‘Peoples’ Friendship’ in the Cold War
The Patrice Lumumba Peoples’ Friendship University
in The Red and the Black
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The Patrice Lumumba Peoples’ Friendship University in Moscow played a role in shaping both individuals and governments in post-colonial Africa. Founded in 1960, its stated objective was to provide higher education for the developing world. Its opening followed important global shifts – particularly the collapse of European empires – but coexisted with others, especially Cold War activities. For many Africans, it was one of the only avenues for post-secondary education available. Nelson Mandela commented, ‘Hundreds of young South Africans found here the education they were denied in their own homeland.’ Observers in the West soon began to refer to PLPFU as a site of Communist indoctrination and a training ground for terrorists; its symbolic connection with Lumumba was invoked (in racialised language) as evidence of this. For instance, Time magazine asserted, ‘Four years after his death, a lot of people talk as though Patrice Emery Lumumba were still the Congo’, and accused the university of producing ‘terrorists’ and ‘agitators’ who are ‘invoking Lumumba’s name’ with its ‘rhythm of jungle drums’. The chapter explores PLPFU’s operation as a nexus of interaction among the various African countries whose students travelled there, the USSR as host and ‘instructor’, and the global vision of the US and its allies.

The Red and the Black

The Russian Revolution and the Black Atlantic