Maxim Matusevich is Associate Professor of World History at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ, where he teaches a variety of courses on African, Cold War, and Global History and also directs the university Russian and East European Studies Program. His research focuses on the history of political and cultural encounters between Russia/Soviet Union and Africa, a topic of enduring scholarly and intellectual interest to him, on which he has published widely. Matusevich is the author of No Easy Row for the Russian Hoe: Ideology and Pragmatism in Nigerian-Soviet Relations, 1960-1991 (Africa World Press, 2003) and editor of Africa in Russia, Russia in Africa: Three Centuries of Encounters (Africa World Press, 2007). He is presently working on a manuscript that examines the Soviet Union’s engagements with Africa, Africans, and blackness.
I look forward to teaching courses on Cold War and the theory of totalitarianism at Smolny College in St. Petersburg. While in Russia I will also pursue archival research for my new project on the evolution of Soviet perceptions of race as a result of political and cultural encounters with Africa and Africans. This project expands the disciplinary and geographical boundaries of East European and African studies and establishes a natural link between the two fields. Reflective of the growing scholarly and popular interest in diasporic and transnational narratives my research focuses on the history and significance of African presence in the so-called "Soviet spaces." This study examines the utility of Africa and blackness not only in the official foreign policy discourse of the Soviet Union but also in the Soviet everyday. While the African-Russian connection rarely attracted serious and sustained scholarly attention either in Russia or in the West it, in fact, represents a uniquely singular transnational story of political and cultural encounters and adaptation. In this respect, the project has a special educational agenda to dramatically expand the field of Black European Studies to include Russia. By establishing the essential continuity of Russian-African ties from past to present I would like to “de-exoticize” this historical connection, an important scholarly and educational task indeed considering that the many myths and misrepresentations surrounding the history of African presence in Russia (as well as Russia’s involvement in Africa) have contributed greatly to the growth of post-Soviet racism.