Scholarship on the impact of Lenin’s thinking and on the Soviet Union’s relationships with Africa has emphasized two dimensions: on the one hand, the ideological imprint on and support provided to nationalist and anti-imperialist movements and, on the other, the emulation of communist techniques of authoritarian rule by many postcolonial governments. This paper highlights the neglected receptions of another major communist idea, namely, the ‘Leninist solution to the national question’, as embodied by the federal political model of the Soviet Union. The paper argues that many actors in different contexts, where the nationalities question had to be tackled with, showed a keen interest in the Leninist solution and in the sui generis federal model of the USSR. These contexts included the post-1945 French Union, as well as postcolonial countries such as Sudan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. The Leninist alternative to the nation-state and to assimilation assumed a great deal of significance to minority groups. Nevertheless, it was rejected even by Marxist-inspired movements and elites which sought to create a nation-state. The paper uses the approach of cultural transfers to investigate and assess both the appeal and the limits in the reception of the Leninist federalist alternative.
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