During his times the United States and Great Britain were seen as one of the few the greatest "true" democracies that have ever existed. Why did he decide to merge them into one totalitarian superstate?

I think it's safe to assume that Eurasia is an expanded version of the Soviet Union and the story would have worked just as well with Winston working under Stalin's (or BB's) regime fighting against the US/Oceania.

Was there anything Orwell wanted to insinuate?

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    I'll raise a standard point with 1984. We can't necessarily trust the given information because it is all through the party sources .
    – Benjamin
    Oct 2, 2018 at 15:09
  • @Benjamin I am not denying that Eurasia might not be totalitarian after all (if it was it would make the question even more interesting). But I think we can be pretty sure that Oceania is in fact totalitarian.
    – user5115
    Oct 2, 2018 at 15:59
  • I was referring to the extent of Oceania.
    – Benjamin
    Oct 2, 2018 at 16:03
  • @Benjamin Well, fair enough. But Orwell still wanted us to believe that at the very least the UK has become a totalitarian state.
    – user5115
    Oct 2, 2018 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


Would it really have worked as well if he was in a fictionalized version of the Soviet Union? I do not believe so. 1984 is not a novel meant only to be entertaining, but to also to say a few things about totalitarianism. Placing the novel in a setting more reminiscent of the Soviet Union would have been a distraction: it would have made it far too easy to interpret it as about the Soviet Union and its brand of socialism, but Orwell was not so particular. He was a democrat and a socialist, in that order.

Furthermore, by placing it in a world his readers would know and recognize, he increased the emotional impact. The setting is London, but a London changed almost beyond recognition. Letting Winston live in a place many of his readers would know, perhaps even live in themselves, and see it corrupted through his eyes, is a far stronger experience than if it had been set in Moscow, distant and barely known.

Finally, one of the themes of the novel is how Ingsoc has created Newspeak, a language that is intended to be an almost insurmountable barrier to questioning Big Brother, but still recognizably based on English. If the novel had been set in the Soviet union, Orwell would have had to pretend that Newspeak was a translated version of Russian instead, which again could be a distraction from his point that totalitarian regimes will try to control language and thoughts as well as actions (see his essay "The Prevention of Literature" for more on this).

So while, yes, one could probably transpose the action of 1984 from London to Moscow and still have it work as a novel, doing so would have had implications that ran contrary to Orwell's intentions. By placing it in Great Britain, he could both distance Big Brother from actually existing regimes, and did not risk lessening its impact.

  • The "soc" in "ingsoc" stands for socialism, doesn't it? Doesn't that already make it easy to interpret 1984 as being about socialism?
    – user14111
    Oct 28, 2018 at 22:59
  • Yes. Good point (even if just making it about a made up party, which clearly does not have any particular ideology, also helps distance it from actual socialism).
    – andejons
    Oct 29, 2018 at 6:49
  • One could read 1984 as being simply a critical commentary on Soviet Russia written by a westerner, but to do so would be rather missing the point.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 29, 2018 at 9:33
  • On top of this, London was a world which Orwell knew well, much better than he knew the Soviet Union, so he was in a much better position to write a believable tale about London than about Moscow.
    – EvilSnack
    Apr 19, 2019 at 2:43

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