USSR stands for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The adjective "Soviet" is formed from the noun "Soviet" which in Russian means "Council". (That was roughly the idea behind the revolution and USSR formation that the workers and peasants should rule the state by means of "councils"). So why was some analogous word not created in English? Like "Councillous" or something. Is there some explanation or this "just happened"?

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    Whatever the reason, the accepted translation of Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик into English has long been standardized; probably whatever group made and accepted the use of Soviet didn't think the English word council would have been a close enough match. In any case, this is really more a question about Russian translation than it is about the English language, since the question hinges on the meaning of a Russian word.
    – Robusto
    Feb 25, 2012 at 16:31
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    There is no group responsible for decisions about what words are used in the English language. Feb 25, 2012 at 16:52
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    @Mark: I mean group in a more abstract sense: the group of journalists who began using the current translation, however loose a group it may have been.
    – Robusto
    Feb 25, 2012 at 16:56
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    Ok, gotcha: interestingly, the answer to that seems to be, a group of communists in Ireland who thought it sounded more revolutionary than "council". Imagine how different history might have been if that group hadn't been more successful or popular: the "Red Scare" would have been from the Union of Conciliatory Socialist Republics. :) Feb 25, 2012 at 17:00
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    @MarkBeadles such accidents and incidents may sometimes result in some funny misunderstandings in future times. Eg. I know of someone who thought Cosmology was a Russian form of Astrology.
    – karthik
    Feb 28, 2012 at 18:24

2 Answers 2


The custom of adopting the word 'Soviet' instead of calquing it predates the founding of the Soviet Union; it was popularized by the new Russian Soviet state and its first use in relation to communism was probably in 1905. For example, communists in Ireland formed the Limerick Soviet (Sóivéid in Irish Gaelic, pronounced the same) in 1919:

"soviet" (meaning a self-governing committee) had become a popular term after 1917 from the soviets that had led to the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.

[from the Wikipedia article] and was probably the first use in English. It was likely adopted as-is precisely for the communist implications, which were in vogue at the time.


In this case Soviet is proper name, referring to particular institution, for council of revolutioners formed during Russian Revolution 1905.

Same as Israel calling legislature call Knesset, or even in Parliament of England called from the French parlement which means speaking

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