Orwell, Animal Farm and Ukraine

In 1946, Ihor Szewczenko ,who was a linguist who had been editing pocket-sized Ukrainian-English dictionaries for refugees in displaced persons camps in Germany, wrote to George Orwell requesting permission to translate Animal Farm into Ukrainian. He explained that his Ukrainian publishers had been political prisoners in Siberian concentration camps and that they were the “nucleus of a political group” disgusted at Stalin’s exploitation of the Ukrainian people.

Orwell approved of the project and in late 1947 the Ukrainian version of the novel was released as Kolgosp Tvarin. The Ukrainian publisher Prometheus tried to distribute 5000 copies of the book in displaced persons camps, but ironically most copies were confiscated by American soldiers as anti-Soviet propaganda.

Few copies of the original Ukrainian version of Animal House remain in circulation. But you can now read Orwell’s preface written exclusively for that edition in 1947 on the Orwell Foundation website.

In the preface, Orwell outlined his reasons for writing the novel and provided biographical detail for the readers. He explained that:

“… it was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe should see the Soviet régime for what it really was. Since 1930 I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing towards anything that one could truly call Socialism. On the contrary, I was struck by clear signs of its transformation into a hierarchical society, in which the rulers have no more reason to give up their power than any other ruling class. Moreover, the workers and intelligentsia in a country like England cannot understand that the USSR of today is altogether different from what it was in 1917. It is partly that they do not want to understand (i.e. they want to believe that, somewhere, a really Socialist country does actually exist), and partly that, being accustomed to comparative freedom and moderation in public life, totalitarianism is completely incomprehensible to them.”


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