Staunton, June 10 – This month marks the 70th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s classic anti-utopia, 1984; and in response, some Russian commentators like Pavel Matveyev are celebrating the fact that its picture of a horrific future has not been realized in Russia (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5CF30118259B7).
But they are wrong, Moscow analyst Vadim Zaydman says. Orwell’s novel was in fact suggested by the regime Stalin had put in place in the Soviet Union by the 1940s and now describes the system Vladimir Putin is introducing once again “with scrupulous precision” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5CF30118259B7).
Many people in 1949 and later were surprised by the phenomenal success the novel enjoyed in Great Britain and the West more generally, but they shouldn’t. According to Zaydman, the reason is obvious: Orwell wasn’t describing some completely made-up country but rather extrapolating from what Stalin had put in place.
Consequently, “the treatment offered by Orwell became a cold shower and shock” to those Western intellectuals who thought that the Soviet Union was something positive largely because of its role as an ally in the war against Hitler. Orwell’s book “tore off the rose-colored glasses through which intellectuals of that time viewed the Soviet Union.”
1984 “hit a nerve” because when it appeared, it wasn’t so much a warning as an explanation, the commentator continues. Had it been written 40 or 50 years earlier, as Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We was, “it would not have provoked such a furor.” That novel passed almost unnoticed in the West.
“Today,” Zaydman says, “we have become witnesses of the latest attempts to embody this anti-utopia in life. One can even speak of a certain renaissance of the anti-utopia. Putin has taken upon himself to fulfill the realities of ‘the Orwellian world’ with scrupulous precision” here and now.
Russians can thus take a certain perverse pride in having overfulfilled the plan, he says.: Unlike in Britain and the West where Orwell’s vision has not been realized, Russians have seen the British author’s vision realized twice, the first as a tragedy and the second in a way whose consequences are still to be characterized.