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The portrayal of the soviet union on george orwell 1984

Three years older than Shostakovich, Orwell shared several characteristics with him: Driven by a strong sense of obligation, both men identified with the worst-off in society and worked hard for the cultural departments of their countries' national broadcasting systems during the war.

Just as Shostakovich, under stress, tended to retreat in his work to memories of his happy childhood, so Orwell returned often in his writing to an idyllic vision of pre rural England - the "Golden Country" of Nineteen Eighty-Four revisited at length in Coming Up For Air.


Likewise, both men suffered towards the ends of their lives from illnesses which some critics see as having accentuated the pessimism of their later works.

The intensity of the torture scenes in Nineteen Eighty-Four and the "waves of pain" in Shostakovich's Thirteenth Quartet have alike been ascribed to the unpleasant medical tests each went through shortly before writing these passages.

  1. But they were few.
  2. It appeared that they had engaged in fresh conspiracies from the very moment of their release.
  3. Such a statement verifies just how essential it was for the Soviet Union to keep the novel from its citizens.
  4. As a result, the ruling party successfully constructs a totalitarian system in which free thinking and individuality are virtually nonexistent. As policy shifted at Stalin's whim, men and nations who had been in favour became pariahs overnight; established dogma turned into heresy.
  5. It is exciting to think what else the future may bring.

While Orwell, unlike Shostakovich, could write what he liked, he chose to disguise the message of his two masterpieces, the tragi-satiric anti-Communist allegories Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, by setting them in fictional worlds, much as Soviet satirists like Zamyatin, Bulgakov, and Platonov did under duress. Banned for forty years in the USSR as counter-revolutionary propaganda, these books were published there during the late s as part of Mikhail Gorbachev's drive to discredit Stalinism.

Long famous by repute throughout the Communist bloc, they would have been known of by Shostakovich, though he is unlikely to have read them. Many features of Orwell's imaginary superstate Oceania are ironic translations from Stalinist reality: Soviet jargon, though sometimes parodied - bourgeois individualism becomes "ownlife" - is more often taken over unaltered.

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Thus, like Stalin's USSR, Oceania has its "renegades and backsliders" who are arrested at night, questioned by the portrayal of the soviet union on george orwell 1984 of interrogators, "unmasked" and "unpersoned" for "counterrevolutionary activities" and then either sent to the "saltmines" or "vaporised" liquidated. To avoid such a fate, Orwell's hero Winston Smith adopts an "expression of quiet optimism" so as not to be accused of "facecrime" - a genuine Stalinist misdemeanour defined by the critic Ronald Hingley as "the inability to simulate an adequate degree of righteous indignation".

As in Russia, the "comrades" of Oceania are regaled with news bulletins consisting almost entirely of lists of industrial production figures, most of which are triumphantly announced as "overfulfilled" and none of which are believed.

As in Russia, there are constant powercuts and shortages, all essentials being obtained through the underground "free market". The only thing in Oceania unknown under Stalinism is Orwell's two-way telescreen; the only aspect of Stalinism left out of Oceania is compulsory collectivism instead of living in a communal apartment, Winston Smith has his own flat.

Winston's job is that of "rectification" in the newspaper section of the Ministry of Truth known as Minitrue, in accordance with the Soviet penchant for modern-brutal abbreviations like "orgburo" and "diamat".

In this building - whose "enormous pyramidal structure" symbolises the organisation of the Communist Party - books and periodicals are rewritten and photographs altered to reflect the "correct" i. Often taken by Western readers to be a flight of surrealist fantasy, this is a barely inflated parody of what actually happened under Stalinism.

Soviet defector Arkady Shevchenko has written of his student days that "facts and concepts were always being 'corrected' in textbooks and lectures. As policy shifted at Stalin's whim, men and nations who had been in favour became pariahs overnight; established dogma turned into heresy.

It could be disastrous to miss a lecture where the revised truth of the day was proclaimed for us to copy down". Stalin's most outrageous "correction" of the past, the Soviet-Nazi pact ofis satirised in Nineteen Eighty-Four as the alliance of Oceania with its arch-enemy Eurasia against its former ally Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.

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Big Brother, the all-seeing leader who murders his rivals, decrees "a new, happy life" and, from ubiquitous posters and hoardings, broods over a populace conditioned by terror to love him, is, of course, Stalin "the Omniscient, the Omnipresent" himself. Just as in Soviet mythology the quasi-supernatural Lenin "lives", so in Oceania "Big Brother cannot die". Equally perpetual is Oceania's devil figure Emmanuel Goldstein, counter-revolutionary author of "the book", against whom the State wages an endless struggle: A day never passed when spies and saboteurs acting under his directions were not unmasked by the Thought Police.

He was the commander of a vast shadowy army, an underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State. Goldstein's book is a probable allusion to Trotsky's The Revolution Betrayed.

On the subject of Oceania's purges, Orwell is particularly literal, shifting Big Brother's Terror from the Thirties to the Sixties, but otherwise reproducing the pattern of events in Stalin's Russia with great precision. They had confessed to intelligence with the enemy at that date, too, the enemy was Eurasiaembezzlement of public funds, the murder of various trusted Party members, intrigues against the leadership of Big Brother which had started long before the Revolution happened, and acts of sabotage causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

After confessing to these things they had been pardoned, reinstated in the Party, and given posts which were in fact sinecures but which sounded important.

All three had written long, abject articles in The Times, analysing the reasons for their defection and promising to make amends A little later all three were rearrested. It appeared that they had engaged in fresh conspiracies from the very moment of their release. At their second trial they confessed to all their old crimes over again, with a whole string of new ones.

They confessed to spying for Japan, murdering Kirov, trying to murder Stalin, wanting to have murdered Lenin, and general "Trotskyite sabotage" - crimes for which they apologised at length, accompanied by fulsome expressions of admiration for Stalin, in Pravda.

Rubashov's similar confession in Arthur Koestler's novel of Darkness At Noon, is a genteel affair compared to the ordeal inflicted on Winston Smith, but there is good reason to suppose Orwell's crueller picture was closer to the truth. The trial of this non-existent counter-revolutionary organisation took place insix years after the last Mensheviks had been liquidated. Yakubovich, a Bolshevik, was understandably reluctant to confess to membership of this imaginary party and, though tortured the portrayal of the soviet union on george orwell 1984 "the conveyor" i.

  • Just as in Soviet mythology the quasi-supernatural Lenin "lives", so in Oceania "Big Brother cannot die";
  • Dull and dilapidated buildings engulf the landscape, except in the center of your city, which is filled with mansions belonging to the ruling class;
  • Readers behind the Iron Curtain often express amazement at Orwell's minute familiarity with their way of life;
  • Ultimately, they are caught conspiring against the government and are tortured until Winston is merely a hollow lifeless shell who accepts the party and loves Big Brother;
  • Even Orwell's "exaggerations" have more often than not turned out to be justified;
  • The Case of George Orwell.

Summoning Yakubovich before him in the Butyrki Prison, Krylenko told him: We are both performing our duty to the Party - I have considered and consider you a Communist. I will be the prosecutor at the trial, you will confirm the testimony given during the investigation.


This is our duty to the Party, yours and mine I think there were tears in my eyes. Krylenko made a gesture of approval. In fact, many were so bamboozled by propaganda and Stalin worship that they confessed instantly to whatever crimes they were accused of, preferring on principle the Party's version of their past to their own. The eager confession of Orwell's the portrayal of the soviet union on george orwell 1984 character Parsons "Of course I'm guilty!

You don't think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you? Eugenia Ginzburg heard similar sentiments expressed by imprisoned Party members while she herself was in the Butyrki between and Readers behind the Iron Curtain often express amazement at Orwell's minute familiarity with their way of life: Some of this trickled through to the West via the newspaper columns of foreign correspondents and Orwell evidently kept his eye out for such data.

For example, he incorporated the raising of the maximum Soviet hard labour sentence to twenty-five years when Tass announced it in while he was writing Nineteen Eighty-Four on Jura. Similarly, O'Brien's claim that the Party was above the laws of nature is likely to have been based on newspaper reports of Trofim Lysenko's speech to the Congress of the Soviet Academy of Agricultural Sciences in August Otherwise, he depended on talking to visitors to and defectors from the Soviet bloc and on the books and pamphlets by such people he amassed in his personal library.

How far the theoretical apparatus of Nineteen Eighty-Four - Newspeak, Doublethink, and so on - was taken from accounts of Socialist Realism is difficult to say, since much of the thought behind the technical side of Orwell's book derived from his own critical essays on language and politics.

There is, though, a discrete step between imagining a mode of discourse in which ready-made phrases block free thought Communist examples of which he collected avidly and a language in which a word or phrase means the exact opposite of what it seems to mean.

Paradoxical concepts like "democratic centralism" meaning totalitarianism may have given him a lead, as may the convolutions of Socialist Realist theory, but essentially Newspeak appears to have been an inspired deduction - the closest Nineteen Eighty-Four approaches to science fiction. Not that this has prevented the Poles from recognising in it a satirical projection of their own brand of officialese and taking it into their language as "nowomowa".

Nor, indeed, are Orwell's theoretical constructs by any means regarded as fanciful by Soviet intellectuals. No Westerner could understand him as intimately as we in the Soviet Union felt he understood our lives. Even Orwell's "exaggerations" have more often than not turned out to be justified.

The Two Minutes Hate, for example, is anticipated by a piece in Pionerskaya Pravda for 17th December announcing that the paper's main educational mission to Soviet youth was "the cultivation of hatred". More extraordinary still, recent research George Leggett, The Cheka, p. With this level of incisiveness, Orwell's masterpiece was bound to make a major impact in Europe where, in the words of its publisher Fredric Warburg, it was "the most powerful anti-Soviet tract that you could find - and treated as such".

Robert Tucker, now Professor of Politics at Princeton, was on the staff of the American embassy in Moscow after the war and read Nineteen Eighty-Four soon after it appeared. In his opinion, the novel, far from being a fantasy about the future, was then happening in reality outside the embassy compound. Oceania "actually existed" in Russia in Referring to the novel in The Captive Mind inCzeslaw Milosz observed that the portrayal of the soviet union on george orwell 1984 it is both difficult to obtain and dangerous to possess, it is known only to certain members of the Inner Party.

Orwell fascinates them through his insight into details they know well They are amazed that a writer who never lived in Russia should have so keen a perception into its life. The Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski has since praised its analytic brilliance while, in their recent history of the Soviet Union Utopia in Power, Aleksandr Nekrich and Mikhail Heller single out Orwell as "perhaps the only Western writer who profoundly understood the essence of the Soviet world".

This piece was originally published in Arena in and, slightly altered, appeared as Appendix 1 of The New Shostakovich in