A Soviet joke claims that Karl Radek (1885–1939), a leading figure of the Communist International (Comintern) and a well-known polyglot, was once asked by a visiting delegate how he was able to interpret and translate so fluently between several languages. Slightly surprised, Radek answered, ‘I just know what people here are allowed to say’ (Lewis 2008: 60). Although probably apocryphal, the anecdote has the power to illuminate to what extent ‘translation’ and ‘politics’ have interacted through history; in just one punchline, multiple questions can be raised about communication within multilingual organizations and empires, the impact of direct and indirect censorship, or the evolution and transformation of political ideologies across languages and cultures.