Legacies of Middle East’s Global 20th Century: Moments of Worldmaking and Worldbreaking

Dr. Elisabeth Leake, Lee Dirks Chair in Diplomatic History at The Fletcher School, Tufts University, “Afghan Crucible: Global History and Legacy of the 1979 Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan,” Co-Sponsored by History Department

On 24 December 1979, Soviet armed forces entered Afghanistan, beginning an occupation that would last almost a decade and creating a political crisis that shook the world. To many observers, the Soviet invasion showed the lengths to which one of the world’s superpowers would go to vie for supremacy in the global Cold War, with disastrous results still felt today. The Soviet war, and parallel covert American aid to Afghan resistance fighters, would come to be a defining event of international politics in the final years of the Cold War, lingering far beyond the Soviet Union’s own demise. Yet, Professor Elisabeth Leake’s global history account of 1979 and aftermath shows that the Cold War competition is only a small part of the story.  She analyzes 1979 as a moment of crisis not just for Afghanistan or the Cold War but international relations and the postcolonial state by drawing out the stories of the political actors who tried to reshape Afghanistan in the twentieth century.