Final Answer: Kill One of My Neighbors Cows!

Via Alex Tabarrok, I see that the  international versions of the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” have some odd quirks.   For instance:

In Russia, the ‘Ask the Audience’ lifeline isn’t one that the contestant would often use because the audience often gives wrong answers intentionally to trick the contestants.

This doesn’t surprise me at all, actually.  I’m reminded of this:

An old Russian joke tells the story of a peasant with one cow who hates his neighbor because he has two. A sorcerer offers to grant the envious farmer a single wish. “Kill one of my neighbor’s cows!” he demands.

While this seems to be a particular facet of the Russian culture, it’s not unique as the Ronald Bailey column linked demonstrates.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kent Cowell says:

    Russians are crap, only the crap is left anyone with a scintilla of humanity was murdered in the concentration camps of Stalin Khruschov and Brezhnev.
    Never EVER trust a Russian they are vicious criminal-minded abusers.

  2. phwest says:

    I’ve heard an even nastier version of that joke. The genie offers a wish but says that whatever the peasant gets his neighbor will get doubled. The peasant thinks for a bit and then says “Make me blind in one eye”.

  3. tomcunn says:

    i heard the joke this way – sorcerer tells peasant, i will give you whatever you want, but i will give your neighbor twice what i give you. he thinks for a long time and answers – take out one of my eyes.

  4. CG says:

    The Economist had an article a while back that explored the evolution of concepts of “fairness”.
    They wondered if people become more fair and equitable since our tribal days or less fair as society has become more complex.

    After much cross cultural testing of tribes with various levels of contact w/ the outside, and peoples in the modern world they discovered that humans have become more fair and ‘nicer’, not the reverse. What seemed to be the primary motivator of fairness and for lack of a better word, “niceness” was exposure to a market economy. Tribal peoples were surprisingly not interested in fairness — I guess they never feared getting kicked out of the tribe so fair play didn’t really offer many benefits.

    In the market economy fairness matters — you’ll make some money if you cheat some people, you’ll make a LOT more money if you make people money or offer a good/service that does same.

    Anyway, Russia was under communism for a long time. No market economy. Not a lot of fairness or bother to be nice either.

  5. Ray says:

    And this is why in every culture to have evolved the concept of sin, envy is on the list.

  6. pst314 says:

    In a Teaching Company lecture series on Ancient Greece, the professor recounted a personal story illustrating the difference between good envy (“He’s more successful than me, so I should emulate him”) and bad envy (“He’s more successful so I should destroy him”). The Professor had a home in Greece with a small vineyard. He began experimenting with innovative methods of viticulture, and toward the end of the summer it became clear that his vines were doing better than before and that he would have a very fine crop of grapes. One morning he woke up to discover that all his vines had been cut down. His neighbors resented his success and resorted to a traditional Greek cultural tradition.

  7. Patrick Carroll says:

    Another Russian joke is “If you pass a Bulgarian in the street, beat him. He will know why.”

  8. Gerry says:

    Unfortunately, another old peasant saying was often enough acted out. “Save Russia, beat the Jews”.
    Keeping in mind that phrase is no longer much honored there I have met a long list of rather good people in Russia during my many travels there. Helped some come to America (not wives, though I know many of those and they’re also pretty good people).
    i don’t regret knowing any of them.
    Kent Cowell (above) seems to have fallen in with the decidedly wrong kind of Russki. You could do that right here, Kent. No need to go to Russia, Americanskis will do.

  9. looking closely says:

    Seems that it can’t be a coincidence that Communism (where everyone is “equal”) took root in the same culture that spawns this sort of jealousy.