UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Dr Alessandro Iandolo

Lecturer in Soviet/Post-Soviet History



Joined UCL
1st Sep 2022

Research summary

I am a historian of the Soviet Union and the world. I am interested in the USSR's economic, intellectual, and political interactions with external ideas, states, and people. In particular, I look at Soviet engagement with Africa, Asia, and Latin America during the Cold War. My first book (Arrested Development: The Soviet Union in Ghana, Guinea, and Mali, 1955-1968) explored the Soviet Union's economic partnership with three newly-independent countries in West Africa during the Nikita Khrushchev era. I am currently working on a new project that investigates intellectual exchanges between Soviet and Latin American economists preoccupied with theorizing "backwardness" and "dependency".

I am interested in the Soviet impact on the birth and development of transnational trends in politics and economics, and in the impact on the USSR of ideas that came from abroad. I have explored the Soviet Union's contribution to the theory and practice of economic development. My first book, Arrested Development, is a study of Soviet economic cooperation with Ghana, Guinea, and Mali in the 1950s and 1960s. The book shows that the Soviet approach to economic development abroad was based on a mix of state and market. Historiographically, the book places Soviet engagement in West Africa in the broad tradition of "import substitution industrialization."

At present, I am working on a joint intellectual history of the concepts of "backwardness" in the Soviet Union and "dependency" in Latin America. These two ideas influenced and even shaped each other during the second half of the twentieth century. However, Soviet economists were wary of acknowledging their interest in "bourgeois" ideas from Latin America, just as Latin American intellectuals feared being identified as communists if they acknowledged their adoption of Soviet concepts. By investigating these hidden connections, my research highlights the depth of exchange between intellectual traditions alternative to Western liberalism.

In the near future, I plan to start a new project on the hybridization of Soviet "technical cultures"  with "vernacular practices" from the Global South. Looking at specific sites of interaction in Cuba, Guinea, and Indonesia, I will explore two-way exchanges of ideas and practices in education, healthcare, and factory work.

I am a strong believer in multi-language, multi-archival research. Thanks to funding from the UK Economic and Social Research Council and the British Academy, I was able to access archives in Russia, Ghana, and Mali for Arrested Development. A generous grant from the European Research Council allowed me to do research in Russia and Chile, and to plan archival research in Argentina and Brazil.

I have worked in multiple archives in Russia, including the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences (ARAN), the Archive of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation (AVP RF), the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), the Russian State Archive of the Economy (RGAE), and the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI). I have contributed to the entries on AVP RF and RGANI in the guide on "Using Archives and Libraries in the Former Soviet Union" of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEEES).

Teaching summary

Undergraduate modules:



MA options:



University of Oxford
Doctorate, PhD | 2012
University of Cambridge
Masters, MPHIL | 2007
University of Warwick
Masters, MA | 2006
Universita degli Studi Roma Tre
First Degree, BA | 2004


I joined SSEES in September 2022. I received my PhD from Oxford in 2012, and I was a postdoc at the London School of Economics, at Columbia, and at Harvard before coming to UCL.

My research has benefited from generous grants from the European Research Council (ERC), the Fulbright Commission, the British Academy, and the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).