‘We Could Not Be There’: Storytelling and the Narratives of Soviet Military Advisers, Specialists and Interpreters in Angola during the Civil War (1975–1992)

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Abstract

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.

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APA

Pikovskaia, K. (2020). ‘We Could Not Be There’: Storytelling and the Narratives of Soviet Military Advisers, Specialists and Interpreters in Angola during the Civil War (1975–1992). Journal of Southern African Studies, 46(5), 903–921. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057070.2020.1797355

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