Taking Penguins to the Movies

Ethnic Humor in Russia

Taking Penguins to the Movies
Ethnic Humor
in Russia

by Emil Draitser
199 pages

Publisher: Wayne State
University Press
(July 1, 1998)

ISBN-10: 0814323278
ISBN-13: 978-0814323274

The title refers to a joke told about residents of the northern Russian region of Chukotka, who are stereotyped by ethnic Russians as being simple but friendly--almost on a par with penguins. Jokes from this part of the world, like humor elsewhere, are based on cultural assumptions and clever wordplay that will be shared by few readers in the West. The author, a Soviet Jew who emigrated in the 1970s, offers chapters on jokes told by and about various minority groups in the region: Jews, Ukrainians and residents of the former Soviet republic of Georgia, as well as Chuchkis. He demonstrates how Russian "jokelore" reflects multiple, and at times, conflicting views of ethnic groups. Russian humor about Jews and Georgians, for example, often belittles these groups while simultaneously praising the financial acumen that they are purported to possess. Draitser also shows how ethnic groups themselves use jokes to buttress themselves against Russian stereotypes.


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