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From the common slang word stukachestvo, stukach was widely used in the Soviet period to describe "squealing," or informing on people to the government authorities. The word is evidently derived from stuk, Russian for the sound of a hammer blow.

The government, and especially the security police, in all communist-ruled or authoritarian countries, depended on informers in order to keep tabs on the loyalty of the populace. In the Politics, Aristotle had observed that tyrannical regimes must employ informers hidden within the population in order to keep their hold on absolute power.

In such countries as the USSR, Nazi Germany, Maoist China, Cuba, and so forth, informers were sometimes made heroes by the regime. Thus, in the Soviet Union, Pavlik Morozov, a twelve-year-old boy living in the Don farming region when Stalin was enforcing collectivization of the peasants' farms in the early 1930s, became a stukach. He informed on his parents when they allegedly concealed grain and other produce from the authorities. The boy was killed by vengeful farmers. He was thereupon iconized as a martyr by the communist authorities. Statues of Pavlik sprang up throughout the country.

The Soviet writer Maxim Gorky urged fellow writers to glorify the boy who had exposed his father as a kulak and who "had overcome blood kinship in discovering spiritual kinship." Another well-known Soviet novelist, Leonid Leonov, depicted a fictitious scientist of the old generation who as a stukach had nobly betrayed his son to the authorities.

Stukachestvo was expected of any and all family members, schoolchildren, concentration-camp prisoners, factory workersin short, every Soviet citizen, all of whom were expected to place loyalty to the State above all other linkages.

See also: gorky, maxim; morozov, pavel trofimovich; state security, organs of


Galler, Meyer. (1977). Soviet Prison Camp Speech: A Survivor's Glossary: Supplement. Hayward, CA: Soviet Studies.

Heller, Mikhail, and Nekrich, Aleksandr. (1986). Utopia in Power: The History of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the Present, tr. Phillis B. Carlos. London: Hutchinson.

Preobrazhensky, A. G. (1951). Etymological Dictionary of the Russian Language. New York: Columbia University Press.

Albert L. Weeks