The Soviet Union in the Horn of Africa
A selection of documents used in the writing of Radoslav A. Yordanov's The Soviet Union and the Horn of Africa during the Cold War: Between Ideology and Pragmatism (2016). Originating from Serbia, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, the UK and the US, the sample of materials offer a glimpse of the variety of political, economic and military issues with which the Soviet Union had to deal regarding Somalia and Ethiopia throughout the Cold War, focusing not only on relations with the local states, but also with its East European allies, China, Cuba and the West.
December 23, 1965
Telegram from John F. Root, Office of Northern African Affairs, 'Subject: Bulgarian Fronting For Russian Interests in Ethiopia'
Observations by Israeli and US diplomats of the Soviet Union's attempt at indirect economic penetration of Ethiopia during the mid-1960s. The Ethiopian regime was suspicious of Soviet intervention, thus they had to resort to the help of the East European states, in this case Bulgaria.
March 21, 1973
East German Ambassador in Mogadishu Herklotz, 'Note About a Conversation with the USSR Ambassador to the SDR [Somali Democratic Republic], Comrade A. Pasiutin, on March 15, 1973'
The two ambassadors discuss relations between East and West Germany, as well as Somalia President Siad Barre's trip to visit Arab states.
July 12, 1975
Telegram from Yugoslav Ambassador in Mogadishu Hocevar
Belgrade’s envoy to Mogadishu outlines the potential Somali rationale behind the invitation of Western observers to inspect Soviet facilities in Berbera. International attention surrounded the facilities following rumors and intelligence that the port was actually a military base.
December 23, 1976
Message from Yugoslav Embassy in Beijing, 'From Our People in Addis Ababa – For Your Information'
A Yugoslav diplomat offers a detailed view of the increasing level of formal contact between the Soviet Bloc and Ethiopia in mid-1976, also witnessing the local competition between the Chinese and the Soviet Bloc and comparing their modes of conduct.
January 29, 1977
Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 'Urgent note on Aid to Ethiopia from the Countries of the Socialist Community, Including Poland’s'
Discusses the state of affairs in Soviet Bloc-Ethiopian relations, briefly charting other socialist states’ involvement with Addis Ababa during that period. It also draws suggestions for the possible path of relationship expansion between Poland and Ethiopia, including small military deliveries, as suggested by the Soviets.
March 23, 1977
Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 'Cuban Ambassador to Maputo commented on President Fidel Castro’s trip to some African countries'
The information obtained by Romania’s ambassador to Maputo by his Cuban counterpart not only continues Castro’s praise of Mengistu’s revolutionary zeal, but also sheds more light on the wide scope of the Cuban President’s endeavors on the African continent.
July 13, 1977
Conversation with Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC) Chairman Mengistu Haile Mariam
Demonstrates Soviet willingness to provide good offices to Somalia and Ethiopia in normalizing their relationships in July 1977. Even as late as July, Moscow believed the conflict between the two states could be solved through peaceful means.
September 02, 1977
Message from Yugolav Embassy Addis Ababa, 'The Soviet Ambassador on the Ethiopian-Soviet Relations'
A detailed view of Soviet reactions toward the Ethiopian-Somali conflict as of early September 1977, showing Moscow’s envoy to Addis Ababa’s conviction that Ethiopia would emerge victorious from the war. However, this document also gives a somewhat critical view on the part of Yugoslav’s diplomat regarding the Soviets’ unofficial and unsuccessful attempt to persuade Ethiopia to surrender part of Ogaden in order to appease the Somalis.
January 16, 1978
British Foreign Office, 'Soviet Role in the Horn of Africa'
Drawing upon British concerns with respect to their possible reaction to Moscow’s support for Ethiopia against Somalia’s aggression, the Foreign Office Planning Staff looks into the wider international implications of the conflict in the Horn.
August 18, 1981
Telegram from Czechoslovak Embassy in Addis Ababa
Prague’s representation to Addis Ababa offers an insight into the Soviet Union’s economic assistance toward Ethiopia in the early 1980s, while voicing, at the same time, the Soviet economic delegation’s nuanced and candid impression of Mengistu’s abilities to control the course of the revolutionary transformations.
April 30, 1987
East German Ministry for State Security, 'Consultations with KGB 21-24 April 1987, About Ethiopian Consultation'
Discusses the KGB’s opinion of Mengistu, the level of support for the Ethiopian intelligence services, and the difficulties the Soviets experienced in dealing with their Ethiopian counterparts within specific fields of state security.
East German Ministry for State Security, 'On the Position of the Army in the Political System of Ethiopia
Excerpt of a Stasi report on the Ethiopian army. This portion of the report deals with the Army’s dissatisfaction with the quality of the Soviet Union’s armaments; the East German material ponders how much of this is part of anti-Soviet sentiment, and how much is due to their professional incapacity.
June 06, 1988
East German Ministry of State Security, 'The Current Situation in PDRE [People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia] and the Region'
Stasi report on the current state of Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict as of early June 1988. It concludes that in the event of Mengistu turning toward Moscow for additional arms supplies, the latter is likely to reject them in favor of a political solution to the conflict.
'Information About the Highlights of a Brief Working Visit to the USSR (25-27 July This Year ) of the General Secretary of the WPE CC, the President of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Mengistu Haile Mariam'
Soviet authorities inform their Hungarian allies of the outcome of Mengistu’s August 1988 visit to Moscow. Mengistu has ignored Soviet pleas to find a peaceful solution to the Eritrean conflict.