Mitteilungsblatt des Instituts für soziale Bewegungen Heft 33

Augusta Dimou: Diverging Paths to Modernity

Socialism as an Intellecual Movement in the Ninteenth Century. A Comparative Approach

The article examines the introduction of socialist theory as part of the political modernity of
the nineteenth century in three Balkan countries: Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. It discusses
first the dialectics between the introduction of an ideology and its context of adaptation.
Then it proposes to view the transportation and adaptation of ideologies as a dynamic process
involving multiple strategies. Further, the article situates socialism among other ideologies of
mass representation in the nineteenth century, establishes the temporal sequence in which
they were introduced in the Balkan space and assesses their relationship to the broader project
of constructing modernity. The fact that socialism could assert itself as an ideological option
in the predominantly agrarian Balkan societies of the nineteenth century may appear at first
glance paradoxical. The article thus examines the significance of socialism against the background
of „underdevelopment“, and underlines the influence of intellectuals as the principal
disseminators of ideology. It highlights the catalytic influence of Russian socialism in the
1870s and 80s (predominantly populism and, to a lesser extent, Marxism) on the early Balkan
socialist movement, an influence that did not limit itself to intellectual fertilization, but
was also instructive for the model of „intelligentsia“ that was concomitantly adopted. It maps
out the geographic contours of early socialism, pointing to the significance of Russian influence
for the east-central Balkans (Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania), and traces these early itineraries
of influence and networks of transfer. It singles out the case of Greece, which due to predominantly
Western socialist influence was left untouched by Russian radical thought. It discusses
further the passage from the populist to the Marxist paradigm and the growing influence
of Western Marxism, exploring the diverse ramifications that the interplay between
Populism, Marxian socialism, and agrarianism were to follow in each of these countries, and
concludes with an assessment regarding broader legacies of intellectual transfer in the Balkans.