Romanians - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. Romanian village social organization differed widely across regions and between villages, as the oftcited proverb "There are as many customs as peasant huts" suggests. Households and their webs of bilateral kin were the base of local social organization. One important nonkin tie was godparenthood ( nasie ), which linked families across Generations in a formalized set of rights and obligations. Because of the costs of godparenthood, multifamily sponsors were generally wealthier villagers, while sponsored households served as political clients and occasional labor for the wealthy. Neighborhood relations were also important as they determined women's participation in nightly winter working bees ( sezitoare ) and in some regions defined mutual assistance, burial, and cooperative labor associations. Communities also sponsored one or more young men's age associations ( ceata feciorilor ), mainly active during Christmas season when the ceata organized Christmas dances. In return for pastries, money, and drink they caroled each household while courting eligible young women. It was mandatory that ceata leaders marry the following year.

Political Organization. Communal villages were led by councils of elders. Feudalism destroyed this system and replaced it with patrimonialism. With its end, and especially after the land reform of 1920-1921, villages gained greater degrees of autonomy and again were regulated by councils generally comprised of ten to fifteen male landowning heads of households. These councils tended to be dominated by the wealthy. Local politics are now organized by state and party. The post of mayor and first party secretary are unified, and commune deputies are elected from a range of party-supported candidates.

Social Control. The face-to-face relations and demands of village life were the basis for traditional social control. Propriety was necessary to marry well and receive the support of co-villagers. Kin relations and respect for elders also checked inappropriate behavior, as did ostracism and the belief that thieves, drunks, or the shiftless suffered after death. Village councils adjudicated most disputes, with great effort being made to keep these cases from proceeding to provincial- or state-level bodies. Local judicial commissions are now state-appointed, and state trials are often held locally with the Population invited to attend.

Conflict. Traditionally intravillage conflict was over land and inheritance issues. Conflicts between young men of neighboring villages over boundary issues, personal affronts, or questions of faith were also not uncommon.


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