Hutchins Center / Davis Center: Decolonization and the Cold War: African Student Elites in the USSR as Transnational Actors


Monday, September 26, 2016, 12:15pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South Building, S354, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge

See the Davis Center Website for updated info. 

Harold D. Weaver, Center Associate, Davis Center; Alumnus Fellow, W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University; Founder, BlackFilm Project, The BlackQuaker Project, and The China-Africa-Russia Project; Advisory Board, Black Russians film

This presentation challenges widespread Western beliefs about African elites' participation in Soviet transnational programs in education, training, and human-resource development during the Cold War. Because those beliefs seem to have shaped conventional wisdom circulating through influential policy circles and popular culture, they appear to have been absorbed by scholars, pundits, and even writers of fiction. Drawing upon his actual field experience, Dr. Weaver seeks to fill the gap between conventional wisdom and a paucity of evidence about the realities of the opportunities afforded Africans in the USSR during the important decolonizing decade in African post-colonial history, 1955-1964, coinciding with a significant part of the Khrushchev era.

Among the questions to be raised in this presentation are: Why was it necessary for Africans to go to the Soviet Union for education and training? What did they actually find there? What were the divergences and convergences between African needs and Soviet aims during this stage of the Cold War? How did the new, controversial, innovative Patrice Lumumba Friendship University in Moscow respond to African decolonization priorities and aspirations? How does this research differ from previous publications on the subject by American scholars?

Dr. Weaver will draw upon his sojourns in the USSR as journalist accredited by the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1963-1964), as participant in the second official USA-USSR youth exchange program (1959), as participant in the World Youth Forum in Moscow (1961), as participant in the World Youth Festival in Helsinki (1962, recruited by Gloria Steinhem) and a post-festival visit to Leningrad and Moscow, and as dissertation researcher.  Weaver's 1985 dissertation, SOVIET TRAINING AND RESEARCH PROGRAMS FOR AFRICANS, was the first book-length monograph on African students in the USSR.