But few of the former Soviet bloc countries had better jokes than the Hungarians. After all, several of their national characteristics—quick intelligence, mordant wit and an eye for the main chance—are summarised in the now legendary humorous definition of a Hungarian: “Someone who enters a revolving door behind you but comes out in front”.
My two favourites are set in the time immediately after the 1956 revolution:
In the first, Comrade teacher announces the day’s lesson in School Number One, Budapest: Marxist criticism and self-criticism.
“Istvan, please stand up and tell us what Marxist criticism and self-criticism means,” she instructs.
The little boy stands up. “Comrade teacher, Marxist criticism is how we must view my parents, who joined the reactionary counter-revolutionary forces who sought to destroy our heroic workers’ and peasants’ state, and then fled to the imperialist, capitalist west, to continue their intrigues against the Socialist regime.”
“Excellent, Istvan. And what is your Marxist self-criticism?”
“I didn’t go with them.”