Investigative Assets
Lesson Zone
Recommended Reading

Important terms and phrases appearing throughout the RED FILES are explained below.


See Communist.


KPSS Communist Party of the Soviet Union - CPSU is a frequently used abbreviation.


Frequently used interchangeably with Bolshevik. Member of the Communist Party. The Russian Social Democratic Party (RSDWP) founded in Minsk in 1898 as a Marxist organization. Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov who later changed his name to Lenin (after the Lena river, a Siberia waterway where he lived in exile) dominated the party. The Party split in 1903 over Lenin's insistence that the party emphasize a small tightly knit organization dominated by a hierarchy of professional revolutionaries. Lenin battled his good friend Julius Martov over this question. In a series of shrewd maneuvers scored a propaganda victory in the fight over the party's nature. Even though he lost a vote on its character, Lenin deemed his party the victorious the Majority (Bolsheviks) and Martov's backers of a broad party he labeled the Minority (Mensheviks). 1903-1917 the Bolsheviks were the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party (Bolsheviks), RSDWP(B). The name changed to Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), RCP(b) in 1918; after the formation of the USSR the party All-Union Communist Party ,VCP(b) Officially, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) dropped the title Bolshevik at its October 1952 to become the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, KPSS.

Central Committee

The Communist Party's nominally elected decision-making body between Party Congresses. Its members elect the Politburo (top decision making body). In 1986 there were 307 members of the CC and 170 candidate members. Pravda was the official organ of the CC. Plenums of the CC, its executive body, resolve issues in between its full meetings. The staff of the CC carries out much of the day-to-day work of the upper reaches of the CP. The secretariat of the General Secretary of the CP most often appointed and demoted members of the CC after Stalin consolidated power.


Severe downturn in US economy (1929-1941) that threw millions out of work, wrecked thousands of businesses, shuttered hundreds of banks. Kicked off by Black Thursday, 24 October 1929 Stock market crash. Some $30 billion in stock values lost in crash. President Franklin D. Roosevelt elected in wake of crash and onset of depression uses state intervention to create jobs and revive economy. It takes huge government programs for war to completely end depression. During the depression many doubted the viability of capitalism and looked to communism in the Soviet Union as a viable alternative.


Openness or candor. The more honest discussion of the Soviet past. Filling in the blank spots of Soviet History Gorbachev once called for, was an important but not the only part of his opening of the Communist party and Soviet society to reform and to new ideas. A campaign of truth telling begun by Mikhail Gorbachev. Glasnost allowed archives to be investigated (with some restrictions) and secret information to be published.


The System of Prison, Labor and Concentration Camps Spread across the Soviet Union. Officially most were "corrective labor colonies." Rooted in the exile in Siberia system of the tsarist period, the GULAG was organized by the Communist government in 1918 and vastly expanded under Stalin. GULAG is a Russian acronym for a department of the secret police, "chief administration of corrective labor camps."

Hack, hackwork

A term journalists use to describe themselves and their work. Hacks churn out stories daily informing the world or at least a newspaper's readers what has been going on.

Iron Curtain

A term used during the Cold War to refer to the closed societies of the Soviet socialist block. Usually refers to the satellite nations enslaved or forcibly tied to Moscow and the Soviet Union itself. The dividing line between the 'free' west and 'enslaved' socialist puppet states of Eastern Europe. The terms comes from the first major speech Winston S. Churchill gave in the United States as British ex-Prime Minister (voters turned their wartime leader out of office in July 1945 parliamentary elections) at Westminster College, Fulton Missouri on 5 March 1946. He said, "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent." Churchill's Fulton Speech is sometimes used to periodize the start of the Cold War. The Iron Curtain metaphor was not an original coinage by Churchill.


Soviet political police. Abbreviations of Russian for Committee for State Security. Many refer to it as the Cheka, its operatives as Chekisty, these names come from the original Bolshevik organized agency created in December 1917 by V.I.Lenin's revolutionary government under the leadership of Felix E. Dzerzhinsky ("Iron Felix"). Cheka stands for The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage. The Soviet government reorganized the Cheka in 1922. Over the years it had many different names. During the worst period of Stalin's bloody regime when its agents murdered millions it was called the NKVD, The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs. In the years of great terror some feared even to whisper the letters NKVD; some referred to it as the Okhranka, The Guards, the name for the tsarist era secret police; others called it "the organs." During WWII the NKVD changed its name briefly to NKGB. At other times it was called or was part of the GPU, OGPU, GUGB, MVD, MGB. A post-Stalin reorganization created the KGB formula in 1954. Since the Soviet government moved to Moscow from Petrograd in 1918 it has been headquartered not far from the Kremlin in a complex of building, starting at n.11 Bolshaya Lubyanka Street and quickly spreading out into building n.2 on the same street. That infamous building, once the Rossiya Insurance Company, fronts on Lubyanskaya Square. For many years a giant statue of "Iron Felix" stood in the center of the square. Jubilant crowds tore it down in the fury that followed a failed hard-line Communist coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1981.


Literally it means "fort". Every early Russian city had one. Moscow's Kremlin started as wooden stockade. Traditionally, it is dated from 1147. The Kremlin often refers to top rulers of the Soviet Union or Russia, just as Americans say, "The White House announced today...."


Headquarters building of the KGB/NKVD/OGPU/CHEKA since spring 1918. Contains offices, jail, and torture chambers. Many prisoners summarily executed by a single bullet to the back of the head in its basement. The most feared building in Europe. See KGB.

Morozov, Pavlik

A little boy who became famous throughout the Soviet Union and eventually the center of a cult of denunciation. Pavlik symbolized the evil essence of a totalitarian approach to life. In 1932 according to legend, the young boy denounced his father to the local Communist authorities for hiding grain at a time that the state was forcibly collectivizing agriculture. His father was banished to Siberia. Pavlik's uncles then killed the little boy. He was turned into a saint, a model of Soviet patriotism for generations of Soviet school age children. Especially at the height of the Great Terror (1936-38) but throughout Stalin's reign (1929-1953) the state and local Communist officials expected children to denounces fathers and mothers, husbands and wives arrested as enemies of the people - but mostly only after the fact. Stalinists were too busy hunting down people they deemed enemies to bother with independent enemy lists.


See KGB.


The name of St.Petersburg took at the outbreak of World War so that the then Russian capitol city would sound less German. In 1924 it was renamed Leningrad in honor the recently deceased founder of the Communist State. Voters decided to return to pre-revolutionary name St. Petersburg, following the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.


Special GULAG camps where well-fed prisoners worked on scientific and engineering projects. Often called a "golden cage" by inmates. A. I. Solzhenitsyn well described a sharashka in the novel The First Circle.


Originally the Russian word for "fellow traveler". Russians now use it to mean a satellite.

Investigative Assets   Timeline   Lesson Zone   Photos   Vocabulary   Insights   Recommended Reading

horizontal line

© 1999 Abamedia, unless otherwise indicated.