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Property in East Central Europe

Property in East Central Europe: Notions, Institutions, and Practices of Landownership in the Twentieth Century

Hannes Siegrist
Dietmar Müller
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Property in East Central Europe
    Book Description:

    Property is a complex phenomenon comprising cultural, social, and legal rules. During the twentieth century, property rights in land suffered massive interference in Central and Eastern Europe. The promise of universal and formally equal rights of land ownership, ensuring predictability of social processes and individual autonomy, was largely not fulfilled. The national appropriation of property in the interwar period and the communist era represent an onerous legacy for the postcommunist (re)construction of a liberal-individualist property regime. However, as the scholars in this collection show, after the demise of communism in Eastern Europe property is again a major factor in shaping individual identity and in providing the political order and culture with a foundational institution. This volume analyzes both historical and contemporary forms of land ownership in Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia in a multidisciplinary framework including economic history, legal and political studies, and social anthropology.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-462-5
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. IX-X)
  5. Introduction Property in East Central Europe: Notions, Institutions and Practices of Landownership in the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 1-26)
    Hannes Siegrist and Dietmar Müller

    The epoch-making events of 1989 led to a spectacular renaissance of private property rights as a value and institution in the societies of Eastern Europe. In the minds of post-communist elites, shifting away from the statist socialist system would, in addition to changing the political system to parliamentary democracy, deeply affect the socio-economic and cultural sphere by restructuring society as the domain of private property owners. This great expectation indicates that the issue of property rights remains key to understanding the history of modern states and societies.¹ In the present volume, historians, lawyers and cultural anthropologists analyse the issue of...

  6. Part I: Economic History

    • 1 The Changing Landscape of Property: Landownership and Modernization in Poland in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
      (pp. 29-47)
      Jacek Kochanowicz

      Travellers traversing Poland today from north-west to south-east would observe considerable variety in the rural landscape. In Pomerania, they would drive along well-paved but rarely used side roads shaded by linden trees, looking at immense yellow fields of rapeseed.¹ From time to time, they would notice the derelict, dilapidated remains of an eighteenth-century palace – a remnant of the Pomeranian Junker class that disappeared from this land in 1945. Equally ghostly, though much less picturesque, would be abandoned buildings (usually made of ugly concrete) that relatively recently belonged to large state farms established there after 1945. The land itself, which...

    • 2 Agriculture and Landownership in the Economic History of Twentieth-Century Romania
      (pp. 48-62)
      Bogdan Murgescu

      The main goal of this chapter is to present some basic data on the evolution of Romanian agriculture during the interwar period and under communist rule, and to check whether these data confirm currently prevailing opinions about the country’s economic performance during these periods. More precisely, the chapter will briefly examine whether there is a correlation at the macro level between different patterns of property rights (especially, but not exclusively, regarding land) and Romanian agricultural performance.

      Since the demise of communism, Romanian public debates have tended to declare the communist period a failure overall, and to idealize the accomplishments of...

  7. Part II: Property between Law and Politics

    • 3 Property in East Central European Legal Culture
      (pp. 65-99)
      Herbert Küpper

      Property is not a natural phenomenon but the result of human activities, that is, a product of culture. Therefore, property can and needs to be regarded as such. In the European context, property is considered to be the legal dominance of a person (or a group of persons) over an object. This contrasts with the natural or physical dominance known as possession. In this system, the possessor is the person who ‘has’ the object – the driver of a rented car, for instance. On the other hand, the proprietor is the person to whom the object ‘belongs’, in our example...

    • 4 The Habsburg Cadastral Registration System in the Context of Modernization
      (pp. 100-116)
      Kurt Scharr

      The land register of Emperor Francis I of Austria (reigned 1804 to 1835) and its socio-political significance, hitherto neglected by historical science, have mainly been the object of (cause-related) considerations frequently reduced to technical aspects.¹ Such considerations are of great value in dealing with the land register as a source, but they only barely attempt to place Francis I’s undertaking in a larger context, balanced in its depth by the modernization of the state at a macro-political level.² At the opposite level, however, these considerations leave regional or local access untouched (except for the numerous accounts of local history that...

    • 5 Property between Delimitation and Nationalization: The Notion, Institutions and Practices of Land Proprietorship in Romania, Yugoslavia and Poland, 1918–1948
      (pp. 117-143)
      Dietmar Müller

      From Tallinn to Belgrade, the historical master narrative of the countries of East Central Europe regards the time between the two world wars as a ‘golden age’ in which the nation was once again united as a nation-state, and thus connected to modern Europe. The reforms introduced throughout the political, scientific and social spheres after the First World War were to have taken place in the context of a parliamentary democracy and a liberal market society, and extensive agrarian reforms in particular were to have created a solid basis for this liberal-democratic polity in the form of a broad tier...

    • 6 Front-line Soldiers into Farmers: Military Colonization in Poland after the First and Second World Wars
      (pp. 144-162)
      Christhardt Henschel

      Twice in the twentieth century, in 1918 and in 1945, Poland had to rebuild its statehood after a destructive world war. Each new republic legitimized its existence with reference to the narrative of the suffering of the Polish nation and the merits of Polish soldiers on the front of each world war. Thus the so-called Second Republic (1918–1939) emphasized the armed struggle of Polish soldiers in the First World War (1914–1918), and military conflicts with Germany, Ukraine, Lithuania and Soviet Russia between 1918 and 1921, whereas communist Poland after 1944 focused on the heroic fight together with the...

    • 7 The Country Road to Revolution: Transforming Individual Peasant Property into Socialist Property in Yugoslavia, 1945–1953
      (pp. 163-190)
      Jovica Luković

      Since the collapse of socialism, the ‘history’ of property has indeed entered a new stage. The developments we are witnessing seem in themselves to be rather paradoxical. On the one hand, the classic liberal paradigm is experiencing a comeback in formerly socialist countries that hope to master transitional processes primarily by reorganizing property structures in spheres such as land or real-estate ownership.¹ The policy of ‘restitution overrides compensation’ has been assumed to not only make up for the historical injustices of the communist regime, but also to connect explicitly with these post-socialist countries’ own nascent civic legal traditions. The term...

  8. Part III: Practices and Mentalities of Landownership

    • 8 Homeland as Property: Symbolic Ownership and the Local Heritage of the Past in Lemkowyna and the Ukraine
      (pp. 193-211)
      Jacek Nowak

      In this chapter, I will explore the question of the symbolic right to manage ethnic territory in the context of ongoing debates about ownership and re-privatization. I will also discuss the value of land in the process of building social identity. Above all, I will focus on depicting the way communities remember and forget their land, and how the feeling of symbolic ownership over a territory is created.

      My research in Central and Eastern Europe has repeatedly concentrated on ownership. I am mainly interested in the strategies groups adopt to maintain the privilege of deciding the factors – land, scenery,...

    • 9 Landownership in Practice: The Case of Naramice in Central Poland
      (pp. 212-222)
      Paweł Klint

      The issue of property has always been a challenge for government leaders and reformers in Poland. The brevity of the tradition of landownership among peasants (in parts of today’s central and eastern Poland, only since 1864), together with the changing political and social systems of the twentieth century, created a certain sense of temporariness concerning one’s property, and led above all to distrust among the peasantry towards the state institutions in charge of administering property. The agricultural reforms carried out in Poland during the interwar period and at the beginning of communist rule in 1944 deepened mistrust towards the rulers...

    • 10 Property and Agricultural Policy in Twentieth-Century Romania: Intentions, Technical Means and Social Realities
      (pp. 223-245)
      Cornel Micu

      This chapter investigates the notions, institutions and practice of landownership as both a cultural idea and a social institution from 1917, when Romanian legislation first mentioned agrarian reform, to the 2000s. On a general level, I examine the possibility of modernizing a given society from above, exclusively through politics and with very general aims designed by policy makers. Attempting to go beyond the limits of a specific case study, I will explain the long-term evolution of landownership mainly in terms of economic, social and political factors, focusing less on the specific cultural traits of the local communities. Because the area...

    • 11 Contemporary Notions and Practices of Landownership in Central Serbia: The Case of Mrčajevci
      (pp. 246-267)
      Srđan Milošević

      Ownership of land in Serbia has so far not been a common topic of research in the social sciences, particularly not in historiography or historical anthropology. Although a handful of works deal with this topic, knowledge of the issue is still particular and fragmented.¹ Yet a whole range of very interesting phenomena and specific attitudes and practices related to landownership deserve and demand historical, legal, sociological and anthropological analysis.

      Numerous questions are of major importance. For instance, how do normative and factual dimensions of different aspects of owning land (possession, use, sale) interrelate? How is it possible that some properties...

    • 12 The Practices of Landownership in Vojvodina: The Case of Aradac
      (pp. 268-288)
      Jovana Diković

      The question of the peasantry and its future seems more topical than ever, whether due to rapid social and political change and the disappearance of the traditional village in some parts of the world, or to widespread professionalization in almost every field of human activity. These continuously challenging, provocative subjects therefore require fresh evaluation in accordance with current social, cultural and political conditions at national and international levels.

      The concepts of social determinism, as advocated by Henri Mendras in his study of peasant societies – namely, the fact that a peasant is any person who belongs to peasant society, regardless...

  9. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 289-312)
  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 313-316)
  11. Index
    (pp. 317-331)