My dissertation questions the traditional assumption of the absence of an indigenous socialist tradition in Romania prior to the Soviet takeover in 1944 by exploring the cultural and intellectual history of early socialism in Romania between 1870 and 1914. Moving away from the unimpressive political and institutional history of Romanian socialism, I argue that this period witnessed the emergence of an influential leftist intellectual tradition, particularly visible in the fields of literary criticism and the popularization of science. Examining left-leaning periodicals, brochures, lectures, literary and theoretical studies and archival sources, my project will reconstruct the cultural and educational agenda of Romanian socialist intellectuals and explore its dynamics, reception and legacy. In the process, by applying contemporary theories of “cultural transfer” and the “circulation of knowledge”, I will show that Romanian socialists belonged to a broader transnational movement and question the status of the Balkans as a periphery. While recovering the works of major Marxist critics absent from the Western canon, I will explore the significance of this unusual debut of socialism in Romania for the understanding of the shape and meaning of socialism in general and in the Balkans in particular. In addition, using intellectuals and their cultural pursuits as a lens for the reassessment of socialism will provide new insights into the relation between socialism and nationalism and capture the complexity of the initial encounter with socialism, characterized simultaneously by ideological ambiguity, ethical idealism and unlimited faith in science and progress.