Russian Sailor Joke

In my Russian Short Stories Class, my professor told a traditional Russian joke to the class in February. We were reading a story by Gogol, a particularly depressing author.

There are 2 people in this joke: A Russian Sailor in the Russian Navy, and a Merchant.

The joke is told as follows:

Merchant: Tell me sailor, how did your father die?

Sailor: At sea, of course

Merchant: And his father?

Sailor: Also at sea

Merchant: Are you not also afraid of dying at sea?

Sailor: But, where did your father die?

Merchant: In his bed

Sailor: And his father?

Merchant: In his bed as well

Sailor: Well then, tell me merchant, are you afraid of going to bed?


My Russian professor could not recall where he had first heard this joke. However, it exhibits qualities that are consistent with traditional Russian values. This joke could in fact be a product of Soviet propaganda, as it clearly possesses undertones of nationalism and bravery. Also, this joke is clearly at the merchant’s expense. Perhaps this is because the joke’s creators want to discourage economic activity for personal interest. Communist Russia was known for this mentality.