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The nomenklatura (Russian: номенклату́ра, Russian pronunciation: [nəmʲɪnklɐˈturə]) were a small elite group within the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries who held various key administrative positions in all spheres of those countries' activity: government, industry, agriculture, education, etc., whose positions were granted only with approval by the communist party of each country or region.

Virtually all were members of the Communist Party.[1] Some authors, such as Milovan Đilas, critically defined them as a new class.[2] Orthodox Trotskyism uses the term caste rather than class, because they saw the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers' state, not a new class society. Later developments of Trotsky's theories, notably Tony Cliff's theory of State Capitalism, did refer to the nomenklatura as a new class.



The Russian term derived from the Latin nomenclatura meaning a list of names.

The term was popularized by the Soviet dissident Michael Voslenski, who in 1970 wrote a book titled Nomenklatura: The Soviet Ruling Class (Russian: Номенклатура. Господствующий класс Советского Союза).


The nomenklatura referred to the Communist party's authority to make appointments to key positions throughout the governmental system, as well as throughout the party's own hierarchy. Specifically, the nomenklatura consisted of two separate lists: one was for key positions, appointments to which were made by authorities within the party; the other was for persons who were potential candidates for appointment to those positions. The Politburo, as part of its nomenklatura authority, maintained a list of ministerial and ambassadorial positions that it had the power to fill, as well as a separate list of potential candidates to occupy those positions.

Coextensive with the nomenklatura were patron-client relations. Officials who had the authority to appoint individuals to certain positions cultivated loyalties among those whom they appointed. The patron (the official making the appointment) promoted the interests of clients in return for their support. Powerful patrons, such as the members of the Politburo, had many clients. Moreover, an official could be both a client (in relation to a higher-level patron) and a patron (to other, lower-level officials).

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