SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS: Apparatchik, or nomenklatura?


Welcome to another installment of SHANE’S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.

But why all these new words?

Why not the old, familiar, comforting words?

It’s because a healthy vocabulary isn’t about intimidation through erudition. Rather, it’s about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one’s pay grade or station in life.

Even municipal corporate attorneys are eligible for this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, and really, for those of us who want nothing more than to understand why we must pay legions of Louisvillians to do what locals can do on their own, more creatively and for less overall expense, all we have is time — and the opportunity to learn something.

Again this week, our words are occasioned by the inquiry of a regular reader:

Can you explain why these are Shane’s excellent new words, not Bob’s or Larry’s?

The idea for this column dates to a brief social media exchange between the senior editor and Shane Gibson, the city of New Albany’s “corporate” attorney, as opposed to “garden variety” or “proletarian” attorney (Stan Robison).

In a revealing moment of pique, Gibson offered that NA Confidential is prone to using big words solely from a desire to be “smarter than everyone else.”

Of course, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck … but we digress.

To be sure, New Albany cultural dissidents often joke that the only city ordinance enforced with any degree of consistency is the one prohibiting the public use of words containing more than four syllables, and at least now we know who wrote it.

The specific word provoking the attorney’s unsocial media ire was nomenklatura, as borrowed from Soviet-era Russia.

Or should the word have been apparatchik? Let’s take a look at the difference.

Apparatchik /ˌɑːpəˈrɑːtʃɪk/ (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”.

It’s a difference in degree.

The nomenklatura (Russian: номенклату́ра; IPA: [nəmʲɪnklɐˈturə]; Latin: nomenclatura) were a category of people within the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries who held various key administrative positions in all spheres of those countries’ activity: government, industry, agriculture, education, etc., whose positions were granted only with approval by the communist party of each country or region.

Virtually all were members of the Communist Party. Critics of Stalin, such as Milovan Đilas, critically defined them as a new class. Trotskyism uses the term caste rather than class, because it sees the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers’ state, not a new class society. Later developments of Trotsky’s theories, notably Tony Cliff’s theory of State Capitalism, did refer to the nomenklatura as a new class.

The nomenklatura forming a de facto elite of public powers in the previous eastern block, may be compared to the western establishment holding or controlling both private and public powers (media, finance, trade, industry, state and institutions…)

Clearly, Shane’s excellent new word is nomenklatura; there’s nothing gray about this particular eminence.

Conversely, the apparatchik in this scenario?

Probably Stan.