A Tale of Two Villages

A Tale of Two Villages


232 Pages


This dramatic story of land and power from twentieth-century Eastern Europe is set in two extraordinary villages: a rebel village, where peasants fought the advent of Communism and became its first martyrs, and a model village turned forcibly into a town, Dictator Ceauşescu’s birthplace. The two villages capture among themselves nearly a century of dramatic transformation and social engineering, ending up with their charged heritage in the present European Union. "One of Romania’s foremost social critics, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi offers a valuable look at several decades of policy that marginalized that country’s rural population, from the 1918 land reform to the post-1989 property restitution. Illustrating her arguments with a close comparison of two contrasting villages, she describes the actions of a long series of “predatory elites,” from feudal landowners through the Communist Party through post-communist leaders, all of whom maintained the rural population’s dependency. A forceful concluding chapter shows that its prospects for improvement are scarcely better within the EU. Romania’s villagers have an eminent and spirited advocate in the author.”



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A Tale of Two Villages
Coerced Modernization in the East European Countryside
Alina Mungiu-Pippidi
Publisher : Central European University Press Year of publication : 2010 Published on OpenEdition Books : 16 February 2013 Serie : Hors collection Electronic ISBN : 9789633860076
Electronic reference: MUNGIU-PIPPIDI, Alina.A Tale of Two Villages: Coerced Modernization in the East European Countryside.New edition [online]. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2010 (generated 17 December 2013). Available on the Internet: . ISBN: 9789633860076.
Printed version: ISBN : 9789639776784 Number of pages : 232
© Central European University Press, 2010 Terms of use: http://www.openedition.org/6540
This dram atic story of land and power from twentieth-century Eastern Europe is set in two extraordinary villag es: a rebel villag e, where peasants foug ht the advent of Com m unism and becam e its first m artyrs, and a m odel villag e t urned forcibly into a town, Dictator Ceauşhem selves ong t nearly a century oes capture am escu’s birthplace. The two villag f dram atic transform ation and social eng ineering , ending up with their charg ed heritag e in the present European Union. "One of Rom ania’s forem ost social critics, Alina Mu ng iu-Pippidi offers a valuable look at several decades of policy that m arg inalized that co untry’s rural population, from the 1918 land reform to the post-1989 property restitution. Illustrating her arg um ents with a close com parison of two contrasting villag es, she describ es the actions of a long series of “predatory elites,” from feudal landowners throug h the Com m unist Party throug h post-com m unist leaders, all of whom m aintained the rural population’s dependency. A forceful concluding chapter shows that its prospects for im provem ent are scarcely better within the EU. Rom ania’s villag ers have an em inent and spirited advocate in the author.”
Chair of Dem ocracy Studies at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. She is a board m em ber of the International Forum of Dem ocracy Studies and the Journal of Dem ocracy of the National Endowm ent for Dem ocracy. She is the editor of the Rom anian Journal of Political Science and m em ber of the editorial board of the Journal Südosteuropa of Ludwig Maxim ilian University, Munich. She is also a writer and journalist.
List of Tables
Chapter 1. The Argument
Chapter 2. Two Villages Countryside landscape The plag ue years The invention of the new countryside
Chapter 3. The Construction and Deconstruction of Rural Property Peasant land tenure in historical perspective Leg al terror and state violence The strateg ies of subjection Landscape after battle
Chapter 4. The Invention of Social Conflict A failed project Veterans vs. bandits
Chapter 5. The Destruction and Replacement of the Elite Traditional authority The hunters and the hunted Predatory elites
Chapter 6. The Manipulation of Lifestyles Enforcing systematization and urbanization The everyday life of the ag ro-industrial town Modernization and demodernization of the villag e
Chapter 7. From the Dependent Peasant to the Citizen-Peasant: The Bases of a Rural Political Culture The social structure of the villag e world during the communist and postcommunist periods Status and upward mobility The neo-dependency model The reinvention of politics in the villag e Rural vs. urban: political cultures compared
Chapter 8. Between the Past and the Future Ag rarian policy 1990–1996 Ag ricultural politics after 1997 A vicious circle renewed European prospects Problems of Romanian ag riculture in the context of EU accession The dependency model and European integ ration
List of Tables
Tress of collectivization 56able 1. The prog
2Table 2. The size of rural properties 76 3parative social indicators 157Table 3. Rural/urban com 4Table 4. Uses of landed property 159 51973–2000 161ig ration Table 5. Urban/rural m 6Table 6. Occupational structure of the active rural population 161 7Table 7. Urban/rural residence in 2000 162 8es in occupational status during the transition decade 163Table 8. Chang 9ap of social confidence in the villag Table 9. The m m une, e, com and city 181 10e/city com Table 10. Political beliefs and values: a villag parison 181 11Table 11. Analysis of interpersonal trust 182 12Table 12. Rural residence as a determ inant of political attitudes 184 13parison 185nizance: a com Table 13. Urban/rural political cog 14created under Law 18 193m issions ainst decisions by the county com plaints ag Table 14. Com 15riculture in the reg ion 204parative position of Rom anian ag Table 15. The com
Thisn 2001– 2002 with a g roup of m book is based on fieldwork carried out in Rom ania i y students in the political anthropolog y class at the National School of Political Studies: Em anuel Răuƫă, Victoria Tim ofte, Ion Naval,Ştejărel Olaru, Ionuƫ,Ştefan, and Dana Ceauşed, form ing the basi s of a BBC docum entary I wroteescu. Interviews were also film and directed, “A Tale of Two Villag es”, broadcast b y the BBC World Service in the sum m er of 2003. The orig inal project was a collaboration b etween the Centre for Com parative Anthropolog y at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Scie nces Sociales (EHESS) and the Rom anian Institute for Recent History. A g rant from the Open Society Institute enabled the training of students and the fieldwork. The prem ature death of Gerard Althabe, orig inally m y academ ic partner in this project, and the planne d co-author of the Rom anian and French versions, prevented his involvem ent beyond the stag e of training the operators and reviewing m y fieldwork. Som e of the people I interv iewed, including Elisabeta Rizea and Nel Preda, both survivors of the com m unist prisons, have also m eanwhile passed away. The present version of this book is dedicated to all th ose who tried to help this story com e to lig ht. It is an update of the Rom anian (Polirom ) and French (L’Harm attan) versions, and has been translated by Ang ela Jianu from the Rom anian and edited by the author.
Chapter 1. The Argument
Political chang e in rural societies has always appe ared spectacular when observed from afar. Such frequent coups and aborted revolutions, g rand reform s, and brutal assassinations are dram atic enoug h to attract journalists and scho lars. On closer observation, however, it g enerates an alm ost unbearable feeling of m onotony. Coups chang e only the person of the dictator; assassinations prove, sooner or later, to have been futile. There are m any events and little evolution; chang e occurs, but developm en t does not. Com e back a century later and you will find, in the words of one Balkan histo rian, a “century of stag nation,”1 reg ardless of what century you choose. Cities m ig ht occasionally push for reform ; rural areas always tend to stag nation. And, as Sam uel Hun ting ton fam ously put it, he who rules the countryside rules the country.2chang e, reg im e  Even to produceanag ing despite m considerable suffering , does not m odify the essenti al constraints under which every g overnm ent will operate sooner or later. The future reg im e is contained in the past one, and, as in T. S. Eliot’sBurnt Nortonable.es seem unredeem , all tim
This book is a study of political chang e in rural E astern Europe. The m ain question it attem pts to answer is to what extent a prog ram of s ocial chang e im posed throug h vig orously sustained m ethods, including coercion, can endure once coercion ends. Is even the strong est state in the world able to chang e the essentials of a peasant society in a sustainable way? This study attem pts to answer such wide-rang ing , g eneric questions by focusing on a specific period and reg ion where exce ptional circum stances have rendered such behavior em inently observable: two East European villag es under com m unism . These are two villag es with exceptional—and very differen t histories—which in the end seem to have converg ed towards a sim ilar outcom e. As part o f traditional “peasant societies” they have underg one, over a m ere eig hty-year period, col ossal processes of political and social m odernization m eant, in the view of their initiator s, to bridg e the hug e developm ent g ap separating their reg ion from Western Europe. The si ze of this g ap is sug g ested by a few com parative statistics: in 1930, Rom ania’s per capita incom e was com parable to France’s in 1789 or Britain’s in 1648; in the early decades of the twentieth century, the sophistication and productivity of Rom anian farm ing were at the le vel of French farm ing in the seventeenth century and of British farm ing in the e ig hteenth.3political difficulties The of this underdeveloped rural society were considera ble, and the violent peasant revolt of 1907 sent shockwaves felt as far away as the chance lleries of Vienna and St Petersburg . What disting uished underdeveloped Rom anian rural so ciety from sim ilar societies in other parts of the world was its relative proxim ity to th e centers of European power. Its location at the periphery of Europe encourag ed, m ore than in other reg ions, the persistent belief that this is a society with a European culture or at least a European vocation. The study of rural Eastern Europe was seen as key to trig g ering its developm ent a century ag o. Seen from the West, it was a land problem ; seen from the East, it was a peasant one, as David Mitrany i insig htfully observed.4it has received farm unism ,  Since the fall of com less attention from scholars, with a few notable exceptions.5issingWhat is particularly m is an exchang e between political econom ists trying to explain the different perform ance of
East European transition countries, political scien tists working on voting behavior, policy scientists working on ag riculture, and anthropolog ists interested in social chang e in rural postcom m unist Europe. The older scholarship on the reg ion thrived on precisely this bridg ing am ong disciplines, indispensable if one wi shes to do justice to the im portance of the rural factor in the econom ic and political developm ent of Eastern Europe.6 This strong correlation between dem ocracy and peasantry was established by the historian Barring ton Moore Jr., who saw in the creation of no n-repressive, com m ercial farm er ag riculture the foundation of dem ocratic developm en t.7arkablethe rem  Traditionally, resistance of peasant societies to chang e and prog r ess has been explained by two different sets of causes. On the one hand, blam e was laid on the peasant “culture.” Peasants, as described by anthropolog ists in the twentieth century, are passive, collectivistic, envious, fatalistic, and distrustful creatures, clearly not the m aterial dem ocrats are m ade of.8,9 Politicians held sim ilar neg ative views on peasants; m ost m odernizers, from the liberals to Vladim ir Ilyich Lenin, looked upon peasants as the ultim ate obstacle to social and econom ic prog ress. The second conception, based m ostly on studies from the Third World, drew on the need to explain why peasants did not rebel ag ainst oppressive reg im es. The conclusions of such studies were kinder to peasants, who were s een m ore as non-consenting victim s than voluntary contributors to the conservative ord er of thing s. In a Latin Am erican context especially, the rural upper class was identified by scholars as the m ain political opponent of dem ocracy.10easantsarchs, usually landowners, were said to hold p  Olig captive, as their autonom y was too lim ited to allow the expression of their true political values. However, they resisted their captors throug h a variety of everyday resistance strateg ies.11g ossip, and stealing were no long  Foot drag g ing , in this view,er , expressions of the peasant character, but m anifesta tions of protest when no other form s were available. The values of the peasants are, therefore, not conservative: peasants vote for their conservative landlords only because they are g iven no real choice. In postcom m unist Europe, too, the two sets of explanations have their cham pions. Clearly, the postcom m unist ag rarian social and class structu res are different from both the traditional “junker” and “farm er” m odels which orig inally inspired this thesis. Larg e-scale m echanized, but collectivized, landholding , and the uncertain transform ation of property relations after the fall of the old reg im e, have pr oduced rural social structures which diverg e considerably from Latin Am erican m odels. Th e situation in postcom m unist Europe also varies from country to country, with Poland, w hich was larg ely not collectivized, rem aining rather an exception. Everywhere else deco llectivization seem s to have produced sim ilar patterns: a return to fam ily plots and subs istence farm ing , a “peasantization” of urbanites who becam e unem ployed and resort to ag ric ulture on their recuperated plots, 12ption— not com and a drastic fall in production as household consum m erce—becom es the m ain use for crops. Peasants m ay have resisted collectivization strong ly in the tim es of Stalin,13 but any resisted decollectivization an after 1989 m d proved reluctant to accept m arkets. They long for subsidies and are rather opp osed to the liberalization of land m arkets. A sm all percentag e of farm ers, owners of l arg er plots, who are m ore m arket-oriented, is g radually em erg ing , but nowhere is it hig her than five per cent, Poland excepted. Land m arkets were slow to appear everywhe re, due to log istic difficulties in restituting property, such as the absence of cadastral evidence. For the rest, differences prevail over sim ilarities, with larg e state farm s s till im portant in Russia, m edium -sized