A cache of Soviet jokes that was compiled by CIA agents during the Cold War has been released among a cache of declassified documents.
All the jokes were told between Soviets but picked up by CIA operatives before being relayed back to Washington.Â
The list was addressed to the Deputy Director of the CIA but it is believed to have been circulated among senior White House officials.
One joke featuring Ronald Reagan made it to the president’s desk and he found it so funny he began using it himself.
A cache of Soviet jokes compiled by the CIA during the Cold War has been declassified and included this quip about Ronald Reagan
While the document containing the jokes was addressed to the Deputy Director of the CIA, the Reagan joke made its way to the president, who liked it so much he used it himself
The quip goes: ‘An American tells a Russia that the United States is so free that he can stand outside the White House and yell “to hell with Ronald Reagan.”
The Russian replies: ‘That’s nothing, I can stand outside the Kremlin and yell “to hell with Ronald Reagan too!”
It is not known exactly why the CIA began doing this, though since there were no polls in Soviet Russia it could have been a good way for agents to judge public mood towards politicians and the government.Â
One particular figure of fun was Mikhail Gorbeachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, who worked to end the Cold War by reforming the USSR.
While this made him popular overseas he was often reviled at home, as revealed by this joke, which tells of a man waiting in line at a liquor store.Â
Mikhail Gorbachev, the reformist Soviet leader who oversaw the collapse of the Union, was often reviled at home – as this joke about assassinating him shows
Another joke compares Gorbachev (left) to Czechoslovakian leader Alexander DubÄek (right), who was forced from office at gunpoint after trying to reform the Soviet state
The joke predicts that Gorbachev will share the same fate as Ducek, but doesn’t know it yet
“I’ve had enough, save my place, I’m going to shoot Gorbachev,” he says. Two hours later he returns to claim his place in line.Â
Stalin was also a figure of fun. One joke tells of a man who disappears for 15 years before suddenly returning. ‘I was in jail for calling Stalin a fathead’, he says. ‘That’s a long time for a joke,’ his friend replies. ‘No, I only got one year for the joke, I got 14 for revealing a state secret’
‘His friend asks “Did you get him?” “No,” he replies, “the line there was even longer than the line here.’
Another quip compared Gorbachev to the reformist Czechoslovakian politician Alexander DubÄek who worked to make the government more transparent while lifting controls on the arts, free speech and the press.
The process ended when the Soviets marched troops into Czechoslovakia and kicked him out of office.
Other jokes poke fun at food shortages and living conditions in the USSR during the 1980s, especially when compared to America.
It goes: ‘AÂ Chukchi [indigenous people native toÂ Chukchi Peninsula, across the Bering Strait from Alaska] is asked what he would do if the Soviet borders were opened.
“I’d climb the highest tree,” he replies. Asked why, he says: “So I wouldn’t get trampled on the stampede out!”
‘Then he is asked what he would do if the US border is opened.
“I’d climb the highest tree,” he says “So I could see the first person crazy enough to come here!”Â Â
Other jokes poke fun at the often miserable living conditions in the USSR during the Cold War, especially when compared to prosperous America (a Chukchi is a person indigenous to theÂ Chukchi region of far eastern Russia, and therefore very close to America)Â
The joke goes: ‘What’s the difference between Gorbachev and Dubcek? Nothing, but Gorbachev doesn’t know it yet.’
Despite the often brutal repressions by the Soviet Union against its own people, the Russians showed their ability to laugh at the absurdity of the situation.
They were also not afraid to poke fun at the heroes of the past, as this joke about Josef Stalin shows.
‘A Russian man reappears in Moscow after an absence of 15 years and explains he was in prison for calling Josef Stalin a fathead.
“That’s a long sentence for criticizing the leader,” his friend says.
“Oh, only got a year for that” he replies. “I got 14 years for revealing a state secret.”
Other jokes poke fun at hated institutions, such as the KGB who were used to spy on possible traitors during the war, and the cruelty of Communism itself
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