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I'm writing a short story for a Japanese class (beginner level). In the story the action takes place in the Soviet Union, where we sometimes used to address each other with the "comrade ..." greeting (the military in Russia still do).

How do I express this in Japanese? In the first draft I wrote 同志{どうし}の皆{みな}さん because I had found this article. However, my teacher did not understand the purpose of the word in the sentence and recommended to replace it with 〜さん. I feel that it will affect the mood of the story though.

I'm not yet able to read books in Japanese, so I don't know the literary rules for this kind of thing. I've noticed that there's ミス・マープル who is a "miss" even in translated Agatha Christie's novels, not a "-san". And there's "Anjin-san" in the English version of James Clavell's Shōgun. Etc. etc.

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Your teacher did not understand the word 「同志」? That is unbelievable to be completely honest. – l'électeur Feb 15 at 13:22
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@l'électeur I think that my wording is unclear. She obviously understands the word, but asks: "Why do you need this word here? Oh, it's some special greeting in Russian? Just use 〜さん." – Oleg Feb 15 at 13:25
up vote 6 down vote accepted

同志の皆さん is okay to translate "comrades", but 同志【どうし】諸君【しょくん】 would make it sound doubleplus military.

(同志の皆さん may also indicate "like-minded people" or "people of same hobby" according to context.)

To address "comrade (name)":

  • 同志 (name): generally sounds Russian
  • (name) 同志: generally sounds Chinese or North Korean (also applies to Japanese communists)
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The "doubleplus military" made me smile. Thanks! – Oleg Feb 15 at 15:41

The word "Comrade" is translated as "同志" in dictionaries. If you want to reflect the atmosphere of the era in your story, I think 同志 may be fitting. 同志 is used in Japanese Communist Party still now.

And 同胞 may be fitting, too. 同胞 is often used in representing the nation in North Korea.

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