By Kevin Liffey
LONDON (Reuters) – George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” set in a fictional future where totalitarian rulers deprive their own citizens of any freedom of action to maintain support for senseless wars, tops the e-bestseller list in Russia.
The novel is the most popular fiction download of 2022 on Russia’s online bookstore platform LitRes, and the second most popular download in any category, state news agency Tass reported on Tuesday.
The English author’s novel was published in 1949, when Nazism had just been defeated and the West’s Cold War with its former ally Josef Stalin and the Soviet Communist bloc it now led was just beginning. The book was banned in the Soviet Union until 1988.
Orwell said he used Stalin’s dictatorship as a model for the all-seeing Big Brother cult of personality, whose “thought police” forced intimidated citizens into engaging in “doublethink” to believe that “war is peace, freedom is slavery”. .
But some see contemporary echoes in the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which uprooted political opposition and critical media from the public sphere in his two decades in power, as well as rehabilitating the memory of Stalin.
His invasion of Ukraine in February led to new laws that made it a crime to publish any information about the war that conflicted with official statements. The Kremlin avoids the word “war” itself, referring instead to its “special military operation.”
Moscow officials continue to say that Russia has no ill will towards Ukraine, has not attacked its neighbor and is not occupying the Ukrainian territories it has seized and annexed.
Last week, Russian opposition politician Ilya Yashin was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison on charges of spreading “false information” about the army – for discussing evidence uncovered by Western journalists about Russian atrocities at Bucha, near Kiev, which Russia said was made.
And last month the Kremlin spokesman said there had been no attacks on civilian targets, despite wave after wave of shelling of Ukrainian power plants that have left millions without heat or electricity in the dead of winter.
However, the Russian translator of a brand new edition of “1984” sees the parallels with Orwell’s novel elsewhere.
“Orwell could not have dreamed in his worst nightmares that the era of ‘liberal totalitarianism’ or ‘totalitarian liberalism’ would come to the West, and that people – separate, rather isolated individuals – would behave like a raging herd,” said Darya Tselovalnikova. the AST publishing house in May.
(Reporting by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)