For close to sixty years Afghanistan was one of the largest recipients of foreign development aid and yet it remains one of the poorest countries on the planet. The Soviet Union pro- vided Afghanistan with large-scale economic and technical assistance for nearly twenty-five years before invading in 1979 and then in- creased the volume of assistance even further during the 1980s in an effort to prop up the government and undermine the anti-Soviet insurgency. None of this aid made any lasting difference to Afghan poverty. As in so many other countries, foreign aid did not promote economic growth. Using unexplored Russian sources, this book describes and analyses the economic and technical assistance programs run by the Soviet Union from the mid-1950s through to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and places them in the context of both Soviet-era development theories and more recent ideas about the role of institutions in fostering economic growth. In some respects Soviet development theorists were actually ahead of their contemporary Western counterparts in realising the centrality of institution-building, but they proved unable to translate their theories into practical solutions. The reasons why their assistance programs failed so completely in Afghanistan remain compellingly relevant today.
Paul Robinson is a professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa. He has written numerous books and articles on a wide variety of subjects including Russian and Soviet history, most notably The White Russian Army in Exile, 1920-1941. Jay Dixon has a PhD in Economics from UCLA. He currently works for Industry Canada, researching the determinants of Canada's economic growth, and lectures on macroeconomic policy in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa.