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Africa and the Cold War - Term 2 Week 2

Superpower rivalry and revolution in the Horn of Africa

This class will cover the evolution of superpower rivalries in the Horn of Africa, including the events and consequences of the Ethiopian Revolution in 1974-75. As in the case of Congo, the course of decolonisation in northeastern Africa provided grievances for Africans who felt included or excluded from the new post-colonial states. For the United States and Soviet Union, the region held real geopolitical significance, especially in controlling sea access to the Red Sea. Begin with the outline narratives of developments in the Horn in Westad. Lefebvre then offers a more in-depth account of superpower rivalry, while Wiebel offers background on the Ethiopian Revolution. In next week’s class, we will look at the denouement of these developments – the Ogaden War of 1977-78.


1. How do we account for the interest the superpowers showed in the Horn of Africa?

2. Who led Ethiopia’s revolution, and what role did the Soviets play in the politics that established the Mengistu regime?

Class readings

*Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 250-87 [e-book].

Jeffrey A. Lefebvre, ‘The United States, Ethiopia and the 1963 Somali-Soviet Arms Deal: Containment and the Balance of Power Dilemma in the Horn of Africa’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 36 (1998), 611-43.

Jacob Wiebel, ‘“Let the Red Terror Intensify”: Political Violence, Governance, and Society in Urban Ethiopia, 1976-78’, International Journal of African Historical Studies, 48 (2015), 13-30.

General readings

Jon Abbink, ‘Transformations of Violence in Twentieth-Century Ethiopia: Cultural Roots, Political Conjectures’, Focaal (2006), 57-77.

Ermias Abebe, ‘The Horn, the Cold War and New Documents from the former East-Bloc: An Ethiopian View’, Cold War International History Project Bulletin, 8-9 (1996-97), 40-45.

Stefano Bellucci, ‘The 1974 Ethiopian Revolution at 40: Social, Economic, and Political Legacies’, Northeast African Studies, 16 (2016), 1-13.

Daniel Branch, ‘Violence, Decolonisation and the Cold War in Kenya’s North-Eastern Province, 1963-1978’, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 8 (2014), 642-57.

Christopher Clapham, ‘Revolutionary Socialist Development in Ethiopia’, African Affairs, 86 (1987), 151-65.

Christopher Clapham, Transformation and Continuity in Revolutionary Ethiopia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Christopher Clapham, ‘The Socialist Experience in Ethiopia and its Demise’, Journal of Communist Studies, 8 (1992), 102-25.

Christopher Clapham, ‘Ethiopian Development: The Politics of Emulation’, Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 44 (2006), 137-50.

Donald Donham, Marxist Modern: An Ethnographic History of the Ethiopian Revolution (Oxford: James Currey, 1999).

Fred Halliday and Maxine Molyneux, The Ethiopian Revolution (London: Verso, 1981).

Paul B. Henze, ‘Moscow, Mengistu, and the Horn: Difficult Choices for the Kremlin’, Cold War International History Project Bulletin, 8-9 (1996-97), 45-47.

Edmond J. Keller, ‘The Ethiopian Revolution: How Socialist is it?’, Journal of African Studies, 11 (1984), 52-65.

David A. Korn, Ethiopia, the United States, and the Soviet Union (London: Croon Helm, 1986).

David Laitin, ‘Somalia’s Military Government and Scientific Socialism’, in Carl C. Rosberg and Thomas M. Callaghy (eds), Socialism in Sub-Saharan Africa: A New Assessment (Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of California, 1979).

Rene Lefort, Ethiopia: An Heretical Revolution? (London: Zed, 1981).

Jeffrey A. Lefebvre, Arms for the Horn: US Security Policy in Ethiopia and Somalia, 1953-1991 (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991).

John Markakis, Ethiopia: The Last Two Frontiers (Woodbridge: James Currey, 2011).

John Markakis, ‘The Revolution and the Scholars’, Northeast African Studies, 16 (2016), 89-105.

Marina Ottaway, Soviet and American influence in the Horn of Africa (New York: Praeger 1982).

Robert G. Patman, The Soviet Union in the Horn of Africa: The Diplomacy of Intervention and Disengagement (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). [e-book]

Gary D. Payton, ‘The Somali Coup of 1969: The Case for Soviet Complicity’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 18 (1980), 493-508.

Richard J. Reid, Frontiers of Violence in North-East Africa: Genealogies of Conflict since c.1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Ahmed I. Samatar, ‘Self-Reliance Betrayed: Somali Foreign Policy, 1969-1980’, Canadian Journal of African Studies, 21 (1987), 201-19.

*Elizabeth Schmidt, Foreign Intervention in Africa: from the Cold War to the War on Terror (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 143-64 [e-book].

Gebru Tareke, The Ethiopian Revolution: War in the Horn of Africa (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009). [e-book]

Andargachew Tiruneh, The Ethiopian Revolution, 1974-1987: A Transformation from an Aristocratic to a Totalitarian Autocracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), chs 7 & 8. [e-book]

Berthold Unfried, ‘Friendship and Education, Coffee and Weapons: Exchanges between Socialist Ethiopia and the German Democratic Republic’, Northeast African Studies, 16 (2016), 15-38.

Radoslav A. Yordanov, The Soviet Union and the Horn of Africa during the Cold War (Lanham: Lexington, 2016). [e-book]

Bahru Zewde, A History of Modern Ethiopia, 1855-1991 (Oxford: James Currey, 1991), ch. 6. [e-book]

Bahru Zewde, ‘The History of the Red Terror: Contexts and Consequences’, in Kjetil Tronvoll, Charles Schaefer, and Girmachew Alemu Aneme (eds), The Ethiopian Red Terror Trials: Transitional Justice Challenged (Oxford: James Currey, 2009).