Sources - Commons - Romania

Use of sources

 

Restitution and property rights

While the medieval commons (agricultural land, forest, meadows) are difficult to be studied simply because the documents referring to such topics are few and scattered, the richness of modern documents (after 1910) could be used for the particular process of forest restitution to those communities/villages that owned common forest and pastures. The regional archival funds still keep regulations from the period before the First World War (some locally published in order to allow as many as possible of the commoners to have access to a written regulation) that could be used in order to determin who had rights in the common forest, which regulations existed et cetera. A study of these regulations would give us a general idea about the situation of before 1910, as many of such regulations simply had transposed customary law on paper. Few studies compare these regulations within a certain area like for example L. O. Rosu (2010), who studied the Comunitatea de Avere of the former guardians of the military border between Romania and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

 

An interesting research project would be an ethnographic enquiry to be carried out in the present-day courts. Such a study would seek to follow if the judges are taking into consideration such papers for the restitution of collective forest.  Several communal forests were restituted on the territory of National Parks. It would be interesting to follow the struggle between the park’s officials and the commoners and to investigate the role of the documents of the commoners play in this struggle. 

 

Commons Preservation

One of the particularities of Romania is that there is still a large common property over forests and pastures. Looking at the history of the commons, the number of people involved, the gains of commoners, the importance of commons for rural development (see for instance the case study in which I describe the positive influence of the Comunitatea de Avere for the communities involved but also for the neighboring communities), and the sustainable exploitation of natural resources one could make a pleading in favour of the commons. A similar study to the one carried by Rosu (2010) would give us a more general idea about the positive influence of the commons, not only on the involved communities but also for communes and villages neighboring the commons. 

 

Although the documents are scarce, an interesting issue would be to establish how the common property influenced the usage of the natural resources from the Middle Ages to the confiscation of land and forest by the communist regime: how the forest was exploited, which the power relations among commoners were, and especially whether their practices were sustainable or not. All the studies and books cited in the bibliography analyze the economic and social relations among commoners, but no explicit link is made with the exploitation of natural resources. 

 

Boundaries, Maps and Oral History

The documents regarding commons often mention local signs (trees, wells, local names) to delineate boundaries. An interesting study would be that based on the local description of the documents (even medieval ones) and on an enquiry based on oral history to try to recompose the boundaries of the common land or forest in particular villages/communes. The study should then draw maps of the commons. This study would be possible in those communes which already dispose of a rich body of modern documents (like in the case of Comunitatea de Avere), but  would also be possible for certain villages from Vrancea county, where the oral tradition is still very powerful. 

 

 

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