Most of them are used to denote things and notions specific to Russia, Russian culture, politics, history, especially well-known outside Russia. Some others are in mainstream usage, independent of any Russian context.
Balalaika (Russian: балала́йка, pronounced [bəlɐˈlajkə]) (Tartar origin) A triangle-shaped guitar-like musical instrument with three strings.
Bistro (possibly from Russian bystro "quickly" via French) A small bar or restaurant.
Cosmonaut (Russian: космонавт (IPA [kəsmɐˈnaft] (from Greek cosmos "world" or "universe", and nautes "sailor", thus "sailor of the world"; the term "cosmonaut" was first used in 1959, apparently as a completely independent construction, with no particular reference to space travel; the near similar word "cosmonautic" had been coined in 1947) A Russian astronaut.
Gulag (Russian: Главное Управление Исправительно—Трудовых Лагерей и колоний) (Russian acronym for Glavnoye Upravleniye Ispravitelno-trudovykh Lagerey i kolonii, The Chief Administration (or Directorate) of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies.) 1. (historical) In the former Soviet Union, an administered system of corrective labor camps and prisons. 2. (figurative) A coercive institution, or an oppressive environment.
Intelligentsia (Russian: интеллигенция) (from Latin intelligence, intelligentia from inter "between", and legare "to choose") 1. The part of a nation (originally in pre-revolutionary Russia) having aspirations to intellectual activity, a section of society regarded as possessing culture and political initiative; plural the members of this section of a nation or society. 2. In the former Soviet Union, the intellectual elite.
Kazakh (Russian Казах) (Russian, late 16th century, kazak, from Turkic meaning "vagabond" or "nomad", name of the ethnicity was transliterated into English from Russian spelling. The self-appellation is "Kazak" or "Qazaq".) 1. Member of a people living chiefly in Kazakhstan. Traditionally nomadic, the Kazakhs are predominantly Sunni Muslims. 2. The Turkic language of these people.
Knout (Russian 'knut' - кнут perhaps from Swedish knutpiska, a kind of whip, or Germanic origin Knute, Dutch Knoet, Anglo-Saxon cnotta, English knot) A whip formerly used as an instrument of punishment in Russia; the punishment inflicted by the knout.
Kozachok also Kazachok (Russian: Kaзaчoк) (Russian diminutive of kazak "cossack") A Slavic dance, chiefly Ukrainian, with a fast tempo featuring a step in which a squatting dancer kicks out each leg alternately to the front.
Kopeck (Russian copeck копейка, kopeyka; derives from the Russian kop'yo (копьё) "spear" a reference to the image of a rider with a spear on the coins minted by Moscow after the capture of Novgorod in 1478) A Russian currency, a subunit of Ruble, 100 kopecks is equal to 1 ruble. Kremlin (Russian: Кремль, IPA: [krʲɛmlʲ]) (Russian for "fortress", "citadel" or "castle") A citadel or fortified enclosure within a Russian town of city, especially the Kremlin of Moscow; (the Kremlin) Metonym for the government of the former USSR, and to a lesser of extent of Russian post- Soviet government.
Mammoth (Russian мамонт mamont, from Yakut mamont, probably mama, "earth", perhaps from the notion that the animal burrowed in the ground) Any various large, hairy, extinct elephants of the genus Mammuthus, especially the Wooly Mammoth. 2. (adjective) Something of great size.
Matryoshka also Russian nested doll, stacking doll, Babushka doll, or Russian doll (Russian: матрёшка, IPA: [mɐˈtrʲoʂkə]. A set of brightly colored wooden dolls of decreasing sizes placed one inside another. "Matryoshka" is a derivative of the Russian female first name "Matryona", which is traditionally associated with a corpulent, robust, rustic Russian woman.
Molotov Cocktail also petrol bomb, gasoline bomb, Molotov bomb (Named after Vyacheslav Molotov 1890-1986, Soviet politician born Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Skryabin; the term was coined by the Finns in 1940 during their Winter War with the Soviet Union. While dropping bombs on Helsinki, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov claimed the Soviets were only dropping food and drink to their comrades. The analogy of food and drink with bombs led the Finns to coin the black humorous term Molotov bread basket for an incendiary bomb, and later Molotov cocktail for their improvised gasoline-filled bottle with a slow burning wick that is ignited before it is thrown. The weapon however was first used in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, and later used by the Chinese against Japan in 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War) Generic name for a variety of improvised incendiary weapons, usually consisting a bottle filled with gasoline, wrapped in a saturated rag or plugged with a wick, then ignited and hurled as a grenade.
Muzhik (Russian мужик, before 1917 referring to a man of low social standing, now colloquially used for any man) A Russian peasant.
Pogrom (from Russian: погром; from "громить" gromit to destroy by violent means) 1. (early 20th century) A riot against Jews. 2. (general) An organized, officially tolerated attack on any community or group. 3. (transitive verb) Massacre or destroy in a pogrom.
Ruble (Rouble) (From Russian rubl, from Old Russian rubli "cut" or "piece", probably originally a piece cut from a silver ingot bar (grivna) from Russian рубить, rubiti meaning "to chop". Historically, "ruble" was a piece of a certain weight chopped off a silver ingot (grivna), hence the name. An alternate etymology may suggest the name comes from the Russian noun рубец, rubets, i.e., the seam that is left around the coin after casting: silver was added to the cast in two goes. Therefore the word ruble means "a cast with a seam".) The Russian unit of currency.
Sputnik (Russian name: Спутник) (Russian literally "travelling companion" from s with put "way" or "journey" + noun suffix nik person connected with something) 1. (historical) A series of unarmed artificial earth satellites launched by the Soviet Union from 1957 to the early 1960s; especially Sputnik 1 which on October 4, 1957 became the first man-made object to orbit the earth. 2. (in Bridge) A take-out double of a suit overcall of one's partner's opening bid, in full Sputnik double.
Steppe (Russian: степь - [sʲtʲepʲ], Ukrainian: степ - /stɛp/, Kazakh: дала - /dɑlɑ/), pronounced in English as /stɛp/, (Russian step) Any of the vast level grassy usually treeless plains of South East Europe and Siberia.
Tchotchke (plural tchotchkes) also tshotshke, tshatshke, tchatchke, chachke, chochke (First attested in American English in 1964, from Yiddish טשאַטשקע tshatshke, "trinket", from obsolete Polish czaczko) A small, decorative item or souvenir, usually of no particular value.
Troika (triumvirate) (Russian: тройка) (Russian meaning "threesome" or "triumvirate") 1. (mid 19th century) A Russian vehicle, either a wheeled carriage or a sleigh, drawn by three horses abreast. 2. A Russian folk dance with three people, often one man and two women. 3. (historical) a) In the former Soviet Union, a commission headed by three people; especially NKVD Troika. b) In the former Soviet Union, a group of three powerful Soviet leaders; especially referring to the 1953 Troika of Georgy Malenkov, Lavrentiy Beria, and Vyacheslav Molotov that briefly ruled the Soviet Union after the death of Stalin. 4. A group of three people or things working together, especially in an administrative or managerial capacity.
Ushanka also called a shapka (Russian: ушанка) [uˈʂankə] ushanka literally "ear-flaps hat") A Russian fur cap with ear flaps that can be tied up to the crown of the cap, or tied at the chin to protect the ears from the cold.
Vodka (Russian: водка) (Russian diminutive of voda "water") An alcoholic liquor distilled from fermented wheat mash, but now also made from a mash of rye, corn, or potatoes.
Blintz also blintz, blintze blin (plural: blintzes, Lithuanian: Blynai, blynai; Russian: блин blin, блины (pl.) bliny; Ukrainian: млинці, mlyntsi; Yiddish: בלינצע blintse) (from Yiddish בלינצע blintse, which in turn comes from blin, from Old Slavic mlin meaning "to mill") A thin rolled pancake, similar to a crepe, that usually filled with cottage cheese, then folded and sauteed or baked, and often served with sour cream.
Borshch also Borscht (Russian: борщ) (Russian borshch "cow parsnip", the original base of the soup) A beet soup served hot or cold, usually with sour cream.
Coulibiac (origin 1895-1900, from Russian kulebyáka an oblong loaf of fish, meat, or vegetables, baked in a pastry shell; of uncert. orig) A Russian fish pie typically made with salmon or sturgeon, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, and herbs, in a puff pastry shell.
Kasha (Russian for "porridge" or "gruel") 1. A porridge made from cooked buckwheat groats or other grains. 2. A beige color resembling buckwheat groats.
Kefir (Russian: кефир) (Russian, probably ultimately from Old Turkic köpür, (milk) "froth", "foam", from köpürmäk, "to froth", "foam") A sour, slightly alcoholic drink fermented from cow, goat, or sheep's milk.
Kvass (literally "leaven"; borrowed in the 16th century from Russian квас, sometimes translated into English as bread drink) A fermented mildly alcoholic beverage made from rye flour or bread with malt; rye beer.
Medovukha (Proto-Indo-European meddhe honey) (Russian: медовуха) A Russian honey-based alcoholic beverage similar to mead.
Okroshka (Russian: окрошка) (from Russian "kroshit" (крошить) meaning to chop (into small pieces) A type of Russian cold soup with mixed raw vegetables.
Pavlova is a meringue dessert. It is crispy on the outside but light and fluffy inside.
Pelmeni singular pelmen (Russian: пельмень) An eastern European dish of minced meat, especially beef and pork, wrapped in a thin dough and boiled.
Pirogi - also perogi, perogy, pirohi, piroghi, pirogi, pirogen, piroshke or pyrohy) (Russian: пироги, plural of пирог pirog, 'pie') (from the Proto-Slavic *pir "festivity" also Polish pierogi, "little pies") A dough dumpling stuffed with filling such as potato or cheese, typically served with onions or sour cream.
Pirozhki (plural) also piroshki (Russian: пирожки, plural of пирожок pirozhok, diminutive of пирог pirog, "pie") Small Russian pastries or patties, filled with meat or fish and rice.
Sbiten (Russian: сбитень, also збитень) A traditional Russian honey based drink similar to Medovukha.
Shashlik (Russian Шашлык) (from Crimean Turkish sislik from sis "skewer") A type of eastern European and Asian shish kebab with meat (often lamb or beef) that is usually marinated and garnished with herbs and spices.
Shchi (Russian: щи) A type of cabbage soup.
Sirniki, syrniki (In Russia they are also known as tvorozhniki (творо́жники) (Polish serniki, Russian: сы́рники; Ukrainian: сирники; Belarusian сырнікі "сыр" (transliteration: syr), meaning "cheese") Fried curd fritters, garnished with sour cream, jam, honey, and sometimes apple sauce.
Smetana (Russian smetat to sweep together, collect) A sour cream, frequently in smetana sauce.
Solyanka (Russian and Ukrainian: соля́нка) A type of Russian and Ukrainian thick and spicy soup.
Vareniki (Russian; варе́ники) (from Russian varenyy "boiled thing") A popular Ukrainian dish of square or crescent-shaped dumplings of unleavened dough, stuffed with sauerkraut, cheese, mashed potatoes, cabbage, and meat.
Agitprop (Russian: агитпроп; blend of Russian agitatsiya "agitation" and propaganda "propaganda"; origin 1930's' from shortened form of отдел агитации и пропаганды, transliteration otdel agitatsii i propagandy, Department for Agitation and Propaganda, which was part of the Central and regional committees of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The department was later renamed Ideological Department) Political (originally communist) propaganda, especially in art and literature.
Bolshevik (Russian Большеви́к) [bəlʲʂɨˈvʲik] (from Russian Больше 'majority' or 'greater' with reference to the greater faction)
Boyar singular boyarin, plural boyare, feminine form boyarinya (Russian: боярин [bɐˈjærʲɪn]), (Russian boyarom from Old Russian bolijarin from Turkic baylar plurarl of bay rich; akin to Turkish bay rich, gentlemen) (historical) A member of the highest rank of the feudal Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, and Ukrainian aristocracy, second only to the ruling princes, from the 10th century through the 17th century. Many headed the civil and military administrations in their country. In Russia, their status was abolished by Peter the Great after his reorganization of the government and military.
Cheka (Russian: Всероссийская чрезвычайная комиссия по борьбе с контрреволюцией и саботажем, acronym for The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Speculation, and Sabotage, abbreviated to Cheka (Chrezvychaynaya Komissiya, ChK; Чрезвычайная Комиссия, ЧК - pronounced "Che-Ka") or VCheka; In 1918 its name was slightly altered to "All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Profiteering and Corruption") The first Soviet state security organization (1917-1922), it was later transformed and reorganized into the GPU.
Commissar (Russian комисса́р) (Russian commissariat reinforced by medieval Latin commissariatus, both from medieval Latin commmissarius "person in charge" from Latin committere "entrust"' term "commissar" first used in 1918) 1. An official of the Communist Party, especially in the former Soviet Union or present day China, responsible for political education and organization; A head of a government department in the former Soviet Union before 1946, when the title was changed to Minister. 2. (figurative) A strict or prescriptive figure of authority.
Demokratizatsiya (Russian: Демократизация, literally "democratisation") A slogan introduced in 1987 by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev which called for the infusion of democratic elements into the Soviet Union government.
DOSAAF (Russian: ДОСААФ, Добровольное Общество Содействия Армии, Авиации и Флоту, abbreviation for Free Will (or Voluntary) Society of Assistance to the Army, Aviation, and the Navy) Name of a military society of the Soviet Union whose aim was to support the Soviet military financially and to prepare reserve troops by the use of paramilitary sports.
Druzhina also Druzhyna, Drużyna (Russian and Ukrainian: дружина) (Slavic drug (друг) meaning "companion" or "friend" related to Germanic drotiin, Proto-Germanic *druhtinaz meaning "war band") (historical) A detachment of select troops in East Slav countries who performed service for a chieftain, later knyaz. Its original functions were bodyguarding, raising tribute from the conquered territories and serving as the core of an army during war campaigns.
Duma (Russian: Ду́ма) (from Russian word думать dumat', "to think" or "to consider")
Dvoryanstvo singular dvoryanin, plural dvoryane (Russian Дворянство Dvoryanstvo meaning "nobility" from Russian dvor (двор) referring to the court of a prince or duke kniaz and later of the tsar) (historical) Term for the Russian nobility that arose in the 1300s and essentially governed Russia until the Russian Revolution.
Dyachok (historical) A member of the church workers in Russia who were not part of the official hierarchy of church offices and whose duties included reading and singing.
Glasnost (Russian: Гла́сность ; glasnost publicity, openness, from obsolete glas voice, from Old Church Slavonic glasu) (late 20th century) An official policy in the former Soviet Union (especially associated with Mikhail Gorbachev) emphasizing openness with regard to discussion of social problems and shortcomings. Glavlit (Russian acronym for Main Administration for Literary and Publishing Affairs, later renamed Main Administration for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press of the USSR Council of Ministers Russian: Главное управление по охране государственных тайн в печати ГУОГТП (ГУОТ), trans. Glavnoe upravlenie po okhrane gosudarstvennykh tayn v pechati) (historical) The official censorship and state secret protection organ in the Soviet Union.
GPU also known as OGPU (Russian: Государственное Политическое Управление, transliteration Gosudarstvennoye Politicheskoye Upravlenie State Political Directorate) (historical) The secret police of the former Soviet Union from 1922-1934; it succeeded the Cheka in 1922, and it was later reorganized as the NKVD in 1934. Guberniya (Russian губе́рния [guˈbʲɛrnʲɪjə]) (also gubernia, guberniia, gubernya) was a major administrative subdivision of the Imperial Russia, usually translated as governorate or province.
Kadet (Russian: Конституционная Демократическая партия, The Constitutional Democratic Party or Constitutional Democrats, formally Party of Popular Freedom, informally called Kadets, or Cadets from the abbreviation K-D of the party name [the term was political, and not related to military students who are called cadets]) (historical) A liberal political party in Tsarist Russia founded in 1905, it largely dissolved after the Russian Civil War.
KGB (Russian transliteration of "КГБ") (Russian abbreviation of Комите́т Госуда́рственной Безопа́сности, Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, Committee for State Security) (historical) Name of the Soviet Union organization that directed the security agency, secret police, and intelligence agency from 1954 to 1991.
Khozraschyot or Khozraschet (Russian: Хозрасчёт, хозяйственный расчёт, literally "economic accounting") A method of the planned running of an economic unit (i.e., of a business, in Western terms) based on the confrontation of the expenses incurred in production with the production output, on the compensation of expenses with the income; often referred to as the attempt to simulate the capitalist concepts of profit into the planned economy of the Soviet Union.
Kniaz (Etymologically related to the English word king (from Old English cyning "tribe") related the German König, and the Scandinavian konung, probably borrowed early from the Proto-Germanic *Kuningaz, a form also borrowed by Finnish and Estonian (Kuningas); the title and functions however of a Kniaz corresponded, though not exact, to more of a Prince or Duke) (historical) A title given to members of Russian nobility that arose during the Rurik dynasty.
Kolkhoz plural kolkhozy (колхо́з, [kɐlˈxos]) (1920s origin; Russian contraction of коллекти́вное хозя́йство, kol(lektivnoe) khoz(yaisto) "collective farm") A form of collective farming in the former Soviet Union.
Konyushy (Russian Конюший) (Russian literally "equerry" or "master of the horse") (historical) A boyar in charge of the stables of the Russian rulers, duties which included parade equipage, ceremonies of court ride-offs, and military horse breeding.
Korenizatsiya also korenization (коренизация) (Russian meaning "nativization" or "indigenization", literally "putting down roots", from the Russian term коренное население korennoye naseleniye "root population")
Kulak (Russian: кула́к, kulak, "fist", literally meaning "tight-fisted" from Turkic kol "hand"; Ukrainian: курку́ль, kurkul) Originally a prosperous Russian landed peasant in czarist Russia, later used pejoratively by Communists during the October Revolution as an exploiter; they were severeley repressed under the rule of Joseph Stalin in the 1930s.
Krai also Kray (Russian: край) (Slavic for "border") Term for eight of Russia's 85 federal subjects, often translated as territory, province, or region.
Leninism (after Vladimir Lenin, the term was coined in 1918) The political, economic and social principals and practices of the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, especially his theory of government which formed the basis for Soviet communism.
Lishenets (Russian: лишенец) (from Russian лишение, "deprivation", properly translated as a disenfranchised) (historical) A certain group of people in the Soviet Union who from 1918 to 1936 were prohibited from voting and denied other rights.
MGB (Russian: Министерство государственной безопасности, Ministerstvo Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti, The Ministry of State Security) (historical) The name of the Soviet secret police agency from 1946 to 1953. It was merged with the MVD in 1953.
Menshevik (Russian: Меньшевики) (from Russian word меньшинство menshinstvo "minority" from men'she "less"; the name Menshivik was coined by Lenin when the party was (untypically) in the minority for a brief period) (historical) A member of the non-Leninist wing of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party, opposed to the Bolsheviks who defeated them during the Russian Civil War that followed the 1917 Russian Revolution.
Mir (Russian: мир) (from Russian mir, meaning both "world" and "peace")
MVD (MVD) (Russian: Министерство внутренних дел) (MVD Russian acronym for Ministerstvo Vnutrennikh Del, Ministry of Internal Affairs) (The Soviet Union secret police from 1946-1953, in 1954 its secret police duties were transformed to the KGB, while the reorganized MVD was assigned to direct the regular police functions. Downgraded by Nikita Khruschev and renamed in 1962 to the "Ministry for the Preservation of Public Order" Ministerstvo okhrany obshchestvennogo poriadka abbreviated MOOP, it was later strengthened by Leonid Brezhnev and renamed in 1968 to its former and now current name)
Namestnik (наме́стник, [nɐˈmʲɛsnʲɪk]) (Russian literally "deputy" or "lieutenant") (historical) 1. (12th-16th century) An official who ruled a uyezd and was in charge of local administration. 2. (18th-20th century) A type of viceroy in Russia who ruled a namestnichestvo and had plenipotentiary powers.
Narkompros (Russian: Наркомпрос) (Russian Народный комиссариат просвещения, an abbreviation for the People's Commissariat for Enlightening (historical) The Soviet Union agency charged with the administration of public education and most of other issues related to culture such as literature and art. Founded by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution, it was renamed in 1946 to the Ministry of Enlightening.
Narodniks (Russian: Народничество) (from Russian narod "people", in turn from expression "Хождение в народ" meaning "going to the people") (historical) The name for Russian revolutionaries (active 1860's to 1880's) that looked on the peasants and intelligentsia as revolutionary forces, rather the urban working class.
NEP or The New Economic Policy (NEP) (Russian: Новая экономическая политика) (Russian Novaya Ekonomicheskaya Politika or НЭП) (historical) An economic policy instituted in 1921 by Lenin to attempt to rebuild industry and especially agriculture. The policy was later reversed by Stalin.
NKVD (Russian: НКВД, Народный комиссариат внутренних дел, Narodniy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del or People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) (historical) The secret police agency in the former Soviet Union that absorbed the functions of the former OGPU in 1934. It was merged with the MVD in 1946.
Nomenklatura (Russian: номенклату́ра) (Russian nomenklatura, from the Latin nomenclatura meaning a list of names) (historical) In the former Soviet Union, a list of influential posts in government and industry to be filled by Communist Party appointees; collectively the holders of these posts, the Soviet élite.
Oblast (Russian: о́бласть) (Russian loanword with no literal translation, although generally translated as "region" or "province") An administrative division or region in Russia and the former Soviet Union, and in some constituent republics of the former Soviet Union.
Okhrana in full The Okhrannoye otdeleniye (Russian: Охранное отделение) (Russian literally "Protection Section") (historical) The secret police organization (established in the 1860s) for protection of the Russian czarist regimes. It ended with the Bolshevik takeover of Russia in 1917, who set up their own secret police organization called the Cheka.
Okrug (Russian: о́круг) (Russian okrug is similar to the German word Bezirk ("district"), both words refer to something "encircled")
Perestroika (Russian: Перестройка) (Russian perestroika literally "restructuring", the term was first used in 1986) The reform of the political and economic system of the former Soviet Union, first proposed by Leonid Brezhnev at the 26th Communist Party Congress in 1979, and later actively promoted by Mikhail Gorbachev from 1985.
Podyachy (Russian: подьячий, sometimes подъячий) (Russian from the Greek hypodiakonos, "assistant servant") (historical) An office occupation in prikazes (local and upper governmental offices) and lesser local offices of Russia from the 15th to the 18th century.
Politburo (Russian politbyuro from polit(icheskoe) byuro "political bureau") (historical) The principal policymaking committee in the former Soviet Union that was founded in 1917; also known as the Presidium from 1952 to 1966.
Posadnik (Russian: Посадник) (from Old Church Slavic posaditi, meaning to put or place, since originally they were placed in the city to rule in behalf of the prince of Kiev) (historical) A mayor (equivalent to a stadtholder, burgomeister, or podesta in the medieval west) in some East Slavic cities, notably in the Russian cities of Novgorod and Pskov; the title was abolished in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Praporshchik (Russian: пра́порщик) (from Slavonic prapor (прапор), meaning flag, since the praporshchik was a flag-bearer in Kievan Rus troops) The name of a junior officer position in the military of the Russian Empire, equivalent to ensign.
Prikaz (Russian: приказ) 1. (historical) An administrative (palace, civil, military, or church) or judicial office in Muscovy and Russia of 15th-18th centuries; abolished by Peter the Great. 2. In modern Russian, an administrative or military order (to do something).
Propiska (Russian: пропи́ска) (Russian full term Прописка по месту жительства, "The record of place of residence", from Russian verb propisiat "to write into" in reference to write a passport into a registration book of the given local office) (historical) a regulation in the former Soviet Union designed to control internal population movement by binding a person to his or her permanent place of residence.
Raion (Russian and Ukrainian: райо́н, ; Belarusian раён; Azeri: rayon, Latvian: rajons, Lithuanian: rajonas, Georgian: raioni), a region or district, one of the kinds of administrative subdivision.
Silovik (Russian: силови́к) plural siloviks or siloviki, Russian: силовики) (Russian word for "power"), a collective name for persons or personnel of an organisation which have formal and real power, such as military (usually high-ranked), officers of KGB, FSB, MVD, etc. Slonik (Russian diminutive for "elephant" since the shape of the gas mask resembles an elephant's trunk) A form of torture used by the Russian police that involves the use of a gas mask to bring a person to near asphyxiation.
SMERSH (Russ: СМЕРть Шпионам) (Russian acronym of (smer) t (sh)pionam literally "death to spies") (historical) The popular name for the Russian counterespionage organization responsible for maintaining security within the Soviet armed and intelligence services; it was originally created during World War II to deal with traitors, deserters, and spies who undermined or threatened the Red Army. It essentially ended in 1946 when its functions were resubordinated to the People's Commissariat of Military Forces (Наркомат Вооруженных Сил, or НКВС.
Soviet (Russian: сове́т) (Russian sovet "council") (historical)
Sovkhoz plural Sovkhozes (Russian: Совхоз) (Russian Советское хозяйство, (Sov) eckoje (khoz)yaistvo, "soviet farm")
Sovnarkhoz (Russian: Совнархоз) (Russian Совет Народного Хозяйства, Sovet Narodnogo Hozyaistva, Council of National Economy, usually translated as "Regional Economic Council") (historical) An organization of the former Soviet Union to manage a separate economic region.
Sovnarkom (Russian: Совет Министров СССР) (Russian Sovet Ministrov SSSR, Council of Ministers of the USSR , sometimes abbreviated form Sovmin was used; between 1918 and 1946 it was named the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR (Совет Народных Комиссаров СССР, Russian Sovet Narodnykh Komissarov SSSR, sometimes Sovnarkom or SNK shortcuts were used).) (historical) In the former the Soviet Union, the highest executive and administrative body.
Spetsnaz or Specnaz (Russian: Войска специального назначения - спецназ) or Russian special purpose regiments (Voyska spetsialnogo naznacheniya) A general term for the police or military units within the Russian Federation who engage in special activities.
Stakhanovite (Russian: стахановец) (after Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov, a Russian coal miner noted for his superior productivity; the Soviet authorities publicized Stakhanov's prodigious output in 1935 as part of a campaign to increase industrial output)
Streltsy singular strelitz, plural strelitzes or strelitzi (Russian: Стрельцы) (Russian strelets "bowman") (historical) Units of armed guardsmen created by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century and later abolished by Peter the Great.
Tovarishch also Tovarich (Russian: Това́рищ IPA [tɐˈvarʲɪɕɕ]) (Russian archaic товарищ, tovarishch sense "business companion", often "travelmate", referring to the noun товар tovar "merchandise"; word perhaps ultimately from Turkic, possibly Tatar) In the former Soviet Union, a comrade; often used as a form of address.
Tsarina also tsaritsa (formerly spelled czaritsa), czarina, German zarin, French tsarine (Russian: цари́ца) (Russian, etymology from tsar) (historical) The wife of a tsar; also the title for the Empress of Russia.
Tysyatsky also tysiatsky (Russian: тысяцкий) (sometimes translated as dux or Heerzog but more correctly meaning thousandman; sometimes translated into the Greek chilliarch literally meaning "rule of a thousand") (historical) A military leader in Ancient Rus who commanded a people's volunteer army called tysyacha (Russian тысяча), or a thousand.
Ukase (Russian: указ) (pronunciation yoo-kayz) (Russian ukaz ordinance, edict, from ukazat to show, decree)
Uskoreniye (Russian: Ускорение, literally "acceleration") A slogan and a policy initiated in 1985 by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev which aimed at the acceleration of social and economical development of the Soviet Union.
Veche (Russian: вече) (Proto-Slavic root vēt-, meaning "council" or "talk") (historical) A popular assembly in Slavic countries during the medieval and later medieval periods, often compared to a parliament.
Yevsektsiya also Yevsektsia (Russian: ЕвСекция) (from the abbreviation of the phrase "Еврейская секция" Yevreyskaya sektsiya) (historical) The Jewish section of the Soviet Communist party that was created in 1918 to challenge and eventually destroy the rival Bund and Zionist parties, suppress Judaism and "bourgeois nationalism" and replace traditional Jewish culture with "proletarian culture." It was disbanded in 1929.
Zampolit A military or political commissar.
Zemshchina (from Russian zemlya "earth" or "land") (historical) The territory under the rule of the boyars who stayed in Moscow during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. It was separate from the rule of Ivan's own territory, which was administered by the Oprichnina.
Zemsky Sobor (Russian: зе́мский собо́р) (Russian assembly of the land) (historical) The first Russian parliament of the feudal Estates type during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Zemstvo (Russian: Земство) (Russian zemlya "earth" or "land") (historical) A district and provincial assembly in Russia from 1864 to 1917.
Beglopopovtsy also Beglopopovtsy (Russian: Беглопоповцы, translated as "runaway priests") (historical) A denomination of the Old Believers which included priests who had deserted the Russian Orthodox Church during the Raskol.
Chlysty also Khlysts, Khlysty (Russian: Хлысты) (invented Russian word Христоверы, transliteration Khristovery, "Christ-believers"; later critics corrupted the name, mixing it with the word хлыст khlyst, meaning "whip") (historical) A Christian sect in Russia that split from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century and renounced the priesthood, holy books, and veneration of the saints. The were noted for their practice of asceticism which included ecstatic rituals.
Doukhobor plural Doukhobors or Doukhabors (also Dukhobory, or Dukhobortsy) (Russian: Духоборы/Духоборцы) (Russian doukhobor literally "spirit wrestlers") A Christian sect, later defined as a religious philosophy, ethnic group, and social movement, which in the 18th century rejected secular government, the Russian Orthodox priests, icons, all church ritual, the Bible as the supreme source of divine revelation, and the divinity of Jesus. Widely persecuted by the Russian Tsarist regimes, many of them immigrated to Canada in the late 19th century.
Edinoverie (Russian: 'Unity in faith'), the practice of integrating Old Believer communities into the official Russian Orthodox Church while preserving their rites. The adherents are Edinovertsy ('People of the same faith').
Imiaslavie also Imiabozhie, Imyaslavie, Imyabozhie; also referred as Onomatodoxy (Russian: Имяславие) (Russian "those who glorify the name")
Molokan (Russian: Молока́не, from Russian moloko "milk") A Christian sect which broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in mid-16th century and rejected many traditional Christian beliefs including the veneration of religious icons, the Trinity, the worship in cathedrals, and the adherence to saintly holidays.
Pomortsy (Russian: Древлеправославная Поморская Церковь)
Skoptzy plural Skopets, also Skoptsy, Skoptzi, Skoptsi, Scoptsy (Russian: скопцы, from Russian meaning "castrated one") (historical) A Russian religious sect that practiced self-castration.
Starets (Russian стáрец) (Russian starets (venerable) old man, elder) A Russian religious spiritual leader, teacher, or counsellor.
Yurodivy (Russian: юродивый, jurodivyj) A form of Eastern Orthodox asceticism in which one intentionally acts foolish in the eyes of men; a Holy Fool.
Chernozem (from Russian чернозём, chernyi "black" + Slavonic base zem "earth") A dark, humus-rich, fertile soil characteristic of temperate or cool grasslands, especially referring to the soil of the Russian steppes.
ITAR-TASS formerly known as TASS; (Russian: ИТАР-ТАСС, Информационно Телеграфное Агентство России - Телеграфное Агентство Советского Союза) (ITAR, Russian abbreviation for Information Telegraph Agency of Russia; and TASS, an abbreviation for Telegrafnoe Agentstvo Sovetskogo Soyuza Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union) 1. The official state news agency in the former Soviet Union created in 1918 after the merger of the Petrograd Telegraph Agency (PTA) and the Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA); it was named TASS in 1925. 2. The main news agency of the Russian Federation; it was renamed ITAR-TASS in 1992.
Kalashnikov Alternative name for the AK-47 assault rifle (AK-47 short for Russian: Автомат Калашникова образца 1947 года, Avtomat Kalashnikova obraztsa 1947 goda Automatic Kalashnikov rifle, invented by Soviet soldier and small arms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov and first adopted in 1947; the term "kalashnikov" was not used until 1970) An type of rifle or sub-machine gun of Soviet Union and used in most Eastern bloc countries during the Cold War. The term later became associated with nationalist, guerrilla and terrorist groups who use it exclusively or extensively.
Liman (Russian: лиман) (from Greek λιμένας "bay" or "port") A type of lake or lagoon formed at the mouth of a river, blocked by a bar of sediments, especially referring to such features along the Danube River and the Black Sea.
Luna also called Lunik, Lunnik (from Russian luna meaning "Moon") A series of robotic spacecraft missions sent to the Moon by the Soviet Union between 1959 and 1976.
Lunokhod (Russian: Луноход literally "moon walker") A pair of unmanned robotic lunar rovers landed on the Moon in 1970 and 1973 by the Soviet Union.
Mirovia (Russian: мировой) (from Russian mirovoy, "global", from mir "world) A hypothesized paleo-ocean which may have been a global ocean that surrounded the supercontinent Rodinia in the Neoproterozoic Era about 1 billion to 750 million years ago.
Podsol also Podzol, Spodosol (Russian pod "under" and zol "ash") Any group of soils characterized by greyish-white leached and infertile topsoil and a brown subsoil, typicially found in regions with a subpolar climate.
Polynia also polynya, polynia (Russian: полынья; [pəlɨˈnʲja]) An non-linear area of open water surrounded by sea ice; especially referring for areas of sea in the Arctic and Antarctic regions which remain unfrozen for much of the year.
Redan (French word for "projection", "salient", after Russian redan a local dialect word for a type of fort that was captured by the British during the Crimean War) A type of fortification work in a V-shaped salient angle toward an expected attack.
Rasputitsa (Russian: распу́тица) The twice annual season when roads become muddy and impassable in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine due to the melting snows in the spring, and heavy rains in the fall.
Solonchak (Russian for "salt marsh" from Russian sol "salt") A pale or grey soil-type found in arid to subhumid, poorly drained conditions.
Solonetz (from Russian solonetz "salt not produced by boiling", from Russian соль, sol "salt") An alkaline soil-type having a hard, dark subsoil under a thin friable topsoil, formed by the leaching of salts from a solonchak.
Soyuz (Cyrillic: "Союз") (Russian for "Union") 1. A space program of the Russian Federation that originally began in the former Soviet Union in the 1960s. 2. The series of spacecraft used in the Soyuz programme. 3. The expendable launch system used for the Soyuz spacecraft. Tokamak (Russian: Токамак, an acronym from the Russian words тороидальная камера в магнитных катушках, transliteration toroidal'naya kamera v magnitnykh katushkakh, toroidal chamber in magnetic coils (Tochamac), invented in 1950's) In Nuclear fusion, a toroidal apparatus in which plasma is contained by means of two magnetic fields, a strong toroidal field and a weaker poloidal field generated by an intense electric current through the plasma.
Voskhod (Russian: Восход, translated as "dawn", "ascent" or "rising") (historical) A Soviet Union human spaceflight program that succeeded the Vostok program and lasted from 1964-1965. 2. The name of the spacecraft used during the Voskhod programme.
Vostok (Russian: Восто́к, translated as "East") (historical) 1. A Soviet Union human spaceflight program that lauchned a series of manned flights from 1961-1963, which included putting person into Earth orbit for the first time. The program was succeeded by the Voskhod programme. 2. The name of the spacecraft used during the Vostok programme.
Zond in full Zond Program (Russian: Зонд, meaning "probe") The name of two series of Soviet unmanned space missions from 1964 to 1970 whose purpose was to gather information about nearby planets and test spacecraft.
Banya (Russian: баня) A traditional Russian steam bath.
Barynya (Russian: Барыня, landlady, originally denoted a form of address to women of a higher class) A fast Russian folk dance and music.
Belomorkanal also White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal (Russian: Belomorsko-Baltiyskiy Kanal, abbreviated BBK; its original name was Belomorsko-Baltiyskiy Kanal imeni Stalina, "Stalin White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal", the name Stalin was dropped in 1961 and name was abbreviated to Belomorkanal) A ship canal (opened in 1933) that joins the White Sea and the Baltic Sea near St. Petersburg.
Burlak (Russian: Бурлак) (Tatar bujdak "homeless" or old middle-German bûrlach originated from working team with fixed rules artel) (historical) A Russian epithet for a person who hauled barges and other vessels down dry or shallow waterways from the 17th to 20th centuries.
Bylina also Byliny, Starina (Russian: были́на) (Adaptation of Old Russian bylina a word that occurred only The Song of Igor's Campaign and taken to mean "tale of a past event"; The term "bylina" came into use in the 1830s as a scholarly name for what is popularly called "starina"; although byliny originated in the 10th century, or possibly earlier, they were first written down about the 17th century) A traditional form of Old Russian and Russian epic and heroic narrative poetry (transmitted orally) of the early East Slavs of Kievan Rus from the 10th to 12th century, a tradition that continued in Russian and Ukrainian history.
Cantonists singular Cantonist (Russian language: Кантонисты; the term adapted from Prussia for "recruiting district") (historical) Boys, often sons of military conscripts, who attended a type of military school called a Canton (Russian: Кантонистские школы), a school that was originally established by Peter the Great; in the 1820s the term was applied to Jewish boys drafted into the Russian army.
Chainik (Russian: чайник, "teakettle")
Chastushka (Russian: часту́шка) (Russian части́ть, "to speak fast") A traditional type of Russian poetry that often consists of humor, satire, or irony. Dacha (Russian: да́ча) (Russian originally 'gift' or 'something given' (especially from a ruler) A country house or cottage in Russia.
Dedovshchina (Russian: дедовщи́на) (from Russian ded "grandfather", Russian army slang equivalent of "gramps", meaning soldiers at their third or fourth half-year of conscription, + suffix -shchina order, rule, or regime; hence "rule of the grandfathers") A system of hazing in the Soviet and Russian Army.
GUM (Russian: ГУМ, pronounced as goom, in full Главный Универсальный Магазин, Glavnyi Universalnyi Magazin acronym for Main Universal Store) A common name for the main department store in many cities of the former Soviet Union and some post-Soviet states; especially referring to the GUM facing Red Square in Moscow.
Izba also Isba (origin 1775–85, Russian izbá (dim. istópka), ORuss istŭba house, bath, c. Serbo-Croatian ìzba small room, shack, Czech jizba room, Old Czech jistba, jizdba, all from Slavic *jĭstŭba ≪ VL *extūfa, with short u, perhaps from Germanic *stuba) A traditional log house of rural Russia, with an unheated entrance room and a single living and sleeping room heated by a clay or brick stove.
Junker (Russia) (Russian: Юнкер) (from Middle High German junc herre "young nobleman", from Old High German jung "young" + herro "lord") (historical) 1. A member of the privileged, militaristic landowning class in Germany; a Prussian aristocrat. 2. A German military officer, especially one who is autocratic. 3. (from 1864-1917) A student who attended a type of Russian military school called a Junker school. 4. Former rank of a volunteer in the Russian Navy in 19th and 20th centuries.
Kamarinskaya A traditional Russian dance.
Katorga (ка́торга, from Greek: katergon,κάτεργον galley) (historical) A form of penal servitude in during Tsarist Russia, later transformed into the Gulags after the Bolshevik takeover of Russia.
Khorovod (Russian: хоровод, Ukrainian: танок, Belarusian: карагод, IPA: [kara'ɣod]; Polish: korowód) A Slavic art form consisting of a combination of a circle dance and chorus singing, similar to Chorea of ancient Greece.
Lysenkoism also Lysenko-Michurinism (after Soviet agronomist Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, who propagated such beliefs from the 1920s) (historical) In the former Soviet Union, a term given to the repressive political and social campaigns undertaken in science and agriculture by Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, a powerful Stalinist who denied the existence of inherited characteristics. His pseudo-scientifical theories were formally ended by the Soviet Union in 1964.
Mat (Russian: мат, or ма́терный язы́к) Russian sexual slang
Padonki (Russian: падонки, corrupted подонки, meaning 'riff-raff', 'scoundrel', 'scum') A subculture within the Russian-speaking Internet characterized by choosing alternative spellings for words for comic effect, or to cover up poor knowledge of an Internet slang word.
Preved (Russian: Преве́д) A Russian Internet slang, corrupted "privet" (привет) ("hi", "greeetings").
Sambo (Russian: самбо) (Russian acronym for САМозащита Без Оружия, SAMozashchita Bez Oruzhiya, meaning "self-defense without a weapon") A modern martial art, combat sport and self-defense system originally developed in the former Soviet Union.
Samizdat (Russian: самиздат) (Russian sam "self" and izdat short for izdatelstvo "publishing house", hence "self published") (historical) In the former Soviet Union, the system by which government-suppressed literature was clandestinely written, printed and distributed; the term also is applied to literature itself.
Sbitenshchik (Russian: сбитенщик) (historical) A vendor who sold a sbiten, a type of a traditional Russian hot drink consumed during the winter.
Sharashka also Sharaga, Sharazhka (Russian: шара́шка IPA: [ʂɐˈraʂkə]) (Russian slang for expression sharashkina kontora "Sharashka's office", possibly from the radical meaning "to beat about", an ironic, derogatory term to denote a poorly organized, impromptu, or bluffing organization) (historical) Informal name for the secret research and development laboratories in the Soviet Union's Gulag labor camp system.
Snegurochka (Russian: Снегурочка, literally "snow maiden") A character who appears in various Russian fairy tales.
Tamizdat (from Russian tam meaning "there" and izdat short for izdatelstvo "publishing house") In the former Soviet Union, literary works published outside the country without permission of Soviet authorities.
Titlo (from Greek τίτλος "title") a typographical symbol.
Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins (1997) Robert Hendrickson, published by Checkmark Books, ISBN 0-8160-4088-5
Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (1995) Tenth edition, published by Merriam-Webster, ISBN 0-87779-709-9
20th Century Words (1999) John Ayto, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-860230-8
Webster's New World College Dictionary (1997) Third edition, published by Macmillan, ISBN 0-02-861673-1
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