Land reform in Romania
Four major land reform
Land reform
[Image:Jakarta farmers protest23.jpg|300px|thumb|right|Farmers protesting for Land Reform in Indonesia]Land reform involves the changing of laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed property redistribution,...

have taken place in Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

: in 1864, 1921, 1945 and 1991. The first sought to undo the feudal structure that had persisted after the unification of the Danubian Principalities
Danubian Principalities
Danubian Principalities was a conventional name given to the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, which emerged in the early 14th century. The term was coined in the Habsburg Monarchy after the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in order to designate an area on the lower Danube with a common...

 in 1859; the second, more drastic reform, tried to resolve lingering peasant discontent and create social harmony after the upheaval of World War I and extensive territorial expansion; the third, imposed by a mainly Communist government, did away with the remaining influence of the landed aristocracy but was itself soon undone by collectivisation
Collectivization in Romania
The collectivization of agriculture in Romania took place in the early years of the Communist regime. The initiative sought to bring about a thorough transformation in the property regime and organisation of labour in agriculture...

 (considered by some as yet another land reform), which the fourth then unravelled, leading to almost universal private ownership of land today.

1864 reform

The 1864 land reform was the first of its kind in Romania, taking place during the reign of Alexander John Cuza
Alexander John Cuza
Alexander John Cuza was a Moldavian-born Romanian politician who ruled as the first Domnitor of the United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia between 1859 and 1866.-Early life:...

. It came on the heels of the secularization of monastery estates
Secularization of monastery estates in Romania
The law on the secularization of monastery estates in Romania was proposed in December 1863 by Domnitor Alexandru Ioan Cuza and approved by the Parliament of Romania. By its terms, the Romanian state confiscated the large estates owned by the Eastern Orthodox Church in Romania...

, achieved in December 1863 on Mihail Kogălniceanu
Mihail Kogalniceanu
Mihail Kogălniceanu was a Moldavian-born Romanian liberal statesman, lawyer, historian and publicist; he became Prime Minister of Romania October 11, 1863, after the 1859 union of the Danubian Principalities under Domnitor Alexander John Cuza, and later served as Foreign Minister under Carol I. He...

's initiative and taking over a quarter of the country's area away from the Orthodox Church. The question of land reform was an essential point of Cuza's political programme, and he and Kogălniceanu had wider aims: the abolition of compulsory labour and the establishment of private small holdings. Conservative landowners expressed opposition in Parliament
Parliament of Romania
The Parliament of Romania is made up of two chambers:*The Chamber of Deputies*The SenatePrior to the modifications of the Constitution in 2003, the two houses had identical attributes. A text of a law had to be approved by both houses...

, leading to a bitter political struggle culminating in its dissolution in the coup of 2 May 1864. The draft law was written by the Council of State, amended by the Government and promulgated by the prince on 14/26 August 1864. His proclamation announced to the peasants: "The corvée
Corvée is unfree labour, often unpaid, that is required of people of lower social standing and imposed on them by the state or a superior . The corvée was the earliest and most widespread form of taxation, which can be traced back to the beginning of civilization...

is forever abolished and you are henceforth free proprietors in the places subjected to your control". The law freed peasants from feudal tasks: the corvée, the tithe
A tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to government. Today, tithes are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural products...

, the transport tax and maintenance days; it did away with feudal monopolies in the villages, at the same time specifying that compensation would be paid to the owners.

Thus, for 15 years, in order to defray the cost of their no longer performing the corvée and the other feudal duties, peasants were required to pay into an indemnity fund that issued bonds redeemable in instalments an annual fee of 51-133 lei
Romanian leu
The leu is the currency of Romania. It is subdivided into 100 bani . The name of the currency means "lion". On 1 July 2005, Romania underwent a currency reform, switching from the previous leu to a new leu . 1 RON is equal to 10,000 ROL...

, depending on their category and region; this was a heavy burden for the majority and ruined the poorest. They also had to pay for the land they now owned, albeit at a price below market value. The quantity of expropriated land was not to exceed ⅔ of the domains' area (the boyars kept the best third, taking advantage of a provision calling for the consolidation, wherever possible, of pastures, hayfields and arable plots scattered by successive inheritances in order to get rid of their poorest quality land) and selling or mortgaging the lots was forbidden for 30 years, after which the village commune could exercise its right of pre-emption. This reform gave 1,654,965 ha (6,389.86 mi²) of land to 406,429 peasants; another 60,651 received lots only for a house and garden. Later, 48,432 additional families of newlyweds (who did not come under the law's provisions but were permitted to settle on state-owned lands near their village) received 228,329 hectares. Implementation of the law was by and large complete by 1865 but was slowed by a lack of comprehensive regulations concerning both general procedures and special cases; moreover, friction between landlords and peasants ensued because the latter had no confidence in the private surveyors hired by landlords to delimit their new holdings from the rest of the estate. In the year following 1864, agricultural production stagnated or even fell in some regions, partly because many owners had done nothing to compensate for the loss of the corvée, and also because many peasants did not know what land would be theirs and were reluctant to raise crops that might not be theirs, but by the spring of 1866 production once again rose. After the reform, land owned by peasants (that is, former corvée members, free peasants and small proprietors) covered around 30% of the national territory, with 70% still in state or landlord hands. The reform had important social consequences, giving the peasants a civic motivation and assuring them a means of subsistence; it was also enshrined in the 1866 Constitution
1866 Constitution of Romania
The 1866 Constitution of Romania was the fundamental law that capped a period of nation-building in the Danubian Principalities, which had united in 1859. Drafted in a short time and using as its model the 1831 Constitution of Belgium, then considered Europe's most liberal, it was substantially...


Nevertheless, three factors undermined the reform. First, too little land was assigned to too many candidates even though many farmers were excluded from the redistribution and went on working in semi-serfdom on the boyars' estates. Second, demographic increase caused devastating rural overpopulation. Third, inheritance practices based on equally divided portions led to deep property fragmentation. Thus, the new landowners quickly ran into debt and because of the inadequate banking system had to borrow from boyars, large tenants or usurers at exorbitant interest rates. Instead, some peasants transferred the land back to the former owners and continued working it essentially as before. This new system of dependency prompted by the lack of arable land and pasture was dubbed "neo-serfdom" (neoiobăgie) by the Marxist
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 theorist Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea
Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea
Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea was a Romanian Marxist theorist, politician, sociologist, literary critic, and journalist....

. Moreover, forests, essential for many households' economic well-being, were excluded from distribution; peasants could use them for fifteen years, after which the landlord could reclaim his property rights to them. The reform also gave rise to political clash: the Liberals
National Liberal Party (Romania)
The National Liberal Party , abbreviated to PNL, is a centre-right liberal party in Romania. It is the third-largest party in the Romanian Parliament, with 53 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 22 in the Senate: behind the centre-right Democratic Liberal Party and the centre-left Social...

 saw it as a starting point for dynamic, reasoned change, while the majority of Conservatives tried to use the 1864 law to defend their property against further expropriation, believing the social question had been resolved.

By 1913, Romania was the world's fourth-largest wheat exporter, but the issue of inequitable land distribution became persistently troublesome (and indeed was exacerbated that year when Romanian peasants fought in the Second Balkan War
Second Balkan War
The Second Balkan War was a conflict which broke out when Bulgaria, dissatisfied with its share of the spoils of the First Balkan War, attacked its former allies, Serbia and Greece, on 29 June 1913. Bulgaria had a prewar agreement about the division of region of Macedonia...

, witnessing first-hand the far more equitable land distribution scheme in place in Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

). In the late 19th century about 2,000 landowners controlled over half the land while peasants (with little representation in government as well as limited access to land and ownership rights) had just a third. In 1888 peasant discontent with inequitable land distribution resulted in bloody confrontations that brought about partial and ineffective agrarian reforms. The unequal system continued to drive the peasantry into bankruptcy and seemed to lead increasingly toward a system of absentee ownership. Almost two decades later, a second, more violent episode took place: the 1907 Romanian Peasants' Revolt
1907 Romanian Peasants' Revolt
The 1907 Romanian Peasants' Revolt took place in March 1907 in Moldavia and it quickly spread, reaching Wallachia. The main cause was the discontent of the peasants about the inequity of land ownership, which was in the hands of just a few large landowners....

, which almost caused a full-blown revolution and led to the deaths of several thousand peasants once the army intervened. As a consequence, the government introduced new legislation in 1907-08 to benefit the peasants, including a new law on agricultural contracts and a law establishing a rural credit bank (Casa Rurală) intended to facilitate purchases and leases, transferring property from large landowners to peasants. However, these laws (influenced by the poporanist
The word “poporanism” is derived from “popor”, meaning “people” in the Romanian language. The ideology of Romanian Populism and poporanism are interchangeable. Founded by Constantin Stere in the early 1890s, populism is distinguished by its opposition to socialism, promotion of voting rights for...

trend of Constantin Stere
Constantin Stere
Constantin G. Stere or Constantin Sterea was a Romanian writer, jurist, politician, ideologue of the Poporanist trend, and, in March 1906, co-founder Constantin G. Stere or Constantin Sterea (Romanian; , Konstantin Yegorovich Stere or Константин Георгиевич Стере, Konstantin Georgiyevich Stere;...

) were poorly enforced, a wholly inadequate amount of land was made available for purchase and the vast majority of the peasantry did not even qualify for most of the assistance made available.

1921 reform

The 1921 land reform was the second great distribution of land in Romanian history, the largest measure of its kind in Eastern Europe in its day. On 23 March/5 April 1917, at the height of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, King Ferdinand
Ferdinand I of Romania
Ferdinand was the King of Romania from 10 October 1914 until his death.-Early life:Born in Sigmaringen in southwestern Germany, the Roman Catholic Prince Ferdinand Viktor Albert Meinrad of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, later simply of Hohenzollern, was a son of Leopold, Prince of...

 promised there would be a substantial increase in the number of new property owners (as well as universal male suffrage). He undertook this commitment as a way of repaying the soldiers and their families for sacrifices made, but also sought to mobilise them to hold the front and avoid revolution–the announcement came just weeks after the February Revolution
February Revolution
The February Revolution of 1917 was the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. Centered around the then capital Petrograd in March . Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire...

 toppled Russia
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

's tsar. The reform was preceded by a number of decisions adopted between 1917 and 1920. In order to give it a legal basis, the two chambers of Parliament decided to modify article 19 of the 1866 Constitution. The provision, which formerly declared "property of any nature" to be "sacred and inviolable" (and was adopted mainly to protect against new agrarian reform), had the following text added: "because of national necessity, the extension of rural peasant properties is advanced through the expropriation of arable lands, with the intent of selling them to the peasants". On 20 March 1920 the rural law for Bessarabia
Bessarabia is a historical term for the geographic region in Eastern Europe bounded by the Dniester River on the east and the Prut River on the west....

 was adopted; followed by similar provisions for Muntenia
Muntenia is a historical province of Romania, usually considered Wallachia-proper . It is situated between the Danube , the Carpathian Mountains and Moldavia , and the Olt River to the west...

, Oltenia
Oltenia is a historical province and geographical region of Romania, in western Wallachia. It is situated between the Danube, the Southern Carpathians and the Olt river ....

, Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

 and Dobrudja on 17 July 1921, and on 30 July 1921 for Transylvania
Transylvania is a historical region in the central part of Romania. Bounded on the east and south by the Carpathian mountain range, historical Transylvania extended in the west to the Apuseni Mountains; however, the term sometimes encompasses not only Transylvania proper, but also the historical...

, Banat
The Banat is a geographical and historical region in Central Europe currently divided between three countries: the eastern part lies in western Romania , the western part in northeastern Serbia , and a small...

, Crişana
Crișana is a geographical and historical region divided today between Romania and Hungary, named after the Criș River and its three tributaries: the Crișul Alb, Crișul Negru and Crișul Repede....

, Maramureş
Maramureș may refer to the following:*Maramureș, a geographical, historical, and ethno-cultural region in present-day Romania and Ukraine, that occupies the Maramureș Depression and Maramureș Mountains, a mountain range in North East Carpathians...

 and Bukovina
Bukovina is a historical region on the northern slopes of the northeastern Carpathian Mountains and the adjoining plains.-Name:The name Bukovina came into official use in 1775 with the region's annexation from the Principality of Moldavia to the possessions of the Habsburg Monarchy, which became...

. One law was passed for each region owing to their very different socioeconomic structures, relations and specific contexts. The PNR
Romanian National Party
The Romanian National Party , initially known as the Romanian National Party in Transylvania and Banat , was a political party which was initially designed to offer ethnic representation to Romanians in the Kingdom of Hungary, the Transleithanian half of Austria-Hungary, and especially to those in...

 government of Alexandru Vaida-Voevod
Alexandru Vaida-Voevod
Alexandru Vaida-Voevod or Vaida-Voievod was a Romanian politician who was a supporter and promoter of the union of Transylvania with the Romanian Old Kingdom; he later served three terms as a Prime Minister of Greater Romania.-Transylvanian politics:He was born to a Greek-Catholic family in the...

 had a fully comprehensive land reform programme, but on 13 March 1920 the King dismissed this cabinet despite its backing by a substantial parliamentary majority, a clear sign that the Bucharest-based elite would try and govern the enlarged state by traditional methods; in 1922, Ion Mihalache
Ion Mihalache
Ion Mihalache was a Romanian agrarian politician, the founder and leader of the Peasants' Party and a main figure of its successor, the National Peasants' Party .-Early life:...

 of the
Peasants' Party (Romania)
The Peasants' Party was a political party in post-World War I Romania that espoused a left-wing ideology partly connected with Agrarianism and Populism, and aimed to represent the interests of the Romanian peasantry. Through many of its leaders, the party was connected with Romanian populism , a...

 (who as agriculture minister had drafted the first proposal) blasted the ensuing reform as a "kind of safety valve" whereby "the ruling class made only such concessions as were necessary to assure its own existence". As adopted, the reform was a Liberal-Conservative bargain, decided upon in private by Ion Brătianu
Ion I. C. Bratianu
Ion I. C. Brătianu was a Romanian politician, leader of the National Liberal Party , the Prime Minister of Romania for five terms, and Foreign Minister on several occasions; he was the eldest son of statesman and PNL leader Ion Brătianu, the brother of Vintilă and Dinu Brătianu, and the father of...

 and Take Ionescu
Take Ionescu
Take or Tache Ionescu was a Romanian centrist politician, journalist, lawyer and diplomat, who also enjoyed reputation as a short story author. Starting his political career as a radical member of the National Liberal Party , he joined the Conservative Party in 1891, and became noted as a social...

, who persuaded the former to abandon his intention of expropriating the soil. Ultimately, all classes had come to see the futility and even danger of trying to preserve the old system. Many conservatives hoped efficiency and productivity would improve; liberals backed the measure on principle but also desired that agriculture served the needs of industry; and agrarianists dreamt of creating a peasant state on the basis of these changes. The threat of social upheaval from below and the need to maintain national solidarity in the face of irredentist neighbours also contributed to the enactment of reform.

The distribution of land to the peasants was achieved by expropriating the estates of foreign citizens, of absentee landowners (those who did not work their own land), arable land belonging to the Crown Domains and to Casa Rurală, land leased to tenants (arendaşi) for over five years, floodplains, etc. Expropriated parcels measured over 150, 300 or, in certain cases, 500 ha. The total area of expropriated land came to 5,804,837.83 ha (22,412.60 mi², of which some 3.7 million ha were arable), while 1,393,383 peasants received property (648,843 in the Old Kingdom
Romanian Old Kingdom
The Romanian Old Kingdom is a colloquial term referring to the territory covered by the first independent Romanian nation state, which was composed of the Danubian Principalities—Wallachia and Moldavia...

, 310,583 in Transylvania, 357,016 in Bessarabia and 76,941 in Bukovina). The technical part of the reform–measuring the land subject to expropriation and parcelling it out to individuals–was very slow: by 1927 only about half the land from estates subject to the process had been measured, and of this, around 1,100,000 ha had been divided for distribution, which continued into the 1930s. After the land reform, large landowners (moşieri) owned 10.4% of the country's arable surface, compared to 47.7% before. Small holdings rose from 52.3% to 89.6% of total arable land. Former owners received reimbursements in long-term bonds, and peasants were to repay 65% of the expropriation costs over 20 years.

In Transylvania, large landowners were almost exclusively Hungarian, while those to whom land was distributed were largely, though not exclusively, Romanian. Land reform was carried out with considerably less zeal in the Old Kingdom, where landlords as well as peasants were Romanian; in Transylvania (and Bessarabia, where many large estates were Russian-owned), the new authorities saw reform as a means of increasing the titular nationality's dominance. Small landowners of Hungarian descent also experienced unequal application of the reforms; some were expropriated ostensibly in order to build a church or a school. The "Hungarian" churches (Roman Catholic
Roman Catholicism in Romania
The Roman Catholic Church in Romania is a Latin Rite Christian church, part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and Curia in Rome. Its administration is centered in Bucharest, and comprises two archdioceses and four other dioceses...

, Reformed
Reformed Church in Romania
The Reformed Church in Romania is the organization of the Calvinist church in Romania. The majority of its followers are of Hungarian ethnicity and Hungarian is the main church language...

 and Unitarian
Unitarian Church of Transylvania
The Unitarian Church of Transylvania is a church of the Unitarian denomination, based in the city of Cluj in the Principality of Transylvania, present day in Romania...

) were also weakened, losing some 85% of their lands, the income from which had supported their educational and charitable undertakings. Hungarians and Saxons
Transylvanian Saxons
The Transylvanian Saxons are a people of German ethnicity who settled in Transylvania from the 12th century onwards.The colonization of Transylvania by Germans was begun by King Géza II of Hungary . For decades, the main task of the German settlers was to defend the southeastern border of the...

 reacted loudly against the measures, their leaders persistently denouncing what they saw as shady and sometimes openly corrupt methods whereby land reform was used to modify the area's ethnic makeup. (Notably, a reverse process had occurred from the end of the 19th century until World War I. The Hungarian government established a special fund to aid ethnic Hungarian farmers settle in Transylvanian districts with a significant non-Hungarian population, bringing in settlers from other regions if necessary and granting them privileges. This gave rise to a desire for retaliation among Transylvania's Romanians, achieved through the postwar agrarian reform.) In Bukovina, land reform was not markedly different from the Old Kingdom's; smallholdings grew by 28% and large estates were limited to 250 ha of arable land. However, large landowners were not required to give up their substantial forests, and arable land was scarce in relation to population density. In Bessarabia, where Sfatul Ţării
Sfatul Tarii
Sfatul Țării was, in 1917-1918, the National Assembly of the Governorate of Bessarabia of the disintegrating Russian Empire, which proclaimed the independent Moldavian Democratic Republic in December 1917, and then union with Romania in April 1918.-Russian participation in World War I:In August...

 voted to unite with Romania on 27 March/9 April 1918, land reform (also viewed as a sine qua non by Romanians in Transylvania and Bukovina) was attached as a prerequisite for union because it was already underway there but only theoretical in Romania. However, after implementing its own reform, Sfatul Ţării proclaimed union without conditions on 27 November/10 December.

The reform managed to subdivide private property into small pieces and create a certain equilibrium between former and new owners, leading to increased social stability, but the land's productivity did not experience substantial growth due to the rudimentary farming methods still employed. Average plots were 3.8 ha in size, less than the 5 ha needed for economic independence; the reform also suffered from corruption and protracted lawsuits. Ignorance, overpopulation, lack of farm implements and draft animals, too few rural credit institutions and excessive land fragmentation, exacerbated as the population grew, kept many peasants in poverty and yields inferior. Fewer pasturelands and forests, necessary for economic viability, were expropriated: by 1927, just 23% of the country's natural pastures and meadows had been distributed as common pastures, while only 12% of forests were ever distributed. The 1930 census found that 6,700 landowners held 24% of the land while 2.5 million farmers had 28%. Right before World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, 8% of landowners still had about half the land, and in 1938 the country had just 4,039 tractors, implying one machine per 2,490 ha. Irrigated land, fertilizers, chemicals, seed and breeding stock were in similarly dismal supply.

1945 reform

The 1945 land reform was the first important political and economic act after the King Michael Coup of 23 August 1944, achieved by the new Petru Groza
Petru Groza
Petru Groza was a Romanian politician, best known as the Prime Minister of the first Communist Party-dominated governments under Soviet occupation during the early stages of the Communist regime in Romania....

 government on the basis of decree-law nr. 187/23 March 1945 for the realisation of land reform. The Romanian Communist Party
Romanian Communist Party
The Romanian Communist Party was a communist political party in Romania. Successor to the Bolshevik wing of the Socialist Party of Romania, it gave ideological endorsement to communist revolution and the disestablishment of Greater Romania. The PCR was a minor and illegal grouping for much of the...

 planned and applied the reform, also exploiting it for propaganda purposes in an attempt to form a popular base on the Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 model (there too, collectivisation was preceded by land distribution). Its purpose, as the law's preamble declared, was to increase the size of arable surfaces of peasant holdings with less than 5 ha of land, to create new individual peasant holdings for landless agricultural labourers, to establish vegetable gardens at the outskirts of cities and industrial localities, and to reserve parcels for agricultural schools and experimental farms. Expropriation targeted land and farm property belonging to German citizens and Romanians who had collaborated with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 during World War II, land and farm property belonging to "war criminals" and to those "guilty of the national disaster", lands of those who sought refuge in countries with which Romania was at war or who fled abroad after 23 August 1944, and of those who in the preceding 7 years had failed to cultivate their own holdings, goods belonging to those who had voluntarily registered to fight against the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

, property belonging to physical persons that exceeded 50 ha (arable land, orchards, hayfields, pastures, ponds, dam lakes, marshes and floodplains). With all large properties remaining after the 1921 reform eliminated, the aristocracy was deprived of its economic base and final remnants of power, as were the wealthy German and Hungarian churches (Reformed
Reformed Church in Romania
The Reformed Church in Romania is the organization of the Calvinist church in Romania. The majority of its followers are of Hungarian ethnicity and Hungarian is the main church language...

, Unitarian
Unitarian Church of Transylvania
The Unitarian Church of Transylvania is a church of the Unitarian denomination, based in the city of Cluj in the Principality of Transylvania, present day in Romania...

 and Lutheran).

After the reform was announced, people who owned over 50 ha suffered the most, being subjected to intense pressure from the authorities and from Communist agitators, who from the end of 1944 had begun instigating peasants to occupy domains by force. Transylvanian Saxons and Banat Swabians
Banat Swabians
The Banat Swabians are an ethnic German population in Southeast Europe, part of the Danube Swabians. They emigrated in the 18th century to what was then the Austrian Banat province, which had been left sparsely populated by the wars with Turkey. This once strong and important ethnic Banat Swabian...

 were indiscriminately targeted, destroying many communities, but monastery, church and rural cooperative holdings, as well as those belonging to cultural and charitable organisations, escaped expropriation: the struggle for power was still ongoing and the Communists dared not alienate peasants, clergy and hostile intellectuals. Although the law specified that individuals whose land was expropriated received no compensation, the beneficiaries of the distribution had to pay for the land, albeit at an advantageous price (the cost of one hectare was fixed at the annual average value of what one hectare produced; at the time the land was received, the peasant paid an advance of 10%, the rest being paid in the following 10-20 years). This fee was not burdensome but instead formed part of a government strategy to convince the peasants that their possession of the land was definitive; all mention of collectivisation was avoided. According to an official communiqué from January 1947, of 1,443,911 ha (5,574.97 mi²) expropriated from 143,219 owners, 1,057,674 ha were distributed to peasants, while 387,565 ha became state reserves. 726,129 families owning under 5 ha received land, the average lot measuring 1.3 ha. New data were released on 13 April 1948: 917,777 families had received a total of 1,109,562 ha of land (an average of 1.21 ha). Completed in spring 1948, the reform did not significantly alter the structure of agriculture: holdings remained as fragmented as before, production of non-grain crops and animals declined, the co-operative movement was neglected, and the amount of land received by families was so small that their economic and social status hardly changed. In any event, the peasants did not long enjoy their new properties, as collectivisation
Collectivization in Romania
The collectivization of agriculture in Romania took place in the early years of the Communist regime. The initiative sought to bring about a thorough transformation in the property regime and organisation of labour in agriculture...

 was launched in 1949.

1991 reform

The February 1991 land reform, which followed the Romanian Revolution of 1989
Romanian Revolution of 1989
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 was a series of riots and clashes in December 1989. These were part of the Revolutions of 1989 that occurred in several Warsaw Pact countries...

, sought to privatise land resources that were in state hands during the Communist period
Communist Romania
Communist Romania was the period in Romanian history when that country was a Soviet-aligned communist state in the Eastern Bloc, with the dominant role of Romanian Communist Party enshrined in its successive constitutions...

. The goal was to restitute land in state cooperatives to its pre-collectivisation owners, with families that did not own land at the time also receiving small allotments. Amidst an anti-Communist public mood of 1990-91, the restored interwar parties (PNL
National Liberal Party (Romania)
The National Liberal Party , abbreviated to PNL, is a centre-right liberal party in Romania. It is the third-largest party in the Romanian Parliament, with 53 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 22 in the Senate: behind the centre-right Democratic Liberal Party and the centre-left Social...

 and PNŢCD
Christian-Democratic National Peasants' Party (Romania)
The Christian-Democratic National Peasants' Party is a Romanian Christian-Democratic party...

) loudly called for restitution; initially, the governing ex-Communist National Salvation Front resisted the demand and sought to grant all rural residents 0.5 ha, but in a bid to capture the rural vote, it gave in to pressure to dismantle the collectives, although capping the size of restored properties to 10 ha. (The Front claimed this would promote social equity, with others claiming a political motivation: the recreation of a viable, propertied middle class in agriculture, one that could exert certain kinds of pressure on the state, was precluded.) In addition to righting a perceived historical injustice, the reform also pleased Romanian farmers, who have a long tradition of working their own land and are tied to it not only for subsistence needs but also out of sentiment (for instance because their ancestors retained it through fighting in wars). Given that many families still held legal title as evidence of their claim to the land, and retained a clear memory of where their plots were located (a memory kept alive during Communism), failure to restitute risked creating significant social unrest. As well, given the relatively egalitarian land structure prevailing in 1949, historical justice (emphasised by the opposition) coincided with the social equity considerations that preoccupied the government.

Before the reform, 411 state farms and 3,776 cooperatives exploited almost all the country's arable land resources; in 1991, about 65% of this land–belonging to cooperatives–was restored to former owners or their heirs. About 3.7 million peasant households repossessed land, deciding to exploit it either individually or in associations. Peasants farms (the norm) were small, subsistence-based units of 2 to 3 ha each; family association farms covered 100 ha, and agricultural companies' farms were 500 ha in area. Reform of state farms, tangled in politics, was slower: in 1997, 60% of the area was taken up by peasant farms, 10% by family associations and 14% by agricultural companies, but state farms still accounted for 16%. By 2004, however, privatisation was largely complete, with the private sector representing 97.3% of production value that year (97.4% of vegetable production and 98.9% of animal production); plans are in place to sell off the remainder of state-owned farmland. Out of 2,387,600 ha (9,218.58 mi²) initially held by the state, 1,704,200 were returned based on Law 18/1991 and Law 1/2000; 574,600 were leased; and 108,800 were in the process of being leased at the end of 2004.
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