Thankful for George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”

George Orwell wrote in a preface to his book Animal Farm in the Ukrainian translation the following quote.  His Ukrainian readers, who were trapped after WWII in Displaced Persons camps in Germany under the British and American administration, needed to know his background and why he wrote about Marxist theories from animals’ point of view.  These Ukrainians resisted returning to the USSR, knowing they would be killed back in their supposed “Motherland.”  The Ukrainians and others termed as “kulaks” had gone through so much BEFORE the war. (Think Holodomor of 1932-33).


November is the time of year when people in Ukraine honor those who died in this famine called a “genocide” perpetrated by Soviet policies as of 75 years ago. Many understand that other nationalities suffered as well, not just Ukrainians.  Unfortunately, not everyone will agree with the extent of how many people actually died and whether it was genocide or not.  For now it is interesting to read what George Orwell knew and when he knew it. (think sixty years ago).


Even if I had the power, I would not wish to interfere in Soviet domestic affairs: I would not condemn Stalin and his associates merely for their barbaric and undemocratic methods.  It is quite possible that, even with the best intentions, they could not have acted otherwise under the conditions prevailing there.


But on the other hand it was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe should see the Soviet regime for what it really was.  Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism.  On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class.  Moreover, the workers and intelligentsia in a country like England cannot understand that the USSR of today is altogether different from what it was in 1917.  It is partly that they do not want to understand (i.e. they want to believe that, somewhere, a really Socialist country does actually exist), and partly that, being accustomed to comparative freedom and moderation in public life, totalitarianism is completely incomprehensible to them.


Yet one must remember that England is not completely democratic.  It is also a capitalist country with great class privileges and (even now, after a war that has tended to equalize everybody) with great differences in wealth.  But nevertheless it is a country in which people have lived together for several hundred years without major conflict, in which the laws are relatively just and official news and statistics can almost invariably be believed, and last but not least, in which to hold and to voice minority views does not involve any mortal danger.  In such an atmosphere the man in the street has no real understanding of things like concentration camps, mass deportations, arrests without trial, press censorship, etc.  Everything he reads about a country like the USSR is automatically translated into English terms, and he quite innocently accepts the lies of totalitarian propaganda.  Up to 1939, and even later, the majority of English people were incapable of assessing the true nature of the Nazi regime in Germany, and now, with the Soviet regime, they are still to a large extent under the same sort of illusion.

7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    yuliya said,

    FYI: According to the historical documents of the State Archive in Moscow, during The Holodomor (Ukrainian name) 1932-33 about 2 million people died in Kazakhstan, 1.5 times more than in Ukraine.

  2. 2

    kazakhnomad said,

    Hmm…thanks for responding with the numbers of those souls lost in KZ, perhaps you mean 1.5 times the number as far as percentage of population. I believe Ukraine had a census at the time of 1932-33 of about 30-40 million people and experts on Holodomor claim that between 7-10 million people perished.

    I’m not sure how many people died in KZ as a result of the forced famine but you may be right that more people than in Ukraine, in terms of percentages, were lost in KZ. I’ll let those who deal with numbers respond to this fact that you raised. Can the State Archive of Moscow be trusted as having the actual numbers accurate for both countries? I wonder? Also, how many Russians or Belorussians died during this period?

  3. 3

    I am not an expert in this field by any means. But I have done some research on it lately because of the film I’m working on. (My research is for Ukraine).

    According to this website (, the number of people who died during the forced famine in Ukraine is actually more like 3.5 million (as opposed to the 7-10 million sited by earlier historians).

    But, that’s still a lot of people to die!

  4. 4

    On a completely different note… I recently read–or rather listened to–“Animal Farm” as a book-on-tape (CD) with my 8-year-old niece. She thought it was great! A story about animals, right?

    But, I noticed something very interesting. She didn’t quite grasp the point of the story. For example, when Napoleon informs the animals that Snowball was actually one of the evil animals in league with the farmer, my niece completely accepted that statement as truth.

    I had to explain to her that Napoleon was actually lying to the animals. She listened very well, because I overheard her later tell her brother about it, saying, “Well, Aunt Maria says that Napoleon is lying. Snowball didn’t really do those bad things…”

    It’s rather sad that my niece and nephew have to grow up in a world where they can’t take everything at face value. In the words you quoted by George Orwell, they “innocently [accept] the lies of totalitarian propaganda.”

  5. 5

    yuliya said,

    Today you can believe the Moscow Archive, it was said in recent news that all the document concerning the Holodomor are open and accessible for the international community.

    Concerning the number and statistics, today the Ukranian nationalistic politicians are trying to speculate and to rewrite the history of Soviet times, blaming Russia for everyting. At the same time they’re flirting with so-called minor nations like Georgia, and Baltic States. They are making friends against Russia, forgetting that Russians also suffered alongside with the others. Playing friends with Georgia none of the Ukrainian politicians mention that two main tyrannes of Soviet Repressions were Georgians- Stalin(Dzhugashvili) and Beria. These are the political games that are nicely described in George Orwell’s Animal

    Animal Farm is an allegorical fable for adults not for children. It must be studied and read in the universities discussing the social and international relationships.

  6. 6

    Just for the record, I got the book-on-tape out for myself (not for my niece). It had been awhile since I’d read the book.

    However, when said niece saw the cover, she wanted to listen to it with me. (I think the pigs on the front caught her attention.)

    The thing that caught my attention was that, in her childish innocence, she took it all very literally and at face-value. I found that interesting.

  7. 7

    yuliya said,

    Great that the new generation ( so-called “Indigo colour children’ ) is interested in such things like Animal Farm by Orwell, and what is more they can understand and decode what will probably be needed for their future social life.

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