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Central and Eastern Europe since 1945 - Jokes Book

Central and Eastern Europe since 1945

The Central and Eastern European Joke Book

Political humour played an important role in the underground popular culture of the nations of Central and Eastern Europe during the period under study. The following examples of such humour have been collected by students attending the course:

  • Submitted by Meg Houston

    An old man says he was born in Austria-Hungary, went to school in Czechoslovakia, married in Hungary, worked most of his life in the Soviet Union and now lives in the Ukraine. "Traveled a lot, then?" asks his interviewer. "No, I never moved from Mukachevo."
    [Source: Timothy Garton Ash, "Hail Ruthenia!", The New York Review of Books, April 1999.]


  • Submitted by Philip Evison

    A guy goes into a butcher's and asks for pork, "nie ma" [there isn't any]; for beef, "nie ma"; for lamb, "nie ma"; for veal, "nie ma"; for chicken, "nie ma". Finally, he leaves, defeated. "He was kind of crazy, wasn't he?" says the butcher's assistant. "Yeah," says the butcher, "but what a memory!"

    [Poland, 1980]

    [Source: Timothy Garton Ash, The Polish Revolution, (London, 1991), p. 112.]


  • Submitted by Ione Hunt

    What is the difference between a democracy and Soviet democracy? The same as the difference between a chair and an electric chair.

    [Poland, 1987]

    [Source: I Svitak, The Unbearable Burden of History, (Prague, 1990), p. 206.]

    A policeman shot out his own eye while cleaning his revolver. It happened during his service so he got five thousand crowns as a compensation. He was pleased and said, "Now, I will shoot out the other eye and will have enough money to buy a colour TV for Christmas".

    [Czechoslovakia, 1987]

    [Source: I Svitak, The Unbearable Burden of History, (Prague, 1990), p. 213.]

    Soviet-Czechoslovak friendship has been growing deeper each year. Now it has reached rock bottom.

    [Czechoslovakia, 1968]

    [Source: G Golan, Reform Rule in Czechoslovakia, (Cambridge, 1973), p. 244.]


  • Submitted by David Lipinski

    Did you hear about the American junkie? He's emigrating so he can join our national Olympic team.

    [East Germany, 1980s]

    [Source: The Daily Mail, 11 November 1989.]


  • Submitted by Hania Allen

    Question: What is the definition of socialism?
    Answer: The long, hard road between capitalism and capitalism.

    [Poland, early 1980s]

    [Source: unknown]

    Question: Where in Warsaw do you get the best view?
    Answer: From the top of the Soviet Palace of Culture?
    Question: Why?
    Answer: Because that's the only place from which you can't see the Soviet Palace of Culture.

    [Poland, late 1970s]

    [Source: unknown]


  • Submitted by Emma Sherry

    A man was asked why he supported the Polish Solidarity movement. He replied: "We've had socialism for forty years and there's still no toilet paper."

    [Poland, 1980s]

    [Source: unknown]


  • Submitted by Paul Churchill

    Question: What is the difference between Dubcek and Gorbachev?
    Answer: None, but Gorbachev does not know it yet.

    [Czechoslovakia, late 1980s]

    [Source: R. Fawn, Nation of Velvet.]


  • Submitted by Iain Whitaker

    Question: What is the Russian number for international assistance?
    Answer: 56-68-81.

    [Romania, 1980s]

    [Source: unknown]


  • Submitted by Kevin Allen

    There was a bolshevik who had come to that village. When he told everyone the fine things that communism would bring the people listened to him. One day there was a crowd with him and he chose an old man from the rest so that he could explain what he meant. "Now suppose you have two cows," he said. "You keep one and give the rest to the community. Do you understand?" "Yes, that is excellent," answered old Naie. "If you have four horses, you keep two and give two to the community." "Yes, that is very good." "If you have six pigs, you keep three and give three to the community." "That is good too." "And if you have eight sheep, you keep four and give four to the community." Naie shook his head. "No, no, that is not good." Then the bolshevik became angry and he said he was stupid because he had agreed when he had asked him about the horses, the cows, and the pigs. "That is so," said Naie, "since I have no horses, cows, or pigs, but I have many sheep."

    [Romania, 1930s]

    [Source: R.J. Crampton, Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century, (London, 1994), pp. 157-8]


  • Submitted by Tove Greve

    In an East German Party meeting, the Part Secretary attempts to create a debate amongst the members. Finally, one Party member, Kohn, stands up to speak. “Comrade Party Secretary, I’ve only got three questions for you: Why is there no sugar in our shops? Where’s the meat? Where’s the bread?”
    The Secretary nods and replies: “Comrade Kohn, I will answer your question in the next Party meeting.”
    At the end of the next Party meeting one Party member stands up to speak: “Comrade Party Secretary, I’ve only got one question for you: Where is Comrade Kohn?”

    [East Germany, ?]

    [Source: unknown]


  • Submitted by Susanna Blomqvist

    An old woman goes into a Romanian butcher and asks for porkchops.
    "No" is the reply from one of the shop-assistants.
    "How about beef? Chicken? Lamb? sausage?", the woman asks.
    "No! No! No! No!" the butchers keep replying.
    The old woman leaves, clearly dissatisfied. When she's left the one butcher turns to the other "what an annoying old wrench. But what an incredible memory!"

    [Romania, ?]

    [Source: unknown]


  • Submitted by Hendrik Puschmann

    At an international communist conference, Walter Ulbricht meets Mao Zedong.
    WU: "Say, Comrade Mao, how many opponents do you have at home?"
    MZ: "Oh well, about sixteen million I'd guess, but we're coping with them quite well."
    WU: "Same here!"

    [East Germany]

    [Source: unknown]

    In 1939, a man is arrested in Berlin for shouting "Hitler is a fool". He is sentenced to one year in prison. In 1949, the same man is arrested for shouting "Ulbricht is a fool". He is sentenced to ten years. He says: "Under Hitler, I only got one year. It's not fair." The Stasi officer answers: "Well, you only got one year for insulting Ulbricht. The other nine are for talking about a state secret in public."

    [East Germany]

    [Source: unknown]

    Question to Radio Eriwan: "Is it true that Comrade Brezhnev collects jokes about himself?"
    Answer: "Basically, yes. But he really collects people who make jokes about him."

    [Soviet Union]

    [Source: unknown]

    Q: Is it true that the Czechs called on the Red Army to help them?
    A: Basically, yes. But it took the Red Army until 1968 to follow up the Czech request from 1939.

    [Soviet Union]

    [Source: unknown]

    Q: Is it true that the Soviet Prime Minister has reached an official agreement with the Pope?
    A: Basically, yes. But there is still dispute about the preamble. The Pope want it to say that "God created man", the PM wants the addition "as per the Party's instructions".

    [Soviet Union]

    [Source: unknown]

  • more to come ...

A star prize of a bottle of Czech beer will be awarded to the student who, in the view of the class as a whole, contributes the best example of Central and Eastern European political humour.

See also Bad news - politics are back on the joke landscape by Jukka Luoma in the Helsingin Sanomat (International Edition, 1 August 2000).

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