Jonathan Meades

State Building

Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War


Princeton University Press 357pp £50 order from our bookshop

Decolonisation was a geopolitical fashion that brought with it a gaudy array of horrors. Once the lid was off, a gamut of wholly predictable consequences ensued: the reprise of centuries-old tribal and national conflicts; sectarian wars and genocide; struggles for linguistic supremacy; serial power seizures and consequent shows of triumphalism; coup after coup; bent elections; and standoffs between free-range militias, mercenaries trained at Sandhurst and Saint-Cyr and guerrillas who knew every inch of le bled.

More pacifically, there were protracted arguments about the shape of transition. These varied from one country to the next. Common to all, however, was the anticipation of the imminent void that would be created by the change from one form of governance to another, from one dominant culture to another. When that change was actually made, the race to fill the void was all elbows.

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