noun, plural Bol·she·viks, Bol·she·vik·i [bohl-shuh-vik-ee, -vee-kee; Russian buh l-shi-vyi-kyee] /ˈboʊl ʃəˌvɪk i, -ˌvi ki; Russian bəl ʃɪ vyɪˈkyi/.

  1. (in Russia)
    1. a member of the more radical majority of the Social Democratic Party, 1903–17, advocating immediate and forceful seizure of power by the proletariat.
    2. (after 1918) a member of the Russian Communist Party.
  2. (loosely) a member of any Communist party.
  3. (often lowercase) Disparaging. a contemptuous term used to refer to an extreme radical or revolutionary.

noun plural -viks or -viki (-ˈviːkɪ)

  1. (formerly) a Russian CommunistCompare Menshevik
  2. any Communist
  3. (often not capital) jocular, derogatory any political radical, esp a revolutionary

1917, from Russian bol’shiy “greater,” comparative of adjective bol’shoy “big, great” (cf. Bolshoi Ballet), from Old Church Slavonic boljiji “larger,” from PIE root *bel- “strong” (cf. Sanskrit balam “strength, force,” Greek beltion “better,” Phrygian balaios “big, fast,” Old Irish odbal “strong,” Welsh balch “proud;” Middle Dutch, Low German, Frisian pal “strong, firm”).

It was the faction of the Russian Social Democratic Worker’s Party after a split in 1903 that was either larger or more extreme (or both) than the Mensheviks (from Russian men’shij “less”); after they seized power in 1917, applied generally to Russian communists. Bolshevism is recorded from 1917.

The radicals in the Russian Revolution, who were led by Lenin and who favored revolution rather than gradual democratic change.

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