The history of a country probably heavily affects the language, therefore I would presume that some concepts in the russian language might differ from their counterparts in languages from western, capitalist countries due to the rule of the communist party during the soviet union and the different meaning of property, work, etc.

Do you know any concrete examples of such interesting differences? Or am I completely wrong about something?

  • this is too broad - also, where's too broad category? I'm pretty it was here – shabunc Aug 15 '16 at 22:08

As Nikolay pointed out, one can amuse oneself looking for new meanings of the old words, or new words, or some such, but this is hardly a specific characteristic of the communist-era influence. Any language develops, acquires new words/meanings etc. Yes it can be argued that the Bolshevik revolution forced some of these changes (Anixx mentioned some), but I don't think it's important. I guess, the French revolution brought more changes (in this sense) to the French language than the Russian revolution to the Russian.

It would be more interesting to consider formal or conceptual changes in and around the language. They are invariably influenced by the culture, on which the revolution had a profound impact. I can think of a few.

  • Love of acronyms and abbreviations

Нардеп (народный депутат), Реввоенсовет (революционный военный совет), Минсредмаш (министерство среднего машиностроения), ВАЗ/ГАЗ/КамАЗ (Волжский/Горьковский/Камский автомобильный завод), or just such word contraptions as Востокнефтегазэлектромонтаж. They were everywhere and were often so integrated that not only they followed normal grammatical rules, but even their derivatives sounded normal (минсредмашевское заседание, ВАЗовец).

In the 1920s, it was even common to invent names in a similar manner. Даздраперма (да здравствует Первое мая, a female name) is a notorious example.

George Orwell spotted this trend perfectly. He notes somewhere in 1984: words like Ingsoc acquire their own attached meaning, which may end up being substantially different to what it would be if you try to consciously break it into parts. But this is the trick: you never do. Never need to. It doesn't even cross your mind (unless you make an effort) that this is English Socialism (wait, why English? and what exactly is socialism?) Orwell didn't invent the phenomenon (just like most social aspects in 1984); he studied the USSR.

  • Governing body for the language

The Soviets established a body (now called Институт русского языка) that had a mandate to establish definitive rules of the Russian language. It issued the complete 'codex' of the orthographic rules (at the time of collapse of the USSR, the latest one was from 1956!), grammar, etc.

This is not uncommon; France and Germany have similar bodies. But I'm not aware of a similar establishment in tsarist Russia.

  • Dialects

Centralisation is a common Russian trait. For the language, it partly relates to the previous point. Not only the formal rules of writing, but even pronunciation was standardised (mostly around the Moscow dialect). Local deviations were often considered 'improper' language.

Certainly, radio and TV played their role, and they can hardly be classified as Soviet inventions. Nevertheless, one could rarely be found to be 'proud' of his dialect (the way many Europeans are); it was something to be ashamed of. Someone lucky enough to move to Moscow would strive to learn to speak in a Moscow way, so as not to look provincial.

Of course, dialects existed, and professionals studied them. But at school, kids were taught (or supposed to be taught) the 'proper' language across the country. (That said, Russian is remarkably uniform compared to most other European languages).

  • Pronunciation

This is somewhat hard to prove as there are no recordings, but I read that in the 19th century it was the norm amongst the educated people to have a rolling R, similar to the French one. This, apparently, had to do with the French, which Russian aristocrats often learned as the first language. More generally, the French influence was enormous, perhaps greater than the English has now.

After the revolution, this was all gone rather quickly.


In general, the Communist revolution in Russia brought some modernization to the language, many archaic words were dropped and replaced with more bureaucratic, educated or scientifically sounding ones. Later, when Russia returned to Capitalism, some of these changes were reversed.

Some examples:

  • The term for the deputy/vice office holder in pre-revolutionary Russian was "товарищ" "comrade", so deputy/vice minister would be "товарищ министра" "comrade of the minister". But under Communist rule the word "товарищ" "comrade" became a common address, so it was replaced with the word "zamestitel", literally "replacer". So now the deputy/vice minister is "zamestitel ministra" "replacer of the minister".

  • The state legislature was called "Государственная Дума", literally "State Thought", a term from 15-16th century, a board of boyars. Under Communist rule the word was replaced with "sovet", literally "council". Now we again have "State Thought" instead "State Council" which sounds weird for me.

  • The word for the head of a city was "голова", literally "head", but since it is native Russian word rather than borrowed from Church Slavonic "глава", it sounds very uneducated/low class. The word глава is still used but means a generic "head" of any entity. The Communists replaced this uneducated-sounding word with something very complicated "Predsedatel ispolnitelnogo komiteta gorodskogo soveta narodnykh deputatov" which translates "President/chairman of the executive committee of the city council of the people's deputies". Even with all contractions the title would be "Prededatel ispolkoma gorsoveta". Now the heads of most cities called with a newly borrowed word "Мэр" "Mayor".

  • Before the revolution there was an institution similar to court bailiffs. They were called with the word "pristav", literally "near-stand". They enforced discipline during court proceedings, executed court decisions and even enforced discipline in the legislature. Under the USSR, the regular police enforced discipline in courts, while those executing court decisions were called "sudebniy ispolnitel", literally "court executioner". Now the word "pristav" has been returned, but sounds very archaic: I imagine a fat man with long 19th century style mustache when I hear it. It is the official term now.

  • The word "uprava" for the ruling body of police departments and far-right paramilitary parties such as "Black Hundreds" completely went out of use under USSR except in the idiom "нет на него управы" which meant "there is no uprava to deal with him". So the word meant some aggressive or threatening thing that can take measures against violators. Under the USSR they extensively used the word "upravlenie" instead, often translated as "directorate", in both state and economic contexts, which sounds much more educated and much less aggressive. Now the word "uprava" has been returned as a ruling body on low municipal level and as governing body of far-right parties such as the Movement Against Illegal Immigration.

There were some changes that existed in early years of the Communist rule but were later reversed still under Communists. For instance, the soldiers were renamed fighters, the officers to commanders, the ministers to people's commissars.

  • 1
    "Bureaucratic, educated or scientifically sounding" words have no inherent superiority over mundane-sounding ones so I won't call that "modernization of a language" (as if it was a shabby house that needs construction works) – alamar Aug 12 '16 at 9:00
  • @alamar many of the replaced words already were archaic in that they had no other meaning than this specific political term or the political term's meaning had diverged a lot from the generic meaning. The Communists replaced those words with words from the modern language. – Anixx Aug 12 '16 at 9:02
  • Even with all contractions the title would be "Prededatel ispolkoma gorsoveta". - nope. I heard "Предгорисполкома"! – Pavel Mayorov Aug 15 '16 at 10:37

You're asking for something that, how should I put it, can be found but one's got to really look for it. Much more prominent are the "longitudinal" differences in the Russian language pre-, during, and post-Communism — but even that's more to do with linguistic form than meaning. As for "the different meaning of property, work, etc.", this is the part where a lot of people amuse themselves by mining everyday language for deeper cultural significance that is, frankly, not there most of the time.


I am surprised nobody has mentioned the The Russian Orthographic Reform of 1917-1918. I would argue that this is the most noticeable and lasting influence that socialism has had on the Russian language.

As far as concepts, my favorite example is ипотека, the Russian word for "mortgage". The word was used in the tsarist Russia, where land-owners could get mortgage their holdings. During the Soviet times, there was simply no such thing as mortgage, so the word virtually disappeared from the language. After the fall of Socialism, and the subsequent privatization of real estate, the word ипотека is back.

  • 3
    It is a common misconception to think that this reform was a Bolshevik's invention. They formally enacted it, but it was prepared long before the revolution, and would have been in place regardless of it. – Zeus Aug 16 '16 at 0:54

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