Origins and Dynamics of the Botswana-Soviet Union Relations, 1960s to 1990

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Kwante MC Kwante
Boga Thura Manatsha


This paper primarily uses archival and oral sources to examine the origins and dynamics of relations between Botswana and the Union of Soviet and Socialist Republic (USSR) within the context of the Cold War. The USSR or the Soviet Union applied for the diplomatic relations with Botswana in March 1967 and
the request was accepted in March 1970 after protracted and tense negotiations. At Independence in 1966, the poverty-stricken Botswana was desperate to court many friends. But its diplomatic relations with the socialist Soviet Union incensed apartheid South Africa, which believed that the Soviet Union wanted to use Botswana to spy on South Africa. Before Botswana’s Independence, a handful of Left-leaning young Batswana had already secured Soviet Union scholarships through the help of the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and the Botswana National Front (BNF). After Botswana attained Independence, the sending of some Batswana to the Soviet Union for study was not appreciated by the capitalist-inclined and ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). The latter branded the opposition leaders as irresponsible hot-heads hellbent on indoctrinating the youth with the Marxist or communist ideology. The issue of Batswana students studying in the Soviet Union dominated the diplomatic negotiations.

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