Talk:Commissar

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Prior Military Use[edit]

Can someone provide a reference regarding the Russian usage's derivation from the French military position? Dictionaries I've checked give an etymology based on a German term, Kommissar, meaning "deputy". That's based on the medieval Latin "commissarius", from the Latin "commissus", or "entrusted". Per Etymonline.com, the term dates to 1362 as an ecclesiastic position, "one to whom special duty is entrusted by a higher power"; there's a military usage dating to 1489 which seems to indicate someone with a quartermaster function. I have no information on when the usage might have changed, and which military organizations used it. -- Epimetreus 15:23, 28 March 2006 (UTC)

Truth in fiction?[edit]

Is there any truth in the fiction relating to commissars being given the authority to shoot fleeing soldiers, as seen in Enemy at the Gates? I've always sorta been under the impression that this rank was not only just a military officer, but also one of political purposes, in which they pushed the communist propoganda, shot traitors, cowards, malcontents, and simply enforced the red agenda above all others.

In many armies the fleeing soldiers used to be shot on the spot. As for Soviets, see Order No. 227. `'Míkka 02:04, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

Yes. Comissars had the authority to shoot anyone who portrayed cowardice on the battlefield. Alternatively the comissar could make the offender join a 'Shtraf Company.' Vought109 (talk) 20:04, 16 July 2011 (UTC)


No. Technically, anyone (privates included) had the authority to shoot "anyone who portrayed cowardice on the battlefield". Both commissar and private would face investigation at later point. Commissar's duty simply included avoiding the whole mess in the first place (cowardly behavior of soldiers/commanders).

Likewise, both private and commissar had equal authority to send someone to penal unit. I.e. - none whatsoever. Only tribunal could convict someone. And penal units always were voluntary choice. Disgraced officers could join penal battalion (only if they requested it), while civil criminals could join penal companies (also, only if they requested it). Convicted privates did not have an option of joining penal units. No-one could be sentenced to serve in penal unit. Service in penal unit (6 month or until first wound) was a way to avoid prison sentence (and the record of it).

The infamous order 227 specifically gave authority to higher ranking commanders and war soviets (direct democracy councils) to dismiss "anyone who portrayed cowardice on the battlefield". Not "shoot on the spot" or send to penal units. Dismiss. And that "anyone" specifically included commissars.

Finally, "commissars" in Red Army ceased to exist by 1942. They were renamed "zampolits" (political deputies) and their authority was significantly reduced. The peak of commissars power happened during Civil War (1918-1923), not WWII. --77.38.191.209 (talk) 10:41, 11 January 2013 (UTC)

Other Meanings?[edit]

I wonder if someone knowledgeable can shed some light on the use of this term to denote a class of intellectuals subservient to the state. It seems Noam Chomsky uses it especially often, when he is deriding the intellectual class of the United States for playing into the interests of power. Obviously this has to do with the bureaucratic role of commissars in the Soviet Union -- but how did it come to describe intellectuals in the service of the state at large? -- Ori.livneh 01:30, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

The American Heritage Dictionary gives the definition "A person who tries to control public opinion", i.e. regardless intellectuals or not. Can you give a quotation? `'Míkka 02:00, 25 July 2007 (UTC)