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Of Russian origin: Rezhim

Vladimir Kremlev for RT Vladimir Kremlev for RT

Rezhim is a word with many meanings in Russian. It denotes a set of rules or procedures to be followed in various areas of life. In modern Russia it is predominantly used in the spheres of politics, penal institutions, hospitals and holiday centers.

Rule: those who dislike you, will dislike you even more

In Russian politics there’s always been a fine line between good and bad. When people are happy with the country’s leadership, they call it a system of power. But if they wish to accuse the powers-that-be of any wrongdoing – they use the word rezhim. And that’s the key difference between the Russian word and the English noun “regime” which is defined in many dictionaries as “the form of the government.” If somebody uses the word rezhim, it automatically means the imposition of all unconstitutional or enforced measures in the country.

According to many scholars, in a rezhim ideology prevails over thought. The rulers – hardliners in many cases – replace politics with their own interests.

In Soviet textbooks you could find phrases like “workers at the beginning the of the 20th century began a long-term struggle against the Tsarist rezhim.” All 19th century Russian history was taught through the prism of this word. During World War II the whole country stood up against the German invaders. The result of the war was total victory over the “Nazi rezhim” both in Germany and Europe.

During the Cold War the word “rezhim” was used to describe capitalist systems of power. A country that used non-socialist and non-communist methods as its ruling system was labeled by the Soviet mass media as a rezhim. The most vivid examples are the rule of General Pinochet in Chile and the military government in South Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the power system in North Korea was never called a rezhim in the USSR. According to Soviet propaganda, it was a “friendly socialist country.” 

Years went by and after the dissolution of the USSR the word turned the other way round. Historians revealed the horrible facts of Joseph Stalin’s rule in 1930s – the imposition of collective farms and the purge against military commanders, Communist Party activists, medics, scientists, and ordinary people who were careless enough to speak against the ruling party. Millions lost their lives. The word rezhim quickly began to circulate among those who disliked Stalin. Still, there are older people in the country who are very much offended by this notion.

So, any system of power may be called a rezhim – it just depends on the way you look at it.

Behind bars

In Russian correctional facilities rezhim refers to the rules and regulations governing inmates’ lives such as working hours, the amount of money they can make and spend and the number of times they may see their relatives. These rules apply to inmates who have been convicted by the court. In the Russian penitentiary system there are four rezhims that apply to different institutions:

  • A settlement. This is a colony for those who have committed crimes by negligence or minor crimes. Inmates whose sentences have been split between several types of rezhims might also be sent here. There are no guards in the settlement – only supervising officers that control the lifestyle and daily routine of the inmates. The “residents” of the settlements can wear their own clothes and are sometimes allowed to bring their families in. From “wake-up call” to “lights out” the inmates can move freely around the settlement. However, they have to strictly abide by all the routines connected with their work day;
The prisoners' labour at the Belomorkanal construction site The GULAG inmates at the Belomorkanal construction site
  • Standard rezhim colony. This facility is for those convicted of intentional minor crimes. There are colonies - both for men and women. They are heavily guarded but the limit on visits from relatives is not that strict. The inmates have restrictions on how they spend their salaries and are only allowed to move around the colony in formation;
  • Strict rezhim colony. A heavily guarded facility for those convicted for serious crimes. If a person is convicted for the second time or more, he (or she) is sent to this type of colony. This rezhim restricts the number of visits by relatives to three a year and allows the person to spend slightly more than half of their salary;
  • High security rezhim colony. This is a maximum-security prison for those convicted to life imprisonment or the death penalty (which is temporarily banned in Russia). Here inmates can move only with their hands cuffed behind their backs and legs half-bent. The inmates are held in separate cells and must to stick to the daily routine prescribed by the authorities. They are not allowed to sleep during the day. 

Always look on the bright side

But it’s not always that gloomy on “rezhim street” in Russia. This word also denotes daily routines in hospitals, holiday centers and children’s camps and in all places and institutions where a person is supposed to better their health.

This type of rezhim provides many opportunities to improve one’s health. It consists of walks, morning exercises, meals, watching TV and films, bathing procedures – everything conducive to the individual’s wellbeing.

Written by Oleg Dmitriev, RT