Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena

Dr Jan Zofka

Am Planetarium 7 | 07743 Jena
Phone: +49 3641 9 44070

Jan Zofka is a Historian of Eastern Europe whose recent research focuses on transnational and global dimensions of socialist industrialization processes during the 1950s. He has worked as a Research Associate at the Leibniz-Institut for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe für Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Europas (GWZO) Leipzig (2019-2022 and 2014-2016) and at Leipzig University’s Collaborative Research Council “Spatialization Process under the Global Condition” in a Project about Economic East-South Relations (2017-2019). He has held fellowships at the German Historical Institute in Moscow (2017 and 2010) and at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Sofia (in 2016). His PhD dissertation, a study on  the social background of post-soviet separatisms in Crimea and the Moldovan Dniester valley, was finalized in 2013. 

Research project at the Kolleg

The Cotton Empire in the East. Trade, Knowledge Transfers and Production in Cold War Socialism

Cotton was the crucial raw material of historical industrialization processes from 18th century Lancashire to the 20th century Pearl River Delta. Global history has reconstructed the “Cotton Empire” (Sven Beckert) from cotton growing (techniques) and scientific knowledge transfers to textile production and global trade flows. The Soviet bloc, however, remains mostly on the margins of this research. This project addresses this gap and asks how the global Cotton Empire functioned in, or affected socialist Eastern Europe, and how, in turn, socialist Eastern Europe affected the Empire of Cotton. The project examines different layers of cotton-related commodity chains and leads us to cotton-growing fields in the Soviet Union and Bulgaria, to agro-biological research institutes in Chirpan (Bulgaria) or Gəncə (Ganja, Azerbaijan), to textile production centres in Central Europe, to the sites of textile machine production (not least in the East German city of Chemnitz), to UN commissions as planning institutions for standardization and industry development, and to the global cotton trading hubs, like Alexandria or Liverpool, where socialist traders had to purchase cotton, or make use of pricing information, assurance services and arbitrage structures. Reports by scientists and trade officials, correspondences of agricultural ministries and textile machinery producing enterprises, as well as the trade statistics of socialist states will be the source base of this undertaking. By searching for the “Cotton Empire” in socialist Eastern Europe in this way, the project aims to deepen our understanding of Cold War socialism’s integration into global economic flows and knowledge transfers.

Main areas of research

  • Transnational (Economic) History of Cold War Socialism
  • Socialist Industrialization in the Early Cold War
  • Commodity History of Eastern Europe
  • Post-Soviet Nationalism and Secessionist Conflict

Positions and memberships

  • Member of the Review Editorial Board of Connections (‘Journal for Historians and Area Specialists’) and Comparativ (‘Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und Vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung’)


Jan Zofka, Postsowjetischer Separatismus. Die pro-russländischen Bewegungen im Dnjestr-Tal und auf der Krim (1989-1995) (Wallstein-Verlag: Göttingen, 2015).

Edited volumes and special issues

Jan Zofka, Péter Vámos and Sören Urbansky, Beyond the Kremlin’s Reach? Eastern Europe and China in the Cold War Era (Routledge: New York, 2023) (forthcoming).

Jan Zofka and Tao Chen: Economic Dimensions of the Sino-Soviet Alliance and Split: Technology Transfers, Trade and Development Models in the Socialist World, Special Issue in European Review of History 30, no. 3 (2023) (forthcoming).

Anna Calori, Anne-Kristin Hartmetz, Bence Kocsev, James Mark, and Jan Zofka (eds.), Beyond East and South: Spaces of Interaction in the Globalizing Economy of the Cold War, Berlin: Oldenbourg-DeGruyter, 2019 (= Book Series Dialectics of the Global 3).

Articles (journal)

Jan Zofka, The China market: East German and Bulgarian industrial facility export to the PRC in the 1950s, European Review of History 30, no. 3 (2023) (forthcoming).

Jan Zofka, Chairman Cotton: Socialist Bulgaria’s cotton trade with African countries during the early Cold War (1946–70), Journal of Global History 17 (2022), no. 3, 438-456.

Tao Chen and Jan Zofka, The Economy of the Sino-Soviet Alliance: Trade and Transfers between Eastern Europe and China during the Early Cold War [Research Report], Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte 63, no. 2 (2022), 575-610.

Jan Zofka, Agents of Separatism: Social Background to the Pro-Russian Movements in Crimea and the Moldovan Dniester Valley in Comparison (1989–95), Journal of Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society 8, no. 1 (2022), 73-110.

Jan Zofka, Technokratischer Internationalismus. Kohle-Experten der DDR der 1950er-Jahre in globalgeschichtlicher Perspektive, Geschichte und Gesellschaft 47 (2021), no. 2, 199-229.

Jan Zofka, China as a role model? The “Economic Leap” campaign in Bulgaria (1958–1960), Cold War History 18 (2018), no. 3: 325-342.

Jan Zofka, The transformation of Soviet industrial relations and the foundation of the Moldovan Dniester Republic, Europe-Asia Studies 68, no. 5 (2016), 826–846.


Review of Felix Wemheuer, A Social History of Maoist China. Conflict and Change, 1949-1976, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019) in: Comparativ 32, no. 2 (2022), 304–306.

Review of Julia Obertreis, Imperial Desert Dreams. Cotton Growing and Irrigation in Central Asia, 1860–1991 (Göttingen: V&R unipress 2017), in Comparativ 29, no. 5 (2019), 104–106.

Review of Alex Marshall, The Caucasus under Soviet Rule (= Routledge Studies in the History of Russia and Eastern Europe), London: Routledge, 2010, in Comparativ22, no. 1 (2017), 113–116.

Review of Kimitaka Matsuzato, ed., Pridnestrov’e v makroregional’nom kontekste černomorskogo poberež’ja. Sbornik statej [Transnistrien im makroregionalen Kontext der Schwarzmeerregion. Eine Aufsatzsammlung], (Sapporo: COE Program, Slavic Eurasian Studies, 2008), in: Jahrbücher Für Geschichte Osteuropas 59, no. 4 (2011), 610–613.