ap·​pa·​rat·​chik ˌä-pə-ˈrä(t)-chik How to pronounce apparatchik (audio)
plural apparatchiks also apparatchiki ˌä-pə-ˈrä(t)-chi-kē How to pronounce apparatchik (audio)
: a member of a Communist apparat
: a blindly devoted official, follower, or member of an organization (such as a corporation or political party)
a movie studio apparatchik

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In the context of the definition of "apparatchik" (a term English speakers borrowed from Russian), "apparat" essentially means "party machine." An "apparatchik," therefore, is a cog in the system of the Communist Party. The term is not an especially flattering one, and its negative connotations reflect the perception that some Communists were obedient drones in the great Party machine. In current use, however, a person doesn't have to be a member of the Communist Party to be called an "apparatchik"; he or she just has to be someone who mindlessly follows orders in an organization or bureaucracy.

Examples of apparatchik in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web There were several oligarchs who helped Putin rise from a K.G.B. apparatchik in Leningrad to autocrat in the Kremlin. Maureen Dowd, New York Times, 20 Apr. 2024 In the intensely ideological and conformist atmosphere of today’s China, no apparatchik will depart from the safety of the party line without a clear signal from the leader. Danny Russel, Foreign Affairs, 14 Nov. 2021 Decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cold War ideology continues to form Western perceptions of the Eastern Bloc as a backward region, uniformly totalitarian, where everybody was either an apparatchik or a dissident. Jonathon Keats, Forbes, 29 Feb. 2024 Romania’s new leader after Mr. Ceausescu’s capture and execution was Ion Iliescu, a Communist apparatchik who served two terms as Romania’s first post-Communist president. Andrew Higgins, New York Times, 25 Sep. 2023 To the public, Zhang had been a colorless apparatchik, distinguished in official pictures only by his military uniform, moonish features, and jet-black comb-over. Richard McGregor, Foreign Affairs, 14 Aug. 2019 Xi was setting out on the classic career path of an up-and-coming apparatchik. Richard McGregor, Foreign Affairs, 14 Aug. 2019 That moment of sharp relief, a clash with an intransigent foreign apparatchik by a young American president feeling his own way, comes to life in released on Wednesday. Peter Baker, New York Times, 31 May 2023 There’s Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), a lowly corporate security apparatchik with the pretensions of an Imperial officer and with simmering, repressed rage instilled by a tyrannical nag of a mother. David Klion, The New Republic, 1 Dec. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'apparatchik.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Russian, from apparat

First Known Use

1941, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of apparatchik was in 1941


Dictionary Entries Near apparatchik

Cite this Entry

“Apparatchik.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2024.

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