1907, from Russian men'shevik, from men'she "lesser" (comparative of malo "little," from PIE root *mei- (2) "small") + -evik "one that is." So called by Lenin because they were a minority in the party. The Russian word was used earlier in reference to the minority faction of the Social-Democratic Party when it split in 1903. See Bolshevik. As a noun from 1917. Russian plural mensheviki occasionally was used in English. Related: Menshevism; Menshevist.
1907, "person who advocates moderate reforms or policies;" see minimal + -ist. Originally an Englishing of Menshevik (q.v.); in sense of "practitioner of minimal art" it is first recorded 1967; the term minimal art itself is from 1965. As an adjective from 1917 in the Russian political sense; 1969 in reference to art. Related: Minimalistic; Minimalism.