'A stunningly original study of Stalinist society... Essential reading for anyone interested in how human beings navigate a path through times of extraordinary upheaval, privation and danger' - Daniel Beer
In the shadow of the Gulag, Soviet citizens were still cracking jokes. They had to.
Drawing on diaries, interviews, memoirs and hundreds of previously secret documents, It's Only a Joke, Comrade! uncovers how they joked, coped, and struggled to adapt in Stalin's brave new world. It asks what it really means to live under a dictatorship: How do people make sense of their lives? How do they talk about it? And whom can they trust to do so?
Moving beyond ideas of 'resistance', 'doublethink', 'speaking Bolshevik', or Stalin's Cult of Personality to explain Soviet life, it reveals how ordinary people found their way and even found themselves in a life lived along the fault-lines between rhetoric and reality.
'An extraordinary achievement' - Ronald Grigor Suny
'[A] landmark study' - Kritika review
'Re-vitalizes our understanding of Soviet society' - Lynne Viola
'Fascinating ... lively, engaging, and at times very funny' - Catriona Kelly
'The best book on Stalinism I've read in a long time' - S.A. Smith
'One of those rare books that not only has to be read by scholars in the field, but is also accessible to a wide readership. Indeed it is an essential read for anybody who wants to get beyond standard views of the "communist joke" and understand what humour really tells us about life under this extraordinary regime' - David Priestland