Russian April Fool's Day Hoaxes
Artificial Satellites Around Mars.
The April 1959 edition of the Great Plains Observer astronomical newsletter included a spoof report alleging that the moons of Mars had been discovered to be artificial satellites flung into orbit by some ancient civilization that had once inhabited the red planet.
American astronomers were shocked when this story was apparently taken seriously by a well-regarded Soviet scientist, Dr. Iosip Shklovsky, who repeated the claim in an interview with Komsomol Pravda. Dr. Gerald Kuiper of the Yerkes Observatory later said, "He is much too brilliant to believe such nonsense."
Maradona Joins Soviet Soccer Team.
The Soviet newspaper Izvestia reported that the Moscow Spartak soccer team was in negotiations with Argentine star Diego Maradona. On the table was an offer of $6 million for him to come play for them. If all went well, he would join the team within a year. The report was met with astonishment around the world — not because many people believed it, but because it was the first time the normally very serious Izvestia had ever published an April fool's day hoax. Frivolity of this kind had previously been frowned upon by the Kremlin.
New Moscow Subway.
The Russian Moskovskaya Pravda revealed that plans had been finalized to build a second subway system in Moscow. This was being done "in the interests of competition." The paper made this announcement in a special March 32nd edition titled Moskovskaya Nye-Pravda (Moscow Un-Truth).
The Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets reported that Mikhail Gorbachev had volunteered to test a revolutionary new anti-baldness spray. As a result he had sprouted a new head of hair, covering his famous birthmark. Accompanying the article was a picture of Gorbachev on a trip to South Korea sporting his new, curly-locked look.
The Moscow Tribune went out onto the streets of Moscow to ask people what they thought about the ethnic cleansing in Brutistan. They received a variety of concerned replies. The joke was that Brutistan does not exist.
Chewy Vodka Bars.
The Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported that an alcoholic beverage company had invented a new kind of candy sure to be a favorite with the Russian people: chewy Vodka Bars. These bars, designed to compete with Mars and Snickers bars, would come in three flavors — lemon, coconut, and salted cucumber. The same company was also perfecting another new product: instant vodka in tea bags.
Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported that a military factory had begun manufacturing diamond-encrusted grenades, which it was selling to Russian gangsters who might be concerned that they could not only live glamorously but also "die luxuriously as well." The article noted, "The use of such a grenade will leave your one-time rival in a sea of beautiful sparkling gems rather than in a pool of blood."
April 1st To Be National Holiday.
Radio Russia reported that the Russian parliament was considering a proposal to declare April 1st a public holiday: "Telephone jokes, absurd tasks for managers, warnings that the power, light or heat is to be cut off and other practical jokes are much more extravagant then than on other days. As a result, expert analysis shows, industrial efficiency in Russia falls," the report explained. By declaring the day a national holiday, efficiency would be maintained.
Russian Hair-Restoring Well.
Russian Public TV reported that a spring had been discovered in the Caucasus mountains with the ability to cure male baldness. "According to the latest statistics, the number of bald men in Adygeya has plummeted," the report noted. The news program showed "before" and "after" pictures of the man who had made the discovery. (The BBC perpetrated a similar April Fool's Day hoax in 1977.)
Russian President’s Nuclear-Proof Limousine.
The Moscow Times revealed details of the new limousine used to transport President Dmitry Medvedev. It was said to be far more secure than "The Beast" (the nickname of the limousine used to transport U.S. President Obama).
"The Russian car has a 12-centimeter-thick titanium plated roof that is so strong a T-72 tank can drive over it without causing any real damage... Its windows are made of glass that will withstand a direct hit from a rocket-propelled grenade, while its wheels automatically turn into caterpillar tracks when going over rough terrain...
The Kremlin official noted that the car's occupants could survive a small nuclear attack, but only if the wind was blowing in a certain direction."
A number of news outlets reported the story as fact, including The Guardian. Der Spiegel and three media outlets in South Korea contacted The Moscow Times seeking more details.
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.