Staunton, December 17 – Every political joke is a small revolution, Soviet dissidents often said, and consequently, the anecdotes Russians tell one another about the situations they find themselves in may provide a better indication of where they are at and what they expect than any poll.
Today, Yevgeny Babushkin posts six such anecdotes about the collapse of the ruble, the collapse of oil prices, and Russia’s economic problems on Snob.ru to illustrate the ways in which Russians are thinking about what is happening to them and their country.
The first goes as follows: When there are 30 rubles to the dollar, Russians say “Crimea is Ours.” When the exchange rate falls to 40, they say we will build a “super-bridge” to the peninsula. When it is at 50, they say it will simply be a bridge. At 60, a ferry. At 90, they say that Crimea is yours. And at 100, they propose giving Ukraine the Kuban as a gift as well.
The second is shorter: One Russian asks: What would you exchange if you could go back into the past? And another answers: rubles.
According to a third, a Russian notes that some people say to “keep your money in rubles,” but he has hidden his money in a “bunch of rubles” because “no one will think to look there for sure.”
The fourth has it that when a barrel of oil meets a dollar, the barrel says: “You look great, just like 100!”
In the fifth, a Russian is asked “what is the real relationship between the pound, the ruble and the dollar? And he gets the answer: “a pound of rubles is worth a dollar.”
And according to the sixth, one Russian saved his rubles all his life but then threw himself out the window, only to discover that he still fell more slowly than the value of the ruble.
As will be obvious to anyone familiar with Soviet or Russian humor, most if not all of these are recycled from earlier times. But that is not the point: the point is that Russians are beginning to tell such stories sufficiently often that it is attracting the attention of the Moscow media.
And as any number of observers in any number of countries have pointed out, a political leader or even a political system can tolerate many things, but it faces its most serious challenge not when people criticize it, an indication that they take it seriously, but when they begin to laugh at it, an indication that they no longer do.