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We, Arweave's true inspiration?

Is Yevgeny Zamyatin's We the true inspiration for Arweave? Explore it's similarities and differences with George Orwell's 1984.

24 Jan 2024
Clock 4 min


Yevgeny Zamyatin's We stands out not only as one of the earliest works of dystopian literature, but also as a profoundly unsettling vision of a future where individual identity is subsumed by an all-controlling state.

Written in 1920s Russia, amid the political upheavals and the rise of totalitarianism, We offers a foreboding glimpse into a world where the state's quest for mathematical precision and predictability dominates the human yearning for freedom, love, and individual expression.

The city made of glass, devoid of colour and spontaneity, reflects a society where emotions are curtailed, dreams are considered a sickness, and personal memories are mere glitches in an otherwise seamless system.

In January 1946, George Orwell reviewed Yevgeny Zamyatin's We while he was working as a journalist at Tribune. Three years later, he published his own dystopian novel 1984. While these two novels have their differences, there are some similarities which would suggest that Zamyatin’s work had a profound influence on Orwell.

Similarities with 1984

Orwell's 1984 mirrors We in its portrayal of a future where personal freedoms are curtailed and society is under constant surveillance. Both D-503 and Winston find themselves in societies obsessed with control, monitored by an omnipotent state apparatus – the Bureau of Guardians in We and the Thought Police in 1984. Both novels depict a world where the State manipulates truth and reality, a theme Orwell acknowledged as an intuitive grasp of the irrational side of totalitarianism in his review of We.

Both novels also have smaller details in common as well. For example, the 12 hour-clock is no longer used. Both protagonists meet a mysterious woman that they initially hate but later fall in love with, and who later inspire them to rebel against the state. Both are caught and subject to procedures that takeaway their ability to resist the state. They also both maintain a diary, which could land them in trouble with those in power. Interestingly, two diary entries are nearly identical:

There is but one truth, and there is but one path to it; and that truth is: four, and that path is: two times two.

D-503's diary, We

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. If that is granted, all else follows.

Winston's diary, 1984

Another Warning

Despite these similarities, We and 1984 diverge in their primary threats. We warns of a state that obliterates individuality using scientific and mathematical precision. The One State's glass structures and regulated timetables exemplify a world where personal space and time do not exist.

In contrast, 1984 focuses on the control of history and information. Big Brother's altering of past records reveal a regime obsessed with controlling not just actions, but thoughts and beliefs as well.

Both narratives, though different in their mechanisms of control, highlight the perils of a society that sacrifices individuality and truth for supposed order and stability.


Zamyatin's novel, though less known, laid the groundwork for the 20th-century dystopian narrative that inspired many writers.

While Zamyatin’s novel was suppressed in the Soviet Union, Orwell's 1984 with its more direct and detailed narrative, brought these dystopian themes to a broader audience. If you think about it, the lack of recognition for Zamyatin's contribution reflects a historical irony akin to the rewriting of the past depicted in Orwell's novel.

Now that you're familiar with the project's background, its inspiration, and even the source of that inspiration, our next article will explore how Arweave could prevent the dystopian realities depicted in 1984 and We.

It’s time we introduced you to the Permaweb.

The Arweave miniseries

This article is part of a miniseries designed to help readers discover Arweave. Each piece explores a different aspect of Arweave, from what inspired the project to its practical applications. Use the list below to navigate through the other articles in the series:

Winston the elephant 


We, Arweave's true inspiration? 📍 You are here

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