While much of the world struggles against sexual assault and homophobia, these two issues remain a hilarious diversion in Russia. At an economic conference on Friday, February 9, billionaire Vladimir Lisin told the audience that state support often isn’t worth it because accepting this help comes with so many strings attached. According to the magazine RBC, Lisin illustrated his point with a joke about a blacksmith being raped. Vladimir Putin was on stage as Lisin spoke. Apparently disgusted by the homosexual overtones of the joke, the president told Lisin that he should change the blacksmith in his story to a milkmaid.
Vladimir Lisin: Here’s an old Soviet joke. There’s a collective farm. A meeting takes place. The chairman rises to his feet and says, “Folks, we have a problem: The sowing season is coming up, and the blacksmith is drunk. He’s drunk and we’ve got to do something.”
Somebody has an idea. The most forward-thinking man in the group rises and says, “Let’s send him to rehab.” The chairman answers, “What rehab? Sowing season is coming and who’s going to repair [all the farming equipment]? There’s only one blacksmith. We’ve lost all the others. He’s the only one left! Any other suggestions?” Then someone says, “Let’s cut his quarter bonus!” The chairman frowns and says, “Yeah, but he’s got three kids, and he’ll just go [work] at the neighboring collective farm, and we’ll still lose him. Let’s think of something better.”
Someone says, “Let’s knock his block off!” Still unhappy, the chairman answers, “C’mon now. The man is forty. He’ll just leave and drop all his work. We can’t do that, either.”
Then another hand shoots up: “What if we rape him?” The chairman gives a dismayed look and says, “Huh? Have you lost your mind? What kind of suggestion is that?” Then someone says, “Well what if we rape the tractor driver?” “What does the tractor driver have to do with anything?” the chairman asks. “We’ve got two of them!” the voice in the crowd answers. [The crowd laughs.] Sometimes we make decisions this way, and I’ll give you all a concrete example from our business experience... [More laughter.]
Vladimir Putin: Volodya, Volodya. Now c’mon. At least make it about the milkmaid. C’mon… [Laughter.] What are you dragging us into here…
In October 2006, Putin notoriously joked about rape charges against Moshe Katsav, then Israel's president, telling Ehud Olmet, “Say hello to your president. He really surprised us... I met him. He didn't look like a guy who could be with 10 women.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later told reporters that Putin's remark ”should not be considered approval of raping women.”