Maramureș County

To understand the historical dynamic of the commons in Maramureș, one has to understand the complex transformation of territory first and the shifting boundaries. After WWI, from the territory of Maramureș, 1/3 stayed in Romania, 2/3 went to Chechoslovakia in 1920 and to Ukraine at a later point. To make a more viable Maramureș county, in 1968 the Romanian  State administration added other areas to the initial 1/3,  (Tara Chioarului, Tara Lapusului and Tara Codrului). The amount of land held in commons diminished accordingly. Under the Hungarian rule, the commons of Maramureș counted in 1885 a surface of 127.440 ha of forest (Bedö, Albert: Die wirtschaftliche und commercielle Beschreibung der Wälder des ungarischen Staates, 1885), the largest surface of commons in the whole of Transylvania at the time.

Today, what is called the Maramureș county (the initial 1/3 of the historical region - the Northern part- plus the three other areas added in 1968 - the Southern part), counts 41.457 ha of forest in commons. The decrease with 2/3 of common forests is due mainly to the shifting boundaries. Large commons that one can find in the statistics from 1885 (such as in the localities of Apșa  and Dombo, for example) were lost from within Romanian boundaries and we don't know if they still exist within Ukrainian boundaries. Other processes contributed to the diminishing commons (for further information please see section History).

  • Nowadays in Maramureș we find approximately 107 commons, of which we studied 26.

  • There is a significant difference between the northern part and the southern part:

  • In the northern part we find what are called the noble composesorates, the commons formed as a heritage of the noble families of Maramureș, descendants of cnezi, free landlords during medieval times. These composesorates tend to be larger than the others. We studied a few commons of this kind: the noble composesorates of:

  •          Viseu de Sus  --   4524 ha, and on top of this, and 5000 ha are not yet fully titled, 1900 members

  •          Petrova --            3822 ha, and 190 ha not yet fully titled, 1130 members

  •          Săpânța --           2053 ha, and 2500 ha not yet fully titled, 1200 members  

Genealogical trees of noble families of Maramureș, in the Museum of Nobility from Maramureș. Vișeu de Sus @Stefan Voicu

Outside board of composesorat Vișeu de Sus and its associated forestry district (ocol) @Stefan Voicu

  • In the southern part we find much smaller composesorates, frequently under 500 ha, and a few even under 100 ha. These commons were usually constituted as lands of former serfs, called urbarialisti (the urbarium was the document that regulated the relations between landlords and their serfs).  Also, in some cases they were constituted from both entitlements to former serfs and former free peasants, the lesser nobility called nemeși. A few examples of the ones that we studied:

  • Mireșu Mare -- 259 ha, of which 222 ha of pasture and 37 ha of forest, and 152 members

  • Curtuiușu Mic -- 83 ha of forest, 123 members   

  • Mesteacăn -- 317 ha, of which 85 ha of forest and 232 ha pf pastureland, 112 members, members are equal, every household has a right

  • Composesorate Avram Iancu, village Iadăra -- 252 ha, half pastureland, half forest, 122 members

Looking over the border from Petrova to Ukraine. Maramureș Mountains @Arryn Snowball

The northern area is well known for being a focal point for forest industry. It is home to big local companies, and it featured a lot of conflicts over resources. the Maramureș Mountains were the target of illegal logging accusations and fights between local factions. A long trial went on for the composesorate of Borșa.

The southern area features problems specific to small commons. They usually do not have enough power to negotiate lower prices for forest administration, thus the expenses with guarding and administration of forests are very high, leaving little room for investments or individual monetary benefits. Also, they face the need to associate for being able to manage the forests in larger areas, more viable as management units. Members tend not to involve. Most of the responsibilities remain with the ruling council.

Petrova case-study

The commune of Petrova is located in the northern side of the Maramureș county, on the road from Borșa to Sighet. The locality is rather well-off. Half of the locals work abroad and invest money back home into grand houses and cars. Unlike many other commons that we studied, here we encountered a strong desire of locals to disassemble the commons. Members hold a strong sense of individual property and thus would like the composesorat land to be divided up and the plots to be passed into individual ownership.

The locality features two commons, reflecting the social stratification from before 150 years ago. We have 1) the noble composesorate, with the descendants of former nobility of the area, a free social strata, a lesser nobility, similar in privileges to the border-guards in the Hungarian part of Transylvania and to moșneni from the Romanian Kingdom, and 2) the composesorate of the former serfs (urbarialisti). The noble composesorate is 60 times larger than composesorate of urbarialisti. A few comparing figures below:

Noble composesorate surface            3822 ha                  Former serfs' composesorate   surface           62 ha

                                         members        1130                                                                                members        178

                                         ratio                 3,4 ha/member                                                             ratio                  0.3 ha/member

                                         logging quota  7000 m3                                                                        logging quota  400 m3

                                         ratio                  6.2 m3/member                                                           ratio                  2.2 m3/member

Interview with the vice-president of the Noble Composesorate of Petrova @Arryn Snowball

Interview with the president of the  Composesorate of Former Serfs Petrova @Arryn Snowball

  • The noble composesorate. From the interview with the vice-president we found out that the composesorate was larger before 1948 than today. In the cadastral files from 1932 the composesorate has 4600 ha. This decrease happened because various members divided their parts from the commons, enclosing the land. Also, the reestablished composesorat did not reclaim the pastures, which remained in the ownership of the municipality.

  • The forest is perceived by the council members as low production quality. It is preponderantly deciduous, young and accessible. The annual allowable quota for logging is currently 7000 cubic meters. 900 ha are under protection in the Natural Park Maramureș Mountains.

  • From the whole amount of wood, only 80 cubic meters go towards local households as firewood. The rest is sold towards local forestry entrepreneurs.

  • The distribution of shares is rather equal. There are no members to hold a large part of the shares. Only 5-6 members hold around 20 ha, and 30% hold less than 1 ha. However, even those who held a large amount of shares complain about low level of revenues from the commons, by comparing with revenues obtained from individually owned plots.

  • Benefits from the commons are distributed as cash dividends, 12 euro/ha.

  • Members are rather uninterested in the working of the composesorat and show dissatisfaction with the management. On the other side, the management board is also complaining about the attitude of members and perceives the commons as a nonviable form of property.

  • Usually, the composesorat assemblies are very poorly attended. Less than 100 members attend the meeting from over 1000 in total. 50% of the total members are not locals.

Some commoners complain about poor monetary revenues. The lady in the picture holds a share of 24 ha in the composesorat together with her husband. In her opinion, the revenue of roughly 300 euros/year from the commons is important, but not fair @Arryn Snowball

The Composesorat of Former Serfs (Asociația Urbarială Petrova).

  • The forest age is higher than that of the Noble composesorate and it can yield higher profits.

  • The benefits for members are thus higher, 67 euros/ha. However, the members hold small shares, frequently less than a hectare. The highest share is 3 ha.

  • Participation in general assemblies is working well, as most of the members are locals (90%). The voting system is inclusive and egalitarian, "one man, one vote".

  • They face the problem of small commons, having difficulties with paying for the forestry service and state taxes.

Images from Petrova village in early September afternoon @Arryn Snowball