Moses the Raven and The Russian Orthodox Church

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" Moses the Raven suddenly reappeared on the farm, after an absence of several years. He was quite unchanged, still did no work, and talked in the same strain as ever about Sugarcandy Mountain."

"They all declared contemptuously that his stories about Sugarcandy Mountain were lies, and yet they allowed him to remain on the farm, not working, with an allowance of a gill of beer a day."

Basics of Moses, the Raven

  • Moses is a background character in Animal Farm only seen rarely, but is very important symbolically.
  • Moses is very close to Mr. and Mrs. Jones and flies away with them when they are run out.
  • He returns later to tell the animals about "Sugarcandy Mountain."
  • Although derided, and rejected by the pigs as spouting falsehoods, he is fed and allowed to stay.
  • Moses is representative of the Russian Orthodox Church.
  • A more exhaustive discussion of Moses's character can be found here.

Short History of the Russian Orthodox Church
  • Over a thousand years old. Supposedly founded by St. Andrew the First, in Kiev.
  • Survives Tartar invasion, reunification, invasion by the Swedish and the Polish, and several revolutions.
  • Allied with the Russian tsardom all the way to the 20th century.
  • Bolshevik revolution of 1917 puts opposing viewpoint in power.
  • The church is brutally repressed, and predominantly disappears.
  • Russia is invaded by Germany, and the church reappears, offering support and encouragement to the people.
  • Because of this, Russia repels the German army and the church and state are reconciled.
  • Government continues to set boundaries and refuse to officially acknowledge the church.
  • It is, however, allowed to exist.
  • A more detailed history of the Russian Orthodox Church can be found here.
  • Further information on the Orthodox Christian belief system can be found here.

Summary of Parallels
Russian Orthodox Church
Moses the Raven
Attached to the Russian government (tsardom).
Kept close as a pet in the Jones household.
Persecuted and forced underground by the Communists.
Run out with the humans by the Animalists.
Hidden and unnoticed during the early reign of the Communists.
Hidden and unnoticed during the early reign of the Animalists.
Reappears after war with Germany.
Reappears after the Battle of the Windmill.
Preaches that correct behavior leads to going to Heaven.
Preaches that after this life, labourers shall rest in Sugarcandy Mountain.
Government does not officially recognize or agree with it:
Stalinists are almost universally atheists.
Pigs insist that Sugarcandy Mountain is made up.
Church keeps people happy.
The idea of a Sugarcandy Mountain comforts hardworking animals.
Church is allowed to exist and even acknowledged.
Moses is allowed to stay, and even fed.

The Relevance of Religion
  • Religion of any sort tends to provide moral support to people, especially the lower classes.
  • The idea that they will go somewhere pleasant after this life is over (Heaven or "Sugarcandy Mountain") is comforting.
  • Karl Marx - the founder of Communism - calls religion the "opiate of the people." It keeps people quiet.
  • Religion is what encourages people to do the "right" thing.
  • Thus, it is allowed to exist only when the "right" thing corresponds with what the government wants the people to do.
  • George Orwell is quoted as saying that "As with Christianity, the worst advertisement for socialism is its adherents."
  • More Orwell quotations on the subject of Christianity can be found here.
  • It is not difficult to conclude, therefore, that Orwell's intent here is to demonstrate that religion is to be avoided when used as a tool of the state.

Why A Raven?
  • One would expect that a bird to represent the Church would be a dove, since the dove is often used as a symbol of Christianity.
  • Or what about an eagle? They are large and majestic, as the Orthodox Church (born of the Byzantine Empire) often is.
  • Biblically, the raven is opposite the dove - it often has negative connotations, such as selfishness and uselessness.
  • Nevertheless, the raven is also used extensively in the Bible, and often as a servant of God, so it is equally effective.
  • Why the raven? Because Orwell intended to portray the Church as not being entirely pure (like a dove) or majestic (like an eagle).
  • Because Moses is a raven, he fits the portrayal of the Church as having two sides: good in nature, and encouraging morality, but also allowing itself to be used as a tool of the totalitarian government.
  • A summary of the mentions of the raven in the Bible, illustrating its dual nature, can be found here.

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