There’s a joke told in Slovakia still to this day about the February 1948 communist takeover of Czechoslovakia that eventually left hard working peasant farmers devoid of their property.
An old shepherd, a Bača as the Slovaks refer to shepherds, says to his son, as he looks back on the recent events: “Syn moj, jaguar prišiel a všetko nam vzal.” “Son, a jaguar came and took everything from us.”
The son responds to his aged father with a rhymed response “Otec, nebolo jaguar, bolo februar!” “Dad, it wasn’t a jaguar, it was February.”
The coming of the communists on this land (in Febrauary 1948) and the coming of a foreign, violent invader – a jaguar – rhyme. They parallel each other in the Slovak. The greatest enemies that Marx so often writes about are the peasants – the landed, often poor, rural workers.
They are happy enough with their lives as they are, they want big families, they want that old time religion, they want their own property that they work hard for kept separate from the property that the neighbor works hard for, they want to be left alone in their villages in peace and quiet, not bothered by invaders from whatever far off capital claims them at the given time. They know to be distrusting of bright ideas from far off minds that don’t and won’t need to ever walk in the shoes of a single person in that village.
These are the people Marx most hated, or so his writing seems to indicate (Amazon link), because these are the people who disproved Marx’s belief that you can buy off the poor with promises of money. The peasants, while relatively poor from Marx’s point of view, and therefore theoretically someone Marx should consider an ally, in contrast rejected the intrusions of Marxism.
In the Ukraine they speak of the great famine of the 1930’s where Stalin killed off millions of peasants in order to obtain their submission to his communist system. Men like the old shepherd in the joke who worked hard and had something for themselves, who had a community around them, did not want to be bothered by the communists. They wanted to be left alone.
The Bača is the most idyllic Slovak profession for many Slovaks – invoking connotations of pure, rural, local, natural, Slovak, nourishing. That the bac’a would not understand the coming of this invader adds to the texture of this joke – Jaguar, Lion, Tiger, Elephant, Rhinoceros would all be strange foreign invaders, much like the Russian Communists.
Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.