We Study Guide

We is the most renowned work of Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin and one of the most influential dystopian novels of the 20th century.

Although the novel was completed in 1921 and published in the US in 1924, it was not published in its country of origin, the USSR, until 1988. Directly following its completion in 1921, We was banned by the censorship bureau. The novel had the dubious honor of being the first work banned by the institution. A Czech translation of the novel appeared in a Prague newspaper in 1927, bringing it to the attention of Eastern European intellectuals. Shortly after We was published in Russian in the journal Volya Rossii (Russia's Will), causing significant political pressure for Zamyatin. It wasn't until over half a century after its publication, in 1988, We was finally published and circulated within the USSR due to the arrival of glasnost and the decline of government censorship.

Often mistaken as a critique of the Soviet Union, We criticizes the tendency of government in general to repress dissidents and promote stability over human freedom. Much of the culture of OneState, including the repression of emotions, was inspired by Zamyatin's time in England. Zamyatin was equally struck by the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor, the pioneer of time-and-motion studies, who converted workers into cogs in industrial assembly lines. Many critics consider We a response to H.G. Wells and his brand of scientific optimism. Zamyatin translated several of Well's works into Russian; his criticism of Well's utopianism can be found in his repressive and sterile depiction of a "perfect" society.

We influenced some of the most famous works of dystopian fiction of all time, including George Orwell’s 1984. Although Aldous Huxley denied the claim, many, including George Orwell, believe that We also heavily influenced Brave New World. Kurt Vonnegut cited We as an influence on his novel Player Piano; similarities have been noted between We and Ayn Rand’s Anthem, as well as Vladimir Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading.

We has been adapted as a TV movie and theatre production, as well as a musical album. The novel has also been translated into various languages and won a 1994 Prometheus Award.