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I was wondering about the word "perestroika," its translation and its meaning. I understand that capital-P "Perestroika" is a post-Communist movement, and I believe small-p "perestroika" may translate to mean "restructuring." I am curious if the word is only used in reference to a specific political context (capital P), or if it is a word that has other significance (small p) and/or can be used conversationally.

Thank you!

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    Just two side notes: it's more exactly a late-Communist than a post-Communist phenomenon, and — the capital P is an English thing. Russian uses capitalisation much more sparingly than English, so перестройка is never capitalised in any meaning — same as оттепель, the [Khrushchev] "Thaw", or застой, the [Brezhnev] "Stagnation". Or военный коммунизм ("War Communism"), or нэп ("New Economic Policy", in spite of its being an acronym). Смутное время ("Time of Troubles", break of 16th/17th century) is the only exception to this general tendency; the first word is usually capitalised. – Nikolay Ershov Sep 9 '15 at 23:18
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    You should consider the English word "destroyer" which has the same root, -stroy-. And "structure" also comes from the same PIE root, stero̯-. – Anixx Sep 10 '15 at 12:39
  • You can use it for instance in such context: change (perestroika) of consciousness. – Beginner Sep 10 '15 at 20:11
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"Перестройка" is a "normal" word meaning reconstruction, rebuilding, changeover etc.

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  • Thanks so much! Was curious if there was any negative or special connotations with that word. Sounds like it is in deed used "normally." Appreciate the help! – Eddie Sep 9 '15 at 15:35
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    @Eddie Well, if there is some negative connotation then the word got it in the last years. – Matt Sep 9 '15 at 15:42
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    @Eddie, as you know "perestroika" ended in the collapse of the Soviet Union and then a decade of economic problems. So a special connotation might be that this rebuilding won't end well. – Vitaly Sazanovich Sep 11 '15 at 14:14
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I believe the term was introduced in 1985 upon election of Mikhail Gorbachev as the Secretary General of the Central Committee of CPSU (the position he continued to hold for more than six years). So, it's not really "post-Communist movement", it started by them in an attempt to modernize the regime. "Restructuring" is the most accepted translation, as far as I could judge.

When used in English texts, it always refers to that process of restructuring of the economy, administration, and often along with "glasnost' " ("openness"). I don't believe there is any particular reason to capitalize the word in English text.

In Russian language the word did, as the result of the events of the second half of 1980s and beginning of 1990s, gain some special meaning, which probably still lingers and will do as long as people who remember it. Eventually it's hopefully going to regain its general meaning. Compare with "The Prohibition" or "The Depression" in the US. Since Russian language lacks articles, capitalization is a way to make the word special, but only in writing.


Somebody living now in Russia should shed some light on possible negative connotation.

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