Apparatchik (Russian: аппара́тчик, plural apparatchiki) is a Russian colloquial term for a full-time, professional functionary of the Communist Party or government; i.e., an agent of the governmental or party "apparat" (apparatus) that held any position of bureaucratic or political responsibility, with the exception of the higher ranks of management.
Members of the "apparat" were frequently transferred between different areas of responsibility, usually with little or no actual training for their new areas of responsibility. Thus, the term apparatchik, or "agent of the apparatus" was usually the best possible description of the person's profession and occupation.
The term was usually associated with a specific mindset, attitude and appearance of the person; when used by "outsiders", it often bore derogatory connotations.
Today this term is also used in contexts other than Soviet Union. For example, it is often used to describe people who cause bureaucratic bottlenecks in otherwise efficient organizations. It is also frequently used to describe individuals, appointed to positions in any government, on the basis of ideological or political loyalty rather than competence.