Socialism goes global

Socialism Goes Global: Cold War Connections Between the 'Second' and 'Third Worlds'

This AHRC-funded project is a collaboration between a number of universities, including Exeter, UCL and Oxford. It addresses a fundamental aspect of 20th century globalisation that has been almost entirely ignored by scholars: the transmission, circulation and reception of values, cultures, and beliefs between what western contemporaries called the 'Second' and 'Third Worlds'. 



Following the Second World War, the countries of eastern Europe radically recast their global role by re-imagining their relationships with Africa, Latin America and south-east Asia. They developed new forms of global knowledge and new institutions to support a wide-ranging program of socialist 'export': theatre and film, economic and scientific expertise, humanitarian aid and political ideals - all were essential to eastern Europe's grand effort to translate 'socialist modernity' globally. The project also reshaped the 'socialist metropole', as post-colonial cultures were imported into eastern Europe through, for example, mass media, political solidarity movements, and the presence of 'Third World' students, workers and exiles.

An international team of scholars will examine this critical Second-Third World encounter across a range of east European countries, from the Soviet Union to the GDR, providing an intricate regional mapping of the different forms and geographical foci of this transmission, and their varying impacts. How was the encounter shaped by Moscow, by Eastern bloc countries' specific national histories as colonisers or colonised, or by intra-bloc competition for influence? How did the interactions enabled by this encounter shape concepts central to 20th century history, such as development, political rights, modernity, mass culture, and race? What impact did the project of 'exporting socialist modernity' globally have on the experience of living under socialism, on transnational Cold War debates, and on the fate of socialist systems more broadly?

This project has the potential to impact beyond its own temporal and geographical boundaries, not only opening out a new field, but also transforming established ones. 



  • Alena Alamgir (postdoc fellow associated with the project 2015-16)
List of site pages