This article expands our understanding of cultural exchange between the Soviet Union and writers from the third world during the eras of Thaw and Stagnation. It examines Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s little-known Urdu-language travelogue about his time in the USSR, Mah o sāl-i-āshnā’i: yādon kā majmūʻah (Months and Years of Friendship: Recollections; 1979), arguing that Faiz’s text is distinct from earlier, Western travelers’ accounts in its articulation of the complexities of his subject position vis-à-vis the Soviet state. It does so by translating his experience into the richly ambiguous Indo-Persian literary and cultural idiom. The article examines the ambiguities introduced into Faiz’s text through intertextuality with this idiom derived from the Persian dastān and Urdu ghazel traditions. With the help of both direct and indirect allusion to those traditions, Faiz’s complex attitude toward what Terry Martin has called the world’s “first affirmative action empire” and Nancy Condee has described as an “anti-imperial empire” comes most clearly into view. Ultimately, Faiz’s text suggests that socialist internationalism was not just a vertical structure controlled by Moscow but a horizontal network shaped by powerful cultural allegiances that were not easily overcome.

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