One Book, One Chicago Spring 2006
BUR – Russian, Barak Usilennogo Rezhima, reinforced security barracks.
Caucasus – a region that includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and a small portion of southern Russia.
Estonians – people from Estonia, a country on the Baltic Sea in northeastern Europe, a Soviet republic from 1940-1991.
Gram – a measure of weight in the metric system equal to about 1/30 of an ounce. There are 25-30 grams in a typical slice of bread.
Hussars – light cavalrymen with rifles, swords and pistols.
Kilo – a kilogram. A measure of weight in the metric system equal to a thousand grams.
Kilometer – a measure of length in the metric system equal to 3,280.8 feet (about 5/8 of a mile).
Kolkhoz – a type of Soviet collective farm that most peasants were forced to join. Farm products were sold to the government and profits were shared.
Kopeck – a coin worth 1/100 of a ruble. See also Ruble.
Kulak – Russian for “closed fist.” The Soviet government defined kulaks specifically as peasants who hired permanent workers, owned an industrial enterprise (such as a flour mill), hired out agricultural machinery or practiced usury. Between 3 and 5 percent of the population was considered to be kulaks.
Lag – A convict who has been transported or sentenced to penal servitude.
Latvia – a Baltic Sea country in northeastern Europe; a Soviet republic from 1940-1991
Lithuania – Baltic Sea country in northeastern Europe; a Soviet republic from 1940-1991.
Moldavia – a Soviet republic in southeastern Europe from 1940-1991, when it declared its independence and changed its name to Moldova.
OGPU – Russian, Ob’edinennoe Gosudarstvennoe Politicheskoe Upravlenie Rezhima, literally, “Unified State Political Administration,” the Soviet secret police.
Patronymic – a name derived from that of a father or other male ancestor. For example, a man named Ivan whose father’s name is Denis would be called Ivan Denisovich or “Ivan, son of Denis.” This form of address is used formally as well as among friends. However, on occasions when the diminutive of a name is used, such as Alyoshka for Aleksey, the patronymic is always omitted.
Pood – slightly more than 36 pounds.
Ruble – a unit of currency. Since the ruble circulated only within the Soviet Union, which arbitrarily assigned value relative to foreign currencies, it is difficult to state the ruble’s worth in relation to the dollar during the time in which One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich takes place.
Skilly – thin, watery porridge, gruel or soup used in prisons and workhouses.
Screw – a prison guard.
Stakhanovite – an unusually productive worker, named for Soviet coal miner Aleksei Stakhanov, who was reported to have cut 102 tons of coal in a single shift.
Taiga – the swampy coniferous forest area of Siberia.
Tartars – a Turkic-speaking people of eastern Europe and central Asia.
Troika – a Russian vehicle drawn by three horses abreast.
Ukraine – a country in eastern Europe, a Soviet republic from 1922-1991.
Valenki – knee-high felt boots.