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Russian аппаратчик
Romanization apparatchik
Literal meaning functionary

Apparatchik /ˌɑːpəˈrɑːɪk/ (Russian: аппара́тчик [ɐpɐˈratɕɪk]) is a Russian colloquial term for a full-time, professional functionary of the Communist Party or government "apparat" (apparatus) that held any position of bureaucratic or political responsibility, with the exception of the higher ranks of management called "Nomenklatura". James Billington describes one as "a man not of grand plans, but of a hundred carefully executed details."[1] It is often considered a derogatory term, with negative connotations in terms of the quality, competence, and attitude of a person thus described.[2]

Members of the "apparat" were frequently transferred between different areas of responsibility, usually with little or no actual training for their new areas of responsibility. Thus, the term apparatchik, or "agent of the apparatus" was usually the best possible description of the person's profession and occupation.[3]

Not all apparatchiks held lifelong positions. Many only entered such positions in middle age.[4]

Today apparatchik is also used in contexts other than that of the Soviet Union or communist countries. According to Collins English Dictionary the word can mean "an official or bureaucrat in any organization".[5]

According to Douglas Harper's Online Etymology Dictionary, the term was also used in the meaning "Communist agent or spy", originating in the writings of Arthur Koestler, c. 1941.[6]

In Australia, the term is often used to describe people who have made their career as factional operatives and leaders in political parties, and who are therefore perceived to have little 'real-world' experience outside politics.[citation needed]

See also


  1. James H. Billington, Fire in the minds of men, Transaction Publishers, 1999, p. 455, ISBN 0-7658-0471-9, ISBN 978-0-7658-0471-6
  2. Raymond Pearson, The rise and fall of the Soviet Empire, Palgrave Macmillan, p. xx, 1998, ISBN 0-312-17407-1
  3. Roland Huntford, The new totalitarians, Chapter 7 "The Rule of the Apparatchiks," Stein and Day, 1972, p. 135, ISBN 0-8128-1408-8, ISBN 978-0-8128-1408-8.
  4. David Stuart Lane, Cameron Ross, The transition from communism to capitalism: ruling elites from Gorbachev to Yeltsin, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999, p. 25-26, ISBN 0-312-21612-2, ISBN 978-0-312-21612-2
  5. apparatchik. Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved 2 August 2012 from website:
  6. Apparatchik

Further reading

External links