The Fabulous 00s: Wikipedia, Those Lovable Chukchi, Russian Humor and Chess

Wikipedia really has a lot of stuff. Here is an excerpt from their “Russian Joke” section. My comments interspersed in bold; the wikipedia material in italics. Note the mirthsome chess reference buried in the next paragraph. I think chess players will also be able to learn a lot from the amusing political humor.

Ethnic stereotypes

Imperial Russia has been multiethnic for many centuries and this fact has survived on into its successor state, the former Soviet Union. Throughout their history several ethnic stereotypes have developed, often shared with those produced by other ethnicities (usually with the understandable exception of the ethnicity in question, but not always).

  • What do you call one Russian? –A drunk. What do you call two Russians? –A fight. What do you call three Russians? — A Party cell
  • What do you call one Jew? –A financial center. What do you call two Jews? –The World Chess Championship. What do you call three Jews? –Native Russian Folk Instrument Ensemble.
  • What do you call one Ukrainian? –A partisan. What do you call two Ukrainians? –A partisan cell. What do you call three Ukrainians? –A partisan cell with a traitor in their midst.

And there are very few Eastern European chess players who don’t know about Chukchi. I advise western players to learn about them too.

Chukchi, the native people of Chukotka, the most remote northeast corner of Russia, are the most common minority targeted for generic ethnic jokes in Russia—many other nations have a particular one they make fun of (cf. Poles in American humor or Newfie jokes about Newfoundlanders in Canada). In jokes, they are depicted as generally primitive and simple-minded, but clever in a naive kind of way. A propensity for constantly saying “odnako” – “however” – is a staple of Chukcha jokes. Often a partner of Chukcha in the jokes is a Russian geologist.

  • “Chukcha, why did you buy a fridge if it’s so cold in tundra?” / “Why, is minus fifty Celsius outside, is minus ten inside, is minus five in the fridge—a warm place, however!”
  • A Chukcha comes into a shop and asks: “Do you have color TVs?” “Yes, we do.” “Give me a green one.”
  • A Chukcha applies for membership in the Union of Soviet Writers. He is asked what literature he is familiar with. “Have you read Pushkin?” “No.” “Have you read Dostoevsky?” “No.” “Can you read at all?” The Chukcha, offended, replies, “Chukcha not reader, Chukcha writer!” (The latter phrase has become a popular cliché in Russian culture hinting at happy or militant ignorance.)

Chukchi do not miss their chance to retaliate.

  • A Chukcha and a Russian geologist go hunting polar bears. They track one down at last. Seeing the bear, the Chukcha shouts “Run!” and starts running away. The Russian shrugs, raises his gun and shoots the bear. “Russian hunter bad hunter, however”, says the Chukcha, “Now you haul this bear ten miles to the yaranga [tent-like home for the Chukcha] yourself!”

Chukchi in jokes, due to their innocence, often see the inner truth of situations.

  • A Chukcha returns home from Moscow to great excitement and interest. “What is socialism like?” asks someone. “Oh,” begins the Chukcha in awe, “There, everything is for the betterment of Man. I even saw that Man himself!”

I think the Russians are good chess players based in part on humor like this. Long winters, a lot of alcohol, many ethnic types intermingling; much fodder for comedy.

Author’s postscript on 1/14/08 – some more Chukchi jokes.

Additional Joke 1.

2 Chukchi are sitting on a block of ice in the frozen trunda ice-fishing. One says to the other, “Do you want to hear a political joke?” “No!” exclaims the other. “They might send us somewhere BAD!”

Additional Joke 2.

The Soviet Army test fires an SS-20 missile and lose track of it as it goes into the vast northern tundra. They drive a jeep up there to try to find it. “Hello”, they call out to a passing Chukcha. “Did you happen to see a big, flaming stick cross the sky?”

“No”, replies the Chukcha. “I saw some birds, a plane, a helicopter, and an SS-20 missile… but no big flaming stick.”

Additional Joke 3.

“Attention Passengers,” the PA System announces at the train station in Chukotka. “The next train to Moscow leaves on Track 2″.

“Attention Chukchi”, the PA system continues. “The next train to Moscow leaves on rails 3 and 4.”

Additional Joke 4.

Chukcha telephones to the Russian Parliament House (the Duma). A guard answers. The Chukcha asks, “How do I become member of Duma?” The guard answers, “What are you, an idiot?” The Chukcha immediately exclaims, “Is it required??”

Slightly Mystifying Additional Joke 5 (with a probably necessary explanation for the majority of the audience).

Two Chukchi meet each other on the Trans-Siberian railroad. The first asks the second, “Where you are heading?” The second says, “Moscow, how about you?” The first says, “Vladivostok.” The second exclaims, “Kak teknika!”

Explanation of Joke 5: [Kak teknika] means “How Technical!” The second is marveling at the fact that this highly technical train can be going to both destinations (located at opposite ends of the long railroad, separated by thousands of kilometers) at the same time.

Additional Joke 6.

Chukcha examines Thermos given to him by a visitor from Moscow.  “It keeps hot things hot and it keeps cold things cold”, the Muscovite explains to the Chukcha.  “But how does it know?” puzzled the Chukcha.

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