Stalin's Favorite Joke


Via Arts & Letters Daily, an article in the UK Prospect about the role(s) of jokes in Communist countries:

Stalin himself cracked [jokes], including this one about a visit from a Georgian delegation: They come, they talk to Stalin, and then they go, heading off down the Kremlin's corridors. Stalin starts looking for his pipe. He can't find it. He calls in Beria, the dreaded head of his secret police. "Go after the delegation, and find out which one took my pipe," he says. Beria scuttles off down the corridor. Five minutes later Stalin finds his pipe under a pile of papers. He calls Beria–"Look, I've found my pipe." "It's too late," Beria says, "half the delegation admitted they took your pipe, and the other half died during questioning."

"Jokes," writes Ben Lewis in "Hammer & Tickle," "may not have carried the weight of the great forces which ended communism, but they were more than mere figures of speech. Jokes kept alive in the minds of the citizens of the Soviet bloc the idea of an alternative reality, and they made light of four decades of occupation of eastern and central Europe."

Whole thing here.

Reason's Charles Paul Freund unleashed a dark chuckle over Martin Amis' Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million here (don't miss the Johnny Weismuller anecdote at the very close) and Glenn Garvin detailed the greatest hits of the East German secret police here.