It completely depends on what your goal is in reading the novel. To simply read the book without any background on Russian History doesn't detract at all from receiving the message of propaganda, censorship, and language. If the reason you are reading the book is to use as an allegory for what the problems were in Russia during the Revolution years, then yes, you need to know some history. When I read Animal Farm, it was simply to read. I didn't need any history to realize I admired Boxer and felt sorry for the common animals or that I hated the pigs. The need for background completely depends on the goal.
There are several "messages" in Animal Farm." I think the book would have limited appeal if you had to understand any historical moment for it to make sense. I have always though that the book is about language and propaganda, and these are topics that are as relevant for us as they were for the society of the Russian Revolution. The ability of the pigs to control the other animals by feeding them propaganda and simply changing the rules/commandments they had once agreed on,is far from dead. Many of us don't take the time to or are unable to separate the "truth" from what we are told is true. Until we are able/willing to do that, we are as vulnerable as Boxer and the sheep.
Pretty frightening, and you don't need any knowledge of history to get the point.
Check out the following essay concerning Orwell's own disillusionment with the ideals of socialism he had once embraced:
The whole point of Orwell's 'Animal Farm' is to portray by means of a fable-allegory the events leading up to and following the Russian Revolution. The story may indeed be read and understood as a simple tale, but it is meant to convery much more than that.
For a young child it is not important to understand the political significance of the story. However, for an adolescent or adult, to miss this aspect would be to eclipse its essential message.
I think this question should be on the discussion board.
In my opinion, it is important for students to know the historical background and inspiration for the story in order to know the author's intent. However, students do not need to know one thing about the Russian revolution in order to understand the message of "Animal Farm": communism does not work. In theory, living communally is wonderful. In practice, though, one group of people will always be a little more equal than all the rest, and they will always be the ruling class that decides what all the rest will get.
No it is not important. Orwell stated that people associate it to the Russian Revolution; but, he was writing a maxim on all revolutions.
The Book Animal Farm is certainly intended to portray in very simple and general terms the processes behind the the Russian Revolution and the events thereafter.
One can enjoy the book without reference to the Russian Revolution, but for someone who is interested in using this book also as a means of understanding human behavior, a basic understanding of the events in Russia will definitely be of great help.
I think it is very important for students to have an understanding of the Russian Revolution because Animal Farm is an allergory for the Revolution. It would very difficult to understand the story without this information.
Orwell was a very left-wing writer and very interested in the possibilities of successful communism. Animal Farm highlights the mistakes of The Soviet Union under the leadership of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. It does not follow that Orwell was damning all forms of communism. He was trying to find a way to make it work and to draw attention to the pitfalls. What Orwell hated and feared was totalitarianism, not communism.