Some distinctive Soviet words and quotations, especially from Stalin's time

Copyright 1999 by Hugo S. Cunningham

First posted 990823

Some other distinctive Soviet Russian phrases

Explanation of Russian transcription used here.

Explanation of highlighting of letters: for Russian, it shows stressed pronunciation of vowel. For English, it indicates keyword for alphabetized entry.

RussianEnglishRemark
chrnyj voron Black Maria; Russian literally means "black raven" vehicle for transporting prisoners
xozyainbosswhen capitalized, "The Boss," a tolerated nickname for the Great Leader and Teacher, commonly used in private by mid-to-high-ranking officials
soratnikcomrade-in-arms
kompetentnye organy (Ch.K.)
competent organs
VChK- OGPU- NKVD- KGB
ie the appropriate, "competent" authority to deal with spies, saboteurs, etc.; a sometimes-humorous term approved by Chekists.
karayushchij mech (Ch.K.)
punishing sword
VChK - OGPU - NKVD - KGB
(approved title)
vernye strazhi revolyucii (Ch.K.)
faithful guards of the Revolution
VChK - OGPU - NKVD - KGB
(approved title)
lyubimec partiifavorite of the PartyLenin's affectionate reference to Bukharin, in a happier time
chudesnyj gruzin "a marvelous Georgian"an early (1913) reference by Lenin to the future Great Leader and Teacher
devyat' gramm

dat' [komu-nibud'] po devyati gramm(?)
nine grams

give [someone his/her] nine grams
(Chekist shop-talk)
supposedly the weight of a standard-issue bullet

execute [someone]
NE^P
Novaya E^konomicheskaya Politika
N.E.P.
New Economic Policy
Official toleration for small capitalists in 1920s, as USSR recovered from ravages of 1918-1921 Civil War.
internacionalizm

proletarskij internacionalizm
internationalism

proletarian internationalism
From Ozhegov (1988) -- "An ideological and political principle, proclaiming, in contrast to nationalism, the equality, solidarity, and cooperation of all nations."
Contrast with suspect cosmopolitanism.

From Ozhegov (1988) -- "international solidarity of the working class, Communists of all nations in the struggle for common goals, their solidarity with peoples, struggling for national liberation and social progress."
dognat' i peregnat' overtake and surpass
patriotizm

sovetskij patriotizm
patriotism

Soviet patriotism
From Ozhegov (1988) --
"devotion and love for one's country, one's people."
Contrast with "bourgeois nationalism"

The virtuous opposite of "rootless cosmopolitanism"
realizm

Socialisticheskij realizm
realism

Socialist realism
Ozhegov: "a tendency in literature and art, setting as a goal the correct depiction of reality in its typical features." Contrast with formalism.

seksot
(from "sekretnyj sotrudnik")
"secret collaborator" (ie. informer) term used by KGB
avangard

avangard proletariata
vanguard

vanguard of the proletariat
from French "avant-garde"

The Party
bditel'nyj

bditel'nost'
vigilant

vigilance
yarovizaciya vernalization Pre-treating seed grain with the effects of spring weather (eg heating?), to make it sprout more quickly after planting. T.D. Lysenko, a Stalin-era agronomist (or crank, depending on your viewpoint), gained political favor with exaggerated claims of its usefulness.
devstvennica

celina
a virgin (woman)

virgin land, unplowed land
N.S. Khrushchov promoted maize (corn) production in semi-arid "virgin lands" of Kazakhstan.
Note that in Russian, the name for the land has nothing to do with the woman.

Longer quotations

Spasibo, Tovarishch Stalin, za nashe s-chastlivoe detstvo! Thank you, Comrade Stalin, for our wonderful childhood!
Esli xotite byt' Chkalovymi, to vypolnyajte prizyv nashego vozhdya i uchitelya Stalina: uchites', uchites' i uchites', chtoby dognat' i peregnat' kapitalisticheskij mir.
--Karl Radek
If you wish to be Chkalovs, then obey the call of our leader and teacher Stalin: Study, study, and study, to overtake and surpass the capitalist world! Valerij Pavlovich Chkalov (1904-1938), one of several pilots lionized in the 1930s Soviet press, flew across the North Pole in 1937. He later died in an air crash.
My najdem tebe druguyu zhenu We will find you another wife
--Comrade Stalin, to his personal secretary Aleksandr Poskrebyshev
Poskrebyshev had appealed for his wife, arrested for being the sister of Trotsky's daughter-in-law
YAbloko ot yabloni nedaleko katitsya. The apple does not roll far from the apple tree.
--(old Russian proverb)
This was often cited in the late 1930s as grounds for purging children of "enemies of the people."

Ideological distinctions


A book of interest, but not used here


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