Comrade means "friend", "colleague", or "ally". The word comes from French camarade and this French word has it roots in the Spanish term camarada. The term is frequently used by left-wing organizations around the globe. "Comrade" has often become a stock phrase and form of address. This word has its regional equivalents available in many languages.
The political usage of the term was inspired by the French Revolution. Upon abolishing the titles of nobility, and the terms monsieur and madame (literally, "my lord" and "my lady"), the revolutionaries employed the term citoyen for men and citoyenne for women (both meaning "citizen") to refer to each other. The deposed King Louis XVI, for instance, was referred to as Citoyen Louis Capet to emphasize his loss of privilege.
When the socialist movement gained momentum in the mid-19th century, socialists began to look for an egalitarian alternative to terms like "Mister", "Miss", or "Missus". They chose "comrade" as their preferred term of address. In German, this practice was started in 1875, with the establishment of the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany. In English, the first known use of the word with this meaning was in 1884 in the socialist magazine Justice. The word comrade means companion or friend.
In German, Kamerad, for males and Kameradin for females, is the most direct translation of the word "comrade" in a non-political sense. It has traditionally been used as an affectionate form of address among members of the military: the German funeral march for fallen soldiers is titled Ich hatt' einen Kameraden ("I Had a Comrade"). The translation of classmate is “Klassenkamerad” ("school-class comrade"), the word “Schulfreund” being reserved only for close relationships. From its widespread use during World War I the term entered the lexicon of the Nazi Party, but primarily between "Old Fighters" who were for the most part war veterans. Hence, and because of its military style, it is sometimes associated with Neo-Nazidom. However, "Kamerad" was also the address among concentration camp prisoners, even if otherwise on "Genosse" terms (see below).
Genosse (Genossin for females), means "mate", "fellow" or "companion", and is the main German word for "comrade" in the political sense (outside of politics, it occurs in words like Hausgenosse, "housemate"). It was first introduced as a political form of address in 1875 by the German Social Democrats, when they established the then-Marxist Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (the predecessor of today's Social Democratic Party of Germany). They intended Genosse as a translation of Latin socius ("sharing", "partner", "comrade", "associate", "ally"), as reflected in the words "social" and "socialism". Etymologically, Genosse can be traced to Old High German genōze, with the same meaning, from nōz "productive livestock": originally "someone who shares livestock or grazing land (with someone else)", hence "someone who uses/enjoys (geniesst) something together (with someone else)". Hence, a co-operative is called Genossenschaft.
The official form of address between Nazi Party members was Parteigenosse, an adaptation of the word Genosse. By adopting Parteigenosse ("Party Comrade") the NSDAP tried to appeal to working-class voters and instill in its ranks the close relationships that were typical of the parties of the Left, but not of traditional parties of the Right. Applied to the German people as a whole, Volksgenosse ("national comrade", the then-expression for a “fellow countryman”, somewhat outdated for this reason in favor of the then-poetical Landsmann, fem.: Landsmännin, pl.: Landsleute) indicated shared membership in the German "national community" (Volksgemeinschaft).
In contemporary German politics, Genosse and Genossin are still used, although with less frequency, in the Social Democratic Party and The Left.
The original (archaic) meaning of the Russian version of this term (товарищ, tovarishch) from Old Turkic tavar ishchi, meant something like "business companion" or "travel (or other adventure) mate", deriving from the noun товар (tovar, i.e., 'merchandise'). In the late 19th century Russian Marxists and other leftist revolutionaries adopted tovarishch (abbreviated tov.) as a translation of the words for "Comrade" which were used as a form of address in international (especially German) Social Democracy and in the associated parts of the workers' movement. For instance, one might be referred to as Comrade Plekhanov or Comrade Chairman, or simply as Comrade. After the Russian Revolution, translations of the term in different languages were adopted by Communists worldwide. As a result, even though many other socialists would continue to use "Comrade" among themselves (e.g., German and Austrian social-democrats and, for a long time, members of the British Labour Party), it became most strongly associated in public consciousness with "Soviet-style" Communism of the Marxist-Leninist, Stalinist and Trotskyist varieties. This is exemplified in its mocking use in stereotypical portrayals of the Soviet Union in Cold War films and books.
In the early years of Soviet power in Russia, the Bolsheviks used "Comrade" when addressing or referring to people assumed sympathetic to the revolution and to the Soviet state, such as members of the Communist party (and originally of other pro-revolution leftist formations such as the Left SR) and people from the "working masses". The more neutral republican form of address was "Citizen". Accordingly, supporters of the White movement in the Russian Civil War would use "Comrades" mockingly as a derogatory term for their enemies – although at the same time, the various socialist anti-Bolshevik forces such as the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks also used "Comrade" among themselves.
By the mid-1920s, the form of address "Comrade" became so commonplace in Soviet Union that it was used indiscriminately in essentially the same way as terms like "Mister" and "Sir" are employed in English. That use persisted until the fall of the Soviet Union. Still, the original meaning partly re-surfaced in some contexts: criminals and suspects were only addressed as "Citizens" and not as "Comrades", and expressly refusing to address someone as "Comrade" would generally be perceived as a hostile act or, in Stalinist times, even as an accusation of being "Anti-Soviet".
The term is not used often in contemporary Russian society, but it is still the standard form of address in the armed forces and police, where officers and soldiers are normally addressed as "Comrade Colonel", "Comrade General", "Comrade Sergeant", or the like. The term is also used as part of idioms e.g., tovarishch po neschast'yu (fellow-sufferer, from German Leidensgenosse) or as a part of such words as tovarishchestvo (partnership) that do not associate with communism.
In Chinese, the translation of comrade is "同志" (pinyin: tóng zhì), literally meaning "(people with) the same spirit, goal, ambition, etc." It was first introduced in the political sense by Sun Yat-sen to refer to his followers.
The Kuomintang (Nationalist Party), which was co-founded by Sun Yat-Sen, has a long tradition of using the term Tongzhi (comrade) to refer to its members, usually as a noun rather than a title; for example, a KMT member would say "Mr. Chang is a loyal and reliable comrade."
Nevertheless, the term was promoted most actively by the Communist Party of China during its struggle for power. It was used both as a noun and as a title for basically anyone in mainland China after the People's Republic of China was founded. For example, women were nü tongzhi (female comrade), children were xiao tongzhi (little comrade) and seniors were lao tongzhi (old comrade). However, after the 1980s and the onset of China's market-oriented reforms, this term has been moving out of such daily usage. It remains in use as a respectful term of public address among middle-aged Chinese and members of the Communist Party of China. Within the Communist Party, failure to address a fellow member as tóng zhì is seen as a subtle but unmistakable sign of disrespect and enmity.
At party or civil meetings, the usage of the term has been retained. Officials often address each other as Tongzhi, and thus the usage here is not limited to Communist Party members alone. In addition, Tongzhi is the term of preference to address any national leader when their titles are not attached (e.g., Comrade Mao Zedong, Comrade Deng Xiaoping).
Chinese territories such as Hong Kong and Macau do not have comrade in its popular vernacular due to longtime administration by foreign Western powers which instilled a different language paradigm in the natives of those regions.
Since the 1990s, the term is, however, increasingly being used to refer to sexual minorities in Greater China, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This use of the term was first adopted at the inaugural Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in Hong Kong in 1989, with the aim of presenting same-sex relationships are positive and suggesting solidarity between LGBT people, while also providing an indigenous term to capture the Chinese experience of same-sex love; it also puns on tóngxìnglìan (同性戀), the formal (if clinical and disfavored) term for homosexuality. It is preferred by LGBT communities over the term tóngxìnglìan (同性戀), the formal word for homosexuality, which is seen as being too clinical and having pathological connotations. The use of tongzhi over tóngxìnglìan roughly parallels the replacement of "homosexual" with "gay" in the Western discourse. In recent years, Western terms such as "gay" and "LGBT" are also increasingly used within China, Taiwan and twenty first century Viet Nam.
Usage in Southern Africa
In South Africa, comrade is associated with the liberation struggle more generally and the African National Congress in particular. The members of unions affiliated to the ANC through their union federation use the term comrade to refer to each other. Comrade can also be a way of describing someone who is an activist, although it has an association with the ANC and the struggle against apartheid. The naming of the Comrades Marathon is however unrelated, as it commemorates soldiers of World War I.
In Zimbabwe, the term is only used to people who are affiliated to the political party, ZANU (PF) where the state media also use Cde as short for comrade. Members of other political parties mainly the Movement for Democratic Change are often referred by their names or Mr, Mrs or Prof.
The revived Zimbabwe African Peoples` Union (ZAPU) members also call themselves comrades. ZAPU is the original liberation movement in Zimbabwe. ZANU was formed as a breakaway movement, and later became the dominant party, in turn incorporating ZANU into itself to form ZANU PF.
In other languages
- In Albanian, the word shok (meaning friend, from Latin socius) was used within communist circles.
- The Arabic, Urdu and Persian word رفيق (Rafiq) (meaning friend) is used with the same political connotation as "comrade." The term is used both amongst Arab communists as well as within the Ba’ath movement and the Lebanese Forces. The term predates modern political usage, and is an Arabic male proper name. Iranian communists use the same term. In Pakistan, predominantly term is used for referring to members of Jama'at Islami and Islami Jamiat Talba (University Students wing of Jama' Islami).
- The Armenian word for comrade is ընկեր ("unger") for boys and men, ընկերուհի ("ungerouhi") for girls and women. This word literally translates as "friend". The term is used by members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Ramgavar and Social Democrat Hunchakian Party when addressing other members of the party. The term is also used by the Armenian Communist Party.
- The Azerbaijani word for comrade is Yoldaş (literally co-traveller).
- The Bengali word কমরেড (Komred) is used by all leftist groups especially by the Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other Communist Parties in India (especially in the States of West Bengal and Tripura) and Socialist Party of Bangladesh (BASOD), Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal-JSD (Bangladesh) etc.
- The Bosnian word drug is used as an equivalent to comrade. For females, it is used drugarica. It is also used commonly for as a word for friend.
- The Burmese word yèbaw is used in the Communist Party of Burma.
- The Bulgarian word for comrade is "другар" (drugar), female "другарка" (drugarka). It translates as friend or colleague. In Communist times, it was the general form of address, also used in reference to schoolteachers etc..
- In Chinese, the word 同志 (pinyin: Tóngzhì) is used. The meaning of the word refers to a like-minded person. It is, though usage, associated with Communism, however, may be used as a friendly epithet between friends or colleagues, mostly of the older generation.
- The Croatian equivalent to comrade is drug for males and drugarica for females. In the period between World War II and Josip Broz Tito's death in socialist Yugoslavia it was applied to almost everybody: teachers, officials, etc. Today it is not used commonly. It may be used in the meaning friend like in Serbian, but this use is far less frequent in Croatian. It is still used among far left organization members, and calling someone "drug/drugarica" may also be used ironically to denote someone's perceived radical leftism.
- The Czech word for comrade is soudruh (female soudružka). In 19th century Czech, it was a poetic word, meaning "fellow". As elsewhere in Europe, the term was originally introduced by the Czech Social Democrats and subsequently carried over to Czech Communists as well when these split off from the Social Democrats. Nowadays, it is used only in (actual or, more often, ironic) Communist context. After the Velvet Revolution, an attempt was made in the Czech Social Democratic Party to replace soudruh with přítel ("friend") as a form of an address, but it didn't catch on. A cognate to English word "comrade", "kamarád", means "friend" in Czech. It is very commonly used word and it has no political connotations.
- The Dutch word is kameraad. In Common Dutch the word is mostly reminiscent of communists, whereas in informal speech and dialects it can be used to indicate friends or acquaintances. It was used as a form of address in the Communist Party of the Netherlands, as well as in the pre-war National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands, the latter also using the female neologism kameraadske. The pseudo-Russian word kameraadski is used informally as a sobriquet for a person with leftist sympathies.
- The Danish word is kammerat (plural kammerater) which literally translates as "mate," or "buddy". It is normally used to refer to someone's childhood friend or friends, but can also be used interchangeably with ven, which means friend.
- The Esperanto word for comrade is kamarado either in the sense of a friend or a political fellow-traveller. In the latter case, when used in writing, it is often abbreviated to K-do. It is the preferred form of address among members of Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda. The word samideano, literally "same-thinker", usually refers to a fellow esperantist.
- The Estonian word is seltsimees which originally comes from German Geselle. Having initially a neutral meaning, the term was later adapted by local communists. Today it has an ironical meaning, referring to Soviet times.
- The Finnish word is toveri which literally translates as "companion".
- The French word is camarade. It is mainly used by communists and can apply to classmates or friends.
- The Georgian word is ამხანაგი amkhanagi.
- In German, the word is "Genosse" for a male, or "Genossin" for a female. The meaning is that of a fellow, a companion or an associate.
- The Greek word is σύντροφος/συντρόφισσα syntrophos/syntrophissa (male/female), used by communists, socialists and other left-wing groups. Other meanings of this word are: mate, pal, friend, companion, even partner or associate etc.
- The Hebrew equivalent is Chaver (חבר), a word which can mean both "friend" and "member" (of a group or organization). During the time of Socialist Zionist political and ideological dominance of the 1930s to the 1960s, the word in a sense similar to English "comrade" was in widespread use, in the Kibbutz movement, the Histadrut trade unions, the driver-owned bus companies etc. At present, its political use is considered old-fashioned, mainly restricted to Israeli Communists. (The same word exists also in Yiddish, from which is derived the colloquial Australian word "cobber".) Hebrew "Chaver" and the female "Chavera" are still widely used in a non-political sense, as meaning simply "friend" (in certain contexts also meaning "boyfriend/girlfriend").
- The Hindi equivalent for "Comrade" or "Saghave" is kaamred(कामरेड) or saathi(साथी). It is widely used among all leftist(communist) parties of India, i.e., Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party (India), Forward Bloc and others.
- The Hungarian word for comrade is elvtárs. elv means "principle" or "tenet" while társ means "fellow". As the Hungarian Working People's Party gradually gained power after the Second World War, the word displaced all prior titles like úr ("Mister") and became the title used generally for everyone except for people who were obviously not "tenet fellows" e.g. those who committed political crime against the socialist state. After the democratic transition the word became obsolete and it is used derogatory to address politicians on the political left.
- The Icelandic word for comrade is félagi. It is used as a less intimate alternative to vinur (friend). It is also the word used for a "member" of club or association. When used as a title to precede a name (i.e., félagi Tító or félagi Dimitroff) it has a communist implication.
- In Indonesian, the words Komrad, Kawan, or Kamerad are used by communist, socialist, and nationalist political party.
- In Irish the word for comrade is a chara. Both phrases are used largely by Irish Republicans, Irish Nationalists, Communists and Socialists in Ireland.
- The Italian word for comrade is compagno (male) or compagna (female), meaning "companion". This word is in widespread use among left-wing circles, including not just communists but also many socialists. There is another word, camerata, which has the specific meaning of "comrade-in-arms" or "fellow soldier", and is used by nationalist and militarist right-wing groups. Using one word or the other is a quick way to announce one's political views.
- The Japanese word for comrade is "同志 (dōshi)", the same word used in Chinese. The word is used to refer to like-minded persons and the usage is not necessarily limited to Communists, though the word is to some extent associated with Communism. The word should not be confused with a homonym "同士", which is a more commonly used postfix to show people sharing a certain property.
- In Korean, a good equivalent of the word would be "동무" (tongmu) or "동지" (tongji, senior comrade). Although the word was originally used by Korean people all over the Korean Peninsula, people living south of the 38th Parallel began avoiding using the word after a communist state was set up in the north. In North Korea, the word tongmu replaced all prior social titles and earned a new meaning as "a fellow man fighting for the revolution". The word originally meant "friend".
- In Kurdish, the word is Heval, which widely used among the Kurdish Political Parties and Organizations; the meaning of the word is Friend or the person that join you in a long trip.
- In Macedonian, the word is другар (drugar) for males and другарka (drugarka) for females.
- In Malay, the words Komrad, Kawan and Sahabat are used among socialist organizations.
- In Malayalam, the word sakhavu is used among communist organizations while addressing fellow members.
- In Mexico, the word is camarada (camrade) and compañero can be (and often is) used with no political connotation.
- In Mongolian, the word is нөхөр (nökhör). It is still in use but less than before.
- The Nepali equivalent for "Comrade" is kaamred(कमरेड) or saathi(साथी)like in Hindi. Its being used by communists in Nepal like Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist), Janamorcha Nepal and others.
- In Norwegian, the word is spelled Kamerat. It can be associated with communist lingo, but is more commonly used to refer to a less close friend, a co-worker (arbeidskamerat) or a classmate in school (klassekamerat or skolekamerat). In everyday use, the word kamerat on its own is considered a masculine term, referring to boys/men. For girls/women, the term venninne (female form of venn friend) is used instead. When joined with other words, such as klassekamerat, the word is gender neutral. (Although Norwegians would understand what is meant by klassevenninne, it would also sound awkward and somewhat archaic.)
- In the Philippines, communist and left-leaning activists prefer the term kasama (roughly, companion), and the short form, ka before the name, as in Ka Bel (referring to labor leader Crispin Beltran); religious personalities also use ka, in this sense referring to kapatid (brother/sister). Members of the legal profession informally use the Hispanic term compañero / compañera when referring to each other, albeit without no socio-political connotation.
- In Poland, the word is towarzysz, which has the same origin as the Russian word. In non-political sense, it means 'companion'.
- In Portugal and Brazil, the word is camarada, now being commonly employed to refer to communists or supporters of the communist system (result of the overusage of the term in the post-revolutionary society). It is also prevalent in the army, and has been gaining popularity among nationalist movements. The term used among socialist activists nowadays tends to be companheiro / companheira although in Portugal camarada is still commonly used. Brazilian president Lula is widely known for addressing his political mates and supporters as "companheiro", however this usage has been falling shorter during the last years of his presidential term, while it was very popular during the elections, often imitated by comedians who satirized Lula's idiosyncratic manners.
- In the Punjabi language the word for Comrade is Saathi(ਸਾਥੀ).
- In Romanian the exact translation is camarad, a neologism introduced from French in the 19th century, which does not bear a political connotation, referring mainly to wartime allies and friends. During the communist era an older term, tovarăş, derived from a Slavic source, was used to convey the political meaning.
- The Serbian word for comrade is drug (друг) for males and drugarica (другарица) for females; it's also a regular word for 'friend'.
- The Slovak word for comrade is súdruh. The term "kamarát" is used too, but it is normally translated as friend.
- The Slovenian word for 'comrade' is tovariš (m.) or tovarišica (f.), first attested in the 16th century. After second world war it was also colloquially used for 'teacher' (as an elliptical form of the official tovariš učitelj (m.), tovarišica učiteljica (f.) 'comrade teacher'). After 1991 it rapidly fell out of use as a general term of address, but is still used when expressing comradeship among individuals.
- The Sindhi word for comrade is Sangat سنگت, it is normally translated as friend.
- The Somali word for comrade is jaalle it is normally translated as friend. It was widely used by former Somali Revolutionary party (1969-1991). The word fell out from use after end for former Somali revolutionary part.
- In Spain, the word is compañero / compañera ("companion"); the term camarada ("comrade") has also been used, but it's more associated with the communist and Falange tradition. In Spain the word "compañero" can be (and often is) used with no political connotation.
- The standard form in Cuba is compañero / compañera, as it was in socialist Nicaragua and Chile. In some parts of Latin America, camarada is the more frequent word, except in Peru, where the term is commonly associated with the nom de guerre of members of far left groups Shining Path and MRTA, while members of the social-democrat party APRA as well as other left parties or left-leaning organizations employ compañero to refer to fellow members. The term "camarada" is the more normal among Spanish Communists.
- In Sinhala, the word is මිත්රයා/සහෝදරයා
- In Swahili, the equivalent word is ndugu for brother-in-arms, or dada for a female comrade. The word ndugu is still used in formerly socialist Tanzania as a way of showing (political) solidarity.
- The Swedish word is spelled Kamrat. Although it can be associated with communist lingo, it may just as well be used to refer to a friend, a co-worker (arbetskamrat) or a classmate in school (klasskamrat or skolkamrat). Unlike in Norwegian, the term is commonly used for both boys and girls in non-communist usage. See also Idrottsföreningen Kamraterna
- The Tamil word for comrade is Thozhar (தோழர்) and is a regular word for 'friend'.
- The Thai word sahai (สหาย) was used in the communist movement.
- The Turkish word Yoldaş (literally co-traveller) has become used within the communist movement. In the climate of harsh anticommunist repression the word largely disappeared from common usage. "Yoldaş" is also a male name in Turkish.
- In the United Kingdom, the term comrade is strongly associated with Communism and the Soviet Union unless it is used in relation to the military, as a result it is avoided by most political parties. However it is still used as a form of address among Labour Party members as well as by many smaller parties of the left. Use of the term is generally restricted to people with whom the speaker agrees politically. It is usually written in full, the abbreviation "Cde" being associated with southern African usage. The honorific terms "sister" and "brother", also declining in usage, are more politically inclusive, encompassing everyone from the centre-left to the far-left, without necessarily indicating complete political agreement. All three terms are occasionally used in a mocking or patronising manner by political opponents. The term was also often used amongst British Fascists in the 1930s; the anthem of the British Union of Fascists started with the words "Comrades, the voices of the dead battalions..."
- In the United States, the word "comrade" carries a strong connotation with Communism, Marxism–Leninism, and the former Soviet Union. Especially during the Cold War, to address someone as "comrade" marked either the speaker, person addressed, or both as suspected communist sympathizers. It is frequently used ironically in that way. In addition, it is still used in its generic context[clarification needed] by some American socialists. Despite this, it has been adopted into the U.S. Army Soldier's Creed in the statement "I will never leave a fallen comrade".
- The Vietnamese word is đồng chí, which is derived from Chinese.
In George Orwell's novel Animal Farm, the animals all refer to each other as comrade, as the story is a satirical look at the Russian Revolution. Also in Nineteen Eighty-Four, party members in Oceania refer to each other as comrade.
In the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, the main character Rosemarie Hathaway calls her mentor/lover Russian Dimitri Belikov "comrade" as a form of affection.
- Camarade - Académie française
- Anrede "Genosse" nicht mehr zeitgemäß
- Otto Ladendorf. Historisches Schlagwörterbuch (1906)
- Paul, Hermann. 1960 (7th ed.) Deutsches Wörterbuch
- Выходцева И.С. О проблеме общеупотребительного обращения в русском языке / И.С.Выходцева // Русская и сопоставительная филология: состояние и перспективы: Международная научная конференция, посвященная 200-летию Казанского университета (Казань, 4-6 октября 2004 г.): Труды и материалы: / Под общ. ред. К.Р.Галиуллина.– Казань: Изд-во Казан. ун-та, 2004.– C.211-212.
- See, for example, the remarks of Frank Hsieh after losing the Republic of China presidential election in 2008: 凝聚黨內團結 謝長廷：我決定留到五二五: "很多同志希望我能夠留到五月二十五日" ("Many comrades hoped that I could stay to May 25". See 中國國民黨第17屆中央委員會第2次全體會議出、列席同志發言須知 ("Rules for speaking for attending comrades at the 2nd plenary meeting of the 17th central committee of the Chinese Kuomintang") for an example of its usage in the Kuomintang.
- "The Soldiers Creed and Army Values". Rhode Island National Guard. Rhode Island National Guard. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
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