On the cover of Rossen Djagalov's debut monograph, a Bolshevik brandishes a bayonet in one hand, and with the other, throws leaflets to the proletarians of Central Asia. He stomps upon bug-eyed colonizers and feudal lords desperately protecting their loot. The image derives from a 1920s Soviet propaganda poster and encapsulates the book's research trajectory: the multifaceted bridge between the Second and Third Worlds—specifically, between the Soviet Union and the liberated democracies emerging in Asia and Africa. Indeed, the book seeks to explicitly challenge the “decontextualizing force” (p. 4) of postcolonial studies, especially in Anglo-American universities, which ignore the myriad ways in which the Soviet Union, like the cover's Bolshevik, aided the developing literary and cinematic cultures of the Third World.

Supported by astonishing numbers of archival documents and a shrewd understanding of geopolitics, Djagalov argues that the USSR presented itself as the iconic liberator for Third World nations, especially...

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