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Is it completely normal to call товарищ to one of my Russian friends? I like the word, but I don't now if its meaning is somehow more politically charged than friendly.

Are there reasons to avoid using товарищ? In which circumstances is it normal to use it?

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Although by no means and under no circumstances this word is used as honorific nowadays, in phrases like "Это мой товарищ" there's no hint of any political or historical connotations. It is quite common usage of this word, though it word "товарищ" is less used nowadays than word "приятель".

Sometimes, especially while appealing to a group of people (colleagues, friends etc.) form "товарищи" is used in ironical context:

Товарищи! Давайте-ка поторопимся и успеем всё доделать к обеду.

Moreover, there's no such connotation (if, once again, it is not intentional) in related words, such like по-товарищески.

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    It is not exactly true. It is still officially used as honorific in army and police. You must say "товарищ лейтенант" if you are serving in army for example. It is also used sometimes as honorific when talking to some person who is superior in some sense (usually to policemen): "товарищ полицейский", "товарищ начальник". – Andrey Sep 5 '13 at 0:59
  • @Andrey, as far as I know, at least in police it is not true nowadays - lenta.ru/news/2011/02/02/mymaster – shabunc Sep 5 '13 at 3:30
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    It is still true for police, this was just a proposal and it was met with great deal of irony it, because it feels slightly archaic and bourgeois since it sounds like something from Russian Empire era. I doubt that it will catch on. – Andrey Sep 5 '13 at 8:06
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Some folklore you might consider useful.

When someone hypocritically address to other as a товарищ, he might get as an answer:

  • «Тамбовский волк тебе товарищ».
  • «Гусь свинье не товарищ».

However, these phrases were known even in Soviet time.

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Товарищ sounds more ironic these days. I'd agree on this point, it's been already mentioned here in the thread. Also it is used in the military when talking to an officer. If you need an equivalent to mister, I'd say there's no such word nowadays. Some were in the past (товарищ, господин, сударь), now not. In a conversation with your friend you can use друг, дружище, приятель, чувак (the latter sounds very informal, equals to dude). Or just use his name and don't wory.

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