List of English words of Russian origin

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Many languages, including English, contain words most likely borrowed from the Russian language. Not all of the words are truly fluent Russian or Slavic origin. Some of them co-exist in other Slavic languages and it is difficult to decide whether they made English from Russian or, say, from Polish. Some other words are borrowed or constructed from the classical ancient languages, such as Latin or Greek. Still others are themselves borrowed from indigenous peoples that Russians have come into contact with in Russian or Soviet territory.

Compared to other source languages, very few of the words borrowed into English come from Russian. Direct borrowing first began with contact between England and Russia in the 16th century and picked up heavily in the 20th century with the establishment of the Soviet Unionas a major world power. 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.


-nik, a borrowed suffix

Babushka (Russian: ба́бушка [ˈbabuʂkə] "grandmother"), a headscarf folded diagonally and tied under the chin (this meaning is absent in the Russian language).

Balalaika (Russian: балала́йка, [bəlɐˈlajkə]) (Tartar origin) A triangle-shaped mandolin-like musical instrument with three strings.

Bridge game (from the Old East Slavic: бирич biritch).

Cosmonaut (Russian: космона́вт (IPA [kəsmɐˈnaft] (κόσμος kosmos a Greek word, which in Russian stands for 'outer space', rather than 'world' or 'universe', and nautes 'sailor', thus 'space sailor'; the termcosmonaut was first used in 1959; the near similar word "cosmonautic" had been coined in 1947) A Russian astronaut. Cosmodrome (by analogy with aerodrome) was coined to refer to a launching site for Russian spacecraft.

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: интеллиге́нция [ɪntʲɪlʲɪˈɡʲɛntsɨjə]) (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: каза́х) (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".) Kazakh people.

Knout (Russian: кнут [knut]) 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.

Kopeck (Russian: копе́йка, [kɐˈpʲejkə]; derives from the Russian (копьё [kɐˈpʲjo] '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 [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 ма́монт mamont [ˈmamənt], 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 [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.

Muzhik (Russian мужи́к, before 1917 referring to a man of low social standing, now colloquially used for any man) A Russian peasant.

Pogrom (from Russian: погро́м; from "громить" gromit "to destroy"; the word came to English through Yiddish פאָגראָם c.1880-1885)[1]

  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 ру́бль rubl [ˈrublʲ] , 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.

Sable (from Russian sobol – со́боль [ˈsobəlʲ] , ultimately from Persian samor) A carnivorous mammal of the Mustelidae family native to northern Europe and Asia.

Samovar (Russian: самова́р, IPA: [səmɐˈvar] (Russian samo "self" and varit "to boil" hence "self-boil") A Russian tea urn, with an internal heating device to keep the water at boiling point.

Sputnik (Russian: спу́тник, 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.

Taiga (Russian: тайга́, originally from Mongolian or Altaic). The swampy, coniferous forests of high northern latitudes, especially referring to that between the tundra and the steppes of Siberia.

Troika (Russian: тро́йка [ˈtrojkə] "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 (Russian: уша́нка [uˈʂankə]), or shapka-ushanka, literally "ear-flaps hat", a type of cap (Russian: ша́пка shapka) made of fur 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: во́дка [ˈvotkə]) (Russian diminutive of вода voda "water") An alcoholic liquor distilled from fermented wheat mash, but now also made from a mash of rye, corn, or potatoes.


Coulibiac (origin 1895–1900, from Russian: кулебя́ка 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 dill, baked in a yeast or puff pastry shell.

Medovukha (Russian: медову́ха, from мёд (Proto-Indo-European meddhe, "honey"). A Russian honey-based alcoholic beverage similar tomead.

Okroshka (Russian: окро́шка) (from Russian "kroshit" (крошить) meaning to chop (into small pieces) A type of Russian cold soup with mixed raw vegetables and kvass.

Pavlova A meringue dessert topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. [2]

Pelmeni (Russian plural: пельме́ни, singular пельме́нь, pelmen′ from Udmurt: пельнянь "ear[-formed] bread"). An Eastern European dumpling filled with minced meat, especially beef and pork, wrapped in thin dough and boiled.

Sbiten (Russian: сби́тень, also збитень) A traditional Russian honey based drink similar to Medovukha.

Sevruga (Russian: севрю́га) A caviar from the Sevruga, a type of sturgeon found only in the Caspian and Black Seas.

Shchi (Russian: щи) A type of cabbage soup.

Political and administrative

Agitprop (Russian: агитпроп; blend of Russian агитация agitatsiya "agitation" and пропаганда propaganda "propaganda"; origin 1930s' 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 renamedIdeological Department.)

  • Political (originally communist) propaganda, especially in art and literature.

Apparatchik plural apparatchiki (Russian: аппара́тчик) [ɐpɐˈrat͡ɕɪk] (from Russian аппарат apparat (name given the Communist Party machine in the former Soviet Union) from Latin apparare to make ready).

  • (chiefly historical) A member of the communist party.
  • (derogatory or humorous) An official in a large organization, typically in a political one.

Bolshevik (Russian Большеви́к) [bəlʲʂɨˈvʲik] (from Russian Больше 'majority' or 'greater' with reference to the greater faction)

  • (historical) A member of the majority faction of the Russian Social Democratic Party, which was renamed to the Communist Party after seizing power in the October Revolution in 1917.
  • (chiefly derogatory) (in general use) A person with politically subversive or radical views; a revolutionary.
  • (adjective) Relating to or characteristic of Bolsheviks or their views or policies.

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 (ChrezvychaynayaKomissiya, 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 комиссариат commissariat reinforced by medieval Latin commissariatus, both from medieval Latin commissarius "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 Gorbachevwhich 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. In Ukrainian, the word дружина means legal wife.

Duma (Russian: Ду́ма) (from Russian word думать dumat', "to think" or "to consider")

  1. (historical) A pre-19th century advisory municipal councils in Russia, later it referred to any of the four elected legislature bodies established due to popular demand in Russia from 1906 to 1917.
  2. The legislative body in the ruling assembly of Russia (and some other republics of the former Soviet Union) established after the fall of coummunism in 1991.
The State Duma (Russian: Государственная дума (Gosudarstvennaya Duma), common abbreviation: Госдума (Gosduma)) in theRussian Federation is the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia (legislature), the upper house being the Federation Council of Russia.

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 14th century and essentially governed Russia until the Russian Revolution.

Dyak (clerk)

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.

FSB (Russian ФСБ, Федера́льная слу́жба безопа́сности) (Russiantrans. Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti Federal Security Service) The domestic state security of the Russian Federation, the successor of KGB.

Glasnost (Russian: Гла́сность [ˈɡlasnəsʲtʲ]; glasnost publicity, from glas voice, from Old Church Slavonic glasu) (late 20th century) An official policy in the former Soviet Union (especially associated with Mikhail Gorbachev) emphasizing transparency, 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.

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.

Kolkhoz plural kolkhozy (Russian: 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 (Russian: 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" ) 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 Menshivikwas coined by Lenin when the party was (atypically) 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")

  • (historical) A peasant farming commune in pre-Revolutionary Russia.
  • Space Station Mir, a space station created by the former Soviet Union and continued by Russia until 2001.

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 (Russian: 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: plural наро́дники, singular наро́дник) (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.

Obshchina (Russian: общи́на) (Russian obshchiy common, commune) Russian peasant agrarian communities during Imperialist Russia.

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")

  • In the former Soviet Union, an administrative division of an oblast and krai.
  • A federal district in the present-day Russian Federation.

Oprichnina (Russian: опри́чнина) (Russian from obsolete Russian word опричь oprich meaning "apart from" or "separate") (historical) Term for the domestic policy of Russian czar Ivan the Terrible.

Oprichnik plural Oprichniki (Russian: опри́чник) (historical) Name given to the bodyguards of Russian ruler Ivan the Terrible who ruthlessly suppressed any opposition to his reign.

Perestroika (Russian: Перестро́йка) (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: подья́чий, 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: поса́дник) (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 (and in the modern Russian Army), equivalent to ensign.

Prikaz (Russian: прика́з)

  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 verbpropisiat "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.

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.

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)

  • A revolutionary council of workers or peasants in Russia before the Russian Revolution.
  • An elected local, district, or national council in the former Soviet Union.
  • (Soviet) A citizen in the former Soviet Union.
  • (adjective) of or concerning the former Soviet Union.

Sovkhoz plural Sovkhozes (Russian: Совхоз) (Russian Советское хозяйство, (Sov) eckoje (khoz)yaistvo, "soviet farm")

  • (historical) A state owned farm in the former Soviet Union.
  • A state owned farm in countries of the of former Soviet Union.

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 – спецна́з) or Russian special purpose regiments (Voyska spetsialnogo naznacheniya) A general term for the police or military units within the Soviet Union (later Russian Federation) who engage in special activities. Similar to South African term Commandos.

Stakhanovite (Russian: стахановец) (after Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov, a coal miner from Donbass noted for his superior productivity; the Soviet authorities publicized Stakhanov's prodigious output in 1935 as part of a campaign to increase industrial output)

  • (historical) In the former Soviet Union, a worker who was exceptionally hardworking and productive, and thus earned special privileges and rewards
  • Any exceptionally hardworking or zealous person, often with connotations of excessive compliance with management and lack of solidarity with fellow workers.

Stalinism (Russian, the term Stalinism was first used in 1927; the term was not used by Stalin himself, as he considered himself a Marxist-Leninist).

  • (historical) The political, economic, and social principles and policies associated with Joseph Stalin during his rule (1924–1953) of the Soviet Union; especially the theory and practice of communism developed by Stalin which included rigid authoritarianism, widespread use of terror, and often emphasis on Russian nationalism.
  • Any rigid centralized authoritarian form of government or rule.

Stavka (Russian: Ста́вка) (historical) The General Headquarters of armed forces in late Imperial Russia and in the former Soviet Union.

Streltsy singular strelitz, plural strelitzes or strelitzi (Russian: стрельцы́, singular: стреле́ц 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"; In the former Soviet Union, a comrade; often used as a form of address.

Tsar also Czar, Tzar, Csar, and Zar (Russian: царь) (English pronunciation [zar]; Russian pronunciation is [t͡sarʲ]) (Russian tsar from LatinCaesar "hairy").

  • (historical) Title of a Southern Slav ruler as in Bulgaria (913–1018, 1185–1422, and 1908–1946) and Serbia (1346–1371).
  • (historical) Title for the emperor of Russia from about 1547 to 1917, although the term after 1721 officially only referred to the Russian emperor's sovereignty over formerly independent states.
  • (latter part of 20th century) A person with great authority or power in a particular area, e.g. drug czar (spelled only as "czar" in this usage).

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.

Tsarevna also czarevna (Russian, etymology from tsar).

  • (historical) The daughter of a tsar.
  • The wife of a tsarevitch.

Tsarevich also tsesarevich, czarevich, tzarevitch (Russian: царе́вич, early 18th century, from tsar + patronymic -evich]]) (historical) The eldest son of an emperor of Russia; the male heir to a tsar.

Tysyatsky also tysiatsky (Russian: ты́сяцкий) (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: ты́сяча), or a thousand.

Ukase (Russian: ука́з [ʊˈkas] ordinance, edict, from ukazat to show) (pronunciation yoo-kayz), a decree:

  1. (historical) In Imperial Russia, a proclamation or edict of the ruling tsar or tsarina, the Russian government, or a religious leader (patriarch) that had the force of law.
  2. (historical) In the former Soviet Union, a government edict issued by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and subject to later ratification by the Supreme Soviet.
  3. In the Russian Federation, a Presidential decree.
  4. Any arbitrary command or decree from any source.

Uskoreniye (Russian: ускоре́ние, 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.

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.

Zek (Russian abbreviation of ЗаКлючённый (З/К), zaklyuchennyi (Z/K) meaning "incarcerated") (historical) In the former Soviet Union, a person held in a Gulag or in a prison.

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: зе́мство) (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.

Bespopovtsy also Bespopovtsy (Russian: Беспоповцы, "priestless") A denomination of the Old Believers which that rejected the priests and a number of church rites such as the Eucharist.

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 theRussian 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 doukhoborliterally "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: Единоверие '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")

Lippovan also Lipovan, Lipovans also Russian Old Believers (Ukrainian: Липовани) A religious sect that separated from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century.

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)

Popovtsy also The Popovtsy, or Popovschina (Russian: Поповцы, Поповщина, translated as "priestist people") A branch of the Old Believers who strived to have priests of their own.

Raskol also Raskolnik (Russian: раско́л [rɐˈskol] (Russian meaning "split" or "schism") The schism of the Russian Orthodox Church that was triggered by the 1653 reforms of Patriarch Nikon.

Rogozhskoe Soglasie (name from a Moscow cemetery called Rogozhskoe cemetery (Russian: Рогожское кладбище) A denomination among the Popovtsy Old Believers.

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: ста́рец 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; aHoly Fool.

Znamennoe singing also Znamenny Chant (Russian: Знаменное пение, or знаменный распев) The traditional liturgical singing in theRussian Orthodox Church.

Technical, special

Chernozem (Russian: чернозём, черный chernyi 'black' + Slavonic base зем zem 'earth') A dark, humus-rich, fertile soil characteristic of temperate or cool grasslands, especially referring to the soil of the Russian steppes.

Baidarka (Russian: байда́рка, a diminutive form of baidar "boat", bairdarka sense "small boat") A type of sea kayak originally made by the Aleut people of Alaska.

Elektrichka (Russian: электри́чка, Ukrainian: електри́чка, elektrychka, informal word for elektropoezd Russian: электропо́езд) A type of passenger electric train.

Gley (from Russian Глей gley "clay") A blueish-grey sticky clay founder under some types of very damp soil.

ITAR-TASS formerly known as TASS; (Russian: ИТАР-ТАСС, Информационное 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) 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. The main news agency of the Russian Federation is ITAR-TASS (it was renamed 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 Kalashnikovand 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.

Laika (Russian: Лайка, literally "barker") A Russian space dog that in November 1957 was sent into orbit on Sputnik II, thus becoming the first recorded living creature from earth to enter orbit.

Liman (Russian and Ukrainian: 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 Луна 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.

Marshrutka (Russian: маршру́тка, [mərˈʂrutkə]) (Russian from marshrutnoye taxi, Russian Mаршрутное такси, literally "routed taxicab") A share taxi used in the CIS and Bulgaria.

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.

Mormyshka also Mormishka, Marmooska (Russian: мормышка) (from Russian mormysh meaning "freshwater shrimp" (Gammaurus) A type of fishing lure or a jig.

Podsol also Podzol, Spodosol (Russian под pod "under" and зол zol "ash") Any group of soils characterized by greyish-white leached and infertile topsoil and a brown subsoil, typically 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 Реда́н 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.

Rodinia (from the Russian: родина, "motherland") Name given to hypothesized supercontinent said to have existed from 1 billion to 800 million years ago.

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 соль, sol "salt") A pale or grey soil-type found in arid to subhumid, poorly drained conditions.

Solonetz (from Russian Солонцов 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.

Tokamak (Russian: Токамак, an abbreviation from the Russian words тороидальная камера в магнитных катушках, transliterationtoroidal'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.

Obsolete Russian weights and measures

Pood also pud (Russian: пуд) (largely obsolete) A unit of mass in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine equal to 40 funt (фунт, Russian pound), or approximately 16.38 kilograms (36.11 pounds).

Verst (Russian: верста́ versta) An obsolete Russian unit of length or distance defined as being 500 sazhen long, equivalent to 3500 feet (.66 miles/1.0668 kilometres).


These are some other untranslatable Russian terms that have articles in English language Wikipedia.

Banya (Russian: баня) A traditional Russian steam bath.

Bayan (Russian: баян) (named after Boyan, a mythical Slavic bard) A type of chromatic button accordion developed in Russia in the early 20th century.

Belomorkanal (Russian: Беломорканал)

  1. White Sea – Baltic Canal (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.
  2. Belomorkanal, a brand of cheap Soviet cigarettes.

Beluga: A large kind of sturgeon; a type of white whale.

Burlak (Russian: Бурлак) (Tatar bujdak "homeless" or old middle-German bűrlach originated from an artel [арте́ль] or working team with fixed rules)A Russian epithet for a person who hauled barges and other vessels down dry or shallow waterways from the 17th to 20th centuries.

Bylina (Russian: были́на "[tale of] a past event", plural: были́ны byliny) (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, from части́ть, 'to speak fast') A traditional type of four-lined 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, ORuss istŭba house, bath, c. Serbo-Croatian ězba 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) (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.

Katorga (Russian: 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.

Khodebshchik (Russian: ходебщик) A person carrying an advertisement hoarding, or a peddler.

Mat (Russian: мат, or ма́терный язы́к) Russian profanity and 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.

Palochka (Russian: па́лочка "a little stick") A typographical symbol of the Cyrillic alphabet that looks like the Latin uppercase letter "I".

Preved (Russian: Преве́д) A Russian Internet slang, corrupted "privet" (привет) ("hi", "greetings").

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 сам sam "self" and издат 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.

Sbiten also sbiten' (Russian: сбитень) A hot Russian drink similar to mead and medovukha and consumed during the winter.

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.

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.

Votchina also otchina (Russian: во́тчина (о́тчина) "father's heritage") (historical)

  1. An East Slavic land estate that could be inherited
  2. The land owned by a knyaz.

Zaum (Russian: заумь or заумный язык) (from Russian prefix за "beyond, behind" and noun ум "mind") A type of poetry used by theRussian Futurist poets.


  1. Russian language
  2. Russian alphabet
  3. Russian orthography
  4. Russian phonology
  5. Russian grammar
  6. IPA for Russian
  7. Russian-Cyrillic alphabet
  8. Informal romanizations of Russian
  9. Languages of Russia
  10. List of countries where Russian is an official language
  11. List of English words of Russian origin
  12. List of languages of Russia
  13. Spelling rule
  14. Romanization of Russian
  15. Russian language-History of the Russian language
  16. List of Russian language television channels
  17. Reduplication in the Russian language
  18. Reforms of Russian orthography
  19. Rules of Russian Orthography and Punctuation
  20. Russian language-Runglish
  21. Russian exonyms
  22. Russian Morse code
  23. Russian sayings
  24. Russianism
  25. Russophone
  26. Slavic languages
  27. Test of Russian as a Foreign Language
  28. The differences of Moscovian and St.-Petersburg's speech
  29. Vowel reduction in Russian
  30. Russian proverbs
  31. Russian proverbs:USSR
  32. ALA-LC romanization for Russian
  33. Great Russian language
  34. Olympiada of Spoken Russian
  35. Russian cursive
  36. Russian jokes
  37. Russian National Corpus


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