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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tickling the Presidential Funny Bone

ST. PETERSBURG — "President Vladimir Putin has released a new program for reform. It's first goal: 'To make people rich and happy. (List of people attached.)'"

Don't panic. This objective will not cause heated debate in the State Duma — because it is just one of more than a hundred Putin jokes featured in a small book published in St. Petersburg earlier this month.

The book's compiler, Dmitry Perevyazkin — who is a member of one of the city's municipal councils — collected the jokes mostly among friends and colleagues after finding that the existing humor on Putin lacked variety.

"I tried to look on the web, but the same jokes keep surfacing on all the sites," Perevyazkin said at a news conference Thursday. "I presented a broader assortment of jokes in this book, including critical ones."

And there are certainly plenty of the latter:

"Putin calls in the finance minister and says: 'Listen, what's going on with the economy?'

"'Er, I can explain …'

"'No, no, you don't need to explain. I can do that myself. Just tell me, what's going on?'"

Some of the jokes may offend readers' sensibilities. For example, on the sinking of the Kursk submarine: "A navy officer: 'Mr. President, I have good news and bad news.' Putin: 'What's the good news?' 'Those Granit anti-submarine missiles we have really work.'"

But Perevyazkin did not seem worried about possible repercussions of his joke book.

"I didn't have any problems printing the book. I just did some market research and chose the publishing house that offered the best terms," Perevyazkin, a member of Yabloko, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

A small print run of 5,000 copies, published by St. Petersburg-based Dizain press, will be sold for an unspecified price in suburban commuter trains, according to Perevyazkin, who has already collected 80 more jokes for a second edition to come out this fall.

The book is divided into sections, including Putin and freedom of speech, Putin and elections, his way of thinking, catastrophes, the outhouse, children and economics.

Many of the jokes play on claims by Putin's critics that the president has a strong autocratic streak, akin to that of Soviet-era leaders — some of whom figure in Perevyazkin's collection.

"Stalin appears to Putin in a dream, and asks: 'Can I do anything to help you?'

"Putin says: 'Why is everything here so bad — the economy is falling to pieces, and so on. What am I to do?'

"Stalin, without pausing for thought, answers: 'Execute the entire government, and paint the walls of the Kremlin blue.'

"'Why blue?' Putin asks.

"Stalin replies: 'I had a feeling you would only want to discuss the second part.'"

According to local media reports, presidential press officer Alexei Gromov declined to comment on the jokes, saying he "had not seen the book yet." But he did say Putin had heard other jokes about himself and his reaction, according to Gromov, was a healthy laugh.

In Soviet times, humor lampooning political figures or the quality of life was perhaps the most widespread form of dissidence, and it was not unheard of for people to be arrested for spreading jokes construed as anti-Soviet. A whiff of that era is discernible in "Jokes About Putin."

"Our life five years from now:

"Don't think.

"If you think something, don't say it.

"If you think it and say it, don't write it.

"If you think it, say it and write it, don't sign it.

"If you think it, say it, write it and sign it, don't be surprised."