Soviet Development Theory and Economic and Technical Assistance to Afghanistan, 1954-1991

By Robinson, Paul; Dixon, Jay | The Historian, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Soviet Development Theory and Economic and Technical Assistance to Afghanistan, 1954-1991


Robinson, Paul, Dixon, Jay, The Historian


FROM 1954 TO 1991, the Soviet Union was the world's largest donor of economic and technical assistance to Afghanistan. This article studies the history of that assistance, analyzing the reasons it was given, its results, and the reasons for its ultimate failure. Many people now believe that the cause of the economic troubles of Third-World countries is not a lack of capital, but poor political leadership and weak institutions. (1) This article supports that position and concludes that, similarly, the reasons why Soviet assistance failed to substantially boost the Afghan economy were as much political and institutional as economic.

Soviet economic and technical assistance was better intentioned than Western commentators have assumed, but the Soviets were often economically naive. For instance, they believed that the loans they made were different in nature from those of Western countries, and were then surprised when their loans created exactly the same problems of indebtedness. To their credit, the Soviets were aware very early on of the importance of institutions in economic development, which put them in some respects ahead of their Western counterparts. However, while their critiques of Afghan institutional failings were often astute, they struggled to find better structures, and in the end their efforts to solve Afghanistan's political and institutional problems only made things worse.

Over a forty year period, the Soviets began around 270 major construction projects in Afghanistan, 142 of which were completed. These included roads, electrical power stations and power lines, irrigation canals, factories, housing, grain elevators, bakeries, automotive repair plants, airports, educational institutions, and others. (2) The Soviets also trained tens of thousands of Afghan specialists, provided hundreds of thousands of tons of humanitarian assistance, distributed food, seed and medical aid, and dug wells.

This activity has received very little attention. The war the Soviets fought in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 has tended to overshadow everything else they did in that country both during that period and in the previous quarter century. (3) As noted in a recent report produced by the Canadian Department of National Defence, "economic development in Afghanistan in the 1980s is largely overlooked by analysts and rarely discussed in the extant literature." (4) This is important as "it was not on the battlefield where Soviet strategy failed but in their efforts 'to influence Afghan social dynamics and to address crucial economic sustainability issues facing the government of Afghanistan." (5)

Such literature as does exist on Soviet economic and technical assistance dates overwhelmingly from the Cold-War period and is tainted by Cold-War biases, on both the Soviet and the Western sides. An early Soviet example of this is a 1958 book chapter by L.B. Teplinskii on the subject of the history of Soviet-Afghan relations. He wrote:

   The economic aid provided by the Soviet Union to Afghanistan has a
   disinterested character. The same principle guides the Soviet
   government in its relations with other countries.... The Soviet
   Union provides disinterested, active help to economically
   underdeveloped countries, so that, by liquidating their
   backwardness, they can become economically stronger. The Afghan
   people know that the Soviet Union, when it provides them with
   economic aid, will meet their requests and will not put any
   conditions. The aid provided by the Soviet Union is distinguished
   from the "aid" given to Afghanistan by Western powers. The
   capitalist countries, as a rule, do not want to give weakly
   developed countries credits to develop industry, so that these
   countries can eliminate their backwardness. (6)

Needless to say, Western authors held quite the opposite view. An extreme, but not entirely unrepresentative, example is an edited volume published by Freedom House in 1990. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Soviet Development Theory and Economic and Technical Assistance to Afghanistan, 1954-1991
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.