It was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe
should see the Soviet regime for what it really was.
I had seen little evidence that the USSR was progressing
towards anything that one could truly call Socialism.
This has caused great harm to the Socialist movement in England,
and had serious consequences for English foreign policy.
Indeed, nothing has contributed so much to
the corruption of the original idea of Socialism
as the belief that Russia is a Socialist country and that
every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated.
ORWELL'S ANIMAL FARM PREFACE
The man in the street has no real understanding of things like
concentration camps, mass deportations, arrests without trial, press censorship, etc.
Everything he reads about a country like the USSR
is automatically translated into English terms,
and he quite innocently accepts the lies of totalitarian propaganda....
I thought of exposing the Soviet myth
in a story that could be easily understood by almost anyone.
Orwell's Preface to the Ukrainian edition of "Animal Farm"
by George Orwell, March 1947
[In March 1947 Orwell wrote a special preface for the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, distributed in November the same year by a Ukrainian Displaced Persons Organisation in Munich. Orwell's original text has not been traced and the version given here is a re-casting back into English from the Ukrainian translation.]
I have been asked to write a preface to the Ukrainian translation of Animal Farm. I am aware that I write for readers about whom I know nothing, but also that they too have probably never had the slightest opportunity to know anything about me.
In this preface they will most likely expect me to say something of how Animal Farm originated but first I would like to say something about myself and the experiences by which I arrived at my political position.
I was born in India in 1903 [1~jj]. My father was an official in the English administration there, and my family was one of those ordinary middle-class families of soldiers, clergymen, government officials, teachers, lawyers, doctors, etc. I was educated at Eton [2~jj], the most costly and snobbish of the English Public Schools. But I had only got in there by means of a scholarship; otherwise my father could not have afforded to send me to a school of this type.
Shortly after I left school (I wasn't quite twenty years old then) I went to Burma [3~jj] and joined the Indian Imperial Police . This was an armed police, a sort of gendarmerie very similar to the Spanish Guardia Civil or the Garde Mobile in France. I stayed five years in the service. It did not suit me and made me hate imperialism, although at that time nationalist feelings in Burma were not very marked, and relations between the English and the Burmese were not particularly bad. When on leave in England in 1927, I resigned from the service and decided to become a writer: at first without any especial success. In 1928—9 I lived in Paris and wrote short stories and novels that nobody would print (I have since destroyed them all). In the following years I lived mostly from hand to mouth, and went hungry on several occasions. It was only from 1934 onwards that I was able to live on what I earned from my writing. In the meantime I sometimes lived for months on end amongst the poor and half-criminal elements who inhabit the worst parts of the poorer quarters, or take to the streets, begging and stealing. At that time I associated with them through lack of money, but later their way of life interested me very much for its own sake [4~jj]. I spent many months (more systematically this time) studying the conditions of the miners in the north of England. Up to 1930 I did not on the whole look upon myself as a Socialist. In fact I had as yet no clearly defined political views. I became pro-Socialist more out of disgust with the way the poorer section of the industrial workers were oppressed and neglected than out of any theoretical admiration for a planned society.
In 1936 I got married [5~jj]. In almost the same week the civil war broke out in Spain. My wife and I both wanted to go to Spain and fight for the Spanish Government. We were ready in six months, as soon as I had finished the book I was writing [6~jj]. In Spain I spent almost six months on the Aragon front until, at Huesca, a Fascist sniper shot me through the throat [7~jj].
In the early stages of the war foreigners were on the whole unaware of the inner struggles between the various political parties supporting the Government. Through a series of accidents I joined not the International Brigade like the majority of foreigners, but the POUM militia — i.e. the Spanish Trotskyists.
So in the middle of 1937, when the Communists gained control (or partial control) of the Spanish Government and began to hunt down the Trotskyists, we both found ourselves amongst the victims. We were very lucky to get out of Spain alive, and not even to have been arrested once. Many of our friends were shot, and others spent a long time in prison or simply disappeared [8~jj].
These man-hunts in Spain went on at the same time as the great purges in the USSR and were a sort of supplement to them. In Spain as well as in Russia the nature of the accusations (namely, conspiracy with the Fascists) was the same and as far as Spain was concerned I had every reason to believe that the accusations were false. To experience all this was a valuable object lesson: it taught me how easily totalitarian propaganda can control the opinion of enlightened people in democratic countries.
My wife and I both saw innocent people being thrown into prison merely because they were suspected of unorthodoxy. Yet on our return to England we found numerous sensible and well-informed observers believing the most fantastic accounts of conspiracy, treachery and sabotage which the press reported from the Moscow trials.
And so I understood, more clearly than ever, the negative influence of the Soviet myth upon the western Socialist movement.
And here I must pause to describe my attitude to the Soviet regime.
I have never visited Russia and my knowledge of it consists only of what can be learned by reading books and newspapers. [9~jj]. Even if I had the power, I would not wish to interfere in Soviet domestic affairs: I would not condemn Stalin and his associates merely for their barbaric and undemocratic methods. It is quite possible that, even with the best intentions, they could not have acted otherwise under the conditions prevailing there.
But on the other hand it was of the utmost importance to me that people in western Europe should see the Soviet regime 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.
Yet one must remember that England is not completely democratic. It is also a capitalist country with great class privileges and (even now, after a war that has tended to equalise everybody) with great differences in wealth. But nevertheless it is a country in which people have lived together for several hundred years without knowing civil war, in which the laws are relatively just and official news and statistics can almost invariably be believed, and, last but not least, in which to hold and to voice minority views does not involve any mortal danger. In such an atmosphere the man in the street has no real understanding of things like concentration camps, mass deportations, arrests without trial, press censorship, etc. Everything he reads about a country like the USSR is automatically translated into English terms, and he quite innocently accepts the lies of totalitarian propaganda. Up to 1939, and even later, the majority of English people were incapable of assessing the true nature of the Nazi regime in Germany, and now, with the Soviet regime, they are still to a large extent under the same sort of illusion.
This has caused great harm to the Socialist movement in England, and had serious consequences for English foreign policy. Indeed, in my opinion, nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of Socialism as the belief that Russia is a Socialist country and that every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated.
And so for the past ten years I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the Socialist movement [10~jj].
On my return from Spain I thought of exposing the Soviet myth in a story that could be easily understood by almost anyone and which could be easily translated into other languages. However, the actual details of the story did not come to me for some time until one day (I was then living in a small village [11~jj]) I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge cart-horse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.
I proceeded to analyse Marx's theory from the animals' point of view. To them it was clear that the concept of a class struggle between humans was pure illusion, since whenever it was necessary to exploit animals, all humans united against them: the true struggle is between animals and humans. From this point of departure, it was not difficult to elaborate the story. I did not write it out till 1943, for I was always engaged on other work which gave me no time; and in the end I included some events, for example the Teheran Conference, which were taking place while I was writing. Thus the main outlines of the story were in my mind over a period of six years before it was actually written.
I do not wish to comment on the work; if it does not speak for itself, it is a failure. But I should like to emphasise two points: first, that although the various episodes are taken from the actual history of the Russian Revolution, they are dealt with schematically and their chronological order is changed; this was necessary for the symmetry of the story. The second point has been missed by most critics, possibly because I did not emphasise it sufficiently. A number of readers may finish the book with the impression that it ends in the complete reconciliation of the pigs and the humans. That was not my intention; on the contrary I meant it to end on a loud note of discord[12~jj], for I wrote it immediately after the Teheran Conference which everybody thought had established the best possible relations between the USSR and the West. I personally did not believe that such good relations would last long; and as events have shown, I wasn't far wrong.
ORWELL'S ANIMAL FARM
 VISITING ORWELL'S BIRTHPLACE
 LOOKING FOR ORWELL AT ETON
 ORWELL'S BURMESE DAYS
 ORWELL DOWN & OUT
 VISITING ORWELL'S WEDDING CHURCH
 ORWELL ROAD TO WIGAN PIER
 ORWELL HOMAGE TO CATALONIA
 SPAIN REMEMBERS ORWELL CENTENNIAL
 WAS FARMER JONES GARETH JONES? & FAMINE EXPOSURE IN SOVIET UNION & ASSIGNMENT IN STALIN'S UTOPIA
 WHY ORWELL WRITES
 VISITING ORWELL'S WALLINGTON & VISITING ORWELL'S ANIMAL FARM
 ANIMAL FARM 1954 MOVIE (...In Orwell's version the story ends there, but the movie version carries on for a further frame. It has Benjamin going to the other animals and telling them about what he saw. The animals then come to the realization that they will once again have to topple a tyranny, this time one wherein the human beings (capitalists) have joined with the pigs (communists). In the last frame of the movie all the animals are trudging toward the farmhouse)
Orwell paid for a Russian-language edition, intended for soldiers and others behind the Iron Curtain
ANIMAL FARM DRAWINGS COLLECTION (...I attach also what I believe to be an original edition of the 1950 Maria Kriger and Gleb Struve Russian translation. It is printed on flimsy post-war paper and fits age-wise. It is in terrific condition considering the paper quality and age. That was an exciting find....)
Ukranian Sevcenko dies: translated Animal Farm (wrote Orwell asking permission). New York Times, Jan 5, 2010
Ihor Sevcenko, Byzantine and Slavic Scholar, Dies at 87
by William Grimes, New York Times, Jan 5, 2010
As a young man, Ihor Sevcenko persuaded George Orwell to collaborate with him on a Ukrainian translation of "Animal Farm". He died at his home in Cambridge, Mass., on Dec. 26. He was 87. The cause was bone cancer, said his daughter Catherine. Mr. Sevcenko (pronounced EE-gore Shev-CHEN-ko) was unrivaled among Byzantinists for the breadth of his linguistic expertise and the variety of his interests. Ukrainian by background and Polish by upbringing, he had command of a dozen Slavic and Western languages in their ancient, medieval and modern forms. His elegantly written essays dealt with, among other topics, late Byzantine intellectual life, early Slavic history and literature, Byzantine saints’ lives and epigraphy (inscriptions), and Byzantine-Slavic cultural relations.
Perhaps his most fascinating, if uncharacteristic, literary contribution came shortly after World War II, when he worked with Ukrainians stranded in camps in Germany for displaced persons.
In April 1946 he sent a letter to Orwell, asking his permission to translate “Animal Farm” into Ukrainian for distribution in the camps. The idea instantly appealed to Orwell, who not only refused to accept any royalties but later agreed to write a preface for the edition. It remains his most detailed, searching discussion of the book.
Ihor Ivanovic Sevcenko was born on Feb. 10, 1922, in the village of Radosc, not far from Warsaw. His parents were Ukrainian nationalists, and his father had served in the interior ministry of the short-lived independent Ukraine created after the Bolshevik revolution. After graduating from the Adam Mickiewicz Gymnasium and Lyceum in Warsaw, where he began his studies of Greek, Latin and French, Mr. Sevcenko earned a doctorate in classical philology, ancient history and comparative linguistics from the Deutsche Karls-Universität in Prague in 1945, adding German and Czech to his store of languages.
It was on April 11, 1946, that he approached Orwell for the first time. "About the middle of February this year I had the opportunity to read 'Animal Farm'", he wrote. "I was immediately seized by the idea that a translation of the tale in Ukrainian would be of great value to my countrymen." Orwell agreed, and in the special preface he wrote for Mr. Sevcenko, he explained the intentions and political ideas behind "Animal Farm". He also described the incident — the sight of a local farm boy whipping a horse — that gave him the idea of creating a fictional world in which oppressed animals rise up against their tormentors. Orwell’s English version of the preface has been lost. It exists today as a retranslation from Mr. Sevcenko's Ukrainian text.
Mr. Sevcenko, combining his father's first name and his mother's maiden name to form the pen name Ivan Cherniatyns'kyi, turned "Animal Farm" into "Kolhosp Tvaryn", one of the first translations of the book into any foreign language. About 2,000 copies were distributed to Ukrainian readers. The remaining 1,500 copies, to Orwell's disgust, were handed over by unwitting Americans to Soviet repatriation officers at the camps, who destroyed them immediately.
At the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, Mr. Sevcenko pursued further studies in classical philology and Byzantinology and took part in the renowned seminar in Byzantine history presided over by the great Byzantinist Henri Grégoire. In 1949 he was awarded a doctorate in philosophy and letters. That year he came to the United States and, after teaching ancient and Byzantine history at the University of California, Berkeley, accepted a post in the department of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of Michigan. He taught from 1957 to 1965 at Columbia University, when he was named a senior scholar at Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington, a center of Byzantine studies in the United States. In 1973 he joined the classics department at Harvard as the Dumbarton Oaks professor of Byzantine history and literature. He retired in 1992. His three marriages, to Oksana Draj-Xmara, Margaret Bentley and the art historian Nancy Patterson, ended in divorce. In addition to his daughter Catherine, of Alexandria, Va., he is survived by another daughter, Elisabeth, of Brooklyn, and three grandchildren.
Mr. Sevcenko once wrote that historians fell into two categories: "the brightly colored butterfly flitting about over a flower bed" and "the crawling caterpillar whose worm's-eye view covers the expanse of a single cabbage leaf". He was both, a restlessly inquisitive but painstaking scholar whose wide-ranging interests embraced the cultural resurgence of late Byzantium, the literary (as opposed to documentary) qualities of Byzantine saints' lives, the editing of Byzantine texts, and the history and culture of Ukraine, which he addressed in the book "Ukraine Between East and West" (1996). His essay collections include "Society and Intellectual Life in Late Byzantium" (1981), "Ideology, Letters and Culture in the Byzantine World" (1982) and "Byzantium and the Slavs in Letters and Culture" (1991). At his death he had completed, after 20 years, a critical edition and translation of "The Life of Emperor Basil I", the only secular biography in Byzantine literature.
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