Romanians - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Before feudalism, Romanian villagers were subsistence-based agropastoralists. The feudal grain trade shifted many of these populations to lowland maize production. Villages exhibited a diversity of activities geared to local environmental potentials and the provisioning of a peasant economy. Often Villages specialized in one activity to the extent that their inhabitants were identified by others accordingly. Mountain communities used forests and meadows extensively, often collectively pasturing sheep and cattle and giving access to forest by lottery or membership in religious associations. Production of wine and fruit brandies also figured prominently in some local economies. Reciprocal labor was common as neighbors and kin worked together during times of concerted need. Feudal villages also were characterized by work gangs ( daca ) called together by local nobles. Joint labor was also performed on church lands. Collective and state farms dominate rural areas today, and much of the rural population also commutes to jobs in industry. Use of personal connections in economic exchange and informal "second-economy" production is also common.

Industrial Arts. A wide range of trades was practiced Including sawmilling, wool and other fiber processing, tanning, metalsmithing, and woodworking. The clothing industry was especially well developed. Women produced for this and also specialized in weaving and embroidery for the domestic Economy. Subregions were identified by a unique blouse and apron style.

Trade. Overland trade routes between Asia and Europe traversed the Romanian lands but were monopolized mainly by non-Romanians. Extensive cross-Carpathian trade in hides, local crafts, and agricultural products linked Romanian communities on both sides of the mountains until terminated by the nineteenth-century customs wars between Austro-Hungary and the Romanian Kingdom. In order to protect Romanian economic independence, trade policy, currently and in the past, has often been protectionist. Today Romania exports finished goods (wood products, clothing, shoes) to the West while machine tools, tractors, and capital goods go to the third world. Romania continued as a member of the Soviet-East European Council of Mutual Economic Assistance. Seriously in debt in the early 1980s, Romania greatly expanded exports of food, effecting rationing and local shortage within the country.

Division of Labor. Although Romanians are said to be patriarchal, the sexual division of labor is not rigorous. Men and women were both involved in nearly all agricultural tasks, with women only enjoined from operating plows. Traditionally, cooking and weaving were exclusively female occupations, though men were and are quite active in child rearing and other domestic activities. Previously, multiethnic regions had ethnic divisions of labor. In pre-World War I Transylvania (and to a lesser extent Banat) Romanians were mainly small-scale peasant producers (serfs before 1848), while Hungarians dominated government and were owners of large estates, and German speakers were bankers, shopkeepers, commercial farmers, and professionals. Socialism spurred equality in the division of labor. Women entered the nonDomestic work force in large numbers and ethnic divisions were discouraged. However, development has since spawned rapid change. Rural men have left agriculture for industry, leaving women and the elderly as the main source of collective farm labor. Women are again impelled to domestic labor by rigorous state pronatalist policies.

Land Tenure. Traditional Romanian villages were corporate groups led by an assembly of agnatically related Household heads who decided periodic land redistribution to community members. Feudalism brought great concentrations of land ownership, especially in plains regions, and its end in 1848 did little to limit this. The land reform of 1920-1921 was successful in developing an extensive class of small landholders. With socialism, land was nationalized in state farms or collectivized. Collective farmers receive access to an annual use plot from the farm if they satisfy farm-labor requirements. A small number of private peasants are still found in mountainous zones, though estate size is circumscribed by law.


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