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The Soviet Union and Third World National Liberation Movements: The Soviet Role (1987)

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Part of the Pioneers in Arts, Humanities, Science, Engineering, Practice book series (PAHSEP,volume 22)


The Soviet Union supports a broad range of national liberation movements throughout the Third World. Its ideological justification for doing so views national liberation movements as one of three main revolutionary forces in the world, the other two being the international working class and the socialist states. To some degree, Soviet support of national liberation has been a function of the role the Soviet Union has sought to play at any given time with regard to the Third World in general and national liberation movements in particular. This role has, in turn, determined the degree and type of support the Soviet Union has been willing to accord, and the recipients of that support.


  • National Liberation Movements
  • Soviet Support
  • Soviet Behaviour
  • Behavior Toward
  • Soviet Assistance

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  1. 1.

    This text was first published as “The Soviet Union and Third World National Liberation Movements: The Soviet Role,” Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 40, No. 2, 1987, pp. 303–324. The permission was granted on 11 January 2018 by Mr. Amir Bolouryazad on behalf of the Journal of International Affairs of Columbia University in New York.

  2. 2.

    G. Kim, “Sovetskii soiuz i natsional’no-osvoboditel’neo dvizhenie,” MEMO, no. 9 (1982): 29–30; V.G. Solodovnikov, Problemy sovremennoi Afriki (Moskva: Nauka, 1973), pp. 279–281; A. Gromyko, “Sovetskaia politika mira i Afrika,” Aziia i Afrika segodnia, no. 1 (1981): 2; A. Gromyko, “XXVI s’ezd KPSS i zadachi sovetskoi afrikanistiki,” Narody Azii i Afriki, no. 4 (1981): 11.

  3. 3.

    Elizabeth Kridl Valkenier, “Soviet Economic Relations with the Third World,” in Roger Kanet, The Soviet Union and the Developing Nations (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), pp. 215–236.

  4. 4.

    Pravda, 21 December 1973.

  5. 5.

    Pravda, 1 November 1977.

  6. 6.

    K.N. Brutents, “A Great Force of Modern Times,” International Affairs, no. 3 (1981): 83–84; Gromyko, “XXVI s’ezd,” pp. 3–13; Gromyko, “Sovietskaia politika,” p. 2; Gromyko, “The Imperialist Threat to Africa,” International Affairs, no. 7 (1981): 47–50; G. Kim, pp. 29–30; Iu. S. Novopashin, “Vozdeistvie real’nogo sotsializma na mirovoi revoliutsionnyi protsess: metodologicheskie aspekty,” Voprosy fiiosofii, no. 8 (1982): 6; P. Ia. Korbelev, “Ekonomicheskoe sotrudnichestvo SSSR s afrikanskimi gosudarstvami,” Narody Azii i Afriki, no. 2 (1982): 8–9; Iu. A. Krasin, “Uzlovaia problema strategii kommunistov,” Rabochii klass i sovremennyi mir, no. 1 (1977): 35–49.

  7. 7.

    A. Kodachenko, “Strategiia nezavisimogo razvitiia os- vobodivshikhsia stran,” Mezhdunarodnaia zhizn’, no. 1 (1984): 54; Sh. Sanakoev, “Velikaia preobrazniushchaia sila v mirovykh otnosheniiakh,” no. 5 (1984): 11.

  8. 8.

    E.g., Mark Katz, The Third World in Soviet Military Thinking (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982), p. 97 or Carl Jacobsen, Soviet Strategic Objectives (New York: Praeger, 1979); Col. G. Malinovskii, “Lokal’nye voiny v zone natsionarno-osvoboditel’nogo dvizheniia,’” Voenno-istoriches- kii zhurnal, no. 5 (1974): 97–98 and “Lokal’naia voina” in SovietskaiaEntsiklopediia 5 (Moskva: Voenizdat, 1978): 22.

  9. 9.

    Maj. Gen. D. Volkogonov, et al., Voina i armiia: Slosof- sko-sotsiologicheskii ocherk (Moskva: Voenizdat, 1977), pp. 248–249; 353–354 (see Harriet Fast Scott and William Scott, The Soviet Art of War, (Boulder: Westview Press, 1982), pp. 250–252. Lt. Gen. D. Volkogonov, “The Soviet Army: A Factor in Peace and Security,” Soviet Military Review, no. 2 (1984): 31; “The Logic of Retaliatory Measures,” no. 6 (1984): 56.

  10. 10.

    Col. Y. Dolgopolov, “Razvivaiushchiesia strany Azii, Afriki i Latinskoi Ameriki,” Kommunist Vooruzhennykh Sil, no. 16 (1973): 74; Col. G. Malinovskii, “National’no-os-voboditel’noe dvizhenie na sovremennom etape,” no. 24 (1979): 33; Lt. Col. N. Khibrikov. “Krushenie kolonial’noi sistemy imperalizma. osvobodivshiesia strany Azii, Afriki i Latinskoi Ameriki,” no. 6 (1978): 74; Capt. Iu. Osipov, “V.I. Lenin, KPSS ob internatsional’nom kharaktere zashchity zavoevanii sotsializma,” no. 13 (1978): 76; Col. V. Solovyov, “Army of Internationalists,” Soviet Military Review, no. 4 (1980): 4; and Col. A. Leontiev, Krasnaia zvezda, 1 May, 1979. See also Katz, Soviet Military Thinking, p. 139.

  11. 11.

    See Appendix for a listing of acronyms used in this article.

  12. 12.

    Pravda, 31 March 1971 (Brezhnev); Pravda, 4 April 1971 (Gromyko); Boris Ponomarev, “Under the Banner of Marxism-Leninism,” World Marxist Review, no. 6 (1971): 1.

  13. 13.

    A. Gromyko, “Programma mira v deistvii,” Kommunist, no. 14 (1975): 3–20: Pravda, 25 February 1976.

  14. 14.

    Pravda, 23 April 1976.

  15. 15.

    See Ponomarev speech, Pravda, 13 December 1978.

  16. 16.

    See Stephen Sestanovich, The Washington Post, 20 May 1984.

  17. 17.

    Pravda, 23 November 1982.

  18. 18.

    Pravda, 16 June 1983.

  19. 19.

    Zagladin, commenting on the new program, again quoted Lenin that “socialism influences world development particularly through its economic policy,” (Prague radio, 7 February 1986).

  20. 20.

    See Brezhnev’s ‘Rules’ speech, TASS. 27 April 1981.

  21. 21.

    David and Marina Ottoway, Afrocommunism (New York: Africana Publishing Co, 1980), p. 33; Africa Con empo rare Record (1978–79): A-19.

  22. 22.

    See Galia Golan, The Soviet Union and the Palestine Liberation Organization: An Uneasy Alliance (New York: Praeger, 1980), pp. 180–209; Golan, “The Soviet Union and the Israeli Action in Lebanon,” International Affairs (London, Winter 1982–83): 7–16.

  23. 23.

    Kaplan, p. 310; Stephen Hosmer and Thomas Wolfe, Soviet Policy and Practice Toward Third World Countries (Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1982), p. 130; Oye Ogubandejo, “Soviet Policies in Africa,” African Affairs 79, no. 316 (1980): 310; Paul Henze, “Arming the Horn 1960–1980,” The Wilson Center. Working Paper No. 43 (July 1982), p. 32.

  24. 24.

    See A.A. Gromyko and G.B. Starushenko, “Sotsial’nye i natsional’nye faktory razvitiia osvobodivshikhsia stran,” Sotsi- ologicheskie issledovaniia, no. 1 (1983): 8–9; D.E. Eremeev, “Anatomiia etnicheskikh konfliktov,” Aziia i Afrika segodnia, no. 6 (1981): 15; Muhammed Ibrahim Nagud, “At the Beginning of a Difficult Stage,” World Marxist Review, no. 9 (1985): 89.

  25. 25.

    From 29 December, 1976 to 15 October, 1977, during the ceasefire achieved by the Islamic Conference, mainly Libya.

  26. 26.

    In any case, the Dhofari movement had by that time become a revolutionary social movement for the Gulf as a whole (the PFLOAG) rather than a Dhofari separatist movement for national liberation. Moreover, by the mid-1970s Soviet aid had been greatly reduced, reportedly contributing to the Dhofari losses in 1976 (although as late as 1984 Oman claimed the Soviets were still aiding the rebels). See Paul Viotti, “Politics in the Yemens and the Horn of Africa.” in Mark Kauppi and Craig Nation, The Soviet Union and the Middle East in the 1980’s (Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1983), p. 217; al-Majaies (Kuwait), 21 April 1984 (interview with Omani official).

  27. 27.

    K.N. Brutents, vol. 2 of National Liberation Revolution Today (Moscow: Progress, 1977), p. 207.

  28. 28.

    In the early 1970s, only the NLF was mentioned in the May Day slogans, and it addressed the 1971 CPSU Congress, but so did PAIGC. The NLF had a Moscow embassy-level office, but so does the non-Marxist PLO.

  29. 29.

    In some cases (i.e. the Sikhs, Moros, Burmese minorities and occasionally Eritreans), however, the Soviets have gone so far as to deny the legitimacy even of the demand for autonomy on the grounds that genuine nations or ‘peoples’ were not involved. Nonetheless, the Tamils, Dhofaris and Katangans did receive support.

  30. 30.

    The only movement where the objective was changed was the Dhofari movement. It was separatist until 1968 and did not have much if any Soviet support. After 1968 it was a social-revolutionary movement for all of the Gulf, and it did receive Soviet support. Fred Halliday, Arabia Without the Sultans, (New York: Vintage, 1974), p. 327.

  31. 31.

    William Barnds, “Moscow and South Asia,” Problems of Communism 21 (May-June 1972): 25; Robert Jackson, South Asian Crisis (New York: Praeger, 1975), p. 83.

  32. 32.

    Brutents, Vol. 1, p. 86; Rostislav Ulyanovsky, National Liberation. Essays on Theory and Practice (Moscow: Progress, 1978), p. 344.

  33. 33.

    See Izvestiia, 30 July 1974 (Tolkunov); V. Sosnovsky, “Election Campaign in Pakistan.” New Times, no. 10 (1970): 10.

  34. 34.

    John Marcum, “Lessons of Angola,” Foreign Affairs 54, no. 3 (April 1976): 413; Marcum, Vol. 2 of The Angolan Revolution (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1978) p. 383; A.J. Klinghof- fer, The Angolan War (New York: Westview Press, 1980), p. 19; Colin Legum, “The Soviet Union, China and the West,” Foreign Affairs 54, no. 4 (July 1976): 749; Gerald Bender, “Angola, the Cubans and American Anxieties,” Foreign Policy, no. 31 (Summer 1978): 22; Jiri Valenta, “The Soviet-Cuban Intervention in Angola,” Studies in Comparative Communism 11, nos. 1 and 2 (Spring/Summer 1978): 10, 13.

  35. 35.

    Africa Confidential 19, no. 18 (8 September 1978): 2; 20, no. 9 (25 April 1979): 2; The Guardian, 28 March 1976; 28 April 1977; The Punch (Ikeja), 22 August, 1978; William Griffith, “Soviet Policy in Southern Africa,” MIT Paper (1979), p. 9; Ottoway, p. 99; Africa Contemporary Record (1975–1976): B-643; (1979–1980): A-167; New African, May 1979, p. 35 (Mugabe interview); Le Monde, 4 May 1979; Sunday Times, 17 October 1979; The Observer, 2 July 1979.

  36. 36.

    Galia Golan, “The Soviet Union and the PLO since the War in Lebanon,” Middle East journal 40, no. 2 (Spring 1986): 285–305.

  37. 37.

    Al-Watan [Kuwait], 4 January 1986.

  38. 38.

    See Tiagunenko, et al., Vooruzhennaia bor’ba narodov Afriki za svobodu i nezavisimost’, Ministerstvo obrani SSSR/ Nauka, Moskva, 1974.

  39. 39.

    Golan, Soviet Union and PLO, pp. 210–227.

  40. 40.

    Tiagunenko, et al., pp. 301, 361; A; A. Ivanov, “Avangard revoliutsionnogo dvizheniia v Afrike,” Nauchnyi kommunizm, no. 4 (1976): 89; Frances Melin at Berlin Conference, “Against Imperialism, for Social Progress,” World Marxist Review, no. 3 (1981): 78; V. Shubin, “ANK: agody podpol’iai vooruzhennoi bor’by,” Aziia i Afrika segodnia, no. 1 (1982): 36; Sergei Petukhov, “Oliver Tambo: We Are Committed Internationalists,” New Times, no. 2 (1980): 22–23.

  41. 41.

    Tiagunenko, et al., p. 73; Evgeny Tarabrin, “Peking’s Manoeuvres in Africa,” New Times, no. 6 (1972): 19; To the Point 7, no. 31 (4 August 1978): 13; Christopher Coker, “Decolonialization in the Seventies, Rhodesia and the Dialectic of National Liberation,” The Round Table, no. 274 (April 1979): 122–136; Africa Confidential 19, no. 21 (20 October 1978): 1. Nkomo himself favored political over armed means.

  42. 42.

    Donald Zagoria, Vietnam Triangle: Moscow, Peking, Hanoi (New York: Pegasus, 1967), pp. 46, 105; William Duiker, The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1981), pp. 245–256, 277, 304; Chester Bain, Vietnam: The Roots of Conflict (Englewood Cliffs, N.).: Prentice-Hall, 1967), p. 162.

  43. 43.

    Zagoria, Vietnam Triangle.

  44. 44.

    One observer has claimed that the Soviets hoped actually to forestall an improvement in Indian-Chinese relations. (Barnds, “Moscow and South Asia,” pp. 22–23.).

  45. 45.

    Radio Peace and Progress, 15 October 1977.

  46. 46.

    Legum, “National Liberation in Southern Africa,” Problems of Communism 24 (January-February 1975): 7; George Yu, “China’s Impact,” 27 (January-February 1978): 47–48.

  47. 47.

    Marcum, p. 265; Klinghoffer, pp. 104–106.

  48. 48.

    Bruce D. Porter, The USSR in Third World Conflicts: Soviet Arms Diplomacy in Local Wars 19451980 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 98; Jonathan Stromlau, The International Politics of the Nigerian War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), pp. 26–30.

  49. 49.

    Seth Singleton, “Soviet Policy and Socialist Expansion in Asia and Africa,” Armed Forces and Society 6. no. 3 (1980): 361.

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Correspondence to Galia Golan .



1.1 List of Acronyms


African National Congress


Popular Front for the Liberation of the Occupied Arab Gulf


Comité Revolucionario de Mocambique


Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine


Communist Party of the Soviet Union


Palestine Liberation Organization


Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine


Palestine National Front


Eritrean Popular Liberation Front


People’s Revolutionary Party (Vietnam)


Fronte Nacionale de Libertacao de Angola


South African Communist Party


Fronte de Libertacao de Mocambique


Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (Morocco)


Front de Liberation Nationale (Chad)


South West African National Union


Kurdish Democratic Party


South West African People’s Organization


Movimente Popular de Libertacao de Angola


United Democratic Front (South Africa)


National Liberation Front (Vietnam)


Uniao Nacional para a Independencia Total de Angola


Organization of African Unity




Pan African Congress


Zimbabwean African National Union


Partido Africano de Independencia de Guiñe e Cabo Verde


Zimbabwean African People’s Union

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Golan, G. (2019). The Soviet Union and Third World National Liberation Movements: The Soviet Role (1987). In: Galia Golan: An Academic Pioneer on the Soviet Union, Peace and Conflict Studies, and a Peace and Feminist Activist. Pioneers in Arts, Humanities, Science, Engineering, Practice, vol 22. Springer, Cham.

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