In the midst of the Cold War, Indonesia emerged as the “Asian Tiger”. First President Soekarno’s charisma had turned the world’s attention to the recent independent archipelago nation. How did Indonesia’s first president succeed in winning over the Soviet Union? Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union described his impressions of Indonesia and Soekarno in his memoirs. (Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev: Statesman, 1953-1964)
As a newly independent country, Indonesia was certainly not an attractive country for the Soviets who had become one of the largest powers in the world. In his memoirs, he wrote that under Stalin, the Soviet Union did not have any relationship with Indonesia. In fact, he had never even heard Stalin talk about Soekarno nor Indonesia.
Sukarno organized the Asian – Africa Conference which was held on April 18th to April 24,1955, with the goal of uniting the developing Asian and African nations into the Non-Aligned Movement to counter balance both the United States and the Soviet Union.
Delegates from twenty-nine countries in Asia and Africa convened in Bandung to discuss the common challenges their nations faced in navigating a postcolonial world, had attracted world attention. Since then, Indonesia and particularly President Soekarno was widely discussed and made the headlines in world news- papers, including the Soviet Union. Slowly but surely, Indonesia managed to attract the attention of the Soviet central government.
Indonesia further attracted attention because of being a large country with a population of more than 100 million (in the 1950s), is also a multiethnic country. That interest increased the relationship between the Soviet Union and Indonesia. The first diplomatic relations between Indonesia and the Soviet Union were finally established, while still under Stalin’s leadership.
The following year, in 1956, President Soekarno finally made an official visit to the Soviet Union. Soekarno was greeted with great respect like any other world leader. Khruschev also wrote in his memoir that the Indonesian President an educated and intelligent figure. “Soekarno has both. He is educated and also smart.” Stressed Khruschev in his memoirs.
A visit that made a very good impression in the eyes of the Soviet leader at that time, during which Soekarno expressed his principles and policies during his time as president, to be neutral and not take sides with any country (Non- Aligned).
Even this visit was the beginning of the establishment of a partnership between the two countries. This relationship continued until in the early 1960s, Soekarno invited a delegation of the Soviet government to visit Indonesia.
Khruschev immediately accepted the invitation and said he was very happy with the invitation. Khruschev, leading the delegation consisted of several members of the Central Committee and was accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Gromyko.
A warm welcome was also given to the Soviet delegation, where people flocked out to crowd the streets and wave their hands. This made a deep impression on the delegation who came by saying that “Indonesia is a very beautiful country, Indonesia made a very powerful impression on us with its natural beauty and hu- man warmth. The tropical heat, on the other hand, had a stupefying effect on us”.
This good relationship made the Soviet Union and Indonesia cooperate in several fields. The assistance included loans from the Soviet Union for the mining of tin and other valuables that were abundant on Indonesian soil, including the provision of tools and equipment.
Significant assistance was also provided in the context of the construction of the main football Stadium Gelora Bung Karno in Senayan, Jakarta, where the Soviets provided a soft loan to the Indonesian government worth of US $ 12.5 million. The construction of this stadium took about 2 years, starting on February 8, 1960, and was officially opened on July 21, 1962, as a complete facility and infrastructure for the 1962 Asian Games.
Currently, Gelora Bung Karno has become an icon of the Indonesian nation, the stadium, which initially could accommodate 110.000 spectators, has often been the venue of several important national events. We are certainly very proud that Indonesia was once one of the ‘great power’ countries in the world, and of course one day, Indonesia will be victorious again and be equal with other developed countries.