Everyday Soviet Satire

“The Bathhouse” -Mikhail Zoshchenko (1924)

Zoshchenko’s satirical works within the context of defining what revolutionary culture exactly is provide a very interesting perspective, specifically from the other side so to speak. Revolutionary culture appears to be riddled with state sponsored dogma and a bombardment of reinforcing idealogical state views. Mikhail Zoshchenko sits on the other side, and like so many other satirists in other cultures, he provides the crucial “poke holes in system” hilarious take through his work to get underneath the new government’s skin.

“The Bathhouse” is a short piece done by Zoshchenko in 1924 about a man going to a bathhouse in the new state. The bathhouse provides the perfect setting for the author to address his qualms with the new administration through sarcasm, satire, and humor. It seems at every turn of the narrator’s experience he runs into some bureaucratic nightmare, expressed through trivial mishaps in the bathhouse. For example: “They gave me two tickets. One for my linen, and the other for my hat and coat. But where is a naked man going to put tickets?” Expressing well the frustration of everyday citizen’s grievances with the new system of governance.

I think the piece is done so well because it takes these grievances and puts them in an extremely relatable context with the bathhouse setting. This also aids in the ability for citizens to relate to the upheaval they experienced in such a short period of time.


6 Replies to “Everyday Soviet Satire”

  1. This was a really interesting post! I think it’s interesting to see the other side of culture that was not working to build revolutionary culture, but poked fun at it. I can also see how using this relatable humor would bring the people together, so it sort of brought the people behind the revolutionary culture in a different way.

    1. This is a very interesting post, in that the satirical work you chose seems very down to earth in its explanations and relatability, something that is needed in order for it to be read and understood by the average person, especially if you want your work to help a certain movement gain popularity.

  2. I really like your post! Do you feel that Zoshchenko did a good job with getting his sarcasm across? I feel that not all authors are able to do a good job with writing with sarcasm…

  3. I’m so glad you wrote about Zoshenko’s Bathhouse! You’ve probably noticed that I’m a huge fan of satire, and I find his witty mocking of the fledging Soviet system in this piece pretty hilarious. It sounds like his contemporaries loved his work as well, which tells us something about what makes a creative work popular, right? And how do you square Zoshenko’s account of the public Bathhouse with the earlier readings we did on bathhouses as being staples of Russian culture for quite some time?

  4. I think satire is one of the best way to influence people and provide some relief for their hardship. You can see it today with lots of the late night shows in the US. The bathhouse setting is especially important because of the “Russianness” of the bathhouse. Great analysis of Zoshchenko’s work!

  5. I really like this post because I personally think that satire is one of the best methods of political critique. It highlights the fallacies of higher institutions in a manner that is easily digested by the greater population. I thought that your bathhouse example was a great example of political satire. Do you think that Zoschenko’s reasons for writing satire include a contempt for the political system or do you think that he was a concerned intellectual that still believed in the possibility of the communist project?

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