In Soviet Russia...
|In Soviet Russia...|
|April 29, 2004|
Russian Reversal is a joke by Yakov Smirnoff which frequently appears in many YTMNDs. The general form of the Soviet Russia joke is that the subject and objects of a statement are reversed, and “In Soviet Russia” or something equivalent, is added. For example:
- In the US, you can catch a cold.
- In Soviet Russia, cold catches YOU!
All of Smirnoff's original “In Soviet Russia” jokes made use of wordplay that carried Orwellian undertones. For example, in the jokes “In the US, you watch television. In Soviet Russia, television watches you!” or “In the US, you check out books at the library. In Soviet Russia, library checks out you!” both punchlines refer to systems of omnipresent surveillance characteristic of police states. The first joke alludes to video screens that both reproduce images and monitor the citizenry, as in Nineteen Eighty-Four. The second joke refers to the use of libraries as another official means to monitor or keep tabs on the thoughts of the citizenry and especially its dissidents, which is uncharacteristic of free societies.
As another example, in the joke “In California, you can always find party. In Soviet Russia, Party finds you!”, the second use of the noun “party” denotes the Communist Party. The punchline makes light of the grim Soviet reality that all citizens at all times were subject to the apparatus of the state.
In modern popular culture, “In Soviet Russia” jokes often lack any Orwellian undertone, and merely make use of a grammatical transposition to achieve some absurd, but apolitical, result. One example is, "In Soviet Russia, tobacco smokes YOU!" as a play on a common American anti-smoking campaign.
At the peak of Smirnoff's celebrity in the mid-1980s, he did not say “Soviet Russia” — he said simply “Russia,” as the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic had been around since 1917, was still extant, and showed no signs of imminent collapse. Smirnoff added the “Soviet” qualifier after the fall of the USSR, long after his fame had faded, to specify that he was referring to the communist regime and not the present state.
Many modern variants on the “Soviet Russia” theme do not make sense outside of specific contexts, for example: “In Soviet Russia, floor rolls on YOU!!” Or even:
- Roses are red
- Violets are blue
- In Soviet Russia
- Poem writes YOU!