This special themed section examines the multilayered engagements between Africa and the Soviet Union as a central, if overlooked, global encounter of the mid-twentieth century. We call this worldview and the entanglements it generated the “African-Soviet Modern,” an asymmetrical combination of aspiration, materiality, and practice that was rooted in diverse African states and in the Soviet Union. As an analytical category, the African-Soviet Modern speaks to the gap between the grand rhetorical and ideological scope of the Cold War moment and the relatively discrete channels in which it materialized, which gave this mode of thinking a particular vitality and instability. African-Soviet entanglements unfolded in an expansive and uneven geography that incorporated diverse regions of Africa, the USSR, and beyond. Avoiding the temporal and spatial silos of either Soviet or African history, the four essays in this section focus on the spaces where African and Soviet students, politicians, and scientists interacted with one another, creating “connected chronologies” and complementary archives of evidence. Weaving together documentary and oral sources, these articles recover a global entanglement that was energized by unbounded political, economic, and technological aspiration, but that produced an uneven material footprint in newly independent African states.

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