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Arrested Development: The Soviet Union in Ghana, Guinea, and Mali, 1955-1968

March 29, 2023 @ 6:00 pm 7:30 pm

Please join the Russia and Eurasia Program at The Fletcher School for a conversation with historian Alessandro Iandolo. He will speak on his new book Arrested Development: The Soviet Union in Ghana, Guinea, and Mali, 1955–1968 (2022) and Russia’s relations with West Africa today. The event is open to the public. The event will be chaired by Professor Chris Miller. Please make sure to register via myFletcher to participate in the event in person. Refreshments will be served.

Arrested Development examines the USSR’s involvement in West Africa during the 1950s and 1960s as an aid donor, trade partner, and political inspiration for the first post-independence governments in Ghana, Guinea, and Mali.

Buoyed by solid economic performance in the 1950s, the USSR opened itself up to the world and launched a series of programs aimed at supporting the search for economic development in newly independent countries in Africa and Asia. These countries, emerging from decades of colonial domination, looked at the USSR as an example to strengthen political and economic independence. Based on extensive research in Russian and West African archives, Alessandro Iandolo explores the ideas that guided Soviet engagement in West Africa, investigates the projects that the USSR sponsored “on the ground,” and analyzes their implementation and legacy. 

The Soviet specialists who worked in Ghana, Guinea, and Mali collaborated with West African colleagues in drawing ambitious development plans, supervised the construction of new transport infrastructure, organized collective farms and fishing cooperatives, conducted geological surveys and mineral prospecting, set up banking systems, managed international trade, and staffed repairs workshops and ministerial bureaucracies alike. The exchanges and clashes born out of the encounter between Soviet and West African ideas, ambitions, and hopes about development reveal the USSR as a central actor in the history of economic development in the twentieth century.

Alessandro Iandolo is Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Soviet and Post-Soviet History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies of University College London. His research explores the Soviet Union’s interaction and exchanges with countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America during the Cold War. He is interested in the USSR’s economic, intellectual, and political interactions with external ideas, states, and people. His first book is Arrested Development: The Soviet Union in Ghana, Guinea, and Mali, 1955-1968 (2022). He is currently working on a new project that investigates intellectual exchanges between Soviet and Latin American economists preoccupied with theorizing “backwardness” and “dependency”. He received his Ph.D. from Oxford in 2012, and he was previously a postdoc at the London School of Economics, Columbia University, and Harvard University.

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