Standartenführer Max Otto von Stirlitz (Штирлиц) was the hero of a popular series by Russian novelist Yulian Semyonov from Бриллианты для диктатуры пролетариата to Бомба для председателя, and including gems like Испанский вариант, Приказано выжить and specially Семнадцать мгновений весны (ok , ok, Seventeen Moments of Spring which was chosen as the title of the 1960s television adaptation starring Vyacheslav Tikhonov, as well as in feature films, produced in the Soviet era, and in a number of sequels and prequels.
Штирлиц, sorry, Stirlitz is the the cover name for a Soviet superspy Максим Максимович Исаев (oopps….Colonel Maxim Maximovich Isayev) , whose “real” name is Всеволод Владимирович Владимиров (oops again…. Vsevolod Vladimirovich Vladimirov) who infiltrates Nazi Germany and interacts with Nazi officials such as Walther Schellenberg, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Martin Bormann, and Heinrich ‘Gestapo’ Müller.
Although Stirlitz was a much-loved character, he was also the butt of a common genre of Russian jokes, often satirising his deductive trains of thought, with unexpected twists, delivered in the deadpan style of the voice-overs in the film adaptations. They are usually two-liners spoofing the solemn style of the original voice-overs, the plot is resolved in grotesque plays on words or in dumb parodies of overly-smart narrow escapes and superlogical trains of thought of the “original” Stirlitz.
They have to be among the funniest I have ever heard….. here are some of them.
Stirlitz approaches Berlin. The city is veiled in smoke from the fires. “Forgot to switch off the iron again,” thought Stirlitz with slight irritation.
The words “Stirlitz is a moron!” were chalked on the wall of the Reichschancellery. The entire Nazi party snickered about it; only Stirlitz knew its true meaning: he had been awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
Müller was walking through the forest when he saw two eyes staring at him in the darkness. “An owl,” thought Müller. “You’re an owl yourself!” thought Stirlitz.
Stirlitz opened a door. The lights went on. Stirlitz closed the door. The lights went out. Stirlitz opened the door again. The light went back on. Stirlitz closed the door. The light went out again. “It’s a fridge,” concluded Stirlitz.
Stirlitz thought. He liked it and decided to think again (or a variant) Stirlitz had a thought. He liked it, so he had another one.
Stirlitz went into Müller’s empty office. He walked up to the safe and pulled on the handle. It wouldn’t open. After making sure that he was alone, he took out his gun and blasted away. Still, the safe wouldn’t open. Next, he put a hand grenade under the safe and removed the pin. After the smoke cleared, Stirlitz once again tried to open the safe. Again, however, he was unsuccessful. “Hmmm…” the experienced intelligence officer at last concluded, “must be locked.”
Stirlitz went into Müller’s office and said, “Herr Müller, how would you like to work as an agent for Soviet Intelligence? The pay is good.” Müller, shocked, gives an angry rebuff, then eyes Stirlitz suspiciously. Stirlitz starts to leave, but then stops and asks, “Gruppenfuhrer, do you have any aspirin?” Stirlitz knew that people always remember only the end of a conversation.
A flower pot fell off the window sill of the secret apartment and smashed Stirlitz on the head. This was the signal that his wife had just given birth to a son. Stirlitz shed a single manly tear. He hadn’t been home for seven years.
More coming up in next post……