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The events of Animal Farm and their parallels in Russia

Caroline Sugg
Universidad Antonio de Nebrija
Mundo Contempraneo Bilingue
December 23, 2013

The events of Animal Farm and their parallels in Russia

It is commonly accepted that history is a fundamental and vital study for each
individual. The recognition of successes and failure of the past helps better the future
in deciding what action to take. It is an explanation for consequences and describes
the evolutional journey that man has taken to further society. There are various ways
to spread knowledge of history. It can be passed down through primary sources being
documents and witness accounts of events (such as would happen with a family
member who lived through an event sharing their story), history classes, etc. History
not only is a reference and context for decisions on a political level. It can also serve
as inspiration such as for various art forms like Guiseppe Verdis Va Pensiero or
The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from his opera Nabucco or the Soviet realism art
style, etc. In the novella, Animal Farm, the author, George Orwell, uses the scenario
of a farm to create an allegory to the communist state and criticize its efficiency under
Joseph Stalin. In this context, Orwell uses the novella to teach and further the
understanding of history while also expressing his prejudices.

Rudyard Kipling argues that If history were taught in the form of stories, it
would never be forgotten. If this is to be understood as true, then it makes sense that
Orwell used the form of a novella to share the history of Russia in terms that are more
easily understood by the public. (Background NP). George Orwell himself was a
known Democratic Socialist and was an active member of the Independent Labor
party. As such, he was a vocal critic of Stalin. The simplification of the ominous and
complex situation in which Russia was placed is what has attracted many readers to
this novella.

Animal Farm begins with the description of a Mr. Jones, the owner of the
farm. Simply within the first short paragraph it is already obvious that he is a weak
farm owner as he is described as being intoxicated. The darkness associated with it
being night in the opening of the novella suggests a darkness or shift. This hints at his
ineptitude. The animals gather for a meeting with Old Major, a vital character for the
story. He shares his dreams about change, making him the equivalent of Karl Marx
and Lenin (Orwell 2). His character represents the originating thought or ideology that
the animals are later able to transform into animalism. This is a clear reference to the
origins of the changes in Russia, which were led by Lenin (Leninism) and Marx
(Marxism), each leading to variations of communism. Lenin was the main leader of
the Russian revolution in the year 1917. Having riled up the public and encouraged an
uprising, he was exiled by the czar, Nicholas II. It is important to note that the First
World War started in 1914 and Russia was involved. There was a great lack of success
on the warfront, which also caused for more domestic issues within Russia. Orwell
points this out in his text. The war was important in the downfall of the aristocracy.
Germany was tired of war and financed Lenins secret return to Russia in hopes that
he could distract the Czar and cause for Russia to retreat and surrender, which would
then end a two-front war for Germany. Lenin established various theses, which are
referenced by Old Major when he shares his dream and hopes for the animal
population (Orwell 3, 4). This meeting is representative of planning by the soviets.
Old Major is highly regarded in the farm which is an emulation on Lenin and Karl
Marx, the sources of the ideology followed in the Revolution (Orwell 1). Additionally,
Orwells inclusion of the description of Old Majors power over the animals reflects
that this first uprising in the Russian Revolution was a popular one.

Not only does Old Major persuade the animals to a revolution, but also the
animals in the novel are driven to oppose Mr. Jones because of his obvious ineptitude
for managing the farm, which parallels the many failures and issues with Czar
Nicholas II. Orwell characterizes Mr. Jones immediately as a bad leader for being
too drunk to remember to shut the pop-holes (Orwell 1). While the nature of Mr.
Jones activities is not similar to that of Nicholas II, it is obvious that Orwell wanted to
show that the failure in leadership caused for the revolution in both cases. Nicholas II
had been losing the trust of the Russian people ever since the humiliating loss in the
Russo-Japanese war in 1905. This later continued upon entering WWI. Not only was
Nicholas II on the frontline and failing to present himself as a strong military leader,
but also things were getting worse in the larger cities as citizens began to starve
because of inflation. This discontent with Mr. Jones culminates with the short
rebellion (Orwell 8). In actuality, the rebellion, or first revolution of 1917 was also
short. It began in February and ended in March with Nicholas IIs abdication. Orwell
clearly establishes the justification for the animals to rebel, as Mr. Jones has no
interaction with them, which shows that the Russian population was also justified in
wanting change. His criticism while always subtle is more prominent in Napoleon(the
leader pig)s, character.

The October Revolution of 1917 was the second revolution of that year. It is the
one that actually allowed for the set of the Bolshevik partys platform and placed
Lenin as the head in the Council of Peoples Commissars. This period is not
represented as clearly in the novel but it most closely relates to the period later named
by the animals as the Battle of the Cowshed (Orwell 17). This battle also touches on
the Civil War in 1918 that was fought between the Reds, led by Trotsky, and the

whites, which was composed of various foreign countries and minorities. The fact that
the Reds were able to win this war in a valiant group effort fortified the position of the
Bolsheviks in this newly established government. An important element in the cause
for the loss for the Whites is that there was limited unity between the participating
forces. This fact is represented by the detail that Mr. Jones was accompanied by his
men and a half a dozen other from Foxwood and Pinchfield (Orwell 16). It shows
the wide range of participation that parallels that of the actual war. Orwell explicitly
states that other farmers were thoroughly frightened by the rebellion and they feared
that the radical ideas from Animal Farm, previously Manor farm, would spread to
their farms (Orwell 15). This is representative of a great fear amongst foreign powers
that communism would spread. This is known as the domino affect and was a
principal motivation for foreign countries to take action in the Civil war and later on
in history like the Cold War. With the simplification of a small amount of characters
or more easily imaginable actions, the reader is able to better understand the war and
how prepared Trotsky, Snowball, was for an attack.

The novella does not follow the timeline of Russian history directly. What actually
happens is that Lenin leads until his death in January of 1924. Through mischievous
means, Stalin becomes the leader of Russia. In the novella, Napoleon (who represents
Stalin) is already a lead character in the running of Animal Farm but during and
following the Battle of the Cowshed, he shares that power. His way of attaining it is
true to historical fact of how his counterpart, Stalin, attained power. A key part of
Stalins rise to power following the death of Lenin was getting rid of his enemies. His
enemies included fellow communists from both sides of the political panel. Stalins
greatest enemy was Leo Trotsky. In Orwells allegory, Trotsky is portrayed by

Snowball. The novella describes the distancing and disagreements between the two
with These two disagreed at every point where disagreement was possible (Orwell
19). This is a reoccurring theme in the novella. During Stalins rise to power, he
attempted to hinder Trotskys chances of gaining control by hurting his image. One
notable example of this is in 1924 when Stalin told Trotsky the wrong date of Lenins
funeral so that Trotsky would not be in attendance (Stalin takes power NP). This
added to Stalins cult of personality stating that he was the favorite of Lenin. The
novella refers to Trotsky various times. This may be to enforce the idea that Trotsky
was the enemy but also reaffirm that Stalin was getting rid of political enemies. Other
rivals that were targeted by Stalin include Bukharin, Kamenev and Zinoviev. Just as
Napoleon did in the argument over the windmill, Stalin would side with one half of
the party and swing like a pendulum to the other side. From 1925-27, Stalin worked
to eliminate the left by collaborating with Bukharin (Stalin takes power NP).
Because Kamenev and Zinoviev sided with Trotsky during this period, they were
forced to leave the politburo and later kicked out of the communist party as a whole in
1927 (Stalin takes power NP). In order to be rid of his political enemies and
competition on the right, Stalin changed his stance again from 1928-30. It is here that
he starts arguing in favor collectivization and industrialization (Stalin takes power
NP). This correlates with the events of the novella with it originally being an idea
associated with Trotsky and later adapted to be Stalins own idea so that he is
accredited with it (Orwell 22). Additionally, Trotsky wanted to add defense for the
country with war and its inevitability in mind. This was another case where he
disagreed with Stalin. This argument is also present on page twenty. In 1929 the first
Five year plan is approved by the party, just as the animals voted for the
construction of the windmill. Orwell shows that sly nature about Napoleon and Stalin

hence predisposing the reader to dislike him.

The windmill is very symbolic as it supposedly would lead to the success of the
farm and allow for the countrys autarky, otherwise known as self-sufficiency. The 5
year plans were also intended to better Russia and ensure that it was keeping up with
other world powers. This in turn connects the two. The windmill was a dream and an
ultimate goal for the farm, as were Stalins 5-year plans. It was going to center the
country and give focus to certain projects that needed to be completed for the
bettering of the country. However, neither works as it is planned. The windmill is
destroyed but made bigger and stronger in a second attempt. It is destroyed again in
the Battle of the Windmill. Stalin had three plans with the third being unfinished.
Each had quotas of estimated material that could be produced; similar to the
expectation Napoleon has for the other animals and the progress of the windmill. The
plans may have seemed to be working but in the end it does not last, similar to the
limited existence of the windmill. It too was destroyed by war. Each one of the plans
was created with a specific goal in mind. Between the years 1928 to 1932 the first
plan was put into action. It expanded heavy industry in the country including more
iron, steel, coal, oil and expansion of railways. There were positive outcomes such as
the doubling of industrial workers and new cities and factories being constructed but
at the cost of human rights (Verma NP). The materials from this first plan were traded,
similar to how Napoleon decides that the form will trade with neighboring farms
(Orwell 25). It goes against the idea of autarky, having to depend on surrounding
nations, but was beneficial to Stalin as it would bring in money and resources Russia
needed. From 1933 to 1937 was the second plan. This one was based more on the
production of actual items such as machinery, tractors, trucks, and trains. The results

were not as great as the first plan. The third plan was from 1938 and was interrupted
in 1941. It was the final stage where finally, the people would be able to benefit and
purchase consumer goods like radios and cameras (Verma NP).

Prior to there being any industrialization, collectivization was started. The

agricultural system in Russia was rather backwards (Collectivisation NP).
Collectivization was the first step to industrialization. This is because once the
efficiency of the agricultural system was established then more peasants could migrate
into the city and work in factories. Also, with a higher efficiency, more food could be
cultivated in order to sustain the country (Collectivisation NP). Under
collectivization, land and food production were under full control of the state, which
enforced communalism and provided workforce for industrial cities. The Hens revolt
is symbolic of the opposition to the collectivization that took place in the early years
of Stalins power. Many citizens of Russia, Ukraine in specific, were against the
collectivization. 25 million small farms were forced into 200,000 collective farms
called Kolkhozi (Collectivisation NP). In Russia, those sent to collect it all from the
villages used force when necessary and would raid homes in order to ensure that all
was collected. Stalin also put quotas of what was expect at each collection of the
harvest. In order to avoid all the products of their labor being taken, many people tried
hiding crops. Also, some would simply burn the crops and slaughter their livestock.
From January to February 1930, 14 millions cattle were slaughtered
(Collectivisation NP). It was also during this time and that of 5-year plans that those
who did not comply were sent to the gulags. In the novel it is seen that the hens react
similarly to the Ukrainian people. While it was a good strategy because not everyone
was needed in the farms any longer so some could go to urban areas and work in

factories, in 1930 there was a horrible harvest and from 1932-33 the famine killed 5-8
million people (Collectivisation NP). Orwell depicts these aspects with the
menacing dogs coming after the hens on page 30 and even killing them for not
complying with the new demand of handing over their eggs.

As one of the basic principles of Animal Farm, Napoleon and the pigs decide
that there should be no interaction with the humans, which would be the other powers
prevalent at the time of Stalins rule in Russia. The main humans/powers present in
the novella are Great Britain (Mr. Pilkington) and Mr. Frederick (Hitlers Germany).
It is extremely odd that Napoleon and Stalin sided with their ideological opposites.
Animal Farm interacts with Mr. Frederick in order to sell timber and receive bank
notes as payment. In the case of Germany, it is obvious by looking at the clauses of
the Nazi Soviet pact of 1939 that Hitler wanted to get to Poland, but Russia was
motivated by desperation/reluctance. Hitler had begun to claim land that he said
Germans populated. Through appeasement, Britain and France allowed him to take
the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. In 1936 Hitler was forming an alliance with Italy.
Hitler also made an alliance with Japan. In 1938 Austria and Germany had combined
in what was called Anschluss. Stalin recognized that war was coming and saw that an
alliance with Hitler had greater probabilities of success. Britain and France did not
even want to get into talks with Russia where as Germany did listen. Neither Britain
nor France wanted to fight a war so they did not seem as strong as Germany who had
already been mobilizing and showing strength. Germany also showed willingness to
help Russia in accomplishing its goals which included taking over eastern European
countries and Finland. One of the secret additional protocols in the Nazi- soviet pact
was that there would be a division of Poland between the nations, which shows how

both would gain from the alliance. In Animal Farm, this agreement by the
interactions between Napoleon and Mr. Frederick does not seem as important or well
explained. This alliance affected the Second World War and the destruction of the
windmill. The novella does depict Mr. Frederick of Pinchfield farm well as he was
perpetually involved in lawsuits which can be taken to be the various stages of
appeasement with the League of Nations, Great Britain and France (Orwell 15).
Hitlers unfortunate shady character is depicted with the fake bank notes that Mr.
Frederick uses to pay with. This furthers the idea that Germany betrayed Russia in its
deal, just as it did in 1941 when it Germany attempted to invade Russia.

There are many other events within the novella, all properly corresponding to
the Russian events. There are many events like the destruction on the windmill,
representing World War 2 or the final chapter of the novella with the pigs and humans
talking together could be the Tehran Conference of 1943. The loss of religion
embodied by Moses or the spreading communism and the Comintern are also present
through the pigeons sent to the other farms. Smaller details about individual
characters like Boxer being the ideal hard-worker, willing to go above and beyond as
a Stalkhonovite makes the novella even more descriptive of the historical facts. In
end, there are many details in Orwells work that with historical understanding, add
more appreciation for the work as a whole. Orwell writes in such a basic manner,
describing characteristics of each character which add a whole new dimension to what
might be a complex historical situation.


Works Consulted
"Background Information for George Orwell's Animal Farm - George Orwell
Links."Background Information for George Orwell's Animal Farm - George
Orwell Links. Orwellweb, n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2013.
Clare, John D. "Collectivisation ." Collectivisation. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Clare, John D. "Stalin Takes Power 19241929 ." Stalin Takes Power. N.p., n.d.
Web. 9 Dec. 2013. <http://www.johndclare.net/Russ9.htm>.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm;. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954. Print.
Verma, Kajal. "Silvapages." Stalin's Five Year Plans. Brett Silva, 2012. Web. 10 Dec.
2013. <http://ibatpv.org/projects/soviet_union/five%20year%20plans.htm>.