is probably not what you think. In Russia/Russian an anecdote is not an amusing story, but a joke, often imbued with deep philosophical wisdom. No “knock-knock” stuff in this neck of the woods. There are books filled with thousands of anecdotes, grouped by several ever-popular genres: life in the USSR, Slavic folk heroes and creatures, fictional Russian WW2 spies*, real Russian Civil War heroes**, the Russians’ superiority in wit and strength (are you sensing a pattern?), husbands and wives, anthropomorphized forest animals, and many more.
There’s an art to telling anecdotes in Russia, and a special place for it in the socializing process. Andy Frecka gets to the heart of this highly important part of Russian culture. You really must read his take on the matter first, with a few sample anecdotes of his own (including one about vodka!), linked to below.
Then come back and I will share with you my recent favorite.
When you tell a Russian anecdote, your Russian friends will grin with patient expectancy and urge you on as you attempt to recall the various details. Indeed, you might spot a bead of saliva forming on their lower lips as they wait in suspense for the punch line to this comical tale that they have known and loved for years. For in telling a Russian anecdote, you are not only providing entertainment, you are extending the olive branch of international peace as you show the highest level of respect for local humor.
Extra credit will be given to the spinner of hilarity for excessive emotion, passionate gestures, epic pauses, and adding your own facts and details to your whimsical tale.
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Back? Ok, here it goes.
An German, French, British and Russian mouse lived in a hole in a wall of a bar run by a big mean cat. One day when the cat closed out the place, the mice decided to get their drink on.
First went the German mouse. He ran up to the tap, poured himself a beer, looked around — phew, no cat in sight — gulped down the beer, and scurried off.
The French mouse ran up to the wine rack, poured himself a glass of Bordeaux, looked around — no cat anywhere — drank the wine, and back to the hole.
The British mouse ran up to the bar, poured himself a tumbler of top-shelf whiskey, looked left, right — no cat — downed the drink, and ran back.
The Russian mouse runs up to the bar. He looks around — nope, no cat — pours himself a glass of vodka, and drinks it. Then he pours himself a second glass, looks around — no cat — and drinks it. Then a third, then a fourth. After pouring himself a fifth glass of vodka, the Russian mouse leans back in his bar chair, looks around — still no cat — sighs and says: “That’s ok, I can wait, I can wait…”
The Russians above 30 years of age probably understood these references, but * refers to Stierlitz and Muller in the World War Two -set espionage series “17 Moments of Spring “, and ** is about Red Army commander Vasily Chapayev and his team.