Libertarians You’ve Never Heard Of: Yevgeny Zamyatin

SFL Staff

It’s important to learn from intellectual giants like Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, but there are many unsung heroes that are also worth exploring. In thiseducational series, we hope to introduce students to such individuals. While not all of the figures profiled here explicitly identified as libertarian, they made great contributions to the cause of liberty that are worth acknowledging.

“You are afraid of it because it is stronger than you; you hate it because you are afraid of it; you love it because you cannot subdue it to your will. Only the unsubduable can be loved.”Yevgeny Zamyatin,We

A portrait of satirical writer Yevgeny Zamyatin, who influenced major 20th century dystopian novelists.

Who: Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) was a Russian writer, translator, and playwright. Zamyatin, though little known compared to the authors he influenced, published a novel, We, in which can be found major similarities to the major dystopian novels of the 20th century. Zamyatin originally identified as a Bolshevik, though he was exiled from the USSR for his mockery of Communist ideals once the CPSU came into power and censored free speech and publication. He proclaimed that “one should be a permanent heretic,” in a constant state of revolution and change.

Why he matters: Zamyatin attempted to publish his iconic novel, We, in the USSR, but the Bolshevik government banned its publication there in 1921. In the years after the Bolshevik revolution, he wrote articles criticizing Lenin’s massacres, Russia’s labor policies, and the treatment of peasants. We was smuggled abroad, ensuring Zamyatin’s literary death in Russia. He was among the first dissidents, and appealed to Stalin directly to leave Russia. He was granted leave and settled in France, where his essays and stories gained him mild acclaim. He remained involved in his home country as far as it would allow him, and so took part in the anti-fascist International Congress for the Defense of Culture as a member of Soviet delegation

His greatest mark upon the liberty movement, We, features a plot similar to that of Ayn Rand’s Anthem and George Orwell’s 1984. Scholars believe that those two novels, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron and Player Piano are directly influenced by Zamyatin’s work.,

If you only read one thing: Read We, Zamyatin’s landmark novel.

Available Online:

We (1924)

Major Works:

We (novel) (1921), won1994 Libertarian Futurist Society’s “Hall of Fame” category of Prometheus Award

The Lower Depths (1936), a French film which screenplay was co-written by Zamyatin

A Soviet Heretic: Essaysby Yevgeny Zamyatin

Learn more about Zamyatin:

Libertarian Podcast

Spartacus Educational Library

Russia Beyond the Headlines

“There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times.”―YevgenyZamyatin,ASovietHeretic: Essays by Yevgeny Zamyatin


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