Caragiale in Calcutta: Romania-India cultural relations during the Cold War

by Viviana Iacob

at Spectrum of CommunismSymposium at Blinken OSA, Budapest, 16-17 November, 2017.

In 1969 two plays by Romanian playwright I. L. Caragiale opened in Calcutta: A Stormy Night and A Lost Letter. Both were adapted to Bengali by translator Amita Ray and produced by the group Panchamitram. Ray, a long time correspondent of the Institute for Cultural Relations Abroad (she visited Romania for the first time in 1959) sent clippings from the Bengali papers attesting to her excellent adaptations skills and the overall success of the two productions. The choice of plays was not haphazard. Unusual as they might seem they were in fact the spear head of a cultural diplomacy program that had the XIX century writer at its epicentre. In terms of exporting Romanian socialist culture to the world, Caragiale had quite the career during the communist period. For example, by 1969 The Lost Letter was produced by 9 different companies around the world and besides opening in Calcutta in 1969, it also premiered in Haifa.

Romania’s branching out initiative to the Global South took cue from the Soviet Union.  In the late 50s, information on India was filtered through soviet journals while cultural exchanges were carried out with the support of the Institute for Cultural Relations Abroad and the Friendship Societies it managed. By 1962 four such organizations were founded in India:  New Delhi, Kanpur (1958), Jaipur and Ajmer (1962). Even though they dissolved in later years, a result of the political turmoil that India was going through in the early 60s, the connections that they helped establish were used to carry further bilateral cultural activities. For example, Amita Ray’s second visit to Romania in 1967 coincided with prime minister Indira Gandhi’s and the 1969 performances in Calcutta, also prompted by Ray, preceded Nicolae Ceausescu and Gheorghe Maurer’s visit to India the same year.

Establishing a viable connection with the Global South was an arduous task. Geographical and cultural distance made finding a conversation baseline quite difficult. Furthermore, the cultural plan that Romania devised for the West, at least with respect to theatre, was also proposed to India and it took the sheer dedication of internationalists such as Amita Ray to ensure its success. The paper will outline strategies employed by the Romanian state in its attempt to expand to the global south by taking theatre exchanges with India as a case study.

Global Advocacy or Self-Interested Relativism? Socialist Romania, International Organizations, and the Quest for Economic Development (1960s-1980s)

by Vlad Pașca, at the conference The Other Globalisers: How the Socialist and the Non-Aligned World Shaped the Rise of Post-War Economic Globalisation, University of Exeter, 6-7 July 2017

Since early 1960s, socialist Romania insulated itself within the Comecon due to its nationalist and anti-hegemonic perspectives, which translated into fending away of cooperation projects with other member states. This position though was accompanied by a renewed readiness towards trans-systemic cooperation on the European and the global scene. In order to satisfy its developmental drive, two strategies were designed by the party leadership in tandem with economic experts. First, they emphasized Romania’s European affiliation as a common denominator in negotiating trade relations and economic cooperation before and during the negotiation at the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Second, the country’s representatives, both in international organizations and in bilateral relations, made efforts towards the recognition of Romania’s status as developing socialist country. Simultaneously, Romania’s multiple initiatives in both the European (UN Economic Commission for Europe, CSCE) and global organizations or agencies (UNCTAD or the group of 77) shaped its image of world-peace promoter and advocate of a new international economic order. Continue reading Global Advocacy or Self-Interested Relativism? Socialist Romania, International Organizations, and the Quest for Economic Development (1960s-1980s)

Theatricality and Socialist Realism in Romanian Theatre, 1946-1963

by Viviana Iacob

Originally published in Romanian > “Teatralitate şi realism socialist în teatrul românesc, 1946-1963”,  Studii şi Materiale de Istorie Contemporană, vol. 15/2016.

The article aims to show that when theatricality resurfaced in Romanian theatre debates after 1956, it did not replace the tenets of socialist realism altogether. It was rather a catalyst for the later to evolve into a more sustainable ideological construct in the context of de-Stalinization. The years after Stalin’s death produce in Eastern Europe tremendous changes culminating with the explosive ideological situation of 1956. At a cultural level, these changes unleashed important transformations without displacing however the socialist bedrock. The interwar debates dedicated to the burgeoning issue of theatricality and the western theatre tradition were still filtered through aesthetic coordinates that were put in place during the Stalinist period. The article focuses on debates generated around specific performances which premiered between 1946 and 1963. These events reshaped the socialist realist aesthetic by way of theatricality resulting in a reciprocally corrosive relationship in the following years. The article concludes that the recalibration of the socialist realist formula amounted to a selective process of appropriation that was done both laterally and diachronically. This approach engendered a new form of theatricality. Not a replacement of old socialist realist theatre aestetic but its refashioning.

Retrospective Justice and Legal Culture

by Raluca Grosescu and Agata Fijalkowski

Chapter in Lavinia Stan, Lucian Turcescu (eds.), Justice, Memory and Redress: New Insights from Romania (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2017), pp. 100-123.

This chapter explores the relationship between legal culture and retrospective justice in transition, in post-1989 Bulgaria, Germany and Romania. It analyses the different legal narratives that framed trials regarding state crimes committed under communist rule. It specifically focuses on those cases where the application of retroactive law was necessary in order to prosecute, namely: the Bulgarian Lovech camp trial; the German Border Guards’ trials; and the Romanian cases concerning political crimes committed in the 1950s. Most of the scholarship on post-communist transitional justice has emphasised the nature of the communist regime, the exit from dictatorship, or the party struggle for political power during transition as the main determinants that influenced judicial accountability after 1989. We argue that the legal culture, in particular, the judiciary’s understanding of legal formalism and international human rights law, is another important determinant, generally overlooked by the literature.  The chapter first considers the evolution of legal ideology since World War II in Romania, Bulgaria, and Germany. It then analyses the legal debates on the application of retrospective accountability after 1989. It concludes that the different approaches to retrospective justice were strongly influenced by the dominant culture of legal experts.

Scenes of Cold War Diplomacy: Romania and the International Theatre Institute, 1959-1964

by Viviana Iacob

at New Europe College, Bucharest,  9 November, 2016.

The presentation focused on mapping the history of the International Theatre Institute and its impact on Romanian cultural diplomacy during the Cold War. The narrative revolved around two main events while also fleshing out their prehistory as it was relevant to Romania’s involvement with I.T.I. between 1959 and 1964.

The first was the participation at the 8th I.T.I. Congress in Helsinki in 1959. Romania’s I.T.I. membership was presented on the background of previous interactions between theatre practitioners and policy makers with I.T.I. – e.g., the participation at the Third Festival of Dramatic Art in Paris in 1956, the forerunner of the Theatre of Nations Festival.

The second was the 1964 Bucharest symposium on the professional training of the actor, the first I.T.I. event organized in Romania.  The members of 24 I.T.I. centres around the world discussed approaches on improvisation exemplified by Romanian, American and Italian students. The symposium proved the willingness of theatre practitioners to achieve a common ground for consolidating the transfer of knowledge through the Iron Curtain.


Proiectul “Turning Global” la Congresul Național al Istoricilor Români


Dr. Corina Doboș a participat la masa rotundă Anii 1970 sub lupa istoricului. Bilanţ şi deschideri istoriografice, desfășurată la Cluj-Napoca, în cadrul Congresului Național al Istoricilor Români pe data de 26 aug. 2016. Masa rotundă a fost organizată de dr. Marius Cazan (Institutul Național pentru Studierea Holocaustului din România „Elie Wiesel”) și lect. dr. Andrei Sora (Universitatea din București), și a reunit cercetători de marcă ai istoriei comunismului românesc: prof. univ. dr. Bogdan MURGESCU (Universitatea din Bucuresti), Dr. Alina PAVELESCU ( Arhivele Naţionale ale României), Prof. univ. dr. Mihai RETEGAN (Universitatea din Bucuresti), Prof. univ. dr. Virgiliu ŢÂRĂU (Universitatea Babeş-Bolyai), CS Dr. Cristian VASILE , Institutul de Istorie „N. Iorga”, Academia Română.

Dr. Corina Doboș a prezentat principalele obiective ale proiectului nostru, insistând asupra tipului de surse primare din România care fac posibil demersul nostru de cercetare. Cu ajutorul exemplelor concrete de fonduri arhivistice deosebit de bogate de la Arhivele Naționale (fondul ASSP, diferite secții) sau de la Arhiva Diplomatică a Minsterului de Externe (fondul Problema ONU), dr. Doboș a argumentat că starea actuală a resurselor primare permite o cercetare din perspectivă epistemică a comunităților de experți socialiși, cu condiția racordării rezultatelor cercetărilor din arhivele românești la tot mai bogata istoriografie internațională dedicată cunoașterii produse în contextul globalizării socialiste.

The project „Turning Global” at the workshop „Romanians in Diaspora and Diaspora in Romania” (26-28 April 2016, Timișoara)

Between April 26 and 28 in Timișoara, Bogdan C. Iacob participated at the workshop entitled “Romanians in Diaspora and Diaspora in Romania. Similarities and Differences in Academic Cereers” organized by New Europe College within the conference “Diaspora in Romanian Scientific Research and Higher Education.” At the event, Bogdan presented the project „Turning Global” and discussed with the other participants potential recommendations concerning Romania’s higher education policies and strategy for developing academic research.

Click here for further details on the NEC Workshop at the conference in Timisoara.

Click here for the program of the workshop.

Demography across the Iron Curtain: A French-East European Dialogue

A seminar by Corina Doboș

at New Europe College, Bucharest, March 9, 2016

My research explores the emergence of a scientific network that contributed to the transfer of demographic knowledge across Europe. I will focus on the academic exchanges between French and East-European demographers, pointing out the common concerns and solutions proposed. I will sketch the dialogue between population specialists responding to similar challenges and looking for possible common solutions, with a focus on the East European participation to the configuration of a continental demography beyond the Iron Curtain divide during the 1960s and 1970s.