I’m reading a long story by Andrei Platonov (see my post on his novel Kotlovan); the story is called “Впрок” (Vprok, ‘for future use/benefit’), and as far as I know has never been translated into English. Although it’s very much of a piece with Kotlovan, featuring a naive narrator who wanders among villages and collective farms describing people and stories who horrify us but not him (a fanatic named Upoev let his wife and children starve because “he directed all his forces and desires toward care for the poor masses”), it actually managed to get published in 1931 in Krasnaya nov’ [Red virgin soil], causing trouble for both Platonov and the journal (which was forced to print a “craven retraction,” as Thomas Seifrid calls it): “Stalin is reputed to have written ‘scum’ in the margin of the story … and to have said to Aleksandr Fadeev (later secretary of the Writers’ Union), ‘Give him a good beating—for future use.’” (From here.) I assume Robert Chandler and Olga Meerson will get around to translating it eventually, now that Platonov is in vogue.
But what I’m here to discuss is one word that isn’t in even my largest Russian-English dictionaries. Our hero has wandered into a village that has not yet been collectivized and is asking an old man why he is sitting outside his hut grieving; the old man responds:
Да как же не горевать, когда у всех есть, а у нас нету! Все уж давно организованы, а мы живем как анчутки! Нам так убыточно!
Well, how are you supposed to not grieve, when everybody has something, and we don’t! Everybody else got organized a long time ago, but we live like anchutki! That way it’s a loss for us!
Dahl has anchutki (oddly, only in the plural), defining it as ‘little devils’; fortunately, I found a mention in that marvelous repository of old Russian superstitions, The Bathhouse at Midnight: An Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia:
Various groups of Old Believers were sufficiently convinced that they were living in the reign of the Antichrist, and thus in the last days of the world, that they were given to mass suicide by burning. The last case of this was in the late nineteenth century. ‘Antichrist’ even became a taboo word and was replaced by ‘Antii’ or ‘Anchutka’, which by a popular association of ideas also came to mean the Devil or a leshii (wood demon), or other demons of folk belief, in particular the bathhouse demon.
On the other hand, Boris Uspensky says (in a Google Books snippet) it’s derived from the given name Онисифор (Onisifor), which is from Greek Onesiphoros and has the popular form Анцифер (Antsifer). I guess there’s no way to know for sure. Anyway, you can see a handsome picture of one at the Russian Wikipedia article (which does not discuss the etymology).