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Russian Words Used In
The English Language


agitprop - propaganda, especially for the cause of communism. A government agency or department that directs and coordinates. Also, one who is trained in this.

apparatchik - An official who implements party policy or official policy; a government functionary; a highly disciplined bureaucrat.

artel - A Russian or Soviet collective enterprise; a peasants' or workers' cooperative.

ataman - A Cossack leader.

babushka - A woman's headscarf, often triangular, that is folded diagonally with the ends tied under the chin. Also, a grandmother or an old woman.

balalaika - A Russian stringed musical instrument that has a triangular body, three strings (or six in pairs), and a neck like that of a guitar.

blin - A thin pancake, usually made with yeast and buckwheat flour and often served with sour cream, caviar, or melted butter. A blintz.

Bolshevik - 1. A member of the more radical majority of the Russian Social Democratic party, 1903-17, who advocated immediate and forceful seizure of power by the proletariat. 2. Since 1918, a member of the Russian Communist party. 3.A revolutionary or anarchist.

bortsch - A Russian or Polish that contains beets and usually cabbage. It is served hot or chilled and often with sour cream.

boyar - A member of an order of Russian aristocracy, which was abolished by Peter the Great. It was next in rank to a prince.

dacha - A country house or villa.

droshky - A light, low, open, four-wheeled, horse-drawn, passenger carriage, used mainly in Russia and in which the passengers sit sideways on a long, narrow bench. Also, any other horse-drawn carriage used in Russia.

duma - The Russian parliament; the elective legislative assembly that was established by Nicholas II in 11905 and which constitutes the lower house of parliament. Before 1917, a Russian elective municipal council.

glasnost - Openness. The policy or practice of a more open consultative government with greater freedom of expression.

Gulag - A forced labor camp for political prisoners; the Soviet network of labor camps or prisons that was administered by the Soviet secret police. Also, the department of the Soviet secret police that administered such labor camps.

intelligentsia - The intellectuals in a nation who constitute an artistic, social or political group or class, particularly those who have aspirations to intellectual activity or are regarded as possessing culture.

isba - A log house or hut.

karakul - An animal of a breed of sheep that has a coarse, wiry fleece, which resembles the glossy curly fleece of a young lamb. Also called Persian Lamb.

kasha - A cooked food made from hulled and crushed buckwheat or other grains.

kazachoc - A lively, Slavic, chiefly Ukrainian, folk dance that has a quick and rising tempo and for which a male dancer uses the Prisiadka step.

kissel - A dessert that is made from sweetened fruit puree, which is thickened with arrowroot or potato or corn flour and served hot or cold. It is usually topped with ice cream or a custard sauce.

kolkhoz - A collective farm owned by the state.

kvass - In Russia and some neighboring countries: a fermented, non-alcoholic or mildly alcoholic beverage, which is made from rye flour:

muzhik - A Russian peasant.

niet - No. (a blunt refusal)

nilas - A thin, flexible layer of ice that floats on the water and bends in the waves, but does not break.

perestroika - The restructuring of the economy and political system of the former USSR, which was initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s.

pirog - A small, filled pastry or a larger cake.

piroshki - Small Russian turnovers or dumplings filled with fruit or meat, fish, rice, etc.

pogrom - An organized massacre, especially of Jews. An organized and officially tolerated attack on any community or group.

politbureau - The highest policy-making committee of the former USSR or any Communist country or party.

polynya - A stretch of open water surrounded by ice, especially in the Arctic.

presidium - An executive committee, usually permanent, which has the powers of a larger legislative body, usually communist, which it acts for when the latter is not in session.

prisiadka - A dance step in Slavic folk dancing in which a male dancer sits on his haunches and kicks out each leg alternately in front of himself. The prisiadka is the characteristic step of the kazachok.

raskolnik - A member of any of several sects, which were founded by persons who opposed the liturgical reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church during the 17th century.

sambo - A martial art, which resembles judo and was developed in the former Soviet Union.

samizdat - A system of clandestine or illegal copying and distribution of literature, particularly in the former USSR.

samovar - A metal urn, typically of copper and with an internal heating device, which is used to heat water or make tea.

shashlik - A form of Shish kebab that consists of marinated cubes of mutton and garnishings grilled on a skewer.

solyanka - A thick and spicy soup made from vegetables and meat or fish.

sovkhoz - A State-owned farm in the former Soviet Union. .

sputnik - 1. An unmanned earth satellite that was launched by the Soviet Union.

starets - A religious leader or adviser in the Russian Orthodox Church.

steppe - Any of the extended, grassy plains, particularly without trees, of Southeastern Europe and Siberia. The immense Russian grasslands. Also, any similar plains elsewhere.

talik - A patch of unfrozen ground that is surrounded by permafrost.

tokamak - A doughnut-shaped chamber used in fission research.

tovarish - In the former USSR, a: comrade.

troika - 1. A Russian carriage or wagon that is drawn by a team of three horses abreast. 2. A team of three horses driven abreast. 3. A group of three persons, nations, etc., working together or acting in union to exert influence or control.

tsar - Czar; the title of the former emperor of Russia and of certain other eastern rulers. Also, a person who has great authority or power...

tsarevich - Czarevitch; the eldest son of a tsar. .

tsarevna - A daughter of a tsar or wife of a tsarevich.

tsaritsa - Tsarina, czanna, or czantsa, the wife of a tsar or a female monarch. (e.g., the former empress of Russia).

tvorog - A Russian product that resembles a soft cheese similar to cottage cheese or curd cheese.

ukase - In czarist Russia, an edict or order of the czar, which had the force of law. Also, any proclamation, decree, order, or proclamation by an absolute authority.

vodka - An un-aged, colorless, alcoholic spirit made originally in Russia by the distillation of grain, etc. Also, a drink or glass of this beverage.

yurt - A circular, portable, dwelling of skins, felt, etc., which were stretched over a collapsible framework and used by nomads in Mongolia and Siberia.

zakuska - An hors d'œuvre.

zemstvo - Any of the local elected councils established in Russia by Alexander II in 1864 to replace the abolished authority of the nobles.



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