The Russian Revolution and its aftermath
Even though Animal Farm is, on the surface, a bizarre tale about animals rising up against their masters to form a new society, it is clearly intended to directly reflect real developments that took place in Russia in the first half of the 20th century.
Old Major represents the various authors of the political philosophy of Communism (which becomes ‘Animalism’ in the novel), notably the philosopher Karl Marx (who wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848). However, Old Major also recalls Vladimir Lenin, a central figure in the early days of the Soviet Union. Lenin served as the head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 (the time of the October Revolution) until his death in 1924. Just as Lenin’s ideas encouraged a group of Russians to rebel against the rule of Tsar Nicholas II, Old Major’s ideas inspire the animals to rebel against the oppressive rule of Mr. Jones.
After Lenin’s death, a cult of personality was established around Lenin and his ideas, and his body was preserved and displayed in Red Square in Moscow (where it remains to this day). This is recalled by the way in which Old Major’s skull is dug up, cleaned and presented as an object of veneration for the animals.
In the new society, Napoleon and Snowball become the main rivals for political power, just as Josef Stalin and Leon Trotsky had their rivalries in the early days of the Soviet Union. Eventually, Napoleon seizes power and chases Snowball away, echoing how Stalin seized power and forced Trotsky into exile. The way Napoleon and Squealer try to discredit Snowb...