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Professor Apollon B Davidson

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Professor Apollon B Davidson Awarded for:
Being an integral part of the anti-apartheid movement, and his exceptional contribution to the struggle for the eradication of apartheid and to the development of a post-apartheid, free and democratic South Africa.
Profile of Professor Apollon B Davidson

Prof. Apollon Davidson, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences was born on 1 September 1929 in the village of Ermakovo, in West Siberia, Russia. He was one of the first scholars of South African history in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). For four decades, he headed the Centre for African History at the Institute of General History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, where the study of southern Africa has always been a priority.

Prof. Davidson has published a whole range of voluminous studies on this subject which are highly regarded both in Russia and abroad. Among them are a monograph on the birth and first years of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Communist Party of South Africa; two monographs depicting the image of South Africa in Russia in the 17th to 19th centuries; a book on the Russian participation in the Anglo-Boer/South African War (published in South Africa); and two volumes of the collected South African documents of the Communist International, devoted to the history of relations between Soviet and South African communists during the 1920s and 1930s (published in the United Kingdom).

For many years, Prof. Davidson taught at the Institute of Social Sciences (the Lenin School) where many leaders of the ANC were among his students. Since 1994, the majority of these leaders have occupied senior positions in South Africa.

For several decades, Prof. Davidson was a board member of the Afro-Asian Solidarity Committee, which gave significant material and other practical support to the ANC during its struggle against apartheid, and in this capacity participated in finalising the committee’s policy.

In this capacity, Prof. Davidson also became the first Soviet academic to visit South Africa. This visit was sponsored by the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (Idasa) and by the ANC and played a great role in de-demonising the image of the USSR in South Africa.

From the mid-1960s, Prof. Davidson studied the history of ties between Africa and Russia. Between 1994 and 1998, Prof. Davidson headed the Centre for Russian Studies at the University of Cape Town, which made a huge contribution in promoting an unbiased knowledge of Russia in South Africa, and a better understanding between our peoples and the development of cultural ties between the two countries.

During the Cold War era, Prof. Davidson was Soviet spokesperson on southern African issues at the Dartmouth conferences of Soviet and American academics, politicians and public figures. The Dartmouth process played an important role in the resolution of the Angolan/Namibian/South African conflict, which led to Namibia’s independence and ended South Africa’s intervention in Angola, ultimately contributing to the collapse of the apartheid regime.