Glossary and historical background for A Waltz with Traitors

Ataman: A term for a Cossack leader.

Bolsheviks: The majority wing of the Russian Communist Party, led by Vladimir Lenin, committed to the extremes of Communist ideology, including the creation of a Soviet state by violent revolution.

Bourgeoisie: In Marxist philosophy, the social class that owns the means of production, including land and business owners motivated by property rights and capitalism. Seen as oppressors of the lower class or proletariat.

Cheka: The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counterrevolution and Sabotage, a secret police organization established in 1917 to combat opponents of the Communist Revolution. The Cheka had power to arrest, torture, and execute counterrevolutionaries and class enemies without trial.

Czechoslovak Legion: A military unit formed of Czechs and Slovaks aligned with the Allied Powers of World War One, including Britain, France, Russia, and the United States. Though Czechs and Slovaks were subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the war’s beginning, the legion sought the creation of an independent Czechoslovakia out of Austro-Hungarian territory. As Austro-Hungarian subjects fighting alongside the empire’s enemies, they were considered traitors by their former rulers. Most members were Czechs and Slovaks who had been captured by or who had defected to the Allied side during the war, though émigrés were also included in the ranks.

Dokha: A fur overcoat, often made from Samoyed dog skin.

Družina: A military unit created in 1914 from Czech and Slovak émigrés and war prisoners in Russia. They were incorporated into the Russian Imperial Army and specialized in reconnaissance work against Austro-Hungarian
and German forces.

Mensheviks: A minority wing of the Russian Communist Party. They were in favor of a gradual development of a Soviet society through democratic legislation rather than through violent revolution.

Naida: A type of slow-burning log fire used by Siberian prospectors.

Proletariat: In Marxist philosophy, the social class whose only asset is its ability to labor and is thus regularly oppressed by the bourgeoisie.

Reds: A term for Communists, especially during the Russian Civil War.

Revkom: Bolshevik Revolutionary Committee. A group that held power in Irkutsk for a time in early 1920.

Sokol: A network of clubs and societies built around sports and cultural activities. The movement began with Czechs but spread to other Slavic peoples.

Soviet: A government council in a communist country. At the beginning of this novel, most Soviets were local and decentralized. Centralization increased rapidly during the years this novel covers, as the Bolsheviks consolidated and expanded their power.

Steppe: A geographic area dominated by grasslands and few trees other than those near bodies of water. Similar to a prairie or savannah.

Taiga: A term used to describe the boreal forest covering much of Siberia. Dominated by pine, larch, and spruce.

Teplushka: A train boxcar that offered the most basic passenger service. The Czechoslovak Legion turned them into portable barracks.

Ushanka: A fur cap with flaps for the ears that can be tied up or used to shield more of the wearer’s face from the cold.

Whites: A term for those opposing the Reds during the Russian Civil War. The group included monarchists, militarists, and other groups fighting against the Communists.

Zemlanky: An earthen dugout used as a barrack or as housing for prisoners.