English as a clue to Russian history

One can learn a lot about Russia by looking at words and concepts she exports into the English language. The 19th century gave us ‘nihilism’ and ‘pogrom’, closely followed by ‘bolshevism’ and then ‘Soviet’. From there we move on to ‘Cheka’, ‘zek’, ‘gulag’, ‘disinformation’ (like ‘nihilism’, the root is Latin but the provenance is Russian), ‘rezident’ (spy master with or without diplomatic cover), ‘collectivisation’, ‘rootless cosmopolitan’ (blueprint translation of the Russian bezrodnyi kosmopolit), ‘thaw’ (ottepel), ‘sputnik’. Forwards and onwards to ‘glasnost’ and ‘perestroika’. And now the on-going court case featuring Berezovsky and Abramovich has made another valuable addition, which London newspapers don’t bother to translate any longer: krysha. For those who don’t read London newspapers, the word (literally ‘roof’) means ‘protection’ for a legal or usually illegal business. Anticipating a linguistic trend now under way, I’d like to to make a few pioneering contributions, words that have entered Russian since perestroika: otkat (kickback), nayezd (shakedown), raspil (embezzlement), razborka (sorting out differences), strelka (razborka involving firearms), bespredel (a situation like strelka, where no moral scruples apply), otmorozok (one who is even beyond bespredel). When these words appear in the OED, I expect to be credited.

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