Larry Slawson received his master's degree at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian history.
Throughout historian Tobias Rupprecht’s work, Soviet Internationalism After Stalin: Interaction and Exchange Between the USSR and Latin America During the Cold War, the author examines the effects of Soviet foreign policy in Latin America during the early stages of the Cold War. In contrast to western historiographical accounts of this period that stress the negative effects of Soviet internationalism, Rupprecht argues that Soviet influence was viewed in a positive light by many Latin American countries; in particular, the countries that had suffered from the abuses of Cold War policies enacted by the United States as they attempted to combat the “threat” of communism throughout the region.
Rupprecht’s account illustrates the great lengths that Soviet leaders undertook to recruit potential allies in the southern hemisphere, particularly after it was discovered by Soviet agents that the Americans possessed great interest in the region as well. As a result, Rupprecht argues that the Soviets attempted to counter American influence in this region through an offering of financial assistance, military equipment (and supplies), as well as infrastructural materials (for the development of dams, roads, bridges, etc.) to Latin American countries. As a result of these efforts, Rupprecht argues that the Soviet Union was able to gain tremendous headway into the social, political, and economic realms of these countries; allowing for a cultural exchange of ideas and customs to develop and prosper in the decades that followed.
Rupprecht’s work relies on numerous primary source materials that include: archival materials (from both Latin America and Russia), newspaper accounts (such as Pravda), KGB reports, letters, diaries, memoirs, oral-history interviews, construction (and supply) records, as well as propaganda pieces used by the Soviets. Rupprecht’s account is well-written, organized, and highly focused in its approach to Soviet internationalism. However, one clear shortfall of this work lies in the limited number of Latin American countries that the author examines. By examining only a few countries (such as Cuba, Brazil, and Bolivia), it remains unclear whether Rupprecht’s claims can be extended to all of the Southern hemisphere. Despite these issues, Rupprecht’s account is important for historians to consider as it highlights the escalating nature of the Cold War as well as the efforts espoused by American and Soviet leaders to recruit additional allies to their cause.
All in all, I give this book 5/5 Stars and highly recommend it to anyone interested in a history of Cold War politics (and diplomacy) in Latin America. Both scholars and general audience members, alike, can benefit from the contents of this book. Definitely check it out if you get the opportunity!
Questions to Facilitate Group Discussion
1.) What was Rupprecht's thesis? What are some of the main arguments that the author makes in this work? Is his argument persuasive? Why or why not?
2.) What type of primary source material does Rupprecht rely on in this book? Does this help or hinder his overall argument?
3.) Does Rupprecht organize his work in a logical and convincing manner? Why or why not?
4.) What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of this book? How could the author have improved the contents of this work?
5.) Who was the intended audience for this piece? Can scholars and the general public, alike, enjoy the contents of this book?
6.) What did you like most about this book? Would you recommend this book to a friend?
7.) What sort of scholarship is the author building on (or challenging) with this work? Does this book add substantially to existing research and trends within the historical community? Why or why not?
8.) Did you learn anything after reading this book? Were you surprised by any of the facts and figures presented by the author?
Rupprecht, Tobias. Soviet Internationalism After Stalin: Interaction and Exchange Between the USSR and Latin America During the Cold War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
© 2017 Larry Slawson