The Malta Independent 16 April 2024, Tuesday
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Borg Olivier sought to befriend the Soviets following Independence, new book says

Wednesday, 22 August 2018, 08:10 Last update: about 7 years ago

Newly unearthed Cabinet documents show that following Malta’s Independence in 1964 Prime Minister George Borg Olivier was resolute in establishing official relations with the then USSR. Flouting the near-obsessive admonitions of Archbishop Michael Gonzi, and riding roughshod over the intense politico-religious hostilities of the previous years between Dom Mintoff and the Church on precisely that issue, in his usual quiet and unobtrusive manner Borg Olivier sought to befriend the Soviets.

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The book, A Materialist Revision of Maltese History: 1919-1979, has been researched and written by historian Mark Camilleri. It will be launched at the National Library in Valletta on Friday, 28 September.

Borg Olivier’s move towards the USSR was not a turnabout decision. Neither was it a realignment of his foreign policy. It was made with the conviction that Malta’s relationship with the USSR had been held off far too long, and could no longer persist lest it antagonised the USSR, the book says. In those days Malta was the only European State without, as yet, official relations with the USSR.

Camilleri lifts this information from the Cabinet meetings held by the Nationalist government on 22 July 1966. Borg Olivier headed the first government following Independence on a pro-Western, pro-NATO, anti-Communist, ticket. That government, which lasted from 1962 till 1971, started Malta off on the road to modernisation and prosperity.

Camilleri, however, calls the progress made during these crucial years as “sluggish”. He holds that the real mighty impetus came from the Labour governments headed by Mintoff between 1971 and 1979. In his new book, following on the heels of Il-Ħelsien (2014), Camilleri begins his narrative by examining the riots which occurred on 7 June 1919. The book is the second of a four-part series presenting a materialist revision of Maltese history. The first, covering from 870 to 1919, was issued in 2016.

The launching of the book at the National Library on 28 September will be accompanied with an exclusive exhibition which will include the original documents of Malta’s 1921 self-government Constitution, the debates of the Legislative Assembly, the letter of King George VI granting the George Cross to Malta, the 1947 Constitution granting women’s suffrage, the 1964 Independence Declaration signed by Queen Elizabeth II, and an assortment of newspapers related to Malta’s 1974 Republic and 1979 Freedom Day.

The exhibition will be open prior to the event, which will start at 7pm. The general public is encouraged to attend.

The book A Materialist Revision of Maltese History: 1919-1979 is published by SKS.

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