Soviet comedy movies are surprisingly awesome and funny. They also provide a window into a culture that was otherwise pretty cut-off from the west. A rather groomed and cultivated window, but still a window. And you can watch them on youtube, since they have no formal distribution in the west. This link contains a whole list of them; I will discuss a couple specific ones in this post.
The Diamond Arm (Russian: Бриллиантовая рука, Transliteration: brilliantovaya ruka) (number 6 on the playlist): A slapstick style comedy. Criminals conspire to smuggle jewels into Russia. The protagonist wins a vacation abroad, and due to a mix-up, unwittingly becomes a mule for the jewels.
The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! (Russian: Ирония судьбы, или С лёгким паром!, Transliteration: Ironiya sudby, ili S lyogkim parom!) (Number 9 on the playlist): This is the “it’s a wonderful life” of Russia. They apparently play it all the time for New Year’s. A group of men go get very drunk at a bath house, before one of them flies out in the morning. They are still drunk in the morning, and accidentally put the wrong man on the plane. The man, who has been passed out, does not realize he is in the wrong city. He takes a cab to his street and building, and his key even opens the door, even though he is now in Leningrad, not Moscow. This is a spoof of the homogeneity of the Russian building style at the time. All the same street names, all the same buildings, even the same locks. The man gets a glimpse at how his life could be different.
The video below is a charming song from the movie called “esli u vas”. It’s an interesting study in Russian optimism. Basically, the lyrics of the song are about the things that can’t happen to you if you don’t expose yourself to them, but then you will have never experienced life. If you don’t have a dog, your neighbor can’t poison it (!), if you don’t have a house, you won’t fear house fires, if you don’t have friends, you won’t fight with them, etc. I couldn’t find a link with a nice translation.