Beyond weaponry and socialist internationalism: Soviet engagement with postcolonial state-building in the Arab Middle East, 1954-1966

Lovotti, Chiara (2022) Beyond weaponry and socialist internationalism: Soviet engagement with postcolonial state-building in the Arab Middle East, 1954-1966, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Storie, culture e politiche del globale, 34 Ciclo.
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This research investigates the Soviet Union’s role in guiding state-building processes of postcolonial Arab countries of the Middle East, leading them to adopt economic and political elements of the socialist-Leninist models of development. The widespread narrative depicts the Soviets as having failed to export communism in those states and, therefore, as having failed to bring them closer to Moscow’s sphere of influence and values. However, various Soviet archives suggest a different reality. As the Cold War burst forth, between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s, contacts between Soviet and Arab officials were not just incredibly frequent but they went to the core of all main issues of socio-economic development of these transforming countries: party politics, institution building, agrarian reforms, industrialisation, security sector reforms, etc. The research focuses on a period that may be labelled as ‘the launching phase’ of the Soviet Middle East policy, which established a long-lasting framework for the Soviet-Arab dialogue. It also places significant attention on the ‘personal dimension’ of such a dialogue, showing how Moscow’s influence went hand in hand with the ability of Soviet leaders and diplomats to establish relations of personal trust with postcolonial Arab élites. A selected number of Arab countries are examined: Egypt, Iraq and Syria. For each of these countries, a limited period of time will be taken into consideration, when Soviet influence reached its peak and state-building policies might have drawn from the Soviet model (for Egypt 1954-1958; for Iraq 1958-1963; for Syria 1961-1966). On the one hand, the analysis of specific case-studies will allow to investigate the relationship between Moscow and each of these new Arab regimes; on the other, such a large geographical scope will permit to grasp the elements and the objectives of the broader Soviet policy towards the Middle East region.


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