In his short novel Animal Farm (1945), English author George Orwell (1903–50) allegorizes the Russian Revolution of 1917, when the tsarist autocracy was pushed out and the Bolsheviks came into power, and the revolution's incremental betrayal of its supporters under dictator Joseph Stalin (1879–1953). Drawing on fable conventions, Orwell tells a farmyard story, casting revolutionary leaders Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924), Leon Trotsky (1879–1940), and Stalin as pigs, which—along with other common farm animals such as horses and hens—rebel against the tyranny of tsar-like farmer Mr. Jones. Set on a small English farm, the novel follows a collective of working animals that, as the pigs exploit them anew, toil pathetically day after day in the belief that they are remaking the farm as a republic.
Orwell wrote Animal Farm toward the end of World War II (1939–45), when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was being hailed by the Allied forces (including the British) for its decisive victories over Nazi Germany at Stalingrad (1942–43) and Kursk (1943). As such, he had difficulty finding a publisher prepared to offend Russian sensibilities. Gollancz and Faber and Faber, among other publishing houses, rejected the book outright. London publisher Jonathan Cape came close to printing it but was persuaded to reject the work by a Ministry of Information official later presumed to have been a Soviet spy. In spite of this reluctance, when it was finally released in England by Secker and Warburg in 1945, the novel was a runaway success, as it was the following year in the United States—no doubt helped by the dissolution of wartime alliances and the first rumblings of the Cold War. Regarded by many as Orwell's finest work, and certainly his first truly popular one, Animal Farm has long been ranked as among the best books of the twentieth century.