Czar Nicholas II
Before the Russian Revolution in 1917, Russia was ruthlessly ruled by Czar Nicholas II. The Russians had suffered under the extremely oppressive dictatorship since the first czar in 1547, and most of the population were peasants and workers who lived miserable, brutal and short lives. The people began to see hope again in the late 19th century as the rise of socialist movements began to occur. The unsuccessful Russo-Japanese War sparked the Revolution of 1905, and although the uprising was suppressed, Czar Nicholas II was not able control the February Revolution (Slutsky, 2007). As a result, Nicholas abdicated and later on, was executed by the Bolsheviks, a socialist group led by Vladimir Lenin, who overthrew the reign of Czars and led Russia into becoming a communist country.
Communism replaces Dictatorship
For the few years that followed the overthrow of czars, the Bolsheviks were able to maintain complete control over the Russian economy, despite the civil war. However, since the economy had suffered due to the previous three years of civil war, Lenin created his New Economic Policy (NEP), which managed to bring out a time of relative prosperity (Gale, 2003).
Dictatorship once again
However, after Lenin’s death in 1924, the Communist Party began to struggle. The new leader, Joseph Stalin, had quickly altered the course that Lenin had set Russia on, and the NEP was replaced by an economic plan which allowed Stalin to completely dictate over every aspect of development. Agricultural lands were collectivized to create state-run farms, art and literature were strictly controlled and religion was viciously suppressed by closing and even destroying churches (Gracheva, 2013)). All opposition was purged, even those within the Communist Party, and as the 1930s came to an end, life in the Soviet Union was even more strictly regulated than it had been during the ruling of the Czars.
In the beginning of Animal Farm, Manor Farm was controlled by Mr. Jones, who was the parallel of Czar Nicholas II. As a result, Mr. Jones was the ‘dictator’ of the farm, and had absolute power over all the animals in his farm. Similarly to the peasants and working class of Russia, the animals were often “hungry” and “unfed” (pg. 13). They lived “miserable lives” and most were “not allowed to reach their natural span”, as once they had become useless and grown weak from age, the animal would have to face the “cruel knife in the end” (pg. 5). Tired from all the mistreatment, the animals began to plan a Rebellion which would be led by one of the pigs named Snowball. After the Rebellion in which the animals had “butted and kicked” (pg. 13) Mr. Jones and his workers away, Manor Farm was renamed “Animal Farm” (pg. 16), and Mr. Jones’ reign of dictatorship came to an end.
After the overthrow of their previous dictator, the animals created a commandment which stated that “all animals are equal”, signifying that they had become Communist - which they called Animalism(pg. 16). During this time of animalism, “the animals were happy as they had never conceived it possible to be”, and although work at the farm carried on, the animals were willing and excited to continue, as it was because they had decided together that they would, and were not forced to do it by their master (pg. 20).
Unfortunately the end of communism in Animal Farm had come to an end just as quickly as it did in the Russian Revolution. This was because the enemy had been eliminated and the leader of the revolution, Snowball, had been conquered by another pig named Napoleon. Under the leadership of Napoleon, life in Animal Farm slowly became similar to life with Mr. Jones, as Napoleon had became so controlling over the animals that his rule became that of a totalitarian dictator. He had also organized a series of purges in which animals who had allegedly participated in any of Snowball’s conspiracies, or in other words, opposed Napoleon’s leadership, would be killed on the spot by the teeth of Napoleon’s “nine enormous dogs” (pg. 39). After the purges, life on the farm “had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind” due to the overbearing control and fear they had to Napoleon and his “fierce growling dogs” (pg. 64). The animals now faced “hunger, hardship and disappointment” too often, as their lives soon became even worse than they were before the Rebellion (pg. 83). However, they did not actually know this since Squealer often convinced them often that life was even worse “in Jones’ day” and the animals have “better quality” lives with Napoleon leading them (Pg. 81).
One of the reasons why George Orwell decided to write Animal Farm the way he did was to demonstrate the development of class tyranny and how it is inevitable. It is natural human behavior to reestablish class structure and maintain it even in communist societies that supposedly stand for equality. This was not only the case in Animal Farm, but also all other societies around the world that had once stood for equality but inevitably became divided. This is the sole reason why systems such as anarchy are not effective because once the common enemy is eliminated, it is only a matter of time before the next oppressor decides to take over and assume totalitarian control once again. In Animal Farm, animals are divided among intellectual and physical ability, and so the so called “brainworkers” (pg. 25) which the pigs claim to be “did not actually work, but directed and supervised the others. With their superior knowledge it was natural that they should assume the leadership” (pg. 19). This message was effectively and successfully conveyed to us from Orwell, as he had just re-written what occurred in history in a way that was easier for the reader to draw a connection to and realize that the division of class is unavoidable no matter how unified the masses are in the beginning.