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Kalinovsky, Artemy

Soviet Nation Building and Counter Insurgency in Afghanistan and Ethiopia

Not long after the Russian revolution which brought the Bolsheviks to power, Soviet advisers were in high demand to help replicate their success elsewhere in the world. They played particularly important roles in places like China, where Communist movements were very strong, but they also helped advise nascent groups in Europe, the colonial world, and even the United States. During the Cold War these advisers came to play an increasingly important part of Soviet foreign policy. Rapid decolonization meant the emergence of many new states whose leaders saw in the USSR an appropriate model for their own efforts at modernization and industrialization. As Moscow established relations with these new states, it sent advisers and specialists to transmit Soviet expertise and bind the new states closer to Moscow in the growing Cold War confrontation.  They were particularly active in China in the 1950s, until they were effective kicked out, in Egypt under Nasser, in Ethiopia in the 1970 and 1980s, and in the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.

This paper will look at the role these advisers played in two counter-insurgencies. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan (1979-1989), like most counter-insurgencies, consisted not only of military operations but also of a massive nation-building project. Moscow sent thousands of advisers to build up the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), organize and improve government institutions, and help carry out pacification measures in the country-side. Similarly, thousands of advisers were sent to Ethiopia in the late 1970s and 1980s to build up government and party institutions, enact agricultural reform, and help fight separatist movements. Drawing on Soviet archival sources, memoirs, and interviews, this paper will explore the work of Soviet advisers in Ethiopia and Afghanistan. It will focus in particular on perceptions of the third world in this period both in Moscow and “on the ground,” interactions with local communists and the wider population,  and the wider implications for counter-insurgency and nation-building.

Friday 30 Oct 13.45-15.45 SESSION 5
Panel: When the War Turned Hot: Struggles and Ideology in the Third World