The Shadow of 1984
When people read dystopian text they often include topics with darker views of our political structures. George Orwell’s novel 1984 is about a place named Oceania in which the main character Winston, a member of the outer party,journeys into his end. He finds himself with these viewpoints no one else seems to have of how Oceania is runned and only continues to question and dig further until he is put to stop by the party. Although Orwell’s work is fiction it has many similarities with the Soviet Union such as having used violence, at war, a threat, thought police, and restrictions on citizens.
Throughout history, the Soviet Union was known for its use of violence with their people. During this time Russian dictator Joseph Stalin wanted to take control over everything and the way he did was by using his army and torturing people and even going as far as to kill them if they didn’t follow what he said. The moment he felt that people were plotting against him he would not hesitate to punish them by sending them off to concentration camps where they would do excessive amount of hard labor, which often put the people’s health in rigorous state. Many people were often executed as well, including people from the Communist Party.
The Soviet’s use of violence parallels to 1984’s Party members method of torture. As said in the article ‘Great Purge’ by History.com “Convinced they were plotting a coup, Stalin had 30,000 members of the Red Army executed. Experts estimate that 81 of the 103 generals and admirals were executed.”(“Great Purge”). In this case scenario. Stalin used labor camps as a way to punish people who were suspected of plotting against him. The pain was so immense that many were willing to die. In 1984 When Winston was put through torture as a result of being seen as radical, he was put through so much pain that in the end he had lost what made him human. He was no longer able to feel for his own without his conscious filling up with O’Brien’s words. In a way this is similar to what Stalin did to his people. He put them in labor camps where they no longer were able to be free and do as please, but instead forced by the army of Stalin to do labor which would benefit him.
The Soviet Union was also known for constantly bumping heads with The United States. The Soviet Union was at constant coral with them due to their differences with political, economical, and ideological ways of thinking. Because of these differences it was difficult for them to come to a consensus on their ideas.
The Soviet’s constant complex with The United States parallels to 1984’s constant complex between Eastasia and Eurasia. As said in George Orwell’s 1984 “It is for the possession of these thickly populated regions, and of the northern ice cap, that the three powers are constantly struggling”( Orwell 187). Oceania was constantly at war with one of the 3 superstates, Eastasia or Eurasia. If they weren’t at war with one they would be at war with the other. Their way of showing their power to always be at war. Being at war bring the people of the nation together. If Oceania was able to bring them together as one then this implied that they had a stronger support system. The United States and the Soviet union just like Oceania wanted to show that their way of thinking was more logically correct and did so by getting more support from other countries.
The Soviet Union and 1984 both had a person who was a threat. During the Soviet Union the seat for leader was left open after Lenin’s death who was an influential political figure. One of the prominent runners to lead was a man named Leon Trotsky. When Trosky spoke, his words were seen as too advanced for their nation and the Central Committee saw this as a threat. They tried to constantly bring him down, but he would refute with things the Central committee had done wrong and then they would counter attack and eventually were able to get him not only to no longer be war commissariat, but expelled from the party. Later on he was forced to move out of the country and eventually killed.
The Soviet Union’s Leon Trotsky parallels to 1984’s Goldstein. As said by George Orwell in 1984 “Goldstein was the renegade and backslider who once, long ago had been one of the leading figures of the party, almost on a level with Big Brother” (Orwell 11-12). The party immediately took action and ordered for him to be killed however they failed when Goldstein managed to escape and disappear. A tradition Oceania has is a 2 minute hate just to yell and take out their anger on Goldstein. They yell to the top of his lungs, but most of the people don’t even know why. Regardless of all the yelling and hatred towards him when he spoke to the people he still managed to gain so many followers. Goldstein and Trotsky both had many people on their side, but because of the power that people like the Central Committee and The Party had, they were quickly gotten rid of because they were seen as a threat.
The thought police in the novel 1984 was very similar to the KGB from The Soviet Union. KGB is an organization which take any measures necessary and violence to keep people from doing anything promoting anti-communist ideas(KGB).
The Soviet Union parallels 1984’s thought police. As said in History.com a member of KGB was “convicted, of providing information to the Soviets, including classified naval communications, which allowed them to track ship movements and other activities”(KBG) This is very similar to the thought police in the novel 1984 who are undercover and investigating any probabilities of thoughtcrime. Thoughtcrime is anything that questions the political system of Oceania. This is very similar to that oh the soviet union where if anything is seen as anti-communist. In both case scenarios if they were found out to be true then both the thought police and the KGB would take action to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Having Restriction on Citizens was also something common that The Soviet Union and 1984 had in common. The Soviet Union wanted to improve their economy, industrialization, and especially agriculture. This was mainly due to suspected benefit of income it would bring in for Congress. It was because of this that farmers were forced to give their land and livestock. This is what lead to many people without money in starvation.
The Soviet Union and 1984 share a parallel of having given their citizens these absurd restrictions. In History. Com it is stated that “Amid confusion and resistance to collectivization in the countryside, agricultural productivity dropped. This led to devastating food shortages”(“Soviet Union”). As seen in the novel 1984 we see Winton and other people constantly drinking this stuff called victory gin. Its a strong burning liquid that seems to be everywhere, but everything else is described as undebible. The food that is of higher quality can only be given to members of the Inner Party. By only having this unappetizing and not very nutritious meal the lower class people of Oceania became very weak, similar to The Soviet Union. This being said we can see how both nation’s people were taken aways of things they need to live. By restricting the type of food or amount they ate the people became weak and sick. In the end this allowed for the people who were not only physically but socially stronger to take advantage of them easily.
The parallels between life under the Soviet Union and life under the Party of Orwell’s 1984 included, but were not limited to, violence, war, threats, though police, and restrictions on citizens. Although 1948 is a fictional novel it incorporates a lot of events similar to The Soviet Union which was a real historical event. 1948 is categorized as a dystopian text, but yet to be so similar to our real world. It leaves us thinking whether his George Orwell’s novel is truly fictional or a prediction of the future.