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Capsule Review

Laboratory of Socialist Development: Cold War Politics and Decolonization in Soviet Tajikistan

In This Review

Laboratory of Socialist Development: Cold War Politics and Decolonization in Soviet Tajikistan
Laboratory of Socialist Development: Cold War Politics and Decolonization in Soviet Tajikistan
By Artemy M. Kalinovsky
Cornell University Press, 2018 336 pp. Purchase

In the 1950s and 1960s, during the post-war wave of decolonization, the United States and other Western countries attempted to foster economic development in newly independent but poor countries. In the Soviet Union, something similar occurred in the less developed regions of the country, not least because Moscow wanted to prove that it could engineer economic development better than its capitalist competitors. In this original contribution, Kalinovsky outlines the calculations of the national and local figures who led the effort and then looks at the case of Tajikistan to explore how it worked in practice. He assesses specific elements of Soviet plans, such as the massive Nurek Dam, and their effects on the lives of those involved and the broader population. By the 1980s, in both the West and the East, early illusions about how easily the Western or the Soviet model of economic modernity could be cut and pasted onto traditional cultures had faded. As Kalinovsky shows, in the Soviet case, policymakers came to the awkward realization that instituting markets and at least partly preserving local traditions promised better results than state planning. But as the country came apart under Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, this belated awareness quickly succumbed to recriminations over the entire enterprise.

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