Indonesian Political Exiles in the USSR

Author: David T. Hill


This article examines political exile as a particular form of migration, with reference to Indonesians living in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) when the military regime came to power in their homeland. With the rise in Jakarta of the New Order under Major-General Suharto after 1 October 1965, thousands of Indonesians in socialist and communist states abroad were effectively isolated. Faced with detention or execution if they returned home, Indonesian leftists and other dissidents who were scattered across some dozen states spanning the Sino – Soviet divide became unwilling exiles. Several thousand Indonesians were then studying in the USSR, where they were one of the largest foreign nationalities in Soviet universities and military academies. Many spent nearly half a century as exiles, struggling to survive first the vicissitudes of the cold war and then the global transformations that came with the dissolution of the USSR in December 1991. The most influential grouping of Indonesians who remained in the USSR after 1965 was known as the Overseas Committee of the Indonesian Communist Party. In China, a separate party leadership emerged, known as the Delegation of the Indonesian Communist Party. Mirroring Sino – Soviet rivalries, the Delegation urged Indonesian leftists in the USSR to join them in China. Hundreds did so. These rival factions were separated by mutual distrust until they each disbanded toward the close of the cold war. This article analyzes the changing fate of Indonesians caught in the contradictory relationship between New Order Indonesia and the USSR and in the tensions between the USSR and China as these unwilling exiles were buffeted by geopolitical transformations well beyond their influence.

Download complete article from Taylor & Francis Online

December 2014
© Greg Davis