Komi Zyrians Traditional Culture


Komi (Zyrian) Folklore. Collected by Paul Ariste
Anecdotes · Komi joke stories told by Aleksei Rakov

From:  Paul Ariste "Komi Folklore. Part II". Eesti Kirjandusmuuseumi Folkloristika osakond/ The Department of Folklore of the Estonian Literary Museum, Estonia, 2006, p.21-45. Tranlated into English by Kait Tamm.

The materials were collected by Paul Ariste during the WW2. The source material is retained in Estonian Folklore Archives in volumes RKM, Soome-ugri 3, pages 9-256 and RKM, Mitmesugused rahvad, pages 45-88. The Komi material in the volume RKM, Soome-ugri 3 originates from only one person. Paul Ariste: "The Komi folklore and ethnographic materials were written down by Aleksei Rakov, who came from Komi ASSR, Syktyvdin District, Yb village community, Jol village. The records were made in Tartu. Aleksei Rakov had become a war prisoner and he was sent to work in AKS. I studied the Komi language from him. The young man had secondary education. Later he was sent to Latvia to a camp, where he probably perished."

Released from prison

Decorative column, wood.
"Komi Proverbs & Sayings".
Slava Kislov.
The Garden of sculptures,
Syktyvkar 2008.

"Komi Folklore. Collected by Paul Ariste, part 2".

Early spring. When I was released from prison, it was cold outside. I returned home in light shoes and clothes. The only provisions I had with me was a small sack of bread. As soon as I came off the train in Kotlas, I ran to the harbour to find out if any boats were going upstream, but I had no such luck. I was told that the riverboat no longer travelled upstream along the Ezhva, I had little money, little food and drink. What should I do? Decided to go on foot. Had to pass 450 kilometres. Travelled a day, another, and ran out of bread. On the third day, when it began to darken, I arrived at this small village. Had to find a place to spend the night. I asked at one house to take me in, and another house - nobody would take me in. At the other end of the village I decided to force myself in, because I was already very tired, cold and hungry. It would have been impossible to go to the next village without eating and with such fatigue, and I didn't know how far it was. So I decided and did so. Right at the end of the village I knocked on a door for a long time, but nobody answered for a long time. So I approached another house and saw a dim light through the window. I thought that people can not be asleep there. After long knocking, someone came to the entry and asked: "Who's knocking there?"

I reply: "I am, a sick soldier. For the name of Lord, let me sleep here. I was not taken in elsewhere, and most people are already asleep."

After long begging I was let in.

I stepped into the chamber. The housewife offered me some food. The very moment I finished my meal, the woman fell ill and laid down on the oven. Having suffered for a while, the woman told me to go to the other end of the village to summon an old midwife. I went, and after a long search, found her.

Holding the old woman by hand, I dragged her back to the house. Had not walked for long, when suddenly the old woman disappeared. I was startled and frightened. It had gone dark, nothing to see, I lit a match and lo - there's a well without curbs next to me. I noticed at once that the old woman had fallen in the well. It was too deep to lift her out, and [it] could not be [done] at night. So I returned to the house and told that the old woman had decided to come on her own. The housewife grew very angry and said: "How can she come alone, if she's blind!" Came off the oven at once and went after the old woman.

So I laid down next to the plank bed and dozed off. Couldn't sleep for long, when I suddenly heard a crashing noise. I opened my eyes and looked at the oven - and alas, again! A rather large cat was chewing the fingers of an infant, born to the woman while I was fetching the midwife. I grew very angry and hit the cat with my big leather bread-sack. Suddenly the child screamed, then grew silent. I stood up, looked - I had not hit the cat. The cat fled but the child was dead from the blow. The child is dead. Alas, again!

I became very frightened, became wide awake, and quicker than ever took my sack and hat. Then I took to my heels. I walked a day, I walked another. Again I ran out of the provisions that I had stolen from the house I stayed. Arrived at Ust-Vym. Stayed there overnight. Looked for a place to stay. Couldn't find anywhere.

But I happened to meet a comrade instead. You see, we decided, me and him, whose name was Ivan, to find a barn to sleep in and eat.

We searched. Found a somewhat old barn. Broke the lock and stepped inside. The things there were in the barn! Dried meat and bread. And even a bottle of booze. Well, we ate quite a lot. We laid down to sleep. Woke up early the next morning. Through a crack in the wall I see the housewife coming to fetch flour. Came to the barn. Turned back, frightened, when she saw that the lock was broken. We decided to quickly run away but could not. The woman came with a man. We took the flour, me and my comrade. As soon as they opened the door, we threw the flour in their eyes. While we left them there screaming and spitting, we disappeared as quickly as we could. I departed from the comrade.

I ran until the evening so that I would not be caught. I was very frightened, would not dare to ask anyone to take me in for the night. There I saw a huge linden tree at the edge of the village. I climbed up the tree and settled for sleep, so that I would not be seen.

After a while it grew dark. Then the moon came out. The voices of a man and a woman can be heard. I was very scared. I thought they were looking for me. Then I see a girl and a young man walking. Came under the tree and sat on the bench. The young man pulled out a bottle of vodka, while the girl took out a fish sandwich. They started to drink and kiss. I can see and hear everything.

After a while the girl says: "Stop it, Ivan, stop playing, I'm afraid, and it's wrong."

But the young man asks: "What you're afraid of?"

But the girl asks: "Who will bring [it] up?"

The young man says: "I will, but the God will help me."

Pointed his finger upwards, where I was sitting. I could no longer be silent and said: "I will not bring it up! You are making it, and I have to bring it up! No, no, never!"

The girl and the young man became very frightened and ran away. I climbed down the tree, drank, ate what was left of them, and rather quickly went my way.

In the morning I was already home with my wife.

Priest Platon

Priest Platon and Alexander Pushkin are sitting next to each other in the theatre. Somewhere in the middle of the play Priest Platon cannot hold himself back and farts. Very embarrassed, Priest Platon starts rattling with the chair, trying to make the same farting-noise. But Pushkin notices what the priest is up to and says:

"Father Platon, you'll never be able to make the same noise."

Examination at the medical school

An examination day at the Medical University. Professor asks a female student: "How big is a penis and what is it composed of?"- The female student replies: "Penis is composed of bone and is 20 centimetres in length." The professor says: "As to the penis being composed of bone, it only seemed to you, but as to its length having been 20 centimetres, you were simply lucky."


Two friends were arguing. One says: "There's nothing better, not a food nor drink, than eating watermelon." But the other one says: "There's nothing better than fucking while standing."

Father and son

Early one spring, when the water was cleared from ice, a father and his son went fishing. Having been fishing for a long time, they were completely soaked by the evening. They decided to dry themselves, eat and sleep for a while. Lighted a good fire, cooked dinner. After the dinner they laid down to sleep, to rest. The father fell asleep already. But after a while, the son saw his father's footrag on fire. He calls the father and says (in Russian): "Father, the rags are on fire."

But the father replies: "Let them burn."

When the rags were burned, the son shouted again: "Father, the rags are burned."

Father came up very quickly and reprehended: "You, forest fairy, why didn't you tell me sooner."

But the boy replies: "I told you, father, that the rags are on fire (in Russian).""[cf. Russian лешак, еб твою мать]. I thought you said drying."

It seemed that father was boasting that he was good in Russian. But, in fact, it turned out that he was not.

So, instead of drying, he burned his rags.

Father and school-going son

Father and son are sitting together one evening. The son is reading, while the father is making felt shoes. Suddenly the father asks the son who had been studying fairly long: "Son, tell me, how do you say 'nose' in Russian?"

The son does not think for long and replies: "Hacoc." (The pump).

But the father grows very angry and in the morning sends the son hacking firewood instead of school.

What women need

A married couple sit together one evening and talk. The husband is eager to know how he can tell when his wife needs intercourse. Well, you see, the husband decided to ask her that evening.

"Woman, how can I know that you need?"

His wife replies: "When I need, I will stretch myself full-length."

In summer, when they were scything hay in the morning, and the hay dried quickly during the day, so [they] had to rake the good dry hay. The woman lies down and starts stretching herself after the rest. The husband sees that the wife needs intercourse, wants to fuck. And suddenly looks up in the sky, sees a huge cloud approaching. Grows very mad and starts beating the wife and scolding her: "You, forest fairy, need to fuck when God is determined to ruin all the dry hay. We have raking to do, not fucking."


Soldier is given leave from the war. As he is walking along the scythed field between shocks of hay, suddenly a huge cloud rises, and the wind is strong. People working in the field ran away. But one woman was too frightened to run and hides her head in the hay shock, but her ass was out in the open. The wind raises the old woman's skirt, and the soldier notices that. He goes to her and from the back sticks the penis into the vulva and starts poking. The old woman thinks that crows are pecking her ass and says: "[They] might peck my ass, but won't get my head." But this is exactly what the soldier needs. Fucks until he has had enough and then goes on.


A woman was worried - why did she have a baby each year. Goes to the pharmacist to buy a condom. Asks a condom from the salesperson, and says it very loud in front of everybody. But the salesperson asks: "Why are you shouting that loudly? You should have told me in the ear." But the woman replies: "Not in the ear, on the penis."


An officer was on leave from service. Returned to his unit after a visit home. Went to sleep in the station. The master asks the officer if he was going to drink tea or not. The officer wanted to have tea. After a little while, the master asks his daughter: "Hey, mare, come and fix the samovar!" The master called his daughter a mare.

The daughter comes in and the officer cannot get his eyes off her. "So your father calls you, a girl this pretty, a mare?" The girl was very beautiful. The officer was very attractive to her.

The officer returns, calls his orderly at once: "Hey, orderly! Here's one thousand roubles. Go to this station and buy a mare from its master."

The orderly is on his way. Arrives at the station, asks the master to sell him a mare: "Master, sell me a mare!"

The master replies: "My mare is no good, you wouldn't want to buy it."

The orderly has been given orders, which means he has to do it. So they make a deal. The master had a very lean and old mare. Well, he sells the mare to the orderly. The orderly gives him a thousand roubles, which would be enough for ten such mares. So, you see, the orderly takes the poor mare and somehow drags it to the unit. Upon arrival he reports to the officer that officer, sir, your order is fulfilled.

The officer gives him five hundred roubles, tells him to go to the store and buy a fine dress, hat, shoes and nice things, to dress her up nicely. The orderly goes and does all these things, buys everything to dress the mare nicely.

The officer goes to bathe in the sauna and dresses up. He gives the orderly another order: take the mare to the sauna, wash her well. With great efforts, the orderly takes the mare by the reins to the sauna. After having washed it in the sauna, the orderly reports to the officer.

The officer tells him to do yet another thing: "Look, orderly! Take the mare to the finest restaurant and let her eat and drink well"

The orderly does that. Takes it to the restaurant and feeds it well. And then takes it back and tells the officer that all orders have been fulfilled.

The officer tells him again to dress her up nicely and take her to the bedroom. The orderly attires the mare in silk dress, shoes and hat, and takes it to the bedroom. Lays the mare nicely in bed, covers with a sheet, blanket, and reports to the officer that your order has been fulfilled, officer, sir.

The officer dresses up nicely, takes some Dutch courage. Goes to the door and knocks. "Can I come to you, Miss?" asks he. But the mare does not speak, does it. After a while he returns to the door and knocks: "Can I come to you, Miss?"

Again, the mare is silent. The officer is getting rather tired of it and quietly enters the room.

"Are you asleep, Miss?" he asks again. "What is it? Dead or alive?" He goes over to the bed, pulls back the cover and is startled; comes back rather quickly. Goes running to the orderly: "What is this - do you want to make fun of me or what? Instead of the girl you have brought a mare. There was this very pretty girl who was called a mare."

But the orderly answers: "Officer, sir, I obeyed your order well, just as you told. You wanted a mare, I brought you one. I am not guilty, officer."


A young student once lived in a small room. The student was a very smart young man. After a while a female student is accommodated in his room. The girl is very young, has not seen life. One morning they are on their way to school. Near a house the rooster is having its way with a hen. The female student asks the young man: "What is the rooster doing with the hen?" But the young man answers: "The rooster is punishing the hen for farting."

After studying, they arrive at the apartment. In the evening when they lie in their beds, the female student says: "Vanya, I farted."

"Well, if you farted, you need to be punished."

Vanya jumps on the female student Anya and has his way with her. After a while the girl, Anya farts again and tells Vanya: "Vanya, I farted again."

"Well, if you farted, you need to be punished."

Again, Vanya has his way with her. But Anya enjoys this and farts again, some five or six times. Vanya is exhausted and says: "Anya, you could as much as take a shit over there, I can't do it any more."

Ivan the Fool

The marketplace was very crowded. Ivan the Fool is fussing around. Suddenly, Ivan needs to fart. Starts saying: "It's coming! It's coming! It's coming!" But people are surprised and keep asking: "What is coming, Ivan?" But he is only saying: "It's coming! It's coming! It's coming!"

People gather around and wait for whatever is coming. Ivan sees that people have all gathered around, farts loudly, and says: "And it came!" The crowd begins to scatter, swearing and cursing Ivan, that what a fool, but Ivan says, that look at you fools, waited for a stupid fart, gathered around to see. Not me, but you are all fools.

How the soldier deceived the priest

A soldier was given leave from the army. On his way he arrives at a house to spend a night. It is still light outside. Discovers that he was taken in by the priest, but the priest's wife is very beautiful. The soldier's penis became erect and he says:

"Father, look at this, you can see from the window, people are fucking." The priest cannot believe, how can it be? The soldier says that it is best seen from outside. The priest runs out and looks inside and, indeed, sees through the window that the soldier is fucking his wife. When the priest goes out, the soldier takes the priest's wife, lays her down on the table and fucks. By the time the priest returns everything is over and the soldier escapes.

The braggart officer

An officer was a great boaster. Bragged constantly with his great wealth. One time he was at his friends, visited everybody. There he boasted with his huge wealth. After the visit he asked everybody to come visit him on Sunday. Sunday approaches, but the officer has only five roubles. What should he do? Calls the orderly. They talk, discuss, decide. The orderly says he can help out. The officer gives him a task and teaches: "When the guests arrive, I will call you, "orderly, get the snacks!" And you will tell them that the dog ate them. - "Get some vodka!" But you tell them that the bottle was sealed too tightly and it broke. - "Get the maid!" But you tell them that she has gone somewhere."

And so the guests arrived. The officer calls: "Orderly, get the snacks!" But the orderly replies that they have gone somewhere - "Get some vodka!" - But the orderly replies: "The dog ate it." - "Get the maid!" - But the orderly replies: "It was sealed too tight and broke:"

So, you see, the guests sat there, sat and then left.

Penis and birch-bark shoe

A penis and a birch-bark shoe met and started talking. The birch-bark shoe complains to penis about his bad life. And the penis complains about his bad life to the birch-bark shoe. The birch-bark shoe says that the master puts it on and carries it around in dirt all day, then comes home, takes off, throws under the bench, would not give anything eat or drink.

But the penis complains: "When it gets dark, the master sticks me into a puddle and starts pulling, pushing and pulling, pushing and pulling so long that my head starts spinning and I throw up."


A party functionary arrives to make a speech at a kolkhoz (collective farm) meeting. The meeting is crowded, people start listening. The party functionary delivers his speech and then says: "There is still no tempo in your kolkhoz:" The collective farmers are surprised to hear that there is no tempo. After the functionary leaves, they decide on the meeting: "Must find out what the word 'tempo' means."

So, you see, they decide to send someone to Moscow, to find out what tempo is. The collective farmer goes directly to the people's commissariat and asks the people's commissar, what tempo is. The commissar opens the window and points outside - a streetcar passes by. Says to the collective farmer: "Can you see the streetcar?" The farmer says: "I can."

"Well, you see, there's one passing now, but in ten years there will be ten of such streetcars." The people's commissar sees a car passing. "Look," he says, "there's one passing now, but in ten years there will be ten of these."

The farmer understands and returns home, the kolkhoz summons a meeting. All members of the kolkhoz are present. The farmer who went to Moscow opens the window and points to the farmers a very weak and scrawny tailless horse outside: "Look, can you see the scrag?" The farmers tell him, yes we can.

"You see, there is one passing by now, but in ten years we will have ten of these." Then he sees a beggar walking by. He says the same that, look, there's one going now, but in ten years there will be ten and perhaps even more of these. You see, this growth is tempo. The farmers are frightened and go home.

Changes in prices of goods

A salesperson receives a telegram in which it is asked how the prices of goods change. The salesperson goes to the market and sees that the price of pants has gone down, goes to another place - the price of skirts has risen, goes to the third place - the price of sausage is the same, always the same, goes to the fourth place - the price of the eggs changes all the time. So she decides to report in the telegram: "Pants are falling, skirts are rising, sausages are standing [upright] and eggs are wavering."

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