Evgeny Zamyatin’s novel WE, blocked from publication by Soviet censors in 1921, has been published in several translations since the 1920s – most recently in 2021. An inspiration for Orwell’s 1984, WE anticipated many features of the totalitarian dictatorships that emerged under Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler and have reemerged in Communist China and Putin’s Russia, and may be taking root in the United States and other Western countries where modern technologies bolster government capacities to watch and control one another and their subjects. This essay highlights parts of WE as rendered in a fresh translation and suggests how it illuminates some trends in today’s world. It also offers snapshots of dystopias in recent Russian and Chinese science fiction – many of which warn of a totalitarian future. The Russian snapshots are supplemented with an analysis of what the magazine GQ Rossiia in February 2022 termed the eight controversial books everyone must read – beginning with Zamyatin’s WE and ending with several dystopian novels by American writers such as The Giver by Lois Lowry. Most of the eight are dystopian. None is primed to encourage young Russians to adopt a fight-for-the fatherland outlook determined to wipe out Ukrainian traitors. The upshot: Zamyatin and Orwell predicted our realities more accurately than, say, Walt Whitman or even Jack London.
Keywords: Dystopia, Collectivism, Mind-Control, Revolt, Russia, Orwell, Zamyatin