First, Ethiopia is the only African country that actually escaped colonial oppression (the short-term Italian occupation at the end of the 1930s can hardly be considered a colonization of this country) and has retained the traditions of monarchical statehood in deep antiquity for many centuries. Secondly, Ethiopia had certain ties with the Russian world, which is explained by the fact that a significant part of the population of the country belonged — again, since the early Middle Ages, to Eastern Christianity. Even if the ancestors of Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin did not originate from Ethiopia, but from the Lake Chad region, which critics of the “Ethiopian” version of Pushkin’s pedigree write about, the majority of our countrymen associate the “African trace” in the exterior of the great poet with Ethiopian origin.
The heirs of King Solomon
Ethiopia, located in East Africa, is now the second most populous country on the continent (93 887 025 lives in Ethiopia) and the thirteenth largest country in the world, and is also one of the oldest countries in the world. In VI-V centuries. BC. The Ethiopian highlands began to be actively mastered by immigrants from South Arabia - from the territory of modern Yemen. The latter contributed to the linguistic "Semitization" of local African peoples, had a fundamental influence on the formation of a unique Ethiopian cultural tradition. At the beginning of our era on the Ethiopian Highlands arose the famous kingdom of Aksum, which existed until the XI century. It was during the period of the existence of the Aksum kingdom on the territory of modern Ethiopia that Christianity began to spread - approximately in the 4th century AD, that is, three centuries after the appearance of Christian dogma. In the XII century, after the collapse of the Aksum kingdom into a whole range of feudal domains, the State of Lasta gradually took the leading position, which became the basis for the formation of the subsequent Ethiopian statehood.
In 1268, the Solomon dynasty came to power in the state. It was called so because it raised its origin to the biblical king Solomon. The entire subsequent centuries-old history of Christian Ethiopia took place in periodic wars with the neighboring Muslim sultanates. In addition, attempts have been made by European travelers, primarily Portuguese, to convert Ethiopian rulers to Catholicism. Considering Ethiopia as an outpost of the Christian world in Africa, the Portuguese and the Vatican behind them sought to affirm Catholicism to make a reliable political and ideological vassal out of the country. In the 17th century, they even succeeded in converting Emperor Susnios into Catholicism, but Emperor Fasiledes, who succeeded him in 1632, deported Jesutian monks from the country and ended relations with the Portuguese.
From the middle of the 19th century, the Ethiopian emperors tried in every way to modernize the state administration system, knowing full well that the strength of their power depended largely on the creation of a regular army, the development of the economy, and on overcoming feudal fragmentation. Last in Ethiopia rolls over. The governors of the provinces and races (princes) were in fact autonomous rulers in their subordinate regions, relying on their own armed forces and often in conflict with the central government. On top of that, in the 19th century, Ethiopia became interested in European colonialists - first the British and then the Italians.
In 1867-1868 The Ethiopian army was considerably battered by the British Expeditionary Corps, which landed in Ethiopia in response to the arrest of several British subjects. Of course, the two thousandth English corps inflicted a serious defeat on the Ethiopian army. The emperor committed suicide, but the British did not begin to colonize the country - they limited themselves to destroying the artillery of the Ethiopian army and seizing the imperial crown as a trophy. In 1875-1884 With varying success, Ethiopia waged war against Egypt, and on 1885 with Sudanese mahdists. In the second half of the 1880's. The colonization of the coastal Red Sea territories of Ethiopia was begun by the Italians. Young Italy, in an effort to quickly grab its piece of "African pie" shared by Western powers, drew attention to the coast of the Red Sea - important strategic and economic ports. As a result of the confrontation, Ethiopia in 1889 recognized Italian sovereignty over the coastal region, Eritrea.
However, the Italians were not satisfied with seizing the coast and tried to subordinate the entire country to their influence. In 1894, the military confrontation between Ethiopia and Italy resumed. At this time, the Ethiopian army under the leadership of Emperor Menelik II was more successful and defeated the Italians in the battle of Amba-Alag (1895), and then in the famous battle of Adoux (1896). In parallel with the protection of its territory from the encroachments of the Italian colonialists, the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II began to establish relations with the Russian Empire. Orthodox Russia was considered by the Ethiopian monarchs, who also professed the Eastern branch of Christianity, as a natural ally and protector of African co-religionists. In 1897, diplomatic relations were established between the Ethiopian and Russian empires, after which the Russian state began to help Ethiopia. Thus, a military hospital was built, where Russian doctors provided assistance to servicemen wounded during the war with the Italians.
The last Emperor
In 1930, the imperial throne of Ethiopia occupied the races of Tafari Makonnyn. The thirty-eight-year-old governor of the province of Kaffa was the son of the cousin of Emperor Menelik II and, therefore, also raised his lineage to Solomonids, descendants of the legendary king Solomon. When baptized, Tafari was given the name Haile Selassie - “The Power of the Holy Trinity”. In fact, Tafari began to rule the country as early as 1916 when he succeeded in overthrowing the then emperor Iyasu V. The latter was known for demonstratively emphasizing his adherence to Islam, which ultimately brought the Ethiopian nobility out of himself, who decided to shift him and build on the throne was the daughter of Menelik II Zauditu. Ras Tafari was proclaimed with her as regent and heir to the throne and remained in this status for 14 for years, in effect exercising political control and foreign representation of the state. By the way, the subculture of the “Rastamans”, originating from the Afro-Caribbean religious and political trend Rastafarianism, owes its name exclusively to the future emperor of Ethiopia, the race Tafari. Negros from the islands of the West Indies saw in the Ethiopian prince "savior of the black race", who should lead the African state after the exodus of the black inhabitants of the New World to their historic homeland.
On the imperial throne of races, Tafari, officially bearing the name of Haile Selassie II and the title "Lion-winner from the tribe of Judah, elect of God, king of the kings of Ethiopia" was forty-four years old. If we add here another 14 years of regency, then he ruled Ethiopia for 58 years. It seemed that the power of Haile Selassie I would be unshakable and eternal. He managed to survive the Italian occupation of Ethiopia in 1935-1941, leading the resistance of the Italian invaders, to suppress several popular uprisings raised by separate ethnic groups of a multinational country. It must be said that Haile Selassie did his best to strengthen the position of his country - both in Africa and on the world stage, doing everything in his power to strengthen it, but at the same time hindering potentially dangerous trends for the monarchy. Haile Selassie succeeded in achieving autonomy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which from 1959 turned from metropolis to patriarchy, moreover, in 1951, it was headed by a native of Ethiopia — all previous centuries the highest face of the Ethiopian church hierarchy was appointed from among the Egyptian Copts.
However, Haile Selassie’s policy was only aimed at strengthening the country's military power and increasing its political influence in Africa. The social problems of the emperor did not interest even with the outward orientation of the state toward the path of modernization, in fact, Ethiopia remained a backward agrarian country with fully preserved feudal relations. On top of that, from the end of 1950's. growing political tensions in Eritrea. After the defeat of fascist Italy in World War II, this former Italian colony was returned to the control of Ethiopia. However, the population of Eritrea did not intend to reconcile with the power of the Ethiopian monarchy. Ethnic, historical and cultural contradictions played a role. All power in Ethiopia was actually in the hands of the Amhara people, to which the imperial dynasty belonged, while Eritrea was inhabited by a tiger and a tigray - traditional opponents of the Amhara. At the end of the 1950's the Eritrea Liberation Front was created, by September 1961, which had turned to fighting against the Ethiopian government. Haile Selassie, not wanting to negotiate with the Eritrean rebels, preferred to use only force to solve the problem. In particular, he finally abolished the autonomous status of the province of Eritrea, banned the activities of Eritrean political parties and organizations.
The political rigidity of the emperor caused many contradictions among the Ethiopian privileged layers - the officer corps, officials, and businessmen. After all, the inattention of the head of state to the socio-economic problems of the country was most clearly reflected in 1972-1974, when at least 200 thousands of Ethiopian citizens died from starvation. The military has already attempted to overthrow Haile Selassie in 1960. Moreover, the commander of the imperial guard, General Mengistu Nuuai, who was executed after the suppression of the insurgency, supervised the conspirators. In 1974, the actions of the military, who decided to revolt against the “eternal” eighty-two-year-old emperor, proved to be more successful.
Revolution and officer "Council"
12 January 1974 was rebelled by soldiers of the 4 Brigade of the territorial army in Negel (Sidamo province in southern Ethiopia). As on the famous battleship Potemkin, the role of a pretext for the uprising was played by rotten food and poor-quality drinking water. The emperor refused to meet the demands of military personnel regarding the punishment of those guilty of supplying bad food to officers. Meanwhile, the 2 Infantry Division rebelled in Asmara. On the side of the insurgents were the units of the communications troops, who began to broadcast messages about the demands and the course of the uprising to the whole country. The actions of the military communications workers had the result: February 14 students took to the streets of the Ethiopian capital, four days later teachers and employees of Addis Ababa taxis.
The level of heat in society has reached a peak point. Haile Selassie, realizing that the protest of the protesters could not be appeased by police methods alone, he removed from his post of head of the cabinet of ministers, and on March 5 reassigned the prime minister to the parliament. At the same time, the emperor, who was in no hurry to abandon the usual methods of police repression, gave the order to remove disgruntled officers from the army. This, in turn, also caused serious indignation among military personnel, especially junior officers, lieutenants and captains of the Ethiopian army, who sympathized with popular uprisings. To coordinate their actions, opposition-minded lieutenants, captains and majors founded Derg (translated from Amharic, Council). 120 officers who gathered in June 1974 in the barracks of the 4-th Infantry Division stationed in Addis Ababa participated in the creation of the Derg. Each member of the Derg has made an oath: not to strive to seize power for personal purposes, not to civilize, not to be guided by considerations of religious or ethnic solidarity, to obey the decisions of the majority, to be ready to return to the barracks, to recognize the need for punishment in case of violation of the oath.
12 September 1974 The conspirators arrested Emperor Haile Selassie I. The head of state was taken to the location of the 4 division. The organization Derg, called the Provisional Military Administrative Council, became the main authority in revolutionary Ethiopia. Initially, Lt. Gen. Aman Michael Ande (1924-1974) stood at the head of the coup and the Provisional Military-Administrative Council (hereinafter referred to as VBAS). A native of Eritrea, he began serving in the Ethiopian armed forces as early as World War II, after 20 years — in 1962 — for effective command of a division during the war with Somalia (the Ogaden War) was promoted to major general. The people of Andom called the "Lion of the Desert" and respected, for which the emperor chose to send a dangerous opponent away - to the military attache in the United States. However, in July 1974, it was Andom who headed the General Staff of the Ethiopian Armed Forces, in September received the rank of lieutenant general and became the de facto head of state after the overthrow of the emperor.
Aman Andom was a wise experience of a fifty-year-old general and, not surprisingly, disagreed with more radical junior officers who sympathized with Marxism. So, Andom advocated a peaceful solution to the Eritrean question, did not rush to the beginning of radical economic transformations and generally adhered to liberal positions. For this, he was disliked by junior officers who were the pillars and main participants of the September 12 revolution. In the armed forces, Aman Andom enjoyed influence among officers of the Air Force and the Corps of Engineers, but this support was clearly not enough to subordinate the much more numerous officers of the Ground Forces. As a result, 17 in November 1974 Mr. Aman Andom was removed from his post by the other members of Derg (WBAC), and on November 23 was killed after a two-hour siege of his household.
For 10 days — from 17 to 28 in November 1974 — the Provisional Military and Administrative Council was chaired by former Deputy Aman Andoma - Major Mengistu Haile Mariam. In the imperial army, he served from the 1959 year - since joining the military academy of Holetta. After graduating from the Academy in 1966 and receiving a second lieutenant, Mengistu served in the Imperial Guard rear services, attended refresher courses for artillery service officers in the United States, and after returning to the rank of major served in the 3 Army Division in Ogaden province, which then commanded by Major General Aman Andom. Since Mengistu’s birth dates differ - according to some data, he was born in 1937, and according to others - in 1941, we can assume that at the time of the revolution he was from 33 to 37 years.
Apparently, youth and a small military rank of Mengistu were the reason that on November 28 was replaced by General Tafari Benti (1921-1977) as the head of the Supreme Soviet Air Force. The former head of the military academy in Harare and the commander of the 2 of the Eritrean army division, General Benty, like Aman Andom, was a supporter of the moderate line and sought to squeeze out the supporters of ultra-revolutionary ideas from among the leaders of the IHRA. However, the latter, whose leader was Mengistu Haile Mariam, were not going to lose their positions.
3 February 1977, Tafari Benti and six of his associates were shot right at the Derg meeting (VVAS). From then until 1991, for fourteen years, the power in the country belonged to Mengistu Haile Mariam.
17 April 1977 Mr. Mengistu officially announced the beginning of the "Red Terror" policy. In this case, the first victims of terror, as usual, were the most "revolutionary" revolutionaries. At first, Mengistu dealt with the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party (ENRP), which adhered to the Marxist ideology, opposed to him, and then turned his anger on the Socialist All-Ethiopian movement that had initially supported Mengistu. All the differences between ENRP and SVED boiled down to the fact that the first Marxist party expressed the interests of the Amhar people, and the second - the Oromo people.
28 August 1975 was officially announced the death of the former Emperor Haile Selassie. According to official media reports, he died of a heart attack. However, according to an unofficial version, popularized by Western media, the emperor was strangled by a doctor assigned to him and six security officers. Mengistu Haile Mariam, who personally ascertained the death of the emperor, ordered to bury his remains under the toilet, which was done.
In parallel with the suppression of political opponents and potential rivals, Mengistu Haile Mariam attended to external support for the Ethiopian revolution. In 1978, he visited the Soviet Union, signing the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the USSR and Socialist Ethiopia. The Soviet Union welcomed the emergence of a new socialist country in East Africa, especially since it had a long historical tradition of Russian-Ethiopian relations. Since the USSR argued that in order to enter the socialist development of Ethiopia, it would be necessary to create its own communist party, in 1979, Mengistu Haile Mariam created a Commission to organize the Workers Party of Ethiopia, which was transformed into 1984 in the Workers' Party of Ethiopia.
With the help of the USSR, Mengistu Haile Mariam began the socialist modernization of the Ethiopian economy. First of all, enterprises, banks, financial institutions were nationalized. In the agricultural sector, which was the basis of the Ethiopian economy, there was a process of redistribution of land from feudal lords and landowners to land-poor and landless peasants. At the same time, the technical equipment of peasant farms increased. Then began a campaign for the consolidation of villages, accompanied by the construction of agrarian villages of several hundred typical houses in which the peasant population was concentrated. About 30% of Ethiopian peasants were resettled in such "new villages", which on the one hand partially solved the social problems of the agricultural sector, but on the other, disorganized and disorienting the masses of the Ethiopian peasantry, accustomed to the farm type of farming and unable to immediately adapt to changing conditions economic organization.
In the social sphere, the elimination of illiteracy was the undoubted conquest of the government by Mengistu. By the time of the September 12 revolution, 1974 of the year, only 10% of Ethiopians older than 15 could read and write for years. Ten years later, in 1984, the literacy rate in the country reached 63% of the population. This was achieved through the deployment of literacy courses, which were created even in remote areas of the country, with virtually no access to the benefits of civilization under the monarchy. Secondly, the government Mengistu quite successfully solved the problem of modernizing the health care system. In ten years, the number of health facilities increased by 1200, and medical personnel by 10 thousands (1850 in 1984 compared to 650 in 1974, and 16 000 in 1984 compared to 6500 in 1974) ).
However, a decade and a half of building socialism in Ethiopia went down in history not only as a period for solving the problems of education and health care, unemployment, and social welfare of the population, but also as years of mass bloodshed. In addition to the political repressions against opponents that became trivial, almost the entire rule of Mengistu Haile Mariam did not end the civil war in Ethiopia. Several major factions fought against the central government. First, in Eritrea, which still insisted on gaining independence, the Muslim Front for the Liberation of Eritrea and the Marxist (and by nationality - Christian) Popular Front for the Liberation of Eritrea fought. Secondly, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray acted, who also spoke from left-wing radical positions and demanded social liberation not only of the Tigray people, but of all of Ethiopia. Thirdly, the Ogaden National Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Front operated in the Somalia-speaking provinces. Ethiopian government troops failed to crush the resistance of the rebel groups, moreover, it grew stronger every year, and the ranks of the insurgents grew.
Ogaden War and Soviet Aid
Finally, in 1977, the Somali-Ethiopian war broke out, also known as the “war for Ogaden”. The desert province of Ogaden in eastern Ethiopia has been inhabited since ancient times by Somalis. From XIII to XIX centuries. there existed the Muslim Sultanate of Adal. In 1897, the Ogaden lands were still captured by the Ethiopian emperor Menelik II, then in 1936-1941. Ogaden was part of the Italian Somalia, and in 1941-1954. was under British rule until it was handed back to Ethiopia. The overthrow of the emperor's power in 1974 contributed to the intensification of national liberation movements in the peripheral provinces of Ethiopia, including Ogaden, where the Front for the Liberation of Western Somalia began an armed struggle. The then Somali dictator, General Mohammed Siad Barre, decided to take advantage of the political crisis in Ethiopia and join Ogaden to Somalia, especially since this idea was supported by the majority of Somali Muslims living in this Ethiopian province. In July 1977, the Somali army entered the territory of Ogaden, but the Ethiopian leadership, hoping to avoid war, was slow and decided to sever diplomatic relations with Somalia only 8 September 1977.
Note that before the Ogaden war, Somalia was considered one of the strategic allies of the USSR in East Africa. The Soviet Union, seeking to enlist the support of this young state, assisted the Siad Barre regime in the areas of industrialization, development of social infrastructure, construction and strengthening of the armed forces. Somali army was armed with Soviet weapons and trained by Soviet instructors. Several thousand Soviet military advisers were permanently in Somalia, helping the East African state and Cuba. The USSR put Somalia fighters, bombers, helicopters, trained Somali officers in their military schools. In turn, Somalia provided the USSR with the Berbera naval base and several airfields.
Before 1974, Ethiopia was considered a stronghold of the interests of the Western powers in East Africa. For the support of the Allies, England returned Eritrea and Ogaden to Ethiopia after World War II, the United States of America equipped the Ethiopian armed forces and trained the officers of the imperial army. Mengistu Haile Mariam himself, the future head of the pro-Soviet government, passed the three-year training in the United States at the courses for specialists in artillery weapons. Before the invasion of Ogaden, the Somali military leadership was fully confident that its actions would be supported by the Soviet Union, the latter would provide the necessary assistance and the issue of reunification of Western Somalia would be resolved.
We will not describe here the whole course of the Ogaden War, where 23-thousandth Somali and 50-thousandth Ethiopian armies collided, and dwell on the position of the USSR, which largely predetermined the course of the conflict. When fighting began between Somalia and Ethiopia, the Soviet Union found itself in a very difficult situation. He had to make a choice between the two countries of a socialist orientation - if everything was clear before - Somalia focused on the USSR, and Ethiopia - on the United States and Great Britain, now both East African states were looking towards Moscow. At the beginning of September 1977, the Somali leader, General Siad Barre, arrived in Moscow, hoping to convince the Soviet leaders, if not to support the Somali side, then at least refrain from the direct support of Ethiopia. However, in Moscow, the general was given to understand that priorities have already been outlined. Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev did not even interrupt his vacation in order to meet with Siad Barre and the offended Somali flew back to Mogadishu.
But Ethiopia received not only supplies of Soviet weapons, but also help with human resources - Soviet military advisers and Cuban volunteers. The Somali leader Siad Barre cut off all trade and political ties with the USSR and tried to confiscate the property of the Soviet military and civilian missions that had been in Somalia until that time. USSR had to send Pacific ships to Somalia fleet and units of the marine corps that provided for the evacuation of people and property. Cuba generally severed diplomatic relations with Somalia. The Soviet Union decided to support Ethiopia, guided not only by the long historical traditions of Russian-Ethiopian political and military cooperation, but also by geopolitical and strategic considerations. After all, Ethiopia, with its multimillion population, seemed to be a much more significant ally in East Africa than the sparsely populated desert Somalia. During 1977-1978, while the Ogaden War lasted, the Soviet Union provided assistance to Ethiopia in the amount of $ 1 billion. On the side of Ethiopia, 18 thousand Cuban volunteers and 2 thousand volunteers from South Yemen, 1500 Soviet military advisers fought.
15 March 1978. The defeated Somali troops left the territory of Ethiopia. However, only the Somali-Ethiopian war ended. The Ogaden rebels continued armed resistance, collaborating with other Ethiopian rebel groups. In Somalia itself, protest sentiments also intensified. When in 1991 the pro-Soviet socialist camp finally plunged into a state of deep political crisis, the lack of Soviet support immediately affected the political situation in Ethiopia. The rebel groups, united in the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian peoples, successfully oppressed the government army, eventually, establishing their power over most of the country.
In May 1991, the government of Mengistu Haile Mariam was overthrown. President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia 21 in May 1991 left the country. He took refuge in Zimbabwe, where he lives for the last 23let, according to some information, serving as a security adviser to his long-time friend, the Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe. Two years later, 24 in May 1993, Eritrea still declared independence and was recognized by almost all countries of the world. In Somalia, the regime of General Siad Barre was overthrown and a bloody civil war broke out, breaking the state into several parts and in fact not ending to this day.
Until now, in rare interviews with Mengistu Haile, Mariam argues that one of the key culprits in the collapse of the socialist experiment in Ethiopia, as in other developing countries, is Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who has deprived yesterday allies of the support of the Soviet state and in fact left them to the mercy of fate. Today, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The socio-economic development of this ancient state leaves much to be desired, even by the standards of the African continent.