Laughter culture and traditional Ukrainian humor are weapons of opposition to Putin

Laughing has always been the diagnosis in a healthy society. Laughter also has a therapeutic function that helps to overcome the state of shock, release tension and fight stress. In different periods of human history, the culture of laughter has changed by changing different masks, beginning with the carnival turning into burlesque. Comedy, satire, irony, up to dark humor. The arrival of a new kind of humor changes every time, questions or
it breaks down the old cultural and literary norms and replaces them with new poetics and new currents. Laughter often manifests a cultural response to moments of crisis, especially during attempts to limit freedoms.

But is there room to laugh in a war context? Could laughter today have a therapeutic function for the millions of Ukrainians affected by the tragedy? Ukrainians often admit in interviews and in private talk that they find the strength to resist the Russian invasion in comics, memes and posts that were once posted on social media, becoming a kind of group therapy for those who nervously shake the news from the front. . The reaction of reacting to an enemy with laughter, breaking down his fears, has deep roots in Ukrainian culture and literature, not forgetting that former comedian Volodymyr Zelensky is leading the country resisting an invasion. who even now often and willingly launches jokes that went viral in an instant.

The first literary text written in modern Ukrainian language, a language based on the spoken, is a parodic and burlesque remake in Ukrainian form of the virgilic poem Aeneid, written by Ivan Kotljarevs’kyj in 1798. Originally Aenejida by Kotljarevs’kyj (1769- 1838) was written without any literary ambition, rather as a kind of stand-up comedy monologue and to be read to guests during the dinners arranged in Kotljarevs’kyj’s house, to be exactly below the digestive tract. The text was very popular and in fact the first parts were published without waiting for the author’s permission. According to the Ukrainian philosopher and literary critic Volodymyr Yermolenko, Virgil’s Aeneid is a propaganda for the Roman Empire, while the variant of Kotlyarev’kyj is a parody of the empire, in this case the Russian Empire, given that the protagonists of ‘Enejida are the Cossacks, whose state was destroyed of the tsarist army.

The romantic poet and singer of the Ukrainian national spirit Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861) also desecrates the Russian Empire through parody and satire.

In his poem “Son” (“Dream”), Shevchenko gives the bear the tsar “so swollen that he turned blue, plagued by hangovers” and the zarina with “dried sponge”.

Just the poem “Son” formed the main charge in the trial against Shevchenko, who was sentenced to ten years of military service on the borders of the empire.

The humor of the Cossacks of the Ukrainian Baroque period, which preceded the works of Kotlyarevsky and Shevchenko, comes instead through a painting by the Russian painter of Ukrainian origin Illya Repin (1844-1930) “The Cossacks of Zaporozh write a letter to the Sultan of Turkey “(1891). The idea of ​​the painting came to the painter’s mind after hearing a copy of the letter written in 1676 by Cossack-Ataman Ivan Sirko, in response to the surrender proposed by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire Mehmad IV of Turkey full of colorful comics. epithet.

In the 1920s, Kharkiv-based Ukrainian futurists experimented with different forms of comics. During the totalitarian era, the culture of laughter functioned both inside and outside the media room with the humorous cartoon “Perets” (Peperoncino) and Pavlo Hlazovyj’s anecdotes. Controlled by the party, it sometimes allowed itself certain freedoms that came from underground.

The stagnant era of the late 1980s was marked by the theatrical monologues of Les’ Poderev’iansky, where taboos on swear words and strong expressions fall. Poderev’iansky’s monologues were recorded and copied several times on cassette to be listened to in secret, prompting criticism of the regime.

In the 21st century, the culture of laughter takes other forms: cartoons, memes, short and witty comments to gather likes and shares on social media. During the 2013-2014 Dignity Revolution, Ukrainian humor is directed at pro-Russian President Yanukovych and his junta with caricatures and songs that reinforce the spirit of the three-month protests in Kiev’s main square, Majdan.

Mocking the enemy, arming himself with laughter, as we have seen, has a long history in the Ukrainian culture of resistance. Even in the last two months, the Ukrainian people have tried to force themselves against fear through laughter. As an example, along with the army and volunteers, the Ukrainian Memes forces and many other social media accounts are fighting on the media front, always ready to create therapeutic content.

Laughter is a powerful and destructive weapon, not surprising laughter as a threat to the pre-established order, the character Jorge of Umberto Eco’s novel “The Name of the Rose” was afraid: “Laughter distracts, in a few moments, the villain from fear. But the law is forced through fear, whose true fear of God. And from this book the luciferic spark could start, which would set a new fire on the whole world: and laughter would be formed as a new art, unknown even to Prometheus, to cancel out the fear ».

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