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This Think Tank Studied Russian Humor And Russia Thought It Was Hilarious

In Putin's Russia, Foreign Ministry trolls you.

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So here's a thing that happened: the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence just released a study on Russian humor.

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Quick point of clarification: NATO StratCom COE, as the group is known, is a "multi-nationally constituted and NATO-accredited international military organization, which is not part of the NATO Command Structure, nor subordinate to any other NATO entity," according to its website. In plain English, it's a think tank based in Latvia that studies security issues relevant to NATO member countries. It's not the same thing as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Now, on to the comedy.

The group didn't actually analyze 1980s Yakov Smirnoff jokes — though someone definitely should — but it looked at how late-night Russian comedy shows work to discredit Western leaders and the idea of democracy in general.

These shows, broadcast on Russian state-owned television, serve as a "massive humor-driven propaganda tool aimed at national and international target audiences," according to the study's authors.

StratCom / Via

The research also looked at Ukrainian humor as "counter-propaganda" to the Kremlin line and studied a popular comedy show format known as KVN.

As anyone who's studied a foreign language knows, jokes don't always translate. But Russia thought the idea of this think tank studying its humor as a "tool of strategic political communication" was preeeeetttttty hilarious.

Russia's Foreign Ministry responded by posting this video on Facebook, which features comic Yevgeny Petrosyan cracking jokes about NATO: "Go ahead, expand. Many have expanded towards us ... Genghis Khan ... Napoleon."

Facebook: video.php

(Russia beat up both Napoleon and Genghis Khan so that appears to be The Joke.)

Susie Armitage is the Global Managing Editor and is based in New York.

Contact Susie Armitage at

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