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Whose Nature Is It? Contesting Forest Regulation and Land Reform in Interwar Transylvania

À qui appartient la nature ? Contestation de la règlementation forestière et la réforme agraire dans la Transylvanie de l’entre-deux-guerres
George Andrei

Résumés

Cet article explore le rôle de la réforme agraire et de la mise en œuvre de la réglementation forestière en milieu rural alpin dans la Roumanie de l’entre-deux-guerres. L’argument central est que des dissensions entre administrations ont favorisé un climat social et administratif de méfiance, qui a fait de l’utilisation et de la propriété des forêts les objets d’un débat houleux. Les attentes des habitants locaux concernant les réformes agraires de 1921 furent marquées par un conflit bureaucratique interne et des incohérences dans la loi qui interdirent à ces gens l’usage traditionnel de leur environnement, en particulier le recours au pâturage. L’argument souligne le rôle du conflit interne à l’appareil d’État comme facteur clef dans la mise en œuvre des politiques.

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This article came together thanks to the input and encouragement of many friends, colleagues, and mentors. Special thanks are owed to Maria Bucur, Ștefan Dorondel, Gábor Egry, Zane Elward, Lucian George, Ke-chin Hsia, Padraic Kenney, Szabolcs László, Pedro Machado, Julia Roos, and Leah Valtin-Erwin. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the staff at the Sibiu County Service of the Romanian National Archives for their assistance and patience. The article would not be what it is without the valuable commentary and suggestions of the anonymous reviewers and the skilled editorial work of Jennifer Cash. Research for this article was made possible by the generous support of the Department of History at Indiana University Bloomington, the Romanian-U.S. Fulbright Commission, and the U.S. Fulbright Student Program.

  • 1 Manuila Sabin, Georgescu Dumitru C., Populația României [The Population of Romania], Bucharest, Edi (...)
  • 2 The Old Kingdom refers to Romania before the acquisition of new territories after the First World W (...)

1Until relatively recently, Eastern Europe was an overwhelmingly rural space, Romania especially so. Even by the time of 1930 census, eighty percent of the Romanian population was considered rural.1 Today, Romania remains the most rural country in the European Union (EU), with just under half of the population residing in rural areas. With this information in mind, it should come as no surprise that rural management practices have long been at the root of national and modernist discourses in Eastern Europe. For the Romanian state, the management of these spaces has been a central concern in associating the nation with modernity. Only in its more recent postsocialist history has there been a retreat from centralization of state authority through various periods of restitution and privatization after 1989. Regardless, the numerous radical attempts to reorganize the countryside since the nineteenth century are a testament to the purchase of high modern ideology in Eastern European nation-states. The “completion” of the Romanian nation-state in 1918, with the addition of new territories after the First World War, provided a special challenge in this context. The new territories were much more demographically diverse and not as fit for the type of extensive agriculture-for-export economy that defined much of the Old Kingdom’s economy and geography (Figure 1).2 Moreover, much of the new territory was heavily forested and poorly connected to other parts of the new nation.

Figure 1. Highland and alpine regions of Greater Romania

Figure 1. Highland and alpine regions of Greater Romania

Gusti Dimitrie (ed.), Enciclopedia României, vol. III : Economia națională—Cadre și producție [The Encyclopedia of Romania, vol. III : The National Economy—Framework and Production], Bucharest, Imprimeria Națională, 1938, p. 20.

  • 3 In this article, I use the term “forest” in the sense of a woodland, not a specific wooded area und (...)
  • 4 Popek Joachim, “Conflicts over Common Rights to Cattle Grazing on Common Lands and Manorial Propert (...)

2“Who should own forested lands?” and “what should these spaces look like?” have long been questions of interest in Eastern Europe. In the nineteenth century, the transitions from feudal-like institutions were intertwined with the breakdown of forest commons, social conflicts, and new regulations.3 Both historical and social scientific studies of this period have focused on the interactions between peasants, former servants, and the land-owning noble classes, and on how state institutions, especially the courts and legislature, became sites of woodland contestation.4

  • 5 Ivănescu Dumitru, Din istoria silviculturii românești [From the History of Romanian Forestry], Buch (...)
  • 6 Kligman Gail, Verdery Katherine, Peasants under Siege: The Collectivization of Romanian Agriculture (...)
  • 7 Particularly notable is the work of Nobel Prize laureate Elinor Ostrom and those she has influenced (...)

3Studies of the twentieth century continue this trend by examining state-peasant relations during times of agrarian reform or focus more specifically on legal analysis and cultural and economic transformations.5 Few such studies, however, recognize the role of lower-level agents and the importance of translation and negotiation between the abstract state and local communities. A few notable exceptions are Gail Kligman and Katherine Verdery’s study of Romanian collectivization efforts and Ștefan Dorondel’s work on postsocialist rural spaces.6 Elsewhere, scholarship on commons systems has shown a particular affinity for breaking down assumptions about systems of governance and rebuilding them from the ground-up, while the study of forestry has produced rich reflections on questions of interest to Eastern European historiography – such as ethnicity, state-building, and regional relationships (e.g. to Europe).7 Here, I hope to extend the lenses of environmental topics and perspectives to Eastern Europe, as another post-imperial space in the global order.

4In Eastern Europe, independence from empire often meant the beginnings of new internal colonial practices meant to build national identities and bring to life modernist visions of the national economy or social organization. This article stitches together historical research methodologies and a global post-colonial approach to the 1921 land reforms by investigating forestry disputes in a few small villages near the Sadu and Ampoiu valleys in Transylvania, in Sibiu and Alba counties, respectively. Tensions between local state agents and institutions contested national debates about modernity and rights as much as did the peasants who were directly affected by policy changes. Data for this case study is drawn from the Romanian National Archives’ Sibiu County Service (hereafter SJAN-SB, Serviciul Județean Sibiu al Arhivelor Naționale).

  • 8 Much scholarship of this period has focused on ethnicity and nationalism. Many reforms and projects (...)

5The aim of the article is to study local interactions and to understand the purchase of the state’s efforts at the lower levels of its bureaucracy, as well as the motivations of the administrators and other state agents who worked to transform legislation into reality. State actors produced many of the documents I have consulted for this article. While the oft-studied peasant-bureaucrat tension is clearly visible in these documents, they also reveal state actors’ differing personal and professional beliefs and the resulting disfunction among the state’s agents.8

6Of course, these documents are also products of the state. On the one hand, this fact complicates the study of the effectiveness of policy implementation and is biased against peasant participation in forest management. On the other hand, the provenance of these documents makes the study of intra-bureaucratic conflict even more interesting. It is important to see them as products of individual agents that make up state agencies, rather than of a monolithic and homogenized State. Complaints between forestry service agents and local administrations were often reciprocated and articulated through attempts to one-up one another within the state bureaucracy, offering a plethora of opinions and self-justifications. In their complaints, state agents targeted precisely what they thought higher-ups wanted to hear, revealing their interpretations of the reforms and modernization discourses.

7While peasant petitions adopted similar tactics, these also made use of their positions as citizens addressing civil servants, defining themselves as proud Romanians who were owed something by institutions meant to serve them. These documents detail the purchase, or lack thereof, of certain ideological and political messages. The cases show a diversity of interactions to complicate the two-sided state-peasant actor relationship.

Romanian “high modernism”

  • 9 Internal colonialism is a useful lens through which to explain nation-building processes. In Romani (...)

8Historians have often overlooked bureaucratic nuances and their effects on historical outcomes, particularly in rural or peasant studies, opting instead to imagine a monolithic State interacting with a resistant peasantry. The interwar period represents a major time of experimentation with state institutions in the new and developing nation-states of Eastern Europe. This experimentation produced anxiety around the state’s internal colonial project to displace indigenous rural tradition with modernized scientific management––what James Scott dubs “high modernism.”9

  • 10 Lipsky Michael, Street-Level Bureaucracy: The Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Service, New Yor (...)

9While national elites drafted grandiose projects, the “street-level” politics of translation to the local level revealed their weaknesses and the need for compromise or alteration.10 Modernist projects, imposed on a socioeconomically depressed countryside, always encounter forms of resistance or alteration. Resistance to change comes from disparate sources, not only those on whom the projects are imposed, but also from within the ranks of the state’s own institutions.

  • 11 Lawrence Anna, “Forestry in Transition: Imperial Legacy and Negotiated Expertise in Romania and Pol (...)

10After the First World War, Romanian politicians embarked on state projects to completely reinvent Romanian society, integrate newly gained territories, and homogenize the Romanian experience in the countryside. In many ways, the efforts of the Romanian state in Transylvania were not all that different from the interventions of the Hungarian government in the later years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which from the 1890s undertook similar landscape control projects to extend control over the countryside.11

11The Romanian politicians of the interwar period drafted the largest and most extensive land reforms in Europe at the time, expropriating millions of hectares (ha) of land for redistribution among poor and landless peasant populations. While much of this land was in the agricultural lowlands, highland, valley, and alpine environments were also included in the project (Figure 2).

12Highland forests presented a major source of contention. These were areas of mixed economic activity: animal husbandry, mining, and forestry were all pursued by local communities with limited ability to pursue the same level of extensive agriculture as those in the flat plains of other parts of the country (Figure 3). The difficulties of implementing agrarian reforms in forested rural areas thereby reveals additional facets of the fragmentary nature of state institutions and the agency of individuals within those systems.

  • 12 Müller Dietmar, “The Governmentality of Land Ownership in South-Eastern Europe. Romania and Yugosla (...)

13Romania’s interwar land reforms were jointly positivist and patriotic in their methods and outlook. They sought to organize the countryside and peasantry around rational use for the good of the nation.12 Those administrators, foresters, and agents of law tasked with implementing internal colonial projects interpreted the changes very differently, often provoking heated contestation within state institutions about the duties of the state and the reasons for exerting state power.

Figure 2. “Major economic areas” by geographer Vintilă Mihăilescu (1890-1978)

Figure 2. “Major economic areas” by geographer Vintilă Mihăilescu (1890-1978)

Notice the Carpathian Mountains running through the center and west of the country (I). This map generalizes the major economic activities in the mountains as Ia forestry, Ib pasturing, and Ic mining.

Gusti (ed.), Enciclopedia României, vol. III : Economia națională, op. cit., p. 19.

14The various actors caught up in the struggle brought on by the land reforms frequently came to see the others as hostile, even labeling other initiatives or projects illegal, claims they justified through dubious or contradictory understandings of the 1921 reforms. Identifying the intense arguments arising from the application of the forestry code, I argue that the translation of policy into local socioeconomic conditions and worldviews was central for the purchase of national ideals for rural Romanians, many of whom encountered state institutions as outside forces imposing a new, unwelcome order. No policy, regardless of scientific validity or political pressure, can succeed without first acknowledging and resolving issues of trust and authenticity at the local level.

  • 13 What I singularly call the “forestry service” refers to a number of various institutions that exist (...)

15There were two core state institutions operating in alpine forests, among other, more specialized ones: the forestry service and the local communal administrations.13 Both imagined woodlands as places of economic exploitation; however, they prioritized different benefactors and methods. Alongside these institutions, rural residents also played a vital role in the implementation (or lack thereof) of reforms. Oftentimes, they found their livelihoods obstructed by these bureaucracies, while other times they used new notions of modern citizenship to secure alliances with certain institutions. Most often they continued their activities in the forests regardless of official ownership, as they had done under Austro-Hungarian rule decades prior. A host of variegated actors perceived the nation’s forests as their own—each with a different vision of the forests’ purpose and rightful use.

  • 14 Radkau Joachim, Wood: A History, trans. Patrick Camiller, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2012, p. 33.
  • 15 See, for example, the plans to centrally distribute firewood and other necessary wood products to r (...)
  • 16 The Hungarian foresters’ society was an inspiration for many Old Kingdom foresters, for some, more (...)

16The forestry service’s positivist actors, interested in the exchange and environmental value of forests, were in open conflict with local administrations keen on preserving the economic order built on agriculture and animal husbandry, prizing the woodlands’ use-value.14 The forestry service represented, above all, an etatist and scientific modernist vision of control over the nation’s woodlands, seeking in effect a monopoly over wood, a critical resource (Figure 3).15 In this sense, the shift toward a more centrally organized and professionalized resource management regime was not altogether different from that seen in parts of the globe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including in other parts of Eastern Europe, like Poland, Bulgaria, and Hungary.16 The greatest fissure in this intra-bureaucratic relationship ultimately emerged around the question of what to do with the land after clear-cutting operations were concluded: should locals use it for local agricultural and everyday needs, or should foresters replant it to ensure regrowth? The answer, in many cases, could not be both.

Figure 3. “Eng. Ion Nițescu—general inspector”

Figure 3. “Eng. Ion Nițescu—general inspector”

This 1936 caricature depicts one of the main tasks of organized state forestry: the disciplining of populations and regulating forest access.

“Ing. Ion Nițescu—Inspector general de control” in Lehrer, Luigi, Cobar, Casa Pădurilor Statului și Regimul Silvic, Bucharest, Studio Humor, 1936.

Land for (some) peasants: the reforms of 1921

  • 17 Csucsuja, Istoria Pădurilor din Transilvania 1848-1914, op. cit., p. 49.

17Transylvanian agricultural and forest organization has a long and complicated history, not least because of the various regime changes that impacted locals and institutions over the previous few centuries. By the early nineteenth century, Transylvanian serfs and landless peasants had limited but secure access to manorial or communal forests to fulfill their life-needs. With the abolition of serfdom in the region in 1848, new land regulations had to ensure that the newly freed peasants had access to forests. This access remained of crucial importance in highland and mountainous areas where sedentary agriculture proved impossible and other traditions, namely animal husbandry, was more prominently entrenched. The various social categories of the collective peasantry were based on a complex system of former duties, labor, or status as freeholders, and all these categories were affected differently by reforms over the years.17

  • 18 Transylvania was at that time part of the Austrian Empire and later Austro-Hungarian Empire under H (...)
  • 19 Vasile, “Formalizing Commons, Registering Rights,” op. cit., p. 178.
  • 20 Csucsuja, Istoria Pădurilor din Transilvania, op. cit., p. 66, 184-188. In some cases, these incide (...)

18Generally, forests could be slotted into three further-divisible categories after the 1848 and 1853-1854 Austrian imperial reforms: those we could call “the commons,” collectively owned, managed, and used; those of the state treasury; and those belonging to the aristocracy and petty nobility.18 Numerous additional reforms throughout the second half of the nineteenth century resulted in a never-ending parade of lawsuits between individuals, peasants’ village collectives, the state treasury, and the nobility. Monica Vasile has shown the sheer extent of litigation in this period. In 1867, for instance, records show 20,000 ongoing court cases involving 300,000 people, representing a statistical 30 percent of all households in Transylvania.19 Regardless of legal ownership, peasants held no qualms about strong-arming their claims to access and use of woodlands, often using force to throw out local administrators and aristocrats’ professional employees and representatives.20

  • 21 Mitrany David, The Land & the Peasant in Rumania: The War and Agrarian Reform (1917-1921), New York (...)

19The First World War, as throughout much of Europe, created massive political ripples in domestic waters. The war effort mobilized an enormous part of the peasant population. As the war effort crumbled and the government relocated to Iași, the liberal government of I. I. C. Brătianu hastened to begin debate on land reform to appease the peasant class and raise support for the war effort, as well as to stave off any foment that could lead to a revolution. Both the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Conservative Party (PC), the two major parliamentary parties, debated new land reforms throughout 1917. Both parties recognized the urgency of political, military, and socioeconomic issues in Romania. What they could not agree on, however, were the terms of reform, notably the amount of land to be expropriated and how to compensate the landowners.21 The two parties eventually compromised on a maximum of two million hectares to be expropriated after the end of the war. Land recipients were expected to compensate those from whom they received land. This reform, however, was a vague promise rather than a substantial plan, given that the government did not establish how the land was to be expropriated or redistributed, nor how compensation to the landowners was to be achieved.

  • 22 Creanga George D., Grundbesitzverteilung und Bauernfrage in Rumänien [Land Distribution and the Pea (...)

20The reforms were implemented piecemeal after the war with limited success. Additional planning was required for incorporating Romania’s newly acquired lands. The terms of the reform ensured continued economic hardship on the peasant classes due to the debts that peasants would incur paying expropriated landowners for their property at the prescribed land value, a figure fixed by legislation. The methods through which peasants would be propertied were based around structures first proposed through royal decree in 1907, following the eruption of a massive peasant rebellion against their land lessors. It proposed wage laws, mandated the creation of agrarian banks to provide peasants with credit, and encouraged compromise between political parties.22

  • 23 Mitrany, The Land & the Peasant, op. cit., p. 126-127.

21In this context, expropriations became complicated legal and financial affairs, often involving a litany of actors across the scales of political and sociocultural hierarchies. Such polemics were fiercely contested and involved complex relations between bureaucrats and non-state actors. In Transylvania the expropriations were full of exemptions; indeed, for political scientist David Mitrany, studying the reforms as a contemporary, “it was difficult to see what was not exempted.”23 To complicate matters further, Transylvania was given its own legal framework for land reforms after it became part of Romania in 1918. The basic reform law in Transylvania of 1919 was changed numerous times over the proceeding years to unify Transylvania’s legal framework with that of the rest of the country.

  • 24 Mitrany, The Land & The Peasant, op. cit., p. 401.

22Additionally, the complexities of migrating from common systems of land and forest use to ones based on individual properties under the aegis of the state further ruptured peasant expectations and experiences from their past forms in Transylvania. Importantly, the state could expropriate large collectives to extract individual plots for peasants or to bolster the inventories of new communal properties. This meant that the number of previously dominant collectives dropped precipitously after the 1921 reforms: from their peak in 1918, when they held over 400,000 ha of land between them and had over 82,000 members, their holdings fell in just two years to 51,500 ha and their membership to 16,500.24

  • 25 Ibid., p. 141.
  • 26 Note that this only occurred in the case of expropriation. Not all land was expropriated, which exp (...)

23Importantly, before land could be reestablished into independent peasant holdings, state institutions reserved any that it deemed necessary for projects of public interest (such as education and public services), pasturelands, infrastructure, and the afforestation of “wasteland.”25 The authorities handling the expropriations used this term to define forests, marshes, rocky hills or mountainsides, and other untillable tracts of land, as they had little value given the agricultural focus of the land reforms. Expropriated wastelands – including most of the nation’s forests – were then placed under state supervision, often ending in the care of the forestry service.26 Expropriated forests that were not transferred directly to the C.A.P.S. inventories remained subject to controls by the Forestry Directorate.

  • 27 Giurescu, A History of the Romanian Forest, op. cit., p. 96.

24A decade after the end of the war, the area of state-managed forests totaled almost four million ha, more than half the country’s total of just over 7.1 million ha of wooded areas.27 A lack of agricultural land in some areas – mainly in the highlands and alpine areas – would serve as a legal justification for local administrations to renegotiate communal borders and transfers of woodland to make up for the deficit of arable land (Figure 4). In many regions, authorities transferred expropriated lands that they wished to transform into communal pasturelands, granting them to communal administrations. A perennial lack of pasturelands and restrictions on right to pasture became the principal cry of communal administrations against the state-forestry bureaucracy, claiming to represent the voice of their constituents.

Figure 4. “The extent of forests in Romania”

Figure 4. “The extent of forests in Romania”

Notice the prevalence of forests along the Carpathian line and in Transylvania, acquired after the First World War. Transylvania was a key target of the state’s agrarian reforms and nationalization efforts.

Gusti (ed.), Enciclopedia României, vol. III : Economia națională, op. cit., p. 464.

25Expropriation was one issue. Deciding who should receive land was another. The property was first expropriated and placed into the hands of local authorities, who were then meant to disburse it based on local decisions, needs, and circumstances. Many individuals saw flaws in the system’s use of local organs and its absurdly bureaucratic nature, especially since the reforms were taking place in a largely illiterate, agrarian, and socioeconomically marginalized environment. Authorities organized those waiting for land according to a list of prioritized groups. This practice, aimed, among other things, to privilege veterans. In reality, decisions would be arbitrary or perceived as such. While the reforms came with guidelines stipulating prioritization for some groups, implementation was left to local politicians and influence networks, often resulting in bypassing the privileges of those higher prioritized.

  • 28 In remote places, serfs and others with obligations used to pay their dues in kind, often sheep or (...)
  • 29 Verdery Katherine, Transylvanian Villagers: Three Centuries of Political, Economic, and Social Chan (...)

26The project followed the trajectory of many other modernist projects that ultimately failed to solve the initial problem or created new ones. For most, the reforms failed in uplifting rural citizens to the promised socioeconomic levels. In general, prices for the redistributed lands were enough to ruin rural households that were largely without cash.28 Even if the agrarian banks provided loans for the land itself, many peasants still could not afford the tools they needed to work it.29 To complicate matters further, the legislation badly mangled inheritance and division stipulations. Many properties quickly returned to smaller sizes once inheritances or wealth were split. The increasing number of restrictions on selling the properties, moreover, ensured that division was the most popular solution in cases of inheritance or divorce. Moreover, the reform’s solutions were a non-starter in forested alpine areas, where the parcels were much smaller, more contested, and useful for grazing or logging, activities that do not translate well to small, individualized plots.

  • 30 The commune is the smallest administrative unit in Romania. It is roughly equivalent to an incorpor (...)
  • 31 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Primăria Boița 190/1933 : Olărescu petition to Boiț (...)
  • 32 Law Decree 3911/1919, Section III, Art. 33, published in Monitorul Oficial no. 117, 12 September 19 (...)

27Disappointment and unfilled promises eroded faith in the reforms and the state. Petitions, mostly handwritten by frustrated locals, flooded local administrations and county offices, often alleging corruption or betrayal by those local administrators in charge of land distribution. In one instance, war veteran Nicolae Olărescu was among those denied plots in the commune of Boița. He had previously requested land on the premise of his volunteer service in Italy in the First World War and on the Tisza front in the Romanian-Hungarian War of 1919.30 In a complaint to the communal council, he claims to have been turned away with little explanation, simply told there were others higher in the queue.31 This decision came despite his status earning him a spot at the top of such lists for receiving land as both a veteran and native of the commune, both major advantages according to the law of expropriation and land distributions in Transylvania.32

  • 33 Records show that those issuing petitions were often highly unsatisfied by local-level state agenci (...)
  • 34 Müller, “The Governmentality of Land Ownership,” op. cit., p. 224.
  • 35 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Primăria Boița 191/1933 : Tătoiu petition to Boița, (...)

28Accordingly, the Romanian reforms utterly failed to impress or win over the trust of peasants in some areas.33 Since the reforms relied on high planning and abstracted logic, on-the-ground realities often ensured all but the total failure of the state to fulfill its promise of peasant prosperity and participation.34 This included the abstraction of people and the parochial relationships that defined communities. In another complaint from Boița, teacher Nicolae Tătoiu wrote lividly that neither he nor his father were propertied correctly, receiving only half lots from a nearby forest—"excluded from his rights,” as he put it. That “others, arriving only a few years ago and settled in my village through marriage with some girl, have greater rights than me” was a stinging insult to Tătoiu.35 The oddly specific, perhaps personal, description of the “others” aside, the social effects of scientific and administrative decisions were measured differently within state institutions, hence his attempt to appeal by forcefully claiming indigeneity. Notably, it was his status as a native citizen of the village that he used to appeal to the communal council; he claimed his rights as a citizen of Boița, not Romania.

  • 36 Mitrany, The Land & the Peasant, op. cit., p. 402-407.
  • 37 Law 2187/1924, Art. 12-13, published in Monitorul Oficial no. 140, 1 July 1924, p. 7346-7352.

29The 1921 reforms were meant to establish independent peasant households, which could then form self-help collectives on the premise of joint operation within the broader marketplace. These new collectives were premised on private property and represented more of a professional or social self-help collective rather than an institution based on old socioeconomic collectivity, common property, and shared obligations to the community. These new collectives were also based on agricultural production and were thoroughly dependent on the state and politics for their continued tenability (and access to credit).36 Crucially, expropriated woodlands were not handed out to individuals in the same way as agricultural land; instead, those not integrated into the inventories of the central state apparatus or set aside for landscape alteration projects went to new communal (i.e., belonging to the commune) forests that were administered by local administrations and not through a commons’ council. State institutions were even responsible for provisioning locals now excluded from woodlands with forest products necessary for everyday life, such as firewood, paid for by a yearly tax.37

Competing modernities: debating woodland management and ownership

  • 38 In fact, the Forestry Code of 1910 technically remained in effect until 1962. Most relevant to this (...)
  • 39 Vasile, “Formalizing Commons, Registering Rights,” op. cit., p. 185.
  • 40 Giurescu, A History of the Romanian Forest, op. cit., p. 111-114.

30The Romanian Forestry Code of 1910 did not change with the 1921 reforms. It remained in place, with adjustment, throughout the interwar period and well into the Communist period.38 It was adopted in Transylvania in 1923, as part of the state’s efforts to homogenize the national legal system.39 This change brought much of Transylvania’s highland and mountain forests under state administration and stipulated that no exploitation could take place without planning and explicit approval of forestry and state officials.40 This law also served to enlarge and stipulate training for forestry cadres, a topic of intense political and professional debate since the nineteenth century.

  • 41 Școala Politehnică „Regele Carol II”—Secția silvică, “Scurtă privire asupra învățământului silvic s (...)

31Forestry education exploded during the interwar period, in line with the new demands on the state forestry service. Starting from the state silvicultural school at Brănești, heavily damaged during the First World War, the system expanded to a higher-education Silvicultural Section of the Polytechnical School in Bucharest, complete with medium- and lower-level schools throughout the country.41 The silvicultural educators in this system were highly trained and educated, often in France and Germany, ensuring that the forestry cadres were focused on a positivist “directed” exploitation (exploatare în regie) focused on maximizing sustained yield, as silvicultural science dictated at the time.

  • 42 Eliescu Aurel M., “Ceva despre pasunatul vitelor în paduri” [Something about Pasturing Cattle in Fo (...)
  • 43 Grunau Paul Adolf, “Istoricul învățământului silvic în România și observațiuni asupra lui” [The His (...)

32The forestry agents trained at these institutions thus came to their local posts trained in a milieu that demanded an authoritarian disciplining of landscapes and the strict observation of a balance between exploitation and regrowth. They were, however, often well aware that their position was unlike their better-equipped and supported German and French colleagues. A Romanian forestry service needed to be developed in a way that dealt with Romanian landscapes and problems, among them the “backwardness” of the country’s inhabitants and forests.42 One leading Romanian forestry educator noted before the war that “it is too true that science is international, but just as true is that its application—and silviculture is an applied science—is eminently national.”43

  • 44 Stătescu George, “Necesitatea sistemei în explotarea pădurilor” [The Need of a System in Forest Exp (...)

33Forestry engineers constructed their civilizing mission through the maintenance of a stable exploitation regime according to the etatist model established through the forestry codes. The agents of this profession, since its beginnings in Romania in the nineteenth century, saw planned, systematic exploitation as the only way to save the country’s forests.44 In practice, extraction and use policy translated to clear-cutting, followed in most cases by reforestation projects developed according to local environmental conditions, such as soil type, probability of erosion and flooding, as well as economic considerations. Such planning dictated not if reforestation should occur but how it would do so: what type of saplings to plant, where to plant them, and how many to plant.

  • 45 SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmaciu, inventar 448, dosar 38, “Amenajamentul Pădurii Comunei Tălmăcel” [Fores (...)
  • 46 SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmăcel, inventar 455 dosar, f. 22.15-17, 14 December 1922; SJAN-SB, Primăria Tă (...)

34The key, however, was planning. For this cadre of appointed professionals, the mission to uphold the economic and environmental stability of the nation and local area, respectively, precluded any ambiguity around whether reforestation should take place: by law, exploited forests, at least on paper, had to be reforested. Any exploitation, therefore, needed to have a “techno-economic” plan, complete with silvicultural feasibility studies, economic impact considerations, and pedological and hydrological surveys.45 Anything else was “barbaric” or even hostile to modern civilization and the Romanian nation (Figure 5). These beliefs are reflected in leasing contracts between alpine communes and resource extraction firms, the latter of which would often leave cash deposits in escrow, released once the firm met local forestry officials’ reforestation conditions.46

Figure 5. “Barbaric exploitation in the Someș Valley”

Figure 5. “Barbaric exploitation in the Someș Valley”

Forestry agents often associated their mission with a civilizing rhetoric. For them, to be civilized was to be modern and to be modern was to be civilized: both required planning and the oversight.

Gusti (ed.), Enciclopedia României, vol. III : Economia națională, op. cit., p. 460.

35The mission of the forestry service was therefore one constructed on the rational, systemic exploitation of woodland environments. By corollary, this approach also mandated a conversationist agenda—though one grounded in an obsession with exploitability. Among the most significant threats, according to forestry engineers of all levels, was the pasturing that locals practiced in forests and protected plots. For them, this practice was an embarrassing reminder of the “backwardness” of the Romanian countryside. These professionals believed that grazing was the single most damaging activity in standing forests, clear-cut areas awaiting reforestation, as well as areas actively undergoing reforestation treatments. Specifically, they feared that soil erosion in these valleys and alpine regions would occur if pasturing were to take place after clear-cutting, as animals would target the remaining small brush and saplings keeping the soil in place.

  • 47 SJAN-SB, Comisariatul Munților Apuseni, inventar 439, dosar 20, f. 2-6, 16 August 1933.
  • 48 A., “Padurile noastre din puntul [sic] de vedere economic” [Our forests from an economic point of v (...)

36The head official of the Zlatna forestry district in Alba County, engineer Ioan Păcurar, rather dramatically attempted to foreshadow the results of such unwelcome interventions in the Ampoiu Valley region. While launching into a self-congratulatory rant on the importance of forestry’s service to the nation, he rhetorically states that, without action against grazing practices, “[a] different generation left without forests would ask: what’s become of the towering forests of Romania?”47 Generational responsibility had for long been a common feature of the discourse of forestry agents. Writing decades earlier in the professional forestry journal Revista Pădurilor, one anonymous forester identifying themselves only as “A.” summarizes this notion well, tying the fate of the country itself to his work: “The egotistical interest of the present generation is to turn into monetary wealth all of our forests; after us, let happen what may. This, however, would be the ruin of the future country. Patriotism means that what we leave behind also preoccupies us; every generation needs to ensure that it adds to the wealth it received for [the benefit of] the future generation.”48

  • 49 The plan was created by a commission, making it impossible to identify individual authors. Engineer (...)
  • 50 SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmaciu, inventar 448, dosar 38, “Amenajamentul Pădurii Comunei Tălmăcel,” op. c (...)

37Păcurar was not alone in expressing frustration toward illicit pasturing: the author of an exploitation plan for the forests of Tălmăcel, Sibiu County, took a similar approach to locals’ pasturing activities.49 In this report laying out a plan for the management of the commune of Tălmăcel’s (Sibiu County) forests in the late 1930s, the author details his frustration at the actions of local inhabitants: “[d]espite being banned, pasturing was practiced and is still being practiced […] It is absolutely necessary that pasturing be completely banned, as its continuation will contribute even further to the current degradation of the soil and the trees, and so will very much delay and impede their remaking through works that will be applied in the future.”50 The foresters were willing to transfer land to communal management, but landscape transformations and certain activities were out of the question without explicit permission. This permission, however, proved elusive since forestry officials showed a propensity to subvert these requests through delays and technicality-laden rejections. As explained below, this could evolve into a confrontation about the ownership of the forests. Litigation was often the only path to resolutions however, they often concluded in compromises that pleased no one.

  • 51 Vera F. W. M., Grazing Ecology and Forest History, New York, CABI Publishing, 2000, p. 25.
  • 52 SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmaciu, inventar 448, dosar 38, “Amenajamentul Pădurii Comunei Tălmăcel,” op. c (...)

38The aversion of Romania’s forestry engineers and wardens to pasturing was in line with modernist forestry management practices and thinking of the time.51 Sheep and goats were considered particularly dangerous because of their nondiscriminatory grazing; they were likely to eat the remaining bushes and small trees much more frequently than larger herbivores, such as horses or cattle. It was difficult to convince graziers not to graze sheep and goats in the forests. Moreover, graziers often combined flocks, grazing all herbivores collectively, because it was labor efficient. These large herds of animals could be disastrous for regeneration. Forestry officials and engineers were desperate to curb the expansion of pasturelands for this very reason, fearing that continued pasturing would decimate the ecological and climatic stability of affected areas; thereby ruining any future chances for afforestation.52

  • 53 Dorondel Ștefan, Popa Mihai, “Workings of the State: Administrative Lists, European Union Food Aid, (...)
  • 54 For the emergence of citizenship as a modernizing project in Romania, see Iordachi Constantin, Libe (...)

39Communal authorities, particularly mayors, can be seen as a different state institution, one that represented local interests, but which also worked to translate legislation to local conditions.53 As elected officials in a newly democratic system, they represented a separate modernity: the modern political bonds between citizen and civil servant. They could sustain power in their respective villages and towns only by walking a careful line in the implementation of policy. However careful they were, mayors did not escape the frustrations of their constituents, as demonstrated by the numerous petitions and complaints that fill the archives. Additionally, they had a differing view of economics from the more etatist foresters. While foresters frequently discussed the health of the national economy, communal authorities were interested in the village economy made up of households and their livelihoods. As modern public servants responding to citizens’ concerns, they were as involved as were foresters in the modernization projects of the state bureaucracy, though they represented a different vision of modernity.54

  • 55 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 12, Sibiu County Chamber of Agriculture Questionnaire, (...)
  • 56 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Aviz No. 116, 23 October 1934.

40In areas long dependent on animal husbandry, local administrators’ efforts translated into demands for pastureland from the state inventories, or more specifically, forests that they could cut and turn into pasture—proposals which foresters protested. In some cases, such as in Boița, the local officials were fighting simply for the permission to transform land that the commune already controlled. The sheep was (and remains) the most common livestock animal in Transylvania; it required significant amounts of pasture to sustain but represented a vital part of the peasant household’s economy. For example, a 1931 census from Boița counts 1,883 inhabitants among 374 households. Among the animal population, sheep were by far the greatest in number: 2,460. Goats followed as the second-most prevalent species numbering 407. In terms of pastureland, the commune had roughly 1504 ha available.55 According to a request by communal officials, approved by a commission from the Ministry of Agriculture and Domains, the grazing needs of the commune required an additional 1,000 ha of pastureland to sustain.56 Often, however, even once approved, agents could apply restrictions to land use, since all forests, regardless of ownership, were subject to the separate controls of the forestry code.

41In the eyes of communal administrations and locals, such restrictions were absurd, particularly since the communes in question already lacked arable land, given their mountainous surroundings. The land reforms promised Romania’s rural inhabitants land and opportunity; instead, from their perspective, it was a sham. Not only did they not receive the promised land, but they also faced state-imposed restrictions on the use of land they had previously accessed. One such incident led to lengthy litigation in Boița. In 1922, the local administration requested additional woodland as compensation for its lack of productive agricultural land, intended to make up for the additional grazing requirements described above. The local Sadu Valley forestry district awarded the commune just under 1,120 ha of woodland in 1923 responding to the request, only to subsequently tell the commune that it could not use most of it for agricultural activity.

  • 57 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Aviz No. 116, 23 October 1934.

42During the subsequent legal battles that emerged around the question of Boița’s forests, the Forestry Regime of Sighișoara, which oversaw the forestry districts of Southern Transylvania, appointed a commission to provide a feasibility study for the transformation of the land. It found that the soil and the incline of the slope of the proposed pasture was reason enough to deny the commune permission to transform the granted area into pasture and hayfields.57 The commission noted that much more of the land could be used as wooded pasture than the initially approved area, while at the same time excluding the possibility of full-pasture conversion. Such a compromise attempted to address the needs of the commune’s inhabitants while keeping communal authorities’ power and locals’ economic activities in check. This compromise constituted a severe misunderstanding of local needs and circumstances. Locals could not see the value in keeping these areas forested given the failed promises of the state, draconian restrictions to pasturing, and continued local poverty.

  • 58 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Certified copy of decision 114/1923 regarding reque (...)
  • 59 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Aviz No. 116, 23 October 1934.

43When local officials protested that the commune should be allowed to transform the woodlands into pastures and hayfields, the forestry service blocked the request. Instead, it approved only 182 ha of the commune’s forests to serve as wooded pasture.58 The communal officials and inhabitants were incensed at this insulting concession and sued, giving rise to an eleven-year polemic between the local administration and the forestry service over land usage. Only in 1934 did courts finally side with the commune. This decision, however, was hardly indicative of a decisive legal victory. It came in the context of the Forestry Directorate renouncing its claims. According to the surveys carried out during the legal battles, so much of the forest had already been clear-cut without reforestation operations that the land had effectively been converted to pasture.59

  • 60 SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmaciu, inventar 448, dosar 38, “Amenajamentul Pădurii Comunei Tălmăcel,” op. c (...)

44Moreover, pasturing was not the only alleged “crime” of the locals, according to the Tălmăcel report. The author claims that they were also thievish, stealing firewood from protected woodland parcels, often those located nearest their community. He blames this on the inhabitants’ shortsightedness, backwardness, and incompetence, noting that the reason behind this theft is that “they don’t bring firewood that has been rationed to them [from] the selected plot when the roads are good, plots which are further from villages, because the woodlands close to the commune are not exploitable.”60 Such actions, according to him, were a clear breach of the “law,” a vague ––or perhaps desperate or frustrated–– response.

  • 61 Axenciuc Victor (ed.), Evoluția economică a României – Cercetări istorice, 1859-1947 [The Economic (...)

45Such allegations of wood theft were widespread, and the forestry service could threaten the economy of entire communes through hefty financial penalties for illicit wood extraction. In one single episode, in the commune of Horia-Arada, Turda County, forestry wardens and officials handed out 318 fines in 1933 alone, amounting to 652,735 lei, equivalent to about $4,242 at the time. These were hefty fines, and the state’s desperate deflationary efforts and the temporary suspension of the leu’s convertibility throughout 1933 and 1934 made the fines even more expensive in terms of buying power. By April 1934, when the commune’s mayor wrote a letter contested the fines, they were effectively worth $5,812. The national GDP per capita in the agricultural sector was only around $27, with the area of the Apuseni Mountains already marked as economically depressed in relation to this figure.61 Tallying the total number of offenses reported in 1933, the average fine issued to residents of Horia-Arada was $12.27! As many individuals received multiple fines, it is clear they were unpayable.

  • 62 Horea was one of the leaders of the 1784 peasant uprising in Austrian Transylvania, whom the Romani (...)
  • 63 SJAN-SB, Comisariatul Munților Apuseni, inventar 439, dosar 59, f. 13, 14 April 1934.
  • 64 The Commissariat of the Apuseni Mountains was a special administrative and developmental region est (...)
  • 65 SJAN-SB, Comisariatul Munților Apuseni, inventar 439, dosar 59, f. 13, 14 April 1934.

46The mayor of Horia-Arada, desperate to obtain financial forgiveness for his commune’s residents, sent a full list of those fined with a pleading letter to the Commissar of the Apuseni Mountains in April 1934, begging him to forward the request straight to King Carol II. He claimed that “given that the poverty is so great here in the mountains” they simply could not pay the fines. Slyly, he also reminded the commissar and king that their commune was particularly symbolic, holding national importance: “the commune of Horia” had suffered previously under foreign oppression (i.e. Austrian and Austro-Hungarian empires). This fact, he argues, explains their impoverishment, which was “as it was in the times of Horia,” referencing the Romanian peasant hero Horea.62 The mayor’s reference to Horea, a symbol of their own loyalty, serves to remind the state of local sacrifice for the creation of the nation and to remind the state of its obligation to this nation. He ends the letter: “We cannot pay anything because of the wicked punishment which we suffered [in our] past subjugations. [T]he wounds of [Țara] Moților have not healed even today, 15 years after the Great Union, for which our ancestors have bled in 10 revolutions.”63 This patriotic appeal may have had its intended effect. On December 22, 1934, a telegram from the Ministry of Justice arrived at the office of the Prefect of Cluj County. It noted the suspension of all forest-related fines and jail sentences not just in Horia-Arada, but throughout the Apuseni Commissariat.64 This outcome is also supported by a handwritten annotation on the original letter.65

  • 66 SJAN-SB, Comisariatul Munților Apuseni, inventar 439, dosar 20, f. 2-6, 16 August 1933.
  • 67 Ibid.

47The disagreement between state agencies over land use often evolved into a fierce rivalry between the forestry service and local administrations over ownership and control of the forests. In the eyes of forestry professionals, if communes would not follow forest-use regulations, then the state should simply not give them additional woodlands. They argued that communes could simply not be trusted with the forests. According to such agents, a rational exploitation plan would be a mutually beneficial arrangement. According to Păcurar’s analysis, in an ideal situation in which forestry regulations were followed the local economy receives needed material, the forests regrow, the forestry service accomplishes its mission, and cooperating communes “know no misery in the time of the [exploitation], they do not know crisis and there is no unemployment.” According to this logic, noncompliance with forestry dictates not only do a disservice to the nation but also act against locals’ interests. He goes further to compare the “grave and sad” situation of communal forests to that of the state forests, which meet the “demands of today’s market” and have “been kept intact, beautiful, and large: true forests, while the exploited parcels have been regenerated in time.”66 He maintains his position, adding that “any robbery [transfer of state forests to local management] can produce not only a negative result [to woodlands], but will also worsen the situation of the population….”67 In other words, it is in both the national and the local interest that the forestry administration should keep its forests.

  • 68 Ivănescu, Din istoria silviculturii românești, op. cit., p. 131. See also the fierce debate on the (...)
  • 69 The rank of brigadier was that of an advanced inferior-level agent in the forest service, often tas (...)

48In the nineteenth century, such arguments were not ubiquitous among Romanian foresters. The role of the state in forest management was much debated, with the practical limitations of Romanian administrative and transportation infrastructure gaining the most attention.68 By the interwar period, however, an etatist model of forestry had won out. From this point, many specialist cadres considered that forests should always remain in state hands. The communes were not even capable of properly demarcating their forests, let alone managing them, lamented one brigadier.69

  • 70 SJAN-SB, 439.17.302/1933, Report of the Inspectorate of the Cluj Forestry Regime, September 1933.

49Accordingly, officials frequently denied communes’ requests for additional forests, even when these were not explicitly requested for pasturing. Officials often argued that the surface area already in communal hands met the necessary conditions for the area per capita requirements of the land reforms. There was no need, they claimed, for additional cessions of woodland.70 The legalistic and abstract land reforms were the most effective weapon of the forestry service in contesting the cession of further woods from the state inventories. This strategy would not go uncontested, as we have seen, because these calculations did not account for the real conditions or productivity of the commune’s land. To solve the demands of locals and other state bureaucracies, forestry officials often subverted the requests of local administrations with solutions they deemed acceptable and less harmful to their mission to conserve forest cover.

50The sheer number of lawsuits surrounding forest use and ownership suggests a continuation of the local contestation of technocratic policy and practice from the imperial to the national period. Demands for more woodland constituted an endless stream of petitions to the forestry service, county prefectures, and national ministries (Figure 6). Many communes under Păcurar’s jurisdiction, for instance, had been demanding additional land to no avail. Denied requests usually returned in the form of appeals or litigation. The inhabitants and administrations were determined to send off new petitions demanding either new forests or the exchange of forest plots. The torrent of petitions seems partly responsible for Păcurar’s frustration. The claims of the allegedly troublesome communes were illegal, he argues, using another vague abstraction of reform laws to support his stance.

Figure 6. “Eng. Dionisie Bucur—general inspector”

Figure 6. “Eng. Dionisie Bucur—general inspector”

In this period caricature, a forestry engineer is surrounded by peasant petitioners.

“Ing. Dionisie Bucur—Inspector general” in Lehrer, Luigi, Cobar, Casa Pădurilor Statului și Regimul Silvic, op. cit.

  • 71 SJAN-SB, Comisariatul Munților Apuseni, inventar 439, dosar 20, f. 2-6, 16 August 1933.

51One allegedly troublesome commune, Feneș, near Zlatna in the Ampoiu Valley, repeatedly drew his ire in the memorandum. According to him, the commune’s demands had already been rejected three times, noting that such communes simply “do not understand [that they must] renounce pasturing, [and] instead abusively pasture the territory with the goal to take it by force.”71 Păcurar came to believe that the communes were working in conspiracy against the forestry service, sending out graziers and shepherds to purposely sabotage woodland management plans so that they could seize them. This rivalry with livestock-raising locals was common among forestry engineers. The frustration in their communiques and planning documents is palpable and accusatory. Using the language of the land reforms, forestry engineers castigated local administrations as incompetent, or worse, reactionary, in their understanding of the new national order.

52For communal officials and residents, the matter was one of a different magnitude that seems to be completely detached from the world of the forestry agents. Locals viewed the situation through the lens of the failed promises of the state. The legal case which mired Boița for over a decade was underscored by a distinct sense of vulnerability expressed in documents to state agencies: traditional occupations have become impossible due to the massive changes, including those of the land reforms, and many locals needed to find new occupations or circumvent the law just to survive. The chief issue, they claimed, was a lack of land for pasturing. The problem of land ownership, in this case woodlands, became a matter of life and death in the documents sent to state institutions.

  • 72 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Boița inhabitants’ petition, 10 January 1929.
  • 73 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Boița letter to Minster of Interior, 4 August 1935.
  • 74 S SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Boița inhabitants’ petition, 10 January 1929.

53One petition of a popular assembly in Boița demanded the parcellation of the communal woods into individually owned plots, stressing that they are “in a battle with existence” and that their only motivation was to “win our daily bread through honest work…” They concluded with a patriotic but somewhat accusatory appeal: “These are our reasons for addressing you, Mr. Minister, with the request that because we are now in Romania the masters of our own fortune you should now do right by us…”72 The residents of Boița, the commune’s mayor claimed in a subsequent letter to the Interior Ministry, “were not propertied with a single patch of land” during the process of the land reforms. It was absurd, the letter implied, that a commune with two thousand “souls” is forced to live on 289 ha of arable land and 577 ha of meadows and still face such resistance in obtaining land-use rights to use their own forests.73 Indeed, the peasant assembly’s petition was almost nostalgic about its imperial past: “during that time, trade was flowering, the majority of the inhabitants were occupied with trade […] 50 years have passed since then […] now, all of them are farmers or raise cattle […] but we can’t really even call them farmers or ranchers, since the land on which they live is incomparably small for this purpose in relation to the number of people.”74 Even if the local residents and the local administration wanted to make the same change, other institutions, in this case the forestry service, often had competing ideas.

  • 75 The role of international markets and demand has had some attention in Eastern European studies, mo (...)

54Complicating the positions of state foresters was the fact that communal income from the forestry sector, while often profitable, was not always reliable. It was dependent on healthy international trade and the global availability of credit used to finance construction projects.75 Market factors played a key role in the demand for wood, and in many cases, communes simply could not find buyers interested in logging their forests. Local administrators, especially after the beginning of the Great Depression, sent out calls for contract offers via advertisements, a financial burden, without any replies.

  • 76 Axenciuc (ed.), Evoluția economică a României, vol. III, op. cit., p. 373-374.
  • 77 A stère is nominally a cubic meter, but because it also includes the space lost to log stacking, th (...)
  • 78 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 21, Report on auction closure, 29 November 1938.

55In fact, Romania’s wood industry was already suffering a painful loss of exports starting in 1926 with the global depression in agricultural prices, which the subsequent Great Depression only worsened. While in 1925 Romania exported almost 2.5 million tons of wood (firewood and construction timber), by 1933 this figure was reduced to just under 600,000 tons. Firewood exports, the main forestry product of the beech forests of alpine communes like Tălmăcel and Boița, fell from 1.23 million tons in 1925 to just 87,800 by 1933. Even after exports began to recover a few years later, this figure would not again exceed 200,000 tons during the interwar period.76 In 1938, for instance, the administration of Boița placed an advertisement in the state gazette Monitorul Oficial and the daily Timpul announcing to a national audience a public auction for a contract to cut 13,594 stères of beechwood from just over 61 ha of its forests.77 Not a single interested party showed up to the auction: the wood interested no one.78 Directed exploitation was not necessarily the boon to communities that would replace traditional occupations, as Păcurar so forcefully claimed.

56Thus, there existed a certain level of dissonance between planning and reality around forests even within state institutions. The land reforms resonated with the peasantry as a medium through which to make demands on the Romanian state and hold local officials accountable and a way for local officials to appear as representatives of their constituents. The agents of the forestry administration, however, used their interpretations to castigate the locals and their officials for violating the reforms’ laws through their continuation of traditional occupations and habits. This difference led to much frustration on all sides. Forestry engineers and officials bemoaned the impossibility of their tasks due to the “incompetence” of locals and other state institutions. The forest service saw its actions as a part of a national effort to conserve a vital resource for the future use of the nation. The locals, on the other hand, needed to eat their “daily bread.”

57Such arguments in and around forests mark just one of the many failures of the interwar reforms, translated to local contexts by squabbling government institutions and agents. In such highland and alpine environments, the relief felt by some peasants elsewhere was a mathematical impossibility: there was just not enough land. The rural inhabitants involved in the local husbandry-based economies viewed the surrounding forests as available for their use, as they had been in the past regardless of ownership. Local officials resorted to long, drawn-out legal avenues to enlarge their communes’ pool of resources and land. In turn, locals felt cheated by the state, expressing frustrations with both forestry regulations and local land distribution processes, which did not “do right” by them as citizens, whether local or national. This use- versus exchange-value debate in the nation’s forests posed a serious dilemma: how could a system of forest exploitation, so anchored around scientific precision, work in an environment of local need and ingrained dependence on tradition? The simple answer is that it did not, and not only because of locals’ “interference.”

  • 79 “Traditional” is a complicated label, given the many social structures that were prevalent in the a (...)

58These relations and conflicting institutional priorities led to a mutual mistrust between the actors of various state agencies, having a significant effect on the physical and metaphysical landscape of the country. Crucially, it meant that central state policy could not hope to line up with the daily realities of its application at the site of encounter between abstract legislation and applied regulation. Forest policy was strict in its curtailment of traditional use, which saw the forest as a means of survival that some state institutions deemed undesirable and “backwards.”79 Local administrators, elected officials attempting to balance the implementation of national policy and maintenance of their own positions as mediators between legislation and applied policy. Far from backwards, the contestation of the power of the forestry service was an act of political modernity using the legal system and petitioning functionaries, ministries, and the king. Romanian citizens, as the mayors of Horia-Arada and Boița argued, are not simply subjects—the nation must also serve them. Policy and practice became a wedge between local agents of differing bureaucracies and the furthering of local economic livelihoods through farming and pasturing. Before these reforms and methods of modern forest management, free villages and their collectively held and managed commons, strictly protected from external influences and interventions, were an internal affair, at least in many areas.

  • 80 There are many other institutions that fought over forest that were not mentioned in this article, (...)

59The central government’s embrace of high modernist projects to control the land and its resources threatened these more traditional, locally geared systems, which some state agents considered wasteful. Naturally, this created friction with other agents, namely those of local administrations, which were involved in other modernizing projects such as the extension of political citizenship to rural areas.80 The resultant discord at the level of local forestry practice thus meant that, on the one hand, traditional methods of forest management ensuring indigenous methods of collective protection were not continued and, on the other, that neither were modern methods of scientific management enforceable on the ground, where socioeconomic conditions and political expectations made it impossible. In the context of these failures, both parties continued to exploit woodlands in their own ways.

  • 81 Giurescu, A History of the Romanian Forest, op. cit., p. 96-97; Dinu, Der rumänische Wald, op. cit.(...)

60The polemics discussed above contributed to severe changes in landscape and damaged efforts to enforce regulation on modern industrial logging. Woodlands were felled at rates that made the forestry service’s task of keeping a balance impossible, a common theme among such rationalist projects. Between 1920 and 1935, the country’s forest area decreased by nearly 1.3 million ha, an area just over that of the U.S. state of Connecticut. This loss constituted close to 17 percent of the entire forest cover of the country following the First World War.81 To be sure, reforestation and natural regrowth helped to keep this number much lower than it might have been, but documents attest to many instances where reforestation never occurred or was stymied. In line with silvicultural practices of the time, monocultures thrived, altering the ecology of reforested spaces, planted with an eye for future exploitability with “ideal” species based on environmental and climatological factors like soil, sunlight, and the speed of potential growth.

61The discord among administrative structures due to differences in mission and beliefs among agents complicated their interactions with citizens and vice versa. Local rhetoric and demands, from individual requests to the joint petitions of peasant assemblies and official requests of communal administrators, reveal that locals were not shy about voicing their disappointment and feelings of the state’s betrayal, even in their communications with that state. Across the scale of the centralized bureaucracy, accusations from locals expressed their dissatisfaction with its failure to live up to its promises, laid out in the numerous laws related to the land reforms. Instead of acquiescing to dodge this attack on the state’s legitimacy, forestry officials and workers, serving an etatist, and hence, greater, purpose, often doubled down on their own attacks against locals.

  • 82 Scott, Seeing Like a State, op. cit., p. 311-324.

62Such differences between abstracted policy and local reality made, and today continue to make, the application of management practices and policing of the forests difficult. In the absence of the fulfillment of state promises through the land reforms of 1921, rural inhabitants attempted to balance their traditional worldview within an increasingly imposing outside world. The reforms promised a new life and yet represented a type of step back for many who lost rights in the process. States do not succeed in implementing policy through sheer force, as James Scott has shown, because local knowledge, interests, and circumstances matter.82 This episode shows that so too do the frequently competing missions and worldviews of individuals and institutions under the state umbrella.

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Notes

1 Manuila Sabin, Georgescu Dumitru C., Populația României [The Population of Romania], Bucharest, Editura Institutului Central de Statistică, 1938, p. 16.

2 The Old Kingdom refers to Romania before the acquisition of new territories after the First World War. It was comprised of the territories of Dobrogea, Moldova, Muntenia, and Oltenia.

3 In this article, I use the term “forest” in the sense of a woodland, not a specific wooded area under special administration. By the twentieth century, the difference between forest and woodland was negligible, as woodlands increasingly fell under management regimes.

4 Popek Joachim, “Conflicts over Common Rights to Cattle Grazing on Common Lands and Manorial Properties in Austrian Galicia (1771-1918),” Rural History, vol. 32, no 1, 2021, p. 77-93; Vasile Monica, “Formalizing Commons, Registering Rights: The Making of The Forest and Pasture Commons in the Romanian Carpathians from the 19th Century to Post-Socialism,” International Journal of the Commons, vol. 12, no 1, 2018, p. 170-201; Mateescu Oana, Serial Anachronism: Re-Assembling Romanian Forest Commons, PhD Dissertation, University of Michigan, 2017, p. 101ff; Csucsuja István, Istoria pădurilor din Transilvania 1848-1914 [The History of Transylvanian Forests 1848-1914], Cluj-Napoca, Presa Universitară Clujeană, 1998.

5 Ivănescu Dumitru, Din istoria silviculturii românești [From the History of Romanian Forestry], Bucharest, Editura Ceres, 1972 ; Giurescu Constantin C., A History of the Romanian Forest, trans. Eugenia Farca, Bucharest, Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1980.

6 Kligman Gail, Verdery Katherine, Peasants under Siege: The Collectivization of Romanian Agriculture, 1949-1962, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2011; Dorondel Ștefan, Disrupted Landscapes: State, Peasants and the Politics of Land in Postsocialist Romania, New York, Berghahn Books, 2016. For a more generalized and theoretical inquiry, see Egry Gábor, “Beyond Politics: National Indifference as Everyday Ethnicity,” in Maarten van Ginderachter, Jon Fox (eds), National Indifference and the History of Nationalism in Modern Europe, New York, Routledge, 2019, p. 145-160, p. 149ff. Studying nationalism, Egry demonstrates the benefits of studying institutions through the individuals who comprise them at the local level.

7 Particularly notable is the work of Nobel Prize laureate Elinor Ostrom and those she has influenced. Gibson Clark C., McKean Margaret A., Ostrom Elinor (eds), People and Forests: Communities, Institutions, and Governance, Cambridge, MIT Press, 2000; for an application to Eastern European space, see Miroiu Adrian, Golopența Iris-Patricia, Acțiune colectivă și bunuri comune în societatea românească [Collective Action and Commons in Romanian Society], Bucharest, Polirom, 2015 ; Vandergeest Peter, Peluso Nancy Lee, “Empires of Forestry: Professional Forestry and State Power in Southeast Asia, Part 1,” Environment and History, vol. 12, no 1, 2006, p. 31-64 (38-40, 50ff); Sivaramakrishnan K., Modern Forests: Statemaking and Environmental Change in Colonial Eastern India, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1999; Saikia Arupjyoti, Forests and Ecological History of Assam, 1826-2000, New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2011

8 Much scholarship of this period has focused on ethnicity and nationalism. Many reforms and projects, including land reforms, often had ethnic components. While undoubtedly crucial for this period and geographic region, a focus on ethnicity, I feel, distracts from the point, though, as I will point out, it is impossible to escape. This article uses case studies in which the communities are almost entirely ethnically Romanian. Unless self-reported by authors of petitions, references to ethnic belonging are absent from many of the documents, particularly those of foresters.

9 Internal colonialism is a useful lens through which to explain nation-building processes. In Romania, this was often literal, with ecological and human colonization of spaces deemed in danger of losing their “Romanianness.” The Romanian state repeatedly initiated development projects to establish “internal colonies.” Other scholars have demonstrated the significant efforts that state institutions will go to further the expansion of networks of centralized power through such projects, using literal as well as figurative “colonization.” I suggest that there is a need to go deeper in studying the institutions involved in such processes. Duara Prasenjit, Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern, Lanham, Rowan and Littlefield, 2003, p. 17-19; Scott James C., Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1998, p. 87-90; Cepraga Theodor, Suditu Bogdan, “Internal Colonization in Rural Romania: The Sale of the State-Owned Estates at the End of the Nineteenth Century,” Rural History, vol. 32, p. 95-113. On peasant resistance to state projects, see Scott James C., Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1985.

10 Lipsky Michael, Street-Level Bureaucracy: The Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Service, New York, Russell Sage Foundation, 1983, p. 13-26.

11 Lawrence Anna, “Forestry in Transition: Imperial Legacy and Negotiated Expertise in Romania and Poland,” Forest Policy and Economics, no 11, 2009, p. 429-436 (430). A more complete treatment of late imperial policies and their implementation can be found in Csucsuja, Istoria pădurilor din Transilvania 1848-1914, op. cit.

12 Müller Dietmar, “The Governmentality of Land Ownership in South-Eastern Europe. Romania and Yugoslavia: A Comparison,” in Rosa Congost, Rui Santos (eds), Contexts of Property in Europe: The Social Embeddedness of Property Rights in Land in Historical Perspective, Turnhout, Brepols, 2010, p. 211-227 (216-221).

13 What I singularly call the “forestry service” refers to a number of various institutions that existed since the nineteenth century as an appendage of the Ministry of Agriculture and Domains. There were multiple attempts to organize a working forestry service from the mid nineteenth century to the early twentieth. Casa Pădurilor (C.P., Forests’ Administration), was founded in 1910 to oversee management of woodlands placed under the management of the state, which also included some private forests as well as those held by various institutions, notably of schools and hospitals. In 1930, new legislation reorganized the forestry service into two distinct departments, Direcția Silvică (the Forestry Directorate), which carried out inspections and oversaw the management and exploitation of private and communal forests, and C.A.P.S., Casa Autonomă a Pădurilor Statului (C.A.P.S., the Autonomous Administration of State Forests), which did the same for state-state owned forests. The latter was meant to be self-sufficient, funding itself from its economic activities. The two institutions shared a conservationist mission and a common pool of agents. I therefore refer to a single forestry service even after 1930, as both institutions were placed under the same ministry and served the same role as C.P. before the 1930 reform.

14 Radkau Joachim, Wood: A History, trans. Patrick Camiller, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2012, p. 33.

15 See, for example, the plans to centrally distribute firewood and other necessary wood products to rural inhabitants, discussed below.

16 The Hungarian foresters’ society was an inspiration for many Old Kingdom foresters, for some, more so than the French. Its cohesion was much lauded in the pages of Revista Pădurilor, based on information reported in the French Revue de Eaux et Forȇts. Bulgaria, on the other hand, had a forestry system that was undoubtedly a latecomer but seen by contemporaries to be highly modern, capable of “vigorous action.” Dinu Valeriu, Politica forestieră națională : Doctrina modernă și realizările epocii 1918-1938 [National Forestry Policy: Modern Doctrine and Accomplishments of the Period 1918-1938], Bucharest, Editura Viața forestieră, 1939, p. 161; Modert Gerd, “Socioeconomic Development and Changing Mental Concepts (Re)shaping the Woods in a German Region of Low Mountain Ranges: Contributions of a Study on the Regional Level to the Discussion of Major Issues of Forest History,” in Mauro Agnoletti, Steven Anderson (eds), Forest History: International Studies on Socio-Economic and Forest Ecosystem Change, New York, CABI Publishing, 2000, p. 153-160; Lawrence, “Forestry in Transition,” op. cit., p. 432-433; “Silvicultura în Ungaria” [Forestry in Hungary], Revista Pădurilor, vol. 1, no 4, 1886-1887, p. 111-113.

17 Csucsuja, Istoria Pădurilor din Transilvania 1848-1914, op. cit., p. 49.

18 Transylvania was at that time part of the Austrian Empire and later Austro-Hungarian Empire under Hungarian rule. For communal village practices, see Stahl Henri H., Contribuții la studiul satelor devălmașe romînești [Contributions to the Study of Communal Villages], vol. 1, Confederații de ocol, structuri teritoriale și tehnici agricole [Local Confederations, Territorial Structures, and Agricultural Techniques], Bucharest, Editura Academiei Republicii Popular Romîne, 1958; for the commons, see Miroiu Andrei, Pircă Radu A., “Păduri, pășuni și iazuri ca resurse publice comunitare. Practică instituțională și implicații teoretice” [Forests, Pastures, and Ponds as Public Community Resources : Institutional Practice and Theoretical Implications], in Adrian Miroiu (ed.), Instituții în tranziție [Institutions in Transition], Bucharest, Editura Punct, 2002, p. 10 ; Cerkez Șerban, “Reguli și mecanisme de exploatare a sistemelor de resurse comune în satele din Vrancea” [Rules and Exploitation Mechanisms of the Commons Resource System in the Villages of Vrancea], in Adrian Miroiu, Iris-Patricial Golopența (eds), Acțiune colectivă și bunuri comune în societatea românească [Collective Action and the Commons in Romanian Society], Bucharest, Polirom, 2015, p. 105-135 (112-113).

19 Vasile, “Formalizing Commons, Registering Rights,” op. cit., p. 178.

20 Csucsuja, Istoria Pădurilor din Transilvania, op. cit., p. 66, 184-188. In some cases, these incidents involved Romanian and Hungarian peasants banding together against aristocratic efforts to impose private property regimes.

21 Mitrany David, The Land & the Peasant in Rumania: The War and Agrarian Reform (1917-1921), New York, Greenwood Press, 1968 [1930], p. 104.

22 Creanga George D., Grundbesitzverteilung und Bauernfrage in Rumänien [Land Distribution and the Peasant Question in Romania], Leipzig, Verlag von Duncker & Humbolt, 1907, p. 15-16.

23 Mitrany, The Land & the Peasant, op. cit., p. 126-127.

24 Mitrany, The Land & The Peasant, op. cit., p. 401.

25 Ibid., p. 141.

26 Note that this only occurred in the case of expropriation. Not all land was expropriated, which explains why not all the country’s forests were in state hands. This work focuses on these state-held forests and their ownership and management.

27 Giurescu, A History of the Romanian Forest, op. cit., p. 96.

28 In remote places, serfs and others with obligations used to pay their dues in kind, often sheep or cheese in the case of areas dependent on animal husbandry. Boița and the other communes near Sibiu were located along trading routes in the Olt Valley, and had a longer tradition of monetized economics. In the Apuseni Mountains, however, engagement with trade was much more limited in scope and scale.

29 Verdery Katherine, Transylvanian Villagers: Three Centuries of Political, Economic, and Social Change, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1983, p. 279.

30 The commune is the smallest administrative unit in Romania. It is roughly equivalent to an incorporated village. I use the term “communal” to refer to an institution or thing belonging to or associated with a commune. For a collectively owned or managed area or institution, I use the term “collective” or “commons.”

31 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Primăria Boița 190/1933 : Olărescu petition to Boița, 18 February 1933. If no file number is available, a description and any identifying information will be added as here.

32 Law Decree 3911/1919, Section III, Art. 33, published in Monitorul Oficial no. 117, 12 September 1919, p. 6690-6694.

33 Records show that those issuing petitions were often highly unsatisfied by local-level state agencies. Some petitions, like those of the Mayor of Horia-Arada, discussed below, asked that their petitions be sent straight to the relevant government ministry or the king.

34 Müller, “The Governmentality of Land Ownership,” op. cit., p. 224.

35 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Primăria Boița 191/1933 : Tătoiu petition to Boița, 2 March 1933.

36 Mitrany, The Land & the Peasant, op. cit., p. 402-407.

37 Law 2187/1924, Art. 12-13, published in Monitorul Oficial no. 140, 1 July 1924, p. 7346-7352.

38 In fact, the Forestry Code of 1910 technically remained in effect until 1962. Most relevant to this study is the strict demand that any exploitation or use be first subject to strict technocratic controls.

39 Vasile, “Formalizing Commons, Registering Rights,” op. cit., p. 185.

40 Giurescu, A History of the Romanian Forest, op. cit., p. 111-114.

41 Școala Politehnică „Regele Carol II”—Secția silvică, “Scurtă privire asupra învățământului silvic superior în România între anii 1906 și 1933” [A Short Overview of Silvicultural Higher Education in Romania between 1906 and 1933], Bucovina Forestieră, vol. 17, no 2, p. 168-187 (169-170).

42 Eliescu Aurel M., “Ceva despre pasunatul vitelor în paduri” [Something about Pasturing Cattle in Forests], Revista Pădurilor, vol. 1, no 3, 1886-1887, p. 80-82 (81). Spelling as in the original.

43 Grunau Paul Adolf, “Istoricul învățământului silvic în România și observațiuni asupra lui” [The History of Forestry Education in Romania and Observations about It], republished in Bucovina Forestieră, vol. 17, no 1, 2017 [1906], p. 58-84 (84).

44 Stătescu George, “Necesitatea sistemei în explotarea pădurilor” [The Need of a System in Forest Exploitation], Revista Pădurilor, vol. 1, no 3, 1887, p. 65-67 (65). Spelling as in the original. Stătescu decried not only deforestation but also the poor quality of wood that unmanaged woodlands produced.

45 SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmaciu, inventar 448, dosar 38, “Amenajamentul Pădurii Comunei Tălmăcel” [Forestry Management Plan for the Commune of Tălmăcel], 1937, p. 58-61, p. 79-81.

46 SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmăcel, inventar 455 dosar, f. 22.15-17, 14 December 1922; SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmăcel inventar 455, dosar 22, f. 18, 30 August 1923. For a broader discussion on reforestation collateral deposits and a contemporary critique of this system, see Dinu Valeriu, Der rumänische Wald : Stellung und Bedeutung im Rahmen der Volkswirtschaft [The Romanian Forest : Position and Significance in the Context of the National Economy], Bucharest, Verlag Bukovina, 1933, p. 28.

47 SJAN-SB, Comisariatul Munților Apuseni, inventar 439, dosar 20, f. 2-6, 16 August 1933.

48 A., “Padurile noastre din puntul [sic] de vedere economic” [Our forests from an economic point of view], Revista Pădurilor, vol. 1, no 5, 1886-1887, p. 140-145 (141). No diacritics in original title.

49 The plan was created by a commission, making it impossible to identify individual authors. Engineer V.C. Petrescu and the head of the Valea Sadului forestry district, whose signature is indecipherable, signed the document.

50 SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmaciu, inventar 448, dosar 38, “Amenajamentul Pădurii Comunei Tălmăcel,” op. cit., p. 18.

51 Vera F. W. M., Grazing Ecology and Forest History, New York, CABI Publishing, 2000, p. 25.

52 SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmaciu, inventar 448, dosar 38, “Amenajamentul Pădurii Comunei Tălmăcel,” op. cit., p. 18.

53 Dorondel Ștefan, Popa Mihai, “Workings of the State: Administrative Lists, European Union Food Aid, and the Local Practices of Distribution in Rural Romania,” Social Analysis, vol. 58, no 3, 2014, p. 124-140 (126ff).

54 For the emergence of citizenship as a modernizing project in Romania, see Iordachi Constantin, Liberalism, Constitutional Nationalism, and Minorities: The Making of Romanian Citizenship, c. 1750–1918, Leiden, Brill, 2019.

55 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 12, Sibiu County Chamber of Agriculture Questionnaire, 1 January 1931.

56 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Aviz No. 116, 23 October 1934.

57 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Aviz No. 116, 23 October 1934.

58 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Certified copy of decision 114/1923 regarding request 99/1922; SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, “Istoric.”

59 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Aviz No. 116, 23 October 1934.

60 SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmaciu, inventar 448, dosar 38, “Amenajamentul Pădurii Comunei Tălmăcel,” op. cit., p. 19. This was not just the opinion of lower-level foresters. Marin Drăcea, often considered the founder of modern forestry in Romania, gave a highly politicized public conference speech in 1937, in which he noted that “The high levels of civilization of the forests of the German and French people were not improvised through democratic sweet nothings…. Democracy means rule of the people, yet almost everywhere people [are] improvident and see no further than the present.” Drăcea Marin, Considerațiuni asupra domeniului forestier al României [Thoughts on the Forests of Romania], Bucharest, Editura Bucovina, 1938, p. 13, 31. Much of his critique is leveled directly at pasturing and conversion for agricultural purposes. Curiously, lower-level foresters did not make their messages quite so explicit.

61 Axenciuc Victor (ed.), Evoluția economică a României – Cercetări istorice, 1859-1947 [The Economic Evolution of Romania – Historical Research, 1959-1947], vol. III, Monedă – Credit – Comerț – Finanțe publice [Currency, Credit, Commerce, Public Finance], Bucharest, Editura Academiei Române, 2000, p. 33; Axenciuc Victor, Georgescu George, “Gross Domestic Product—National Income of Romania 1862-2010. Secular Statistical Series and Methodological Foundations,” MPRA 84614, Munich Personal RePEc [Research Papers in Economics] Archive, Munich, Munich University Library, 2017, p. 46-47. It is much simpler to convert the leu to US dollars, because effective inflation calculators exist for the dollar, but none exist with such a range for the leu, since the currency has changed dramatically over time and been replaced in some instances by new currencies.

62 Horea was one of the leaders of the 1784 peasant uprising in Austrian Transylvania, whom the Romanian national myth adopted as a key figure of Romanians’ fight for independence.

63 SJAN-SB, Comisariatul Munților Apuseni, inventar 439, dosar 59, f. 13, 14 April 1934.

64 The Commissariat of the Apuseni Mountains was a special administrative and developmental region established in 1933 to alleviate poverty and boost development in the region. Its jurisdiction included the counties of Alba, Arad, Bihor, Cluj, Hunedoara, and Turda. SJAN-SB, Comisariatul Munților Apuseni, inventar 439, dosar 59, f. 21, 22 December 1934.

65 SJAN-SB, Comisariatul Munților Apuseni, inventar 439, dosar 59, f. 13, 14 April 1934.

66 SJAN-SB, Comisariatul Munților Apuseni, inventar 439, dosar 20, f. 2-6, 16 August 1933.

67 Ibid.

68 Ivănescu, Din istoria silviculturii românești, op. cit., p. 131. See also the fierce debate on the 1881 Forestry Code between Apostolescu and Popovici in the pages of Revista Pădurilor over the hypothetical liberalization of the profession in Romania, for instance: N. G. Popovici, “O observațiune asupra Articolului ‚Codicele Sylvic’ apărut în No. 12 al ‚Revistei Pădurilor’” [An Observation on the Article “The Forestry Code” Appearing in No. 12 of Revista Pădurilor], Revista Pădurilor, vol. 1, no 13, 1886-1887, p. 394-400.

69 The rank of brigadier was that of an advanced inferior-level agent in the forest service, often tasked with carrying out work and supervision of a forest, as opposed to planning and surveying. The Romanian forestry code copied the French military-style ranking system and distinguished between two separate tables of rank, an inferior one, which required military experience and, in some cases, secondary education, and a superior one, which required specialized training at the tertiary level and beyond. SJAN-SB, Primăria Tălmăcel, inventar 455, dosar 40, Brigadier Gheorghe Badea’s communication to Tălmăcel and attached report, 17 January/11 January 1941.

70 SJAN-SB, 439.17.302/1933, Report of the Inspectorate of the Cluj Forestry Regime, September 1933.

71 SJAN-SB, Comisariatul Munților Apuseni, inventar 439, dosar 20, f. 2-6, 16 August 1933.

72 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Boița inhabitants’ petition, 10 January 1929.

73 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Boița letter to Minster of Interior, 4 August 1935.

74 S SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 9, Boița inhabitants’ petition, 10 January 1929.

75 The role of international markets and demand has had some attention in Eastern European studies, more so concerning other products, such as cereals. A comprehensive historical study on forestry products in Eastern Europe remains to be done and is beyond the scope of this article.

76 Axenciuc (ed.), Evoluția economică a României, vol. III, op. cit., p. 373-374.

77 A stère is nominally a cubic meter, but because it also includes the space lost to log stacking, the true volume of wood that it designates is less than a cubic meter and varies. SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 21, Ministerul Finanțelor-Direcția Generală 626/1938, 16 November 1938; SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 21, Ministerul Internelor-Secretariatul de Stat al Propagandei-Secțiunea Publicității 13766/1938, 23 November 1938; Monitorul Oficial, no. 265/2, 14 November 1938: 10461.

78 SJAN-SB, Primăria Boița, inventar 454, dosar 21, Report on auction closure, 29 November 1938.

79 “Traditional” is a complicated label, given the many social structures that were prevalent in the area, including various collective forms of ownership and use. Broadly, I argue that this “traditional” mindset can be reduced to a perhaps oversimplified perception of natural environments as rightful commons, “God-given for all men.” See Stahl, Contribuții la studiul satelor devălmașe romînești, vol. 1, op. cit.; Miroiu, Pircă, “Păduri, pășuni și iazuri ca resurse publice comunitare,” op. cit.; Csucsuja, Istoria Pădurilor din Transilvania, op. cit.; Vasile, “Formalizing Commons, Registering Rights,” op. cit.

80 There are many other institutions that fought over forest that were not mentioned in this article, including agricultural institutions, the Pastures’ Directorate, and various other organizations, such as the Board of Hospitals.

81 Giurescu, A History of the Romanian Forest, op. cit., p. 96-97; Dinu, Der rumänische Wald, op. cit., p. 29-30.

82 Scott, Seeing Like a State, op. cit., p. 311-324.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Highland and alpine regions of Greater Romania
Crédits Gusti Dimitrie (ed.), Enciclopedia României, vol. III : Economia națională—Cadre și producție [The Encyclopedia of Romania, vol. III : The National Economy—Framework and Production], Bucharest, Imprimeria Națională, 1938, p. 20.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/3289/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 292k
Titre Figure 2. “Major economic areas” by geographer Vintilă Mihăilescu (1890-1978)
Légende Notice the Carpathian Mountains running through the center and west of the country (I). This map generalizes the major economic activities in the mountains as Ia forestry, Ib pasturing, and Ic mining.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/3289/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 233k
Titre Figure 3. “Eng. Ion Nițescu—general inspector”
Légende This 1936 caricature depicts one of the main tasks of organized state forestry: the disciplining of populations and regulating forest access.
Crédits “Ing. Ion Nițescu—Inspector general de control” in Lehrer, Luigi, Cobar, Casa Pădurilor Statului și Regimul Silvic, Bucharest, Studio Humor, 1936.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/3289/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 221k
Titre Figure 4. “The extent of forests in Romania”
Légende Notice the prevalence of forests along the Carpathian line and in Transylvania, acquired after the First World War. Transylvania was a key target of the state’s agrarian reforms and nationalization efforts.
Crédits Gusti (ed.), Enciclopedia României, vol. III : Economia națională, op. cit., p. 464.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/3289/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 226k
Titre Figure 5. “Barbaric exploitation in the Someș Valley”
Légende Forestry agents often associated their mission with a civilizing rhetoric. For them, to be civilized was to be modern and to be modern was to be civilized: both required planning and the oversight.
Crédits Gusti (ed.), Enciclopedia României, vol. III : Economia națională, op. cit., p. 460.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/3289/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 122k
Titre Figure 6. “Eng. Dionisie Bucur—general inspector”
Légende In this period caricature, a forestry engineer is surrounded by peasant petitioners.
Crédits “Ing. Dionisie Bucur—Inspector general” in Lehrer, Luigi, Cobar, Casa Pădurilor Statului și Regimul Silvic, op. cit.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/docannexe/image/3289/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 202k
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George Andrei, « Whose Nature Is It? Contesting Forest Regulation and Land Reform in Interwar Transylvania »Balkanologie [En ligne], Vol. 16 n° 2 | 2021, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2021, consulté le 17 avril 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/balkanologie/3289 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/balkanologie.3289

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George Andrei

Indiana University Bloomington
Bloomington, Indiana
Email address: ga6895[at]outlook.com
ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8510-3292

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