The Cold War has commonly been interpreted as the antithesis to globalisation. Following the Second World War, rather than being united in peace, the world was harshly divided into two distinct camps. The Iron Curtain separating East and West was seen as an impenetrable geographical, ideological and cultural barrier. However, this view of socialist states as isolated from the global trends that surrounded them has been revised in recent scholarship.[1] The processes of de-Stalinisation and decolonisation forced Soviet leaders in Eastern Europe to reassess their reluctance to engage with the outside world and instead foster a variety of economic, social and cultural relationships with the so-called ‘Third World.’ Rather than being solely a Western-Capitalist phenomenon, these encounters between the Eastern bloc and the ‘Third World’ impacted the political economies of these regions and shaped new forms of transregional mobility and exchange, presenting an alternative form of globalisation. [2]

A plethora of new literature exists on transregional Eastern European actors in African, Asian and Latin American countries – particularly in terms of economic, infrastructural and scientific development. However, I wish to discover how exactly the increased spread of knowledge about events in the ‘Third World’ to the Eastern bloc, alongside the increased exposure to individuals from these places made an impact on their host countries. Thus, I will argue that ideas of solidarity and anti-imperialism were transmitted from the ‘Third World’ to mirror and configure similar activism occurring in socialist Europe.

To do this I endeavor to use Czechoslovakia in the period of 1950-1989 as a focal point for transregional exchange. Alongside other socialist state countries, Czechoslovakia experienced a period of political activism and lively youth culture which was undoubtably impacted by increased contact with ideas and politics from the ‘Third World.’[3] In tandem with increased media circulation, the entrance of hundreds of ‘Third World’ students into Czechoslovakian universities and technical colleges played a role in dispersing ideas of liberation and reform that were subsumed into Czechoslovakia’s own political climate.[4]

Indeed, The Prague Spring in 1968 – violently crushed by the Warsaw Pact invasion – was perceived akin to American intervention in Vietnam, likening Soviet interference in Czechoslovakia to Western and in turn imperial intrusion. As evident in the civic petition, Charter 77, which described the lack of press freedom in the Czechoslovakia as a “virtual apartheid”, the nation’s reformists were able to use language and concepts from the Third World to communicate internal disillusionment in the Socialist model prescribed by the Soviet Union.[5]

I hope to analyse transregional youth and cultural movements using archives from international student newspapers, archives of the University of the 17th of November (a college for foreign students) and personal accounts and photography from youth festivals and protests to map how this rhetoric found its place in political activism. Additionally, I will examine film created by those in Prague’s FAMU school during this time, which has recently been exhibited as one of the main methods for foreign students from the ‘Third World’ to share their cultural experiences and encapsulate how independence aspirations crossed geographical boundaries.[6]

Through these means I wish to highlight the agency of these regions, examining how actors from the Third World were able to influence public opinion on liberation and solidarity and how Czechoslovakia formulated its own means to connect with these countries, separate from the prerogative of the Soviet Union. I believe marginalised voices both within Europe and in the Third World deserve specific study – highlighting how the periphery, both East and Southward, was able to shape transregional perceptions of politics, independence and human rights.

[1] See David C. Engerman, ‘The Second’s World Third World’ (2011), Łukasz Stanek, ‘Architecture in Global Socialism (2020), Oscar Sanchez-Sibony, Red Globalization (2016).

[2] James Mark and Artemy Kalinovsky, and Steffi Marung (eds.), Alternative Globalizations. Eastern Europe and the Postcolonial World, Bloomington: Indiana University Press (2020) pp. 3-5.

[3] Peter Apor and James Mark, ‘Socialism Goes Global: Decolonisation and the Making of a New Culture of Internationalism in Socialist Hungary 1956–1989’, Journal of Modern History, (2015),pp. 855-6.

[4] Kim Christiaens, ‘Europe at the crossroads of three worlds: alternative histories and connections of European solidarity with the Third World, 1950s–80s’, European Review of History: Revue européenne d’histoire, (2017) 24:6, pp. 932-954.

[5]James Mark, and Paul Betts, Socialism Goes Global: The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the Age of Decolonisation. (Oxford, 2022), pp. 220.

[6] Kathleen Reinhardt, ‘“Biafra of Spirit” in Prague: Film and Clashing Political Agendas in 1960s Czechoslovakia’, Contemporary And (17 January 2018) < >.

Project Proposal

2 thoughts on “Project Proposal

  • March 13, 2022 at 11:13 pm

    Hi Sophie! I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your project proposal, and find your topic really interesting! I particularly like your focus on the Third World as the departing point for the transfers and the cultural impacts on the Eastern bloc, and your intention on illuminating and recovering marginalised voices and perspectives in both Europe and the Third World.

    You sound like you have a well thought out and clear idea of where you are wanting to go with your project and how you plan on getting there. I think that limiting the breadth by specifically focusing on Czechoslovakia will give you the space for deeper and more focused research and analysis which is great!

    In terms of the sources you plan on using, I have a couple of suggestions which hopefully might be useful. The ones you have listed all sound good and I think they will bring significant insights and value. I was wondering if you have considered using sources from the wider press/public as well as the ones from universities and colleges? These may give a broader insight into how the students from the Third World were perceived and the attitudes towards them from local people in Czechoslovakia. Additionally, they could contribute to understanding how these attitudes perhaps changed over time, including as they became more integrated and their cultures and political economies continued to merge.

    I appreciate it has been a bit of time since you wrote this proposal, but hope this may still be of some use or worth consideration with your current thoughts and research. Overall I am looking forward to seeing how your project develops!

  • March 16, 2022 at 2:01 am

    Really fascinating stuff here Sophie. I love the idea of examining the global nature of interactions between the ‘Third World’ and Eastern Bloc countries, and I think the idea of focusing on the specific case of Czechoslovakia will allow you to really dig into your topic and make some interesting connections on a, like you mentioned, unresearched subject.

    I do have some questions pertaining to the focus of your research. Are you going to be honing in on specific cultural events, like that of the Prague Spring of 1968, or more broadly on trends of years and decades. Perhaps some mixture of the two could also be beneficial, depending on the weight and significance of any particular event. In any case, knowing exactly what angle you are going to approach with I believe will help ease your research and present a clearer project.

    Hope this advice helps you, but know it looks like you have already got a pretty good-looking project already!

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