Parallels between a Novel 1984 and Soviet Union
George Orwell is a politically charged author who writes novels as warning issued against the dangers of totalitarian societies. The novel is dystopian literature. A dystopian society is the not so good version of an utopian society which is pretty much a perfect world. While an utopian society IS a perfect world, a dystopian society is the exact opposite as it is dehumanizing and unpleasant in regards to trying to make everything ideal. The novel 1984 by George Orwell is a perfect example of a dystopian society represented. In the novel, the Party controls the thoughts of the people and manipulates history and language to the way they envision it in order to maintain their power. Although the government is keeping their power, the people are being kept ignorant due to the fact that they are uneducated and blind to the Party’s abusive nature. 1984 sounds an alarm against the abusive nature of totalitarianism. The novel analyzes how manipulations of langauage and history can serve as mechanisms of control. The Soviet Union and Oceania are very similar in aspects of torture, control of property, social economics, government-controlled media, and propaganda in order to show the effects that a totalitarian government has on its citizens.
Topic 1: Torture
In the Soviet Union, torture is applied systematically to those arrested. Torture during the Soviet Union was used to maintain a veneer of legality. Stalin uses several tactics as torture methods. The leaders tortured the citizens in order to make them continue to believe what they wanted the people to believe.
In 1984, it is seen that torture is an effective way to control subversion in a totalitarian state. Beyond physical suffering, it is noticed that more effective methods of torture can be indoctrination, brainwashing, and mind control. The government that oversees the torture in Oceania is ironically named The Ministry of Love. In this branch, citizens are tortured into the love of Big Brother. They are able to turn rebellious minds into loving ones. They are able to establish this through using fears against the incarcerated citizens in order to get them to love Big Brother. As stated in Why Did Stalin Torture People, “Typically, there were simply beatings, so severe that they resulted in wounds and broken bones. Humiliation, such as drowning in latrines or being peed on the face are also reported. Interestingly, all that was an improvement of the methods of the Red Army during the Red Terror, when sophisticated torture techniques were used: skinning people alive, giving a pack of rats no other way of escape a fire than to eat through the victim’s body, sodomy with hard objects, etc” (Pismenny). In 1984, Winston was held against his will in the Ministry of Love through the leaders using his fear of rats against him. This was their form of torture which is also similar to the torture tactics in the Soviet Union. The rats were used as a way to get Winston to love Big Brother which worked and caused him to turn against Julia.
Topic 2: Rewriting History
In the Soviet Union, leaders rewrite history to cover up the actions of their previous leaders. The purpose of covering up these actions is due to the fact that those actions are contrary to the ideal communist. Therefore, the leaders attempted to make everything seem ideal or “utopian”. The Soviet Union portrays to the younger generation that Stalin is an admirable leader.
In Oceania, the Party rewrote history everyday in order to cover up the shortcomings of the government in their war effort and production goals. The history was also rewritten to hide the history before the Party came into power so that the people wouldn’t have any idea that they were being oppressed. As stated in 1984 as the running Party’s slogan, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,” (Orwell). Both Oceania and Soviet Union has oppressive leaders. They both wanted to manipulate the citizens into believing that certain things didn’t happen and certain things never existed. They wanted the citizens to believe they weren’t being oppressed and that everything was ideal and what was “supposed” to happen.
Topic 3: Government Controlled Media
As similar to the Thought Police In 1984, the Soviet Union’s KGB has a close eye on citizens from listening to telephone conversations to censoring and monitoring their mail. Since Soviet citizens cannot confide in anyone, they go along with what the government tells them whether or not they know it’s wrong. This is due to their fear of being labeled dissenters.
In Oceania, citizens must always be alert because their always being watched through telescreens or the Thought Police. These people also don’t have anyone to confide in. The Party destroyed family life and trust between people. Citizens aren’t even able to write down their thoughts and experiences in a diary, which would lead to being tortured and vaporized. In the Ministry of Truth, Where Winston works, all historical documents are manipulated. As stated, “And the Records Department, after all, was itself only a single branch of the Ministry of Truth, whose primary job was not to reconstruct the past but to supply the citizens of Oceania with newspapers, films, textbooks, telescreen programs, plays, novels – with every conceivable kind of information, instruction, or entertainment, from a statue to a slogan, from a lyric poem to a biological treatise, and from a child’s spelling-book to a Newspeak dictionary. And the Ministry had not only to supply the multifarious needs of the party, but also to repeat the whole operation at a lower level for the benefit of the proletariat. There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian literature, music, drama, and entertainment generally. Here were produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means on a special kind of kaleidoscope known as a versificator. There was even a whole sub-section – Pornosec, it was called in Newspeak – engaged in producing the lowest kind of pornography, which was sent out in sealed packets and which no Party member, other than those who worked on it, was permitted to look at” (Orwell). The Soviet citizens and Oceania citizens all undergo the reconstruction of their lives by their leaders. The government controls everything from the news and media to the minds and thoughts of people.
Topic 4: Social Class
The Soviet Union practices a system of special privileges based on social class and hierarchy. While the lower class citizens are mind-controlled by the government and are dehumanized, the higher classes receive special benefits. For example, the ordinary lower class people are forced to wait for life necessities and hygiene products. They also live in more smaller, crowded apartments. On the other hand, high officials in the communist party are able to get what they want and need as they please.
In Oceania, leaders were able to receive better food and clothing and a higher standard of living than the lower or more ordinary citizen. They’re also able to turn off their telescreens. According to the Soviet Union, “Bureaucracy, or as we called it here in the former USSR, partapparat (the party apparatus). The people who seized power in the Soviet Russia and later in the USSR formed a class which enjoyed a number of privileges. One of the brightest examples is medical service. Every big city of the USSR had hospital…the regional party committee hospital..the prominent party members had their own hospitals along with special prices for deficit food, reserved train tickets and hotel rooms, state-financed summer cottages and sanatoriums you name it” (Quora). Social class played a major part in the governments and how people were treated. The leaders were always on top and the citizens were always treated as less than those.
Topic 5: Doublethink
According to research of the Soviet Union, the process of doublethink is also present in the Soviet Union as well as it is in Oceania. Doublethink is accepting two contradicting ideas and accepting them both as true. This concept is present in USSR because people are made to believe the ideals of Communism when they are younger. But as they get older, they realize the faults in the system and believe the opposite of what they’ve been taught. However, they keep their beliefs to themselves because of their fears of getting in trouble with the government.
Similarly, in Oceania, ideals of Big Brother are forced into children’s heads until they are older and start believing the opposite of what they’ve been taught. They also still repeat what they’ve been taught because of their fears of consequences with authority. In 1984, “To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic…to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy… Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink” (Orwell). This concept is used because of fear of authorities and the people’s inability to stand up against the governments. The govenrment wants their people weakminded and educated. This relates back to the ironic slogan “Ignorance is Strength” which means the more ignorant and uneducated the people are, the more power the government has over them. Therefore, the process of doublethink is existent because since the Party wants to keep their people uneducated, if they find out a citizen is trying to overthrow them they will harm the citizen. This causes the citizen to accept what the government is telling them even though they know the truth. Likewise, at a young age, Soviet citizens are taught the ideals of Communism at a young age so that the information can be all that they know. However, when they get older they become conscious of the truthfulness of Communism but continue to accept the lies that the government tells them in order to stay on good terms.
In conclusion, the parallels between the novel, 1984, and the Soviet Union are present in order to show how the Oceania citizens and the Soviet citizens were each treated by their totalitarian governments. Based on the novel, 1984, and research of the Soviet Union, it is safe to say that in both Oceania and the Soviet Union, the process of both manipulation and fear is used to help the government maintain their power. Life in Oceania and the Soviet Union would be different for citizens if they weren’t manipulated as much to the governments ideals. Although the government controlled the privacy of the citizens, they still could’ve gained power and fought against their governments.