Authoritarian Laughter explores the political history of the satire and humor magazine Broom published in Soviet Lithuania. Artists, writers, and journalists were required to create state-sponsored Soviet humor and serve the Communist Party after Lithuania was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1940. Neringa Klumbytė investigates official attempts to shape citizens into Soviet subjects and engage them through a culture of popular humor.
Broom was multidirectional—it both facilitated Communist Party agendas and expressed opposition toward the Soviet regime. Official satire and humor in Soviet Lithuania increasingly created dystopian visions of Soviet modernity and were a forum for critical ideas and nationalist sentiments that were mobilized in anti-Soviet revolutionary laughter in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Authoritarian Laughter illustrates that Soviet Western peripheries were unstable and their governance was limited. While authoritarian states engage in a statecraft of the everyday and seek to engineer intimate lives, authoritarianism is defied not only in revolutions, but in the many stories people tell each other about themselves in jokes, cartoons, and satires.
Neringa Klumbytė is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Russian and Post-Soviet Studies and Director of the Lithuania Program at the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami University.