Monday, 17 May 2010

Cold hands and other jokes

Had quite a nice talk the other night, with one of the mummies from school. Some people are genuinely fascinated by other cultures and places. This one was, too. She was very curious. She wanted to know what the Soviet times were like, and what it was like now...She was not asking me if we, Russians (I am NOT....ah, whatever) all shared one bed together, but she asked questions I had to think about before I answered, which I always enjoy.

For instance, she wanted to know if, during the Soviet times, we felt like part of one culture and nation. Or did the individual republics manage to maintain their own personalities within it.

Well, yes I said, we were all one big country, but i would not say that we all felt the same.

We always knew we were slightly different. Yes, we were all equal, with Russia being more equal than the rest. But despite being one country, we were all very different. If you allow me some light-hearted generalization, then I could tell you that Kazakhs loved their horse meat and Azeries were famous for selling stuff at markets. Armenians were known for their cognac and sense of humour, and Georgians- for music, vine and richness of culture. Ukrainian women were the most beautiful, and Russians were drinking too much but had a huge soul. And men...men of the whole Caucasus region were supposed to be hot and passionate, but Lithuanians had the reputation of the best lovers.

So yes, of course we were different.

'What were the good things about it?' she asked.

'Bananas', I said. 'They tasted sooooo much better after we had to queue for them for an hour! And now what? I can get them in any supermarket, piled up on shelves. Not the same.'

She also wanted to know what it was like now.

'It is corrupt, isn’t it?' she asked. In what ways, she wanted to know. How was it corrupt?

Where do I even start? Do I start with the road police, who would stop you to beg for some cash? 'Come on, brother', they would say, 'I had no lunch today!'

Do I tell you how much certain positions and jobs cost? Shall I tell you that everything new set up, however honest it was at the beginning, is bound to change eventually as the locals take over? Shall I tell you that I can’t imagine what it would take for it to change, let alone how long?

Or shall I just tell you a popular anecdote I heard a while ago?

One day our president’s wife was greeting her husband in heaven. She had been dead for ages and could not wait for him to join her.

'Oh, honey! So great to see you at last!',she exclaimed, 'But why are your hands so cold???'
'Have you not heard?' the dead president responded 'They kept me in a fridge for months!!!'

'Was that true??' the mummy asked.

'Oh, who knows?', I said. 'It is a joke, you know?'

'Wow', she said. 'You do come from a fascinating background that’s for sure!'
And I had not even told her about Stalin murdering my grandparents.

It was a fun night.

10 comments:

  1. I think it can be kind of unconfortable to answer such questions. But I think it can be kind of natural for you to have people around you intrigued with your background.
    ¡Saludos!

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  2. Was it true???............very likely, Azeri mentality being what it is meant that the real date of Heydar's death had to be marked in some way......and sure enough on the first anniversary, three or four months before the official date of death, a very, very large hoarding with a picture of Heydar and Ilham (no words at all) appeared at the roundabout by the Statistical Committee.......the road that leads up to the Milli Mejalis, so that all the MP's could pay their respects when passing.

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  3. oh great posting, i will send it to my other half and british friends :-) i get the same awkwardness, people who know very little about azerbaijan asking questions and oh...i give up...it is too big and too unknown for them...and yes - where do you start? complicated background we come from that's for sure....

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  4. scary, i saw ur video interview. u r very attractive.

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  5. Scary,I think the reason for the Brits curiosity about the former Soviet Union is that we new very little about it except for what our Governments wanted us to know. The Soviet Union was to be feared and was always portrayed as being a threat to the west, therfore it was bad. I wonder how many people prior to the break up of the Soviet Union could name any of the Countries that made up the Soviet Union or USSR, it was always just thought of as Russia. I think we only new that Czechoslovakia and Hungary were part of the USSR because when they wanted some freedom Russian Tanks turned up and put them in their place. I wonder if ordinary Soviets were fed the same propaganda about the west?

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  6. Guler, here is something about Azerbaijan:
    http://www.vimeo.com/10422538

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  7. Dear Scary,
    Awesome post! Brought back so many memories... especially standing in a queue for bananas :) They were the best!
    Well at least you get asked these questions in the UK where people mostly know where Azerbaijan is and that it is actually a country! I had the worst time with it when I lived in the States and besides having to explain Azerbaijan's whereabouts, I also had to assure them that we wore shoes and had TVs ;-) So kudos to your school moms!
    Minai

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  8. @limerent: Thank you, you are being too kind about that terrible video. I cant believe he could put that up on FB!!! I guess, I should be grateful it did not make it on gv.

    @Minai: Thanks! Believe me, not all Brits know what azerbaijan is or anything about it. And most of the people are not very good at having that sort of conversation. They generally ask very simple question and just out of politeness. They dont really want to know. :)

    @Willie: Definitely. We were not allowed any western influence, certain films and music was banned...stuff like that. and yes, we were told you were all simply terrible. :)

    @Guler: sending to your friends is a brilliant PR for me, so thank you hehe. :)xx

    @Anonymous: Yes, hmm...thank you. Very nice.

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  9. Here's my favorite joke about corruption.

    Azeri, Georgian and Armenian ended up on a deserted island. After a while, Georgian planted some grapes, Armenian started building a hut, and Azeri disappeared. In a few months, Armenian and Georgian are sitting in a hut, drinking wine, and all of a sudden there's a knock on the door. "Who is it?", they ask. "It's your new policeman", the Azeri answers, "I'm here to check your building permit and liquor license".

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  10. @Riyad: Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

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