Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Russian term nomenklatura (номенклату́ра), derived from the Latin nomenclatura meaning a list of names, was originally the list of higher responsibility positions or jobs whose occupants needed to be approved by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. By extension or metonymy, the term started to be used figuratively, to designate people who effectively occupied these positions.
The nomenklatura were only a small, Úlite subset of the general population of Party members, which was essentially composed of blue-collar workers.
The nomenklatura (the list) was multi-level; filling a more important position required a higher level of approval in the Party hierarchy.
The nomenklatura covered all kinds of jobs, technical or not; a theater manager would require as much approval as an industrial one (if not more, since producing content for mass viewing was always of a lot of concern for the Party; such institutions always used censors for reviewing and approving content before release).
The nomenklatura did not always need to be Communist Party members, notably in satellite countries which sometimes had additional puppet parties, but the Party had to be convinced that they were reliable and trustworthy. Once a non-member has been promoted, he was often (gently) invited to join the Party, to secure his promotion.
Nomenklatura should not be confused with apparatchiks or the party concrete of the Communist regimes, or Party officials in general. For example, in a state-owned factory, top managers would obviously be nomenklatura and would have to be approved by the Party, but Party officials working at the factory were a separate and independent hierarchy, and they could all be just simple workers. The Party secretary would report to the director as an employee, but the director would report to the secretary as an ordinary Party member. However, important managers usually belonged to higher Party levels than the local cell.
Milovan Djilas wrote of the nomenklatura as the "New class", and it was widely seen (and resented) by ordinary citizens as a bureaucratic Úlite that had simply supplanted the earlier wealthy capitalist Úlites. Members of the nomenklatura would enjoy special privileges such as shopping at well-stocked stores and being allowed to travel abroad.
After the fall of the Communist regimes in central and eastern Europe, the political apparatus that kept the nomenklatura in their positions collapsed with it. However, most of the nomenklatura were able to use their influence to secure lucrative positions in formerly state-owned industries or buy state property at ridiculously low prices. In Russia especially, this led to the creation of a new class of super-rich "Russian oligarchs", many of whom were effectively the old nomenklatura.
This evolution can be explained by noticing that the nomenklatura were basically the executives of communist regimes, people having:
- stronger than average managerial abilities
- ambition to pursue a professional career, which at some point required being part of the nomenklatura
- a lot of respect versus hierarchies
- advanced networking skills, as goods and supplies had to be fought for, be it toilet paper or industrial supplies for a factory. This required lots of interpersonal communication.
Outside of the nomenklatura were only basic jobs or people lacking the above abilities. Therefore, it was quite natural for the nomenklatura to adapt to post-communist regimes, because it consisted in pursuing the same objectives without the need to defend a specific ideology (which most of them did not believe anyway).
In countries other than the Soviet Union where creating small private businesses was allowed, the business oligarchy phenomenon is weaker.
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