The generation following World War II saw both the rise of the Cold War and the Decolonization of most of Africa, after decades (in some cases, centuries) of European imperialist rule. The Communist powers, which did not hold overseas colonies (at least not in the conventional sense) charged that the enslavement (both literal and political) of Africa was a uniquely Western Capitalist crime and, as part of Moscow’s efforts to make gains on the West, actively supported numerous African independence movements (both financially and militarily) in the hopes of creating client states out of the fruits of any successful endeavours. The strategy worked, at least in part, as several of Africa’s greatest post-colonial giants, such as Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere were Soviet allies.
The success of the Soviet moves in Africa in the 1950s and early ’60s profoundly surprised and alarmed the West, which resolved to fight back, supporting leaders favourable to their cause, while toppling pro-Soviet leaders in coups. Most notably, in 1960, the Western powers supported the overthrow (and subsequent murder) of Patrice Lumumba, the charismatic first prime minister of the independent Congo, who was rumoured to have had ties to Moscow (although the existence and nature of such connections has long been disputed; indeed, Lumumba always denied that he was a Communist sympathizer). The slaying of Lumumba has since been seen as one of the great crimes of the Cold War era in Africa and was a burning matter in the global media when the present map was made.
The present composition was published in Sofia, in 1962, at the behest of the Bulgarian authorities, and served as a powerful propaganda piece, celebrating the independence of the African states, while implying the existence of a ‘global socialist brotherhood’ with the Africans against their ‘mutual enemies’, the Capitalist West. Indeed, Communism held itself to be pan-racial and anti-racist (even if this was often not practically the case), while the Capitalist West was charged to be inherently racist and imperialist.
The verso of the double-sided composition features a large conventional general map of Africa, while the recto features the gripping title panel, showing a newly liberated African man breaking his chains. Else, there are a series of continental maps showing the progressive decolonization of Africa from 1939 to 1962, plus, another map showing the dates of independence of each of the continent’s sovereign states. There are also city plans of Cape Town, Tunis, Alexandria and Dakar. Additionally, is a map of the Suez Canal, the vital global trasnsport link that was nationalized by President Nasser in 1956, expelling the British and French out of Egypt, and opening the door to Soviet sponsorship of the country. There are also charts featuring recent demographic statistics for each African nation.