It’s Only A Joke, Comrade!: Humour, Trust and Everyday Life under Stalin (1928-1941)

December 27, 2019 - Comment

‘A stunningly original study of Stalinist society… Essential reading for anyone interested in how human beings navigate a path through times of extraordinary upheaval, privation and danger’ – Daniel Beer In the shadow of the Gulag, Soviet citizens were still cracking jokes. They had to. Drawing on diaries, interviews, memoirs and hundreds of previously secret

‘A stunningly original study of Stalinist society… Essential reading for anyone interested in how human beings navigate a path through times of extraordinary upheaval, privation and danger’ – Daniel Beer

In the shadow of the Gulag, Soviet citizens were still cracking jokes. They had to.

Drawing on diaries, interviews, memoirs and hundreds of previously secret documents, It’s Only a Joke, Comrade! uncovers how they joked, coped, and struggled to adapt in Stalin’s brave new world. It asks what it really means to live under a dictatorship: How do people make sense of their lives? How do they talk about it? And whom can they trust to do so?

Moving beyond ideas of ‘resistance’, ‘doublethink’, ‘speaking Bolshevik’, or Stalin’s Cult of Personality to explain Soviet life, it reveals how ordinary people found their way and even found themselves in a life lived along the fault-lines between rhetoric and reality.

‘An extraordinary achievement’ – Ronald Grigor Suny

‘Re-vitalizes our understanding of Soviet society’ – Lynne Viola

‘Fascinating … lively, engaging, and at times very funny’ – Catriona Kelly

‘The best book on Stalinism I’ve read in a long time’ – S.A. Smith

‘One of those rare books that not only has to be read by scholars in the field, but is also accessible to a wide readership. Indeed it is an essential read for anybody who wants to get beyond standard views of the “communist joke” and understand what humour really tells us about life under this extraordinary regime’ – David Priestland

Comments

Anonymous says:

This is us. Come for the jokes, stay for the rest. Stalin, humor, as the author says “life lived along the fault lines between rhetoric and reality”; a great study of an important part of human culture in any time or place.

Anonymous says:

Light shown on a fascinating topic but excessively analytical The idea that you could be arrested, imprisoned or maybe executed because you told a joke about your political leaders is a unnerving concept. This book tells how in the USSR, Stalin’s regime’s efforts to create a workers paradise would not suffer jokes about that imaginary paradise’s failures from those same workers who saw the failures very clearly. This book reveals the documented evidence of Soviet citizens being arrested for telling anti-regime jokes or even just funny comments. It…

Anonymous says:

Interesting but not really funny Nothing kills a joke better than explaining it. The author brings up a few classic Soviet era jokes, not the best ones, then drives them into the ground with bland jargon-laden analysis. Still worth a read but not for the light hearted.

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