Seeing Africa – construction of Africa and international development in Soviet and Russian public discourse - freedom as development?
Ratcliff, Catherine Mary
Tsarist Russia, the USSR and modern Russia have had unique perspectives on Africa and aid, due to geographical location, changing ideologies, non-colonial history with Africa, the Cold War, alternating aid status of recipient and donor, and a historic view of Africa in a tripartite relationship with the West. Western development discourse evolved to produce a large aid apparatus, accompanied by depoliticised discourse on Africa. The USSR’s discourse on Africa was political. Using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), Discourse Historical Approach (DHA) and a postcolonial approach, with a structural analysis of 262 pages of Soviet newspaper Pravda and discourse analysis of 54 articles, this thesis relates findings to the Russian, Soviet and Western contexts in which the discourses arose. It shows that Pravda used Africa and aid as discursive tools to establish the USSR’s position in the international hierarchy, used Africa as a rhetorical proxy, and carried a theme of “freedom as development”. Similarities between Soviet, Russian and Western representations of Africa, development and aid (for example Africa’s low status) were built on different motivations and assumptions, and used different tools. The USSR’s Cold War rhetoric conveyed a partial and incomplete construction of Africa, aid and development. Pravda conveyed assumptions that all countries, including the USSR, are developing, that the USSR and Africa are comparable and in some ways similar, and that freedom is an overriding aspiration. Constructing development as natural, Pravda constructed a weak link between development and aid, and in general Pravda presented aid as harmful Western aid. Russia’s legacy is an ideology in which Africa is still eternally “developing” but shares this activity with all countries, Africa is weak and yet is Russia’s friend and ally, competition continues between Russia and the West over Africa’s friendship, and aid has mainly humanitarian rather than development value. Socialist ideological discourse of equal nations remains in today’s Communist Pravda. This thesis explores the evolution of perceptions in Soviet Pravda discourse, and makes a substantive analytical contribution to the literatures on development and aid, Russian foreign policy and international relations, and postcolonialism. It increases knowledge of Cold War Africa, and the USSR’s and Russia’s self-perceptions and attitudes towards others. Russia’s status as a non-Western donor and recent aid recipient make its legacy and attitudes of particular interest.
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