I Wrote Eugene Onegin: Voices of Subversion and Submission in Soviet Anecdotes

Sally P. C. Henderson


What is the difference between capitalism and communism? Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man. Communism is the other way round.

This was a question aired on the Armenian Radio, a station renowned for offering freedom of speech in Soviet Russia, which notoriously voiced the officially forbidden yet widely accepted truths of Soviet existence. The Armenian Radio was created only discursively, in the vast body of quips and anecdotes that are a marked feature of popular Soviet discourse: regardless of the political observation or clarity, the above quotation is merely a joke. In this article, it is my intention to use these anecdotes as a means of exploring the power relationship at the centre of the soviet regime, to see these voices as part of what Foucault calls a "popular" or "disqualified knowledge," and to explore what the very process of joke telling reveals about the nature of struggle and resistance, under Foucault's premise of "using resistances as a chemical catalyst so as to bring to light power relations" ("Subject and Power" 211). 

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ISSN 1749-9771

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