George Orwell’s Animal Farm is an allegorical tale of animals revolting against their human master only to experience the subversion of their revolution and the replacement of one tyrant with another. Animal Farm was Orwell’s commentary on the Russian Revolutions of 1917 and of the consolidation of power afterwards by the Bolsheviks, a hardline communist faction that effectively replaced rule by czar with even more repressive rule by themselves. Representing the Bolshevik leaders who stood atop the newly-installed Soviet hierarchy, Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky, are Snowball and Napoleon, two of the pigs on the farm who are leaders of the revolution and work to become the new leaders of this vision of utopia or a workers’ paradise and, in so doing, emerge as dictators themselves.
Orwell’s farm is populated by a variety of animal species, including horses, cows, a donkey, and others. Among the animals is a raven named Moses. It is Moses who regularly espouses a competing vision of paradise that he calls Sugarcandy Mountain. Moses’s description of Sugarcandy Mountain is a clear depiction of heaven as understood in Scripture. In the following passage from Chapter II of Orwell’s novel, the story’s narrator describes Moses and his vision:
“He claimed to know of the existence of a mysterious country called Sugarcandy Mountain, to which all animals went when they died. It was situated somewhere up in the sky, a little distance beyond the clouds, Moses said. In Sugarcandy Mountain it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges. The animals hated Moses because he told tales and did no work, but some of them believed in Sugarcandy Mountain, and the pigs had to argue very hard to persuade them that there was no such place.”
The communists, per the writings of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin, viewed religion as, in Marx’s words, “the opiate of the people.” Once in power, the communists banned religion and harshly persecuted all those suspected of participating in religious rituals. Throughout the era of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), the ruling Communist Party of the Soviet Union sought to repress the Russian Orthodox Church (with the exception of individual clergy the party could pressure or bribe into towing the party’s line) both because of Marxist-Leninist dogma and because of the threat a belief in a divine being posed to the Soviet regime. The enduring strength of the Russian Orthodox Church ensured its survival. The communists, however, always kept what remnants of the Church it allowed to survive under constant surveillance. All of this is relevant to the matter at hand because Sugarcandy Mountain represents heaven and, as such, a potential threat to Napoleon and Snowball’s (and Major’s before his death) political philosophy—a philosophy they used to justify their repression.
It was certainly no mistake that Orwell would name the raven “Moses,” a major Biblical figure who brought the word of God to His people. Orwell was simply emphasizing the parallels between the Bolsheviks and the pigs who represent them in Animal Farm.