Case Studies - Commons - Romania

Commoners’ association in Rucar, Arges County (Obştea Moşnenilor Rucăreni, Arges)   

 

Type of institution for collective action

Commons (Commoners' Association)

Name/description institution  

Rucar, Arges County (Obştea Moşnenilor Rucăreni, Arges)

Country 

Romania

Region

Arges County, Southern Carpathian Mountains

Name of city or specified area 

Rucar

Further specification location (e.g. borough, street etc.)

-

Surface area and boundaries

2,694 hectares (in 2000) 

Foundation/start of institution, date or year

1653

Foundation year: is this year the confirmed year of founding or is this the year this institution is first mentioned?

Confirmed year of founding; from the year 1653 dates the first document which proves that the land, forest and pastures were bought by Obştea Rucărenilor (The Commoners association of villagers from Rucar) from family members of the royal family of Walachia.

Foundation act present?

No.

Description of Act of foundation

See also above. The formal confirmation of this association is provided in the Civil Sentence no. 357 from 21 August 1923, issued by the Court of Muscel, which establishes the members of the Association of commoners from Rucar, also establishing their rights and the number of people entitled to be part of the association.

Year of termination of institution

Still existing.

Year of termination: estimated or confirmed?

N/a.

Act regarding termination present?

 

N/a.

Description Act of termination

N/a.

Reason for termination?

N/a.

Recognized by local government?

Yes, the local government recognizes the association.

Concise history of institution

General    

The common pasture and forest was mentioned in this area since the medieval age. In Romania, more generally, the commons were established especially in the hilly and mountainous regions (Panaitescu 1964). Commons provided commoners with mainly pasture and forest, and, in lowland villages, with agricultural land as well. While the agricultural land was shared among villagers, thus turned into private property, in many parts of Romania well before 1800, common pasture and forest still exist today. Also local associations of commoners (Obşte) are still in use today. There are basically three types of commoners’ associations, each type specific to a Romanian historical province (Moldavia, in eastern Romania), Walachia (southern Romania) and Transylvania (western Romania) and expressing different historical evolutions.

 

Commoners’ Association

The Commoners’ association in Rucăr has been founded in 1653 when villagers from Rucar bought from members of the royal family of Walchia “some mountains” surrounding the village. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the noblemen from Rucăr bought the common forests from villagers. “Not longer” after this transaction, some villagers from Rucăr opened a court case against the noble men. They complained that the pre-emption right (drept de protimis) voted by the king Caragea (1812-1818) was not respected. The struggle between local noblemen and villagers lasted a quite long period of time and at the end, the noblemen restituted their rights over pasture and forest to villagers. In exchange, noblemen got from villagers 3,000 golden coins (galbeni).

 

However, some commoners decided that they do not want to pay their share in order to get back the forest and pasture. We do not have the number of commoners before the process but after this process were 1,122 villagers having rights (dramuri) over the forest and pasture. It must be said that not all of them had the same number of rights over all seven mountains, the total number of mountains the association used to own. Some had few rights on the forests and pastures from one or two mountains while only few had rights over the forests and pastures on the all seven mountains. Only in 1885, after all the money was paid to the noble men commoners who contributed took over and were able to use the commons.

 

In 1910 the Forestry Code was passed, through which the common property (which until this year functioned based on customary law) was recognized officially by the Romanian state. In order to be recognized as a juridical association the Obşte had to issue a regulation and to establish an executive committee to run the association. The executive decisions were made by this committee. Members of the executive committee were elected by all members of the association (on a period of three to eight years) by vote (art. 11). There were five members in the executive committee having a president also elected. The regulation of Obşte stipulated that forest guards recognized by the Minister of Agriculture had to watch over the legality of forest exploitation.

 

The commons functioned until 1948 when all forests were nationalized by the Communist government. Through Law 1/2000 the common forests and pastures were restituted and a new Obşte has been established. The actual Obşte has 2,694 hectares of forest and pasture.

Special events? Highs and lows? Specific problems or problematic periods?

  • 1653: Founding year of the association.
  • 1885: Taking back the forests from the noblemen.
  • 1910: Passing of the Forestry Code, which recognized the customary arrangements of the Obstea.
  • 1948: Nationalization of forest and the dissolution of the association.
  • 2000: Restitution of the common forest.

 

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the documents mention various people who entered the association although they were not entitled to.

 

After 2000 there were allegations that the elected members of the executive committee pocketed money and colluded with people with access to local state offices in order to exploit the forest illegally at the expense of association members.

Membership

Numbers of members (specified)

There are no documents to show the exact number of commoners during the eighteenth and nineteent centuries, but in 1923 there were 1,122 members.

Membership attainable for every one, regardless of social class or family background?

In the period shortly after the foundation there were only ordinary villagers who bought the forest, not noblemen. Later on,  the right of being member of the association became inheritable and could also be sold, regardless whether the person who inherited or bought this right was living in the village or not. The commoner who sold his/her right to another person ceased to be considered a member of the association and the person who bought the right became a member having all rights as the other members.

Specific conditions for obtaining membership? (Entrance fee, special tests etc.)

None specified. See also above.

Specific reasons regarding banning members from the institution?

None specified.

Advantages of membership?

Participation in decision-making, access to forest according to the number of dramuri.

Obligations of members? 

To respect the regulation of Obstea.

Literature on case study

  • Panaitescu, P. P., 1964.  The Peasant Obştea in Wallachia and Moldavia during the Middle Ages [Obştea ţărănească în Țara Românească şi Moldova. Orânduirea feudală]. Bucuresti : Editura Academiei R.S.R.

Sources on case study

  • Civil Sentence no. 357, from 21 august [Sentinţa Civilă Nr. 357 din 31 August 1923] by the Court of Muscel
  • The Regulation of the Association of commoners from Rucar [Aşezământul Obştei Moşnenilor Rucăreni – Muscel]
  • Procès-verbal of authentification [Process verbal de autentificare} (a copy dated 12 December 1924)

Links to further information on case study:

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Case study composed by

Dr. Stefan Dorondel, Francisc I. Rainer Institute of Anthropology Bucharest, Institute for Southeastern European Studies, Bucharest