• Philip Muehlenbeck


In the April 1963 issue of World Politics, Curt F. Beck, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, told readers about communist Czechoslovakia’s deep involvement with the newly decolonized continent of Africa:

The water is safe to drink in Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt, thanks to a water filter station established by Czechoslovak engineers. A shoe factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is being built by Czech technicians. Across the frontier, in Somalia, Czechs are building a technical institute to teach some young Somalis the techniques necessary to staff modern factories. Across the continent in Conakry, Guinea, airport inscriptions are in Czech as well as in French and English to accommodate the many Czechs arriving on the direct Prague-to-Conakry airline. In the smaller villages of Ghana special trucks are delivering Czech beer to the local inhabitants. In Mali journalists are being trained by Czechs in the establishment of their own press agency. And in Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia, there are numerous Africans among the more than 2,000 students from Africa, Asia, and Latin America enrolled at Czech state expense in institutions of higher learning. To say that Africa has assumed a role of real importance for the Czechs is an understatement.1

What is most noteworthy about Beck’s article is that it was the first—and until this book, only—scholarly account of Czechoslovakia’s involvement with Africa published in English. The purpose of this present book is not only to update Beck’s 50-year-old article with research based on archival material from the Czechoslovak and US governments, which was unavailable at the time, but also to challenge Beck’s assertion that “One must make clear at the start that in her African policy Czechoslovakia fulfills a task that she has been given by the Soviet Union.”2


Foreign Policy African State Diplomatic Relation Soviet Bloc Shoe Factory 


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    C.F. Beck (1963) “Czechoslovakia’s Penetration of Africa, 1955–1962” World Politics 15 (3), p. 403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Data analysis by author. From 1954–68 the United States gave $31.725 billion in bilateral economic assistance to Africa, compared to the Soviet Union spending $5.585 billion and Czechoslovakia $1.129 billion. This equates to Czechoslovakia devoting 0.1090% of its GDP to Africa in comparison to the United States spending 0.0949% and the Soviet Union spending 0.0417%. For data on Czechoslovak and Soviet economic aid to Africa, see C. Stevens (1976) The Soviet Union and Black Africa (London: Macmillan), p. 69. For data on United States economic aid to Africa see US Overseas Loans and Grants [Greenbook] Database, date accessed February 14, 2014. For data on each country’s GDP during the years 1954–68 see The Maddison Project: Statistics on World Population, GDP and Per Capita GDP, (home page), date accessed February 14, 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Philip Muehlenbeck 2016

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  • Philip Muehlenbeck

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