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Dobrogeanu-Gherea, Constantin

(1855–1920), socialist ideologist, theoretician, and literary critic. Solomon Katz, known later in Romania under the pseudonym Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea, was born in Slavianka, Ukraine, and attended elementary school in his native village and secondary school in Ekaterinoslav. In 1872, Dobrogeanu-Gherea left for Kharkov and studied at the faculty of science. He joined student revolutionary (Narodnik) circles, traveling to villages to spread propaganda among the peasants. Constantly followed by the police, he crossed the border into Romania in March 1875. One month later, he left for Switzerland, where numerous Russian revolutionaries had emigrated, and then in May came to Iaşi, where he was involved with socialist Romanian student and intellectual groups.

Dobrogeanu-Gherea married Sofia Parcevska and moved to Bucharest in 1876. Active in establishing the first socialist circles there, he was arrested by tsarist police during the Romanian war with Russia and Turkey in 1877. He was deported to Mezen’, near the Arctic Ocean, but escaped shortly afterward, and was back in Romania by 1879. The episode of his capture and escape is evoked in his Amintiri din trecutul depărtat (Memories from the Distant Past; 1912). After his return, he again organized socialist circles and edited the first Romanian periodicals with that orientation: Basarabia (1879), România viitoare (Future Romania; 1880), and especially Contemporanul (The Contemporary; 1881). Dobrogeanu-Gherea had three children: Ştefania, a pianist who married the literary critic Paul Zarifopol; Alexandru, a socialist and Communist militant; and Ion, a critic and philosopher.

In the political press, Dobrogeanu-Gherea published articles and popular studies on Marxism and the international workers’ movement, as well as on Romanian domestic and foreign policies. He often served as a delegate of the Workers Social Democrat Party of Romania at international congresses and meetings. He was, in fact, the main author of the program of the party that had been established in 1893, and remained a member after its reestablishment in 1910. When Romania entered World War I in 1916, Dobrogeanu-Gherea left for Switzerland, returning in 1919 not long before he died.

Dobrogeanu-Gherea was the main promulgator of Marxism and socialist ideas in Romania at the end of the nineteenth century. His books, Karl Marx şi economiştii noştri (Karl Marx and Our Economists; 1884), Robia şi socialismul (Slavery and Socialism; 1886), Ce vor socialiştii români (What Do Romanian Socialists Want; 1886), Anarhism şi socialism (Anarchism and Socialism; 1887), Concepția materialistă a istoriei (The Materialist Perspective on History; 1892), and Din ideile fundamentale ale socialismului ştiințific (From the Fundamental Concepts of Scientific Socialism; 1906), include essays on dialectic and historical materialism. In Neoiobăgia (Neoserfdom; 1910), he applied a Marxist analysis to Romanian social structures, setting forth statements and conclusions with theoretical value for Romanian sociology.

Dobrogeanu-Gherea also published articles on literary criticism as of 1885 (in Contemporanul), and these were collected from 1890 to 1897 into three volumes of Studii critice (Critical Studies). He edited the literary review Literatură şi ştiință (Literature and Science), which came out in only two issues (1893 and 1894). Dobrogeanu-Gherea’s literary criticism and views on aesthetics value art as a “product” shaped by talent and by the social and natural environment of the artist. Literature, as an expression of social life, is to him the reflection of an age, of a given society and, in its turn, influences one’s particular society. In addition, the “moral standing” of a piece of work depends on the author’s morality. Hence, Dobrogeanu-Gherea held that it was an artist’s duty to be the conscience of an age, a “citizen artist.”

Dobrogeanu-Gherea’s essays have a voluble, relaxed, and ironic tone, full of digressions, aphorisms, and analogies. This polemicist’s passion for ideas, the vividness of his argumentation, and its provocative verve confer on his articles an unusual intellectual effervescence. In his studies of the new social status of intellectuals in Romania, in 1894 he developed a theory of the emergence of “intellectual proletarians” and of the “cultivated proletarian artists,” Artiştii proletari culți (Cultivated Proletarian Artists).

Consistent with his socialist ideology, Dobrogeanu-Gherea did not identify publicly as a Jew. Nonetheless, he was very critical of Romanian politicians’ antisemitism without becoming involved in heated debates on the “Jewish issue” in Romania. He opposed the attempts made by several Jewish socialist intellectuals to establish distinct Jewish socialist groups following the Bund model.

Suggested Reading

Mircea Iorgulescu, ed., C. Dobrogeanu-Gherea (Bucharest, 1975); Zigu Ornea, Viața lui C. Dobrogeanu-Gherea (Bucharest, 1982); Michael Shafir, “Romania’s Marx and the National Question: Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea,” History of Political Thought 5.2 (1984): 295–314.



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea