Thesaurus

by Nikolai V. Shokhirev

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(see the pronunciation and transliteration rules here, syllables in bold are in the stressed position).

Red Square. "Red Square" is a common but incorrect translation of "" - "Krasnaya Ploschad", the center of Moscow. "Krasnaya" in the modern Russian really means "Red" but at the time when the square got its name (17th century) this word meant "Beautiful" (for "red" was "chervony" as in some modern Slavic languages).  In Russian fairy tales you often meet a character "Krasna devitsa".  It should be translated "Beautiful girl" and not "Red girl".

Comrade. This is a common translation of the word "" - "Tovarishch". However, in the times of Russian Empire, initially this word meant "partner" (in manufacturing) from the word "tovar" - "product". Later it had more general meaning "colleague", "companion" and "friend". In that time there also was a female variant of this word: "tovarka".

In Soviet time "" was used instead of Mr. (Gospodin) or Ms. (Gospozha) initially among the party members. Later it was extended to all Soviet people.

In modern Russia "tovarishch" primarily means "friend". The original meaning "partner" is used in the form "Tovarishchestvo" (partnership) for "Company" (not necessarily manufacturing). For example, the abbreviation "TOO" (Tovarishchestvo s Ogranichennoj Otvetstvennoct'ju) means "Company with limited responsibility.

Soviet. "Sovet" (a noun) in Russian has two meanings: (i) Advice; (ii) Council (city, region) or Parliament (Supreme Council). As an adjective ("Sovetskij") it means "parliamentary" or "democratic". The best translation of the USSR would be "The Union of Parliamentary/Democratic Socialist Republics".
Remark: Something does not necessarily mean what it is called.

KGB. This is an abbreviation of "Komitet Gosudarstvennoj Bezopasnosti" which in Russian is the Committee of Homeland/State Security. This organization combined intelligence, counter-intelligence, anti-terrorism and secret service. 

GULAG. "Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagerej" - Central Administration of (labor) Camps, the department in Interior Ministry. This abbreviation is usually used for the system of  labor camps during Stalin's ruling. .


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