21 Romanian Communist Jokes

I’ve shared with you my story about how humor became a way of opposing the communism in Romania. My initial thought was that it will be a decent-size blog post, but words kept coming. Therefore, I decided continue writing and ended up with a second article, only this time I’ve translated you twenty one communist jokes. They reflect the reality of the Romanian people during the communist regime. In some cases, I tried to give you the context of that time, a very brief one.

The forbidden communist jokes

Communist jokes

There was no freedom of speech! To tell communist jokes, to speak about injustice, the party, Ceausescu and his wife, liberalism or any other sensitive topic could have sent you to prison, so you had to be sure with whom you shared your thoughts.

Have you noticed that at every petrol station there is now a doctor and a policeman on duty? The doctor gives the first aid to those who faint when they see the price, and the policeman interrogates the ones who fill up about where they got the money from. 

A patient is hospitalized at the Insane Asylum. ‘Why are you here?’, another patient asks. ‘I wanted to cross the Romanian boarder’, says the first. ‘But for something like this they do not send you to an asylum!’, replies the other. ‘Yes, but I wanted to escape to Soviet Union!’

A citizen said the chief of the Communist Party is an idiot. For saying this, the citizen was sentenced to spend 25 years and 3 months in prison. Everybody was wondering why 25 years and 3 months. In the end, they old find out the answer: 3 months for insulting a citizen of the Socialist Republic of Romania; 25 years for revealing a state secret.  

The comrades working in the Miliția (aka police) and Securitate (aka internal secret service) systems were doing their best to control what Romanians were thinking and they were empowered to do whatever it took to keep Ceausescu, the Communist Party and the Socialist Republic of Romania safe. They’ve spied, threatened, beaten, tortured and killed people.

What is the difference between the wind and Militia? Militia beats you stronger!

What does Securitate mean? The heart of the Party beating, beating, beating … 

Along with party activists, these forces helped Ceaușescu build the House of People, the second largest building in the world after Pentagon. Travelers from all parts of the world coming to Romania take their time to visit it. Some are amazed, some shocked, some cannot stand the kitsch. What they do not know is that hundreds, if not thousands of Romanians, died there, forced to work to death to make Ceaușescu’s dream come true … so no wonder…

What will the Palace of People be called when it is finished? A mausoleum

Bulă & the Party

It would a unpardonable sin to talk communist joke and not mention Bulă. Nobody knows exactly who created Bulă. What is sure is that he was born in communist Romania, so I’ll take the liberty of considering him one of the most authentic fictional characters produced by the creative force of the Romanian people. He spoke for us, he made us laugh… in a way he’s a popular hero.

At school the teachers asks Bulă: ‘What does your dad do?’ ‘He’s a member of the Party, comrade’, says the boy. ‘What about your mom, Bulă?’ ‘Ohhhh, she doesn’t work either! 

Bulă’s dilemma: Shall I die now of cold or shall I die of starvation in the summer? 

Bulă comes back from work earlier and he finds his wife in bed with Nae. ‘Are you nuts? You are fooling around while they sell butter at the food shop?’

The teacher asks Bulă: ‘Tell us one more time Bulă who’s you father?’ ‘Comrade Nicolae Ceausescu , says Bulă. ‘And your mother, Bulă?’  ‘Comrade Nicolae Ceaușescu’… ‘And what would you to be?’, asks the teacher. ‘An orphan!’  

How the communist system worked

For those who lived in Romanian during communism time, this system is very different from anything you could read in the some idealistic books. Some of the quotes show extremely well how people really felt about such an oppressing system:

Is communism a science? No, if it were a science, they would have tested it on animals first.

An old gypsy man on his dying bad. Instead of sending after the priest, he asks for the local chief of communist party. ‘I would like to join the Party’, says the dying man. ‘Why would you do this?’, asks the communist. ‘You lived your whole life free as the wind and now you want to join the Party?’. ‘Well, you see, if somebody has to die, I would be much happier if that guy were a communist’, answers back the dying man. 

Communist jokes & hunger

Meat was a rarity. In the shops most of the time you could find just some bad salami, chicken wings, pate or beans can. Oranges or bananas were the blessing arriving only in December and January and to get them you had to stay in line along with hundreds or other people.

What’s the difference between the current meat shop and the old one? Before (communism) on the rooftop it was written ‘Gogu’s Meat Shop’. Now, on the rooftop you can see “Meat’ Shop’, but inside you can only find Gogu. 

Which came first: the egg or the chicken? Before (communism) we had everything. 

Why is that in Romania shops are built five kilometers away apart? Otherwise, the lines would merge.  

Communist jokes & the cold

The hot water was not running at the tap all day long as you might think. Sleeping with in your pajama during winter was not enough to keep you warm, you had to put more clothes on you and blankets as the heat system also controlled.

A man is walking down the streets in Bucharest winter. He shouts into a flat: ‘Could you shut your windows; it’s freezing out here.’

Did you hear that since last spring living standards in Romania have doubled? Before we were cold and hungry – now we’re only hungry. 

The suffering had no limit and some Romanians lost their hope of a change for the better. It’s a fact painfully reflected by one of the joke I found:

‘Good day, old man! How are you?’, asks the young man. ‘  What else can I do, young man? I’m trying to survive…’ The young guy looks at the old man with a sad look and says: ‘You might be very sorry …’

Do you know why Romania will survive the end of the world? Because it is fifty years behind everyone else.

The wonders of communism

I can hardly imagine a better closing for this article on Romanian communist jokes other then quoting the sad humorous wonders of the oppressing regime:

Everybody had a place to work.

Although everybody had a place to work, nobody actually did.

Although nobody worked, the target was achieved over 100%.

Although the target was achieved over 100%, you could not buy anything.

Although you couldn’t find anything to buy, everybody had everything.

Although everybody had everything, everybody was stealing something.

Although everybody was stealing something, nothing was missing.

Opposing Communism with Humor

Let me tell you something very clear! Communism for those who actually experienced it is very different from the one you may read about in some articles or books. This story is about how humor was a way of opposing the communist regime. It’s written with the perspective of today’s adult, yet having in mind the memories of those days.

Opposing Communism with Humor

I was almost 15 years old when Ceausescu’s dictatorship ended. “Just a kid” some may think! True, but that kid did not forget either the suffering or the laughter. Today that kid has a true story to tell, so people will not forget.

During communism kids were expected to become responsible citizens and defenders of a communist system they couldn’t understand… A terrifying system that sent our grandfathers in prison and took them everything… the land, the houses, everything they ever owned; a system which sent them to the grave one way or they other; some lost their lives in prison or work camps because of the torture they had to go through; those who survived died on what you call “bad heart”.  They died because they remained true to themselves no matter what, for not giving up their principles, for not betraying their families or friends. They died for freedom. That was their way of opposing communism…. Yet, Romanians also found a different way of opposing the system. Humor was their weapon.

“Communism is the only political system to have created its own international brand of comedy.” Ben Lewis

Humor as an act of rebellion

Humor was a way of rebellion and survival at the same time; an escape of the mind and soul, a way of coping with all those absurd and restrictions imposed by a communist regime who did not care about its own people.

Opposing Communism with Humor

Humor was a way of standing up or fighting back, a form of active resistance against a criminal regime; at that time the political jokes served as a catalyzer of the constant state of discontent Romanians felt towards the things they did not agree or even hated… towards what was happening with our country.

It came with a price… in some cases, you could even go to jail, if the wrong person heard you saying a political joke. People went to prison. Their families had to endure all forms of oppression. Phones were tapped. People were constantly spied on.  Despite all these, political jokes were part of our daily lives. I remember I was hearing or telling them during the breaks in the courtyard of the school, although our parents had us promise not to share them publicly as it was dangerous. I also remember my dad covering the fixed line phone with pillows, so he and his friends can talk about the things you were not supposed to.

To anyone living in Western countries, enjoying a decent good life, learning about the so-called socialism from the books, such a joke may not make them laugh. If you are one of them, it would be difficult to image that hot water was scheduled. Hot water would ran on our taps few hours per week; sometimes, not at all. For those who lived it, it’s very different.

The informational oxygen

I once read that the nature of Ceausescu’s dictatorship forced Romanian society to create it own zone of informational oxygen. It still feels a correct and truthful insight of those days. Rumors and political jokes built that zone we so much needed it.  All these political jokes came anonymously and contemporaneously, from the mouth of ordinary people.

Communist jokes encompassed almost every aspect of our lives, from the queues of people waiting to get some milk, meat and bananas (only in December), to Ceausescu and his family, communists leaders, to all sorts of events.

As Ben Lewis so well pointed out,

“the rulers of Communism were wicked and they hated many things – the bourgeois, the liberals, imperialists, free elections, wealthy farmers and Capitalists, but there was one thing they hated more than anything else and that was Communist jokes”.    

Despite of the communist propaganda, secret control state agencies, these political jokes could not be controlled. They were told by ordinary people, whether drivers, professors or engineers, but what drove them nuts was that even Communist Party members or protégées of the regime told them. Just by telling them, they all kept the laughter going and the rebellion spirit alive.

“Slowly but surely the jokes eroded the strength of the leaders of Communism. Then, one day, people had enough of joke-telling and they rose-up against their cruel rulers. Then leaders quickly admitted the jokers had been right all along and Communism ended”. 

10 years & 950 Romanian communist jokes

In august 1979, Calin Bogdan Stefanescu, a former member of the Communist Party endowed with all the skills of a statistician, decided to keep a very personal kind of journal or better said an accurate inventory of the communist jokes Romanian were creating each day.  As Stefanescu later confessed, his initiative was driven by a strong and personal motivation: “I started  to perceive my collection of jokes as a way to justify myself in front of my children. I started to imagine my children asking me, ‘Dad, what did you do under Communism? Why didn’t you get out in the streets, why didn’t you do something?'”

Opposing Communism with Humor
Source: Calin Bogdan Stefanescu

After the fall of communism, Stefanescu published his collection of jokes in a book called “Ten Years of Black Humour in Romania.” What stands out it’s not the impressive number of jokes his collected, 950 to be very specific, but also the conclusions he reached by applying various complex statistical analysis:

  • a new joke was added to his collection every 4.71 days;
  • 81% of the joke-tellers were intellectuals, white-collar workers and bureaucrats;
  • only 7% of the pensioners and 13% of those under the age 30 were telling jokes;

Just like a meticulous archeologist taking down as many details as possible about the relics found on a site, Stefanescu calculated the velocity of a communist joke, making a clear connection between a social or political event and the number  of jokes appearing afterwards.

Opposing Communism with Humor

For Stefanescu, the quantity and and content of the jokes changed in significant ways as the Revolution (1989) approached; they became bitter and bitter. “What used to be grey was gradually becoming black”.

By calculating each year the number of jokes, theme, Stefanescu proved that jokes were not a form of avoiding the reality or a distraction from the struggle as communist supporters tried to suggest, but a real form of resistance and rebellion. As shown in the table below, as the forces of resistance gathered strength, the jokes increased in both terms of quantity and quality.

According to Lewis, in all communist countries where censorship and propaganda mechanism tried to control even what people thought, “a culture of the spoken joke would develop, a collective satirical work produced by the whole population”.

Conclusion on communism & humor

The state, the secret police and not even the various forms of oppression put upon Romanians could not stop them making jokes and laughing at the expense of communism. The system could not engineer how people laughed or what they laughed at. And I guess that type of attitude worked as well as for other communist countries.

If you would ask Romanians who actually lived here, for sure they would tell you that the best jokes they ever heard were during those bleak, sad and with nothing much to do outside work days. To see for yourself how that humor sounded like, I welcome you to read 21 Romanian Communist Jokes.