of my jokes are so clumsy that I don’t feel like repeating them here. More than anything they are my way of dealing with tragic news.

Obviously, I am not the only one with this hobby. Putin jokes are a universal past time. My latest laugh came from an entry by satirist Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker:

The Borowitz Report brings us the news that Putin, having been kicked out of the G-8, has announced the formation of a new group called the G-1. Its members are Russia. The G1 summit will take place in Sochi in June and the nations participating are Russia. “It is an auspicious start for the G-1 to have the participation of all its member nations,” Putin states according to Borowitz.


I found a delightful report on Wikipedia on the tradition of political satire in Russia. My mirth was lessened as I saw that the jokes from the Soviet era were largely applicable to present-day Russia.

As an example I share one classic joke that lies unpleasantly in the gray shades between a joke and a fact.

Five precepts of the Soviet intelligentsia:

  • Don’t think.
  • If you think, then don’t speak.
  • If you think and speak, then don’t write.
  • If you think, speak and write, then don’t sign.
  • If you think, speak, write and sign, then don’t be surprised.


It might also be a good time for Radio Yerevan to start broadcasting again, that fictional radio station from the cold war.

You are listening to Radio Yerevan. We have been asked if it is true that there is freedom of speech in Russia, just like in the USA.

Our answer is: In principle, yes. In the USA, you can stand in front of the White House and yell, “Down with Obama!” , and you will not be punished. Equally, you can also stand in the Red Square in Moscow and yell, “Down with Obama!”, and you will not be punished.

There is a new version of this Radio Yerevan joke. Editor Jarmo Mäkelä of the Finnish Public Broadcasting Company shared in his blog this question from the audience.

You are listening to Radio Yerevan. We have been asked: How many people of Russian origin live in Finland?

Our answer is: There is enough to have a referendum.


Oh well. You could carry on and on with these, and, unfortunately, there would be a good enough reason to do so. Generally speaking, I wish courage to all the comedians under dictatorships, who have a real risk of becoming the real butt of a trope.