Animal Farm and the Russian Revolution

George Orwell intended Animal Farm to be an allegory about the Russian Revolution and the following rise of the Soviet Union. In this section you can read a brief summary of the historical events. Afterwards we will give a detailed overview of how these events correspond to the story of Animal Farm.

In response to a long period of poverty and Russia’s disastrous involvement in WWI, the people rose up against Tsar Nicholas II, who was forced to step down during the February Revolution of 1917 (and was later executed along with his wife and daughters).

The February Revolution was followed by the October Revolution led by Vladimir Lenin, which eventually led to the Russian Civil War. The civil war ended in 1922 with Lenin’s establishment of the new Soviet Union. 

After Lenin’s death in 1924, Josef Stalin rose to power within the Communist Party and gained control of the Soviet Union. In the following years, he increasingly established himself as a dictator and pulled the government in the direction of more strict control with both the people and the economy.

Leon Trotsky had also participated in the revolution and played a central role during the Civil War. He led a political faction which tried to resist Stalin’s power and presented a more liberal vision for Soviet Russia's future, but he was eventually expelled from all his political positions and forced into exile, giving Stalin full control of the government.

Many landowners (the so-called ‘kulaks’) were executed when Stalin reformed the Soviet economy, and their land was transferred to state ownership and turned into collective farms. It was believed that the creation of collective farm would increase productivity, but in practice it resulted in mass starvation, and millions of Russians died during the first years of Stalin’s reign (particularly during the Great Famine of 1932-1933).

Stalin was extremely intolerant of political criticism – and often had critics executed or sent to brutal labour camps. This happened to an enormous extent during the Great Purge of 1936-1938, in which hundreds of thousands of people were executed – and even more died in prison or labour camps.  

During WWII, Stalin had a complex relationship towards the other major world powers. In 1939, Soviet Russia signed a 10-year non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, in which the two nations pledged not to attack each other (...

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