Book Translations as Idea Flows: The Effects of the Collapse of Communism on the Diffusion of Knowledge

We use book translations as a new measure of international idea flows and study the effects of Communism"s collapse in Eastern Europe on these flows.

Using novel data on 800,000 translations and difference-in-differences approaches, we show that while translations between Communist languages decreased by two thirds with the collapse, Western-to-Communist translations increased by a factor of five and quickly converged to Western levels. Convergence was more complete in more economically-useful fields such as the sciences, and was more complete in Satellite than in Soviet countries.

These findings help us understand how institutions shape the international diffusion of knowledge.