Wednesday, March 7, 2018


In a review of William Taubman’s Gorbachev (TLS, 1/19/18), Geoffrey Hosking makes note of Mikhail Voslensky’s Nomenkatura, “an acclaimed study of the Soviet ruling class.” Hosking also refers to the “Soviet apparat” and there were the infamous apparatchniks who occupied the Government building built during l931, with its cosmopolitanism and amenities—and of course the country dachas, which were one of the prizes party hegemons enjoyed. But nomenklatura is particularly resonant word, sharing the same Latin root with the English “nomenclature,” which is the way something is named or branded. When you think about it Pyongyang might be the closest thing to what Peking was like during the days of the Cultural Revolution or Moscow at the heart of the Stalin terror. Surely there's the North Korean equivalent of a Beria who’s responsible for arranging the infamous executions that use anti-air craft guns on opponents of the regime. But would any top party official in China or North Korea ever be referred to as nomenklatura? It it’s a word that lies somewhere between Rome and Tashkent, but retains too much cultural inertia to allow itself to be imported into cultures that think in ideograms. And what about Gorbachev? He was not your run of the mill Nomenkatura. In fact, being the leader who brought about "perestroika" and "glasnost," he was in an exulted category, high up where the air is thin with other peaceniks like Mandela for whom there's no real label.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.