Also, does using camaraderie carry the same socio-political baggage as Comrade might? In contemporary usage, has the term "Comrade" lost any or all socio-political baggage it may once have had?
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I did a quick search of the COCA and found that people are using Comrade in many different ways in modern speech and writing. Most notably, the first page of results seems to split between "Comrade" as a title, which suggests a connotation of membership in some organization, and its use in a military sense; soldiers and their comrades. In the second sense it seems to be used for its original purpose and not with any cold-war baggage.
Bottom line: I'd say this word can be used in certain contexts without any political connotations, but the word still carries those other senses and meanings should you choose to use them. And given that your reader might add political connotations where you don't want them, I'd be careful when using this word.
As an an aside, the Chinese word tóngzhì (同志), which literally means comrade, has taken on a second meaning, which is "homosexual".
I would imagine that "camarade", being French, sounded highly Revolutionary to English ears, following the bloody events in France in 1789. When the Russians had their own popular revolution and started addressing each other as "tovarisch", the French word would have seemed a convenient and comprehensible analogue to English ears.
This is all supposition, really, I'm by no means an expert in revolutionary history; but I suspect that all uprisings of the people against the aristocracy became conflated in the minds of unrevolutionary types such as the British, and the terminology became conflated too, accordingly.
Disclaimer: I'm a native speaker in the sense of being born & raised (& schooled) in the US, but my first language was actually Hungarian. My parents have a well-justified distaste for All Things Soviet, which the last 20 years have not erased. So my reactions are perhaps not typical.
The origin of "comrade" and the justification (or lack thereof) for its Communist associations is, I think, largely irrelevant. The fact remains, there is such an association. It might be looked upon as "antique" by younger generations, but it has not gone away. Bottom line: I would not suggest using the word "comrade" as a generic synonym for "friend".
Camaraderie, for whatever reason, does not carry any Cold War-era connotations that I know of in English. (I think it might in German.)
Comrade: means a person who's associated with some one (a friend, companion). It comes from some type of Turkic language. However it has been linked to many different languages and we don't really know where the word actually came from but we have some guesses. The Russians didn't adopt the word comrade! however we adopted it.
Examples of the word are: the boy, and two others who are known to be his comrades are wanted for questioning.
I have been educated by my well known teacher Mrs. Christie and I also got this information from other online web sites.
I think that to explain etymology of word 'comrade' by changing the first vowel 'o' to 'a' without notice of so common prefix 'com' is less than ridiculous.
So, let's with blessing from William of Ockham to decompose this word the simplest way: "com-rad-e", where 'com' is very common prefix and 'rad' is the root.
Wikipedia lists following etymology of 'rada':
Ergo, comrades are those who counsel each other. On equal terms may, I add.