A cultural heritage for national liberation? The Soviet-Somali historical expedition, Soviet African studies, and the Cold War in the Horn of Africa

Telepneva, Natalia (2019) A cultural heritage for national liberation? The Soviet-Somali historical expedition, Soviet African studies, and the Cold War in the Horn of Africa. International Journal of Heritage Studies. ISSN 1470-3610

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    Abstract

    This paper discusses the conception, execution, and outcomes of the first Soviet-Somali histori-cal expedition, in 1971. In due course, the Soviet-Somali Expedition set out to create a ‘usable past’ for Somali nationalism, rooted in the history of Mohammad Abdullah Hassan, a reli-gious and military leader who had fought against the British in Somaliland between 1900 and 1920. The paper investigates how Soviet ideas about the preservation of historical heritage were grounded in Central Asian modes of practice and how these became internalised by Soviet Africanists in their attempts to help reinforce foundational myths in newly independent African states. The paper argues that the Soviet model for the preservation of cultural heritage, as envisioned by Soviet Africanists, aimed to reinforce Siad Barre’s national project for Somalia. Their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, however, because of Cold War constraints and mis-understandings of local realities.