In Russian, a joke or funny story. Plural: anekdoty.

In the Soviet Union, humor was a vital outlet for criticizing and ridiculing the regime. In Stalin’s times, subversive, or thought to be subversive, jokes were ground for arrest, exile, even execution. After his death this kind of persecution ceased, though one would still ascertain the trustworthiness of his audience before sharing a political anekdot.

Anekdoty sprung up seemingly out of thin air in an immediate response to big and small events or phenomena: scarcity of goods, ineffective bureaucracy, corruption, rude service, demagoguery, inane leadership. The genre became a laugh-through-tears statement of the wisdom and will of the people and proof that their minds successfully resisted being brainwashed into zombie condition.

Many Soviets believe that anekdoty played a role in the fall of the Soviet Union—every little bit helped. Jokes typical for the Soviet Union during the Cold War period are also common in other countries under similar regimes where they are adjusted to reflect geographic and cultural specifics.

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