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From Peasants to Farmers? Agrarian Reforms and Modernisation in Twentieth Century Romania

A Case Study: Bordei Verde Commune in Braila County


Cornel Micu

The underdevelopment of agriculture was an important subject during the negotiations for Romania’s accession to the European Union. The problem of backwardness in rural areas is, however, far from new and during the twentieth century several agrarian reforms attempted to resolve it. In order to determine the causes of their failure, this volume focuses on a region in the South-Eastern part of Romania, and investigates the activity of three sets of social actors directly involved in agricultural policy: the national elites, who formulated the modernisation programmes, the administration, who implemented them, and the peasants, who had to deal with their effects. The book covers a period of ninety years, from 1917 until 2007, and attempts to determine the long-term results of modernisation policies.


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From 1917 on no less than four important agrarian reforms were employed to try to solve the problem of backwardness in the Romanian countryside: land grant- ing in 1921 and 1945, collectivisation during the fifties and decollectivisation in 1991. Despite these, agriculture remained the most backward sector of economy and became during the 2000s a delicate subject of the negotiations for EU acces- sion. The reforms as answers to the problem of backwardness and the way in which they affected a region in Brăila county, in the South-Eastern part of Ro- mania, are the topic of this book. With this purpose in mind I will examine the activity of three distinct agents directly implicated in agricultural policy: the na- tional elites, who formulated the general policy programmes, the administration, whose task was to implement the elites’ projects, and the peasants, who were di- rectly affected by the measures put in place. This book is the result of several years of research, which took place either in the libraries in Romania and Germany or among the villagers of Bordei Verde. During this time I worked with two wonderful research teams: on the projects “Land Law, Cadastre and Land Registers in Eastern Europe. 1918 – 1945 – 1989. Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia in Comparison”, at the Univer- sity of Leipzig, and in the research training group “Cultural Orientations and Social Order Structures in South Eastern Europe” at Friedrich Schiller Univer- sity in Jena. My activity was supported by numerous people, which helped me...

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