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George Orwell is an English novelist who has written over 13 books depicting his political views on social injustice and his objection to totalitarianism. 1984 is one of Orwell’s famous books a dystopian fiction on totalitarianism. In 1984, Orwell describes a totalitarian government managed by Big Brother (B.B) using his power to manipulate the Inner Party by limiting vocabulary, withdrawing privacy rights, or eliminating if anyone disobeys with any laws. Orwell was inspired by the totalitarian government trends as well as the regime of the Soviet Union (USSR). Orwell’s purpose to write was to suggest possible oppression tactics of the totalitarian government and its negative side effects to people. Orwell’s goal is to stop totalitarian tactics and display the type of oppression people felt throughout its leader’s ruling time. While George Orwell’s 1984 and the Soviet Union depict the characteristics of a totalitarian government as cruel leaders take control over a group of people, 1984 and the Soviet Union correlate in propaganda, police force, and suppression as a medium to maintain power.
The USSR used propaganda as a way to entice people to give support to their leaders. Propaganda provides information on political stances which could be delusive to the public. During World War II (WWII), Stalin’s propaganda displayed appreciation to him. In 1984, Orwell described his characters as loyal to the Party by incorporating various posters of B.B to show their love and support towards their leader. Orwell’s use of propaganda to write 1984 correlates to the reasons people during WWII were persuaded to support Stalin through false information.
During WWII, the USSR manipulated its Russian citizens through the use of propaganda by taking advantage of the conditions of the war. Stalin’s method of displaying propaganda was to gain people’s trust. RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty’s article states “… Stalin’s Soviet Union was a land of peace, progress, harmony, and — most of all — unending love for and devotion to Stalin himself. He was ‘the father of nations,’ ‘the gardener of human happiness.’ His image was everywhere,” Similarly another article states, “Stalin’s image became a sort of symbol existing in the popular mentality independently from its actual bearer. During the war years, as the Soviet people were battered by unbelievable miseries, the name of Stalin, and the faith in him, to some degree, pulled the Soviet people together, giving them hope of victory,”.
Propaganda was used to manipulate people into loving Stalin as he was like their savior. Stalin used propaganda to have all the support he could to maintain his ideal totalitarian state and control people’s outlook on himself as he took advantage of the Russians mental state during the war and insert confidence to show he was an outstanding leader. Stalin’s propaganda parallels to 1984 in a similar way. Orwell incorporated propaganda in his book as a message that visual posters with incorrect information will only make people be fooled to trust their leader. In “1984” Orwell described, “…there seemed to be no color in anything, except the posters that were plastered everywhere. The black mustachioed face gazed down from every commanding corner… BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston’s own… another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word INGSOC,”. Orwell’s intention to describe the setting in detail is to understand a totalitarian government uses propaganda to gain support for B.B. There are posters everywhere to have the inspiration to praise B.B and show their love towards him. The more support people showed towards their leader, the more people would follow suit and give more power to B.B in 1984 or Stalin during WWII.
Stalin’s approach to maintaining his power was the use of police force. The NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) was national security used to serve Stalin’s orders to eliminate anyone who presented themselves as a threat to him or if he was not pleased by people’s opposition to his party. Orwell included characters to be the “Thought Police” and their job was to eliminate, or torture, if people were disloyal to B.B or believed to have more knowledge than him. The purpose to include a secret service was to emphasize the oppression Russians experienced and how violence played a major role in the abuse of power.
Once people opposed to Stalin or criticized him for his way to govern, Stalin appended the use of a secret police system. Stalin pursued his ideal totalitarian government; however, his government did not include treacherous people in it. Some people had to be eliminated. Crime Museum’s article describes, “Stalin was historically paranoid and used the NKVD as his own private force for eliminating people he thought were disloyal or a threat… NKVD was national security, and they made sure their presence was well known. People were arrested and sent to work camps for the most mundane things. Individuals would report on their friends and neighbors because they feared that the NKVD would come for them if they did not report suspicious activity,”. Russians were heavily overcome by fear and thus were forced to maintain their loyalty to Stalin to avoid any predicaments as well as sacrifice anyone to avoid torture. The secret police system caused a sense of feeling powerless to speak up against Stalin’s power. Orwell referenced the NKVD by representing them as the “Thought Police” which made sure to punish those who were not following the rules of the government and proceeded to be tortured. Orwell’s 1984 book explains, ‘Do anything to me!’ he yelled. ‘You’ve been starving me for weeks. Finish it off and let me die… Is there somebody else you want me to give away? Just say who it is and I’ll tell you anything you want. I don’t care who it is or what you do to them. I’ve got a wife and three children…You can take the whole lot of them and cut their throats in front of my eyes, and I’ll stand by and watch it. But not Room 101!’. Orwell depicted the characters to have fear of the “Thought Police” as they did not want to face torture or death. People would do anything to sacrifice anything or anyone to save themselves due to fear. People found themselves in these situations if they have committed a “Thought Crime” which is anything that contradicted the rules of INGSOC. Just like the NKVD people feared being seen as disloyal to the Party.
Stalin’s abuse of power had crossed the line when he removed any religious connections as a form of suppression. Russia heavily relied on religion as it was their main source to uplift spirits and raise hope over continuous wars. However, Stalin presented the Russian Orthodox Church after being attacked by the Nazis in 1941. Eliminating religion only provided “patriotic support” to Stalin for the war. Orwell brought religion into play in 1984 to signify that on a totalitarian government, only one has power and feels entitled to have the attention and support of all. B.B is loved by many in 1984 and whoever contradicts B.Bs’s power, people are tortured and brainwashed to love him again or simply eliminate them as if they never existed.
Stalin and Big Brother aimed for a perfect totalitarian government which is achieved by having all the attention and sympathy of everyone. Both wanted to be idolized as they promised they would bring hope and be a successful government. Stalin’s decision to suppress religion was to seek attention. Revelations from Russian Archives briefly describe, “The Soviet Union was the first state to have as an ideological objective the elimination of religion…the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Actions toward particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed. The main target of the anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and 1930s was the Russian Orthodox Church, which had the largest number of faithful. Nearly all of its clergy, and many of its believers, were shot or sent to labor camps,”. Suppression was seen as religion was taken away for people to be “aware of the war” as well as confer their attention to Stalin and view him as an idol or someone important as he will bring a change. Stalin’s suppression was also a form of modernizing people’s views and abandoning religion as their one source they rely on the most on. 1984 is similar because Oceania only believes in B.B and nothing else. People’s brains are trained to only view B.B as something more powerful than religion. People in Oceania don’t even know who God truly is. Winston Smith, the main character in the book, experiences torture as he was opposed to B.B and knew about God the entirety of the book and is brainwashed to equate the beliefs of the party and B.B. Winston then praises B.B for the victory of his rehabilitation of his inaccuracy of his opinions towards B.B and loves him in the end.
In conclusion, George Orwell provided helpful insight into a totalitarian government as it happened during the USSR years. Orwell’s main point is to highlight the abuse of power of a leader by suppression, propaganda, or police force to have their ideal regime. 1984 and the Soviet Union is a representation of the fears people experience with powerful leaders and persuade people that such government will manipulate the lives of others just because one will inherit power over everything.
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