‘We Could Not Be There’: Storytelling and the narratives of Soviet military advisers, specialists and interpreters in Angola during the Civil War (1975–1992)

Kristina Pikovskaia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

A growing literature has looked at different aspects of the socialist bloc’s assistance to liberation movements in southern Africa. However, there is little scholarly work that analyses the experiences and narratives of Soviets who assisted liberation movements on the ground. This article looks at the narratives of Soviet military advisers, specialists and interpreters who fulfilled their ‘international duty’ in Angola during the Cold War. Using the approach to storytelling developed by Hannah Arendt and Michael Jackson, it argues that telling stories about the war in Angola plays important roles for the narrators. It allows them to revive and give value to the concept of internationalism; demonstrate their ability to act independently, despite political, ideological and military strictures; address the injustices they faced during and after their international duty. The article also shows that it has been difficult for Soviet veterans of the Angolan War to transform their personal experiences into an inter-subjective discourse able to enter the public sphere, owing to official restrictions, the lack of an audience and the difficulty of explaining their story in contemporary Russia, where Soviet values no longer matter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)903-921
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Southern African Studies
Volume46
Issue number5
Early online date31 Jul 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2020

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Angola
  • internationalism
  • military assistance
  • narratives
  • Soviet Union
  • storytelling

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