Libmonster ID: MD-908
Author(s) of the publication: A. ZAKHARIANU

EMERIT, MARCEL. Les paysans roumains depuis le traite d'Adrianople jusqu'a la liberation des terres (1829 - 1864). Paris. Edition Librairie de Recueil Sirey, 1937. 570 p.

EMRYT, MARCEL. Romanian peasants from the Peace of Adrianople to the Liberation of the Land (1829-1864)

The author, a French historian, had the opportunity to get acquainted with the primary sources located in the state archives of Bucharest and Iasi, with the manuscripts of the Romanian Academy of Sciences and with the archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also made extensive use of printed materials concerning the agrarian question in the Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. The same author also wrote an earlier work on the political history of these principalities - "Victor Place et la politique francaise en Roumainie a l'epoque de l'union" (Victor Place et la politique francaise en Roumainie a l'epoque de l'union).

The author begins his study of the agrarian question in the principalities in the 18th century. By this time, the princes were no longer elected by the boyars, but were appointed by the Turkish government itself (mainly from Greek phanarists). Growing pressure from the government and the boyars forced the peasants to flee the principalities, and they crossed the Danube by the thousands to what is now Bulgaria and Serbia, across the Carpathians and across the Dniester. In 1746, the peasants were liberated in Moldavia, and in 1749-in Wallachia. The peasants were given the right to receive from the boyars land sufficient to feed themselves and their livestock. This was done in order to attract back the fleeing peasants. For this, they had to pay the corvee six days a year. But already in 1766 the corvee increased to 12 days.

A few years before the uprising of 1821, the boyars achieved restrictions on the use of land by peasants and passed a law that gave them the right to cultivate no more than two-thirds of the boyar land on which they live. In the future, the situation of the peasants continued to deteriorate.

The peasant uprising of 1821 under the leadership of Tudor Vladimirescu was directed not only against the Greek landlords and usurers, but also against the Wallachian boyars. The defeat of the uprising forced the peasants to leave their homes and move to neighboring countries. The government reverts to electing princes from the local major boyars and then approving them by the Porte.

The author cites the testimonies of the boyar Golescu (1826), describing the appalling living conditions of the Romanian peasant.

The reason for this situation of the Romanian peasant is that almost all the product of his farm is taken away from him. In this direction, the government and the boyars, monasteries and moneylenders act in concert.

The revolt of Tudor Vladimirescu was the first attempt to resolve the issue from below, in a revolutionary way-to expropriate the boyar class and transfer the land to the peasants.

Both Romanian historians and Marcel Emrit do not fully understand the question of the transformation of free peasants into serfs. Boyars and bourgeois historians, of course, did not want to understand how the free peasants were turned into serfs, and their lands were usurped by the boyars.

Here is what Marx writes on this question: "Their (Moldavia and Wallachia - A. Z. ) original mode of production was based on communal ownership, but on communal ownership, different from the Slavic and especially from the Indian form. Part of the land was independently cultivated by the members of the community as free private property, the other part-ager publicus-was cultivated by them together. The products of this joint labor served partly as a reserve fund in case of crop failures and other accidents, and partly as a state fund to cover the costs of war, religious and other community expenses. Over time, military and ecclesiastical dignitaries usurped, along with communal property, the duties associated with this property. The labor of the free peasants on their communal land turned into corvee labor for the looters of communal land. At the same time, serfdom relations developed, but only in fact, and not legally, until they were legalized by the world liberator Russia under the pretext of the abolition of serfdom."1

Turning to the establishment of "organic regulations" in the principalities under the leadership of the Russian government and its representative, General Kiselyov, in 1831, the author correctly explains the essence of this "constitution", which gave the peasants to the boyars and the higher clergy to eat. The restriction of land use for peasants was intended to increase the land ownership of the boyars and the higher clergy.

The author correctly notes that the boyars sought to further consolidate the cross-

1 K. Marx. Capital, vol. I, p. 271, 1934.

page 141

Jan, but the intervention of General Kiselyov to some extent dampened their zeal. Kiselyov knew that the peasantry was dissatisfied with the order that the boyars wanted to establish. Already in 1831, peasants revolted in Moldavia (up to 60 thousand people). The same thing happens in Wallachia. After long negotiations, Kiselev managed to somewhat ease the burden of corvee in Wallachia. Kiselyov's tactic was to satisfy the demands of the big boyars, but at the same time he tried to attract the peasants to the side of the Russian autocracy by providing some relief to their economic situation. The peasants soon understood the essence of this demagogic tactic and understood whose interests the autocratic Russian government was protecting through its representatives.

The author points to all these reforms, which finally transformed the boyars into landowners and the peasants into serfs, and notes that they were implemented in order to create a class support within the principalities in the form of the boyars and the highest clergy, on which the Russian government could rely to strengthen its position in this part of the Turkish Empire. On the other hand, Moldavia and Wallachia are becoming exporters of agricultural products, since the Treaty of Adrianople turned the Black Sea into a free sea for ships of all states bordering it.

"Organic regulations" secured the ownership of land for the boyars. Three-quarters of all the landlords ' land was in the hands of 200 boyar families, and 15 or 20 families owned a third of this land. Among these 15 families, some, such as Cantacuzino, Stirbey, Bibescu, Sturdza, Giki, had several tens of thousands of hectares. In general, the boyars owned more than half of all cultivated land. In addition, the boyars of all ranks and states were free, as before,from any taxation.

Monasteries owned 30% of all land. The peasants themselves cultivated only 40% of the boyar land. There is no information about Moldavia, but there is reason to believe that the boyars managed to secure even more land there than in Wallachia.

The peasants responded to the implementation of the" organic regulations " with uprisings. A particularly large uprising took place in Moldavia in 1839. The author dwells on it only in passing, without attaching almost any importance to it. The peasants left the land in droves and fled to Turkey and Austria. Golescu points out that during 1832-1850 at least 100 thousand peasant families emigrated, and this is in the presence of an armed force in the principalities - "granicherov" - specially created to combat the flight of peasants.

Marx, in his analysis of the organic regulations, gives an exceptionally difficult picture of the serfdom enslavement of the peasantry by the boyars and clergy. 1

But Marcel Emrit believes that the "organic regulation" represents a serious step forward from the previous legislation, that it was for the Romanian population "a guarantee against arbitrariness and a rule of jurisdiction that could be used for further improvement." Needless to say, the guarantees are good when the boyars were not only legislators, but also executors of laws! The author clearly contradicts himself. If we add to this that he admits the fact of the final enslavement of the peasants, this conclusion, even if we evaluate it only from the legal point of view, without touching on the methods of its implementation, is a direct mockery of the Romanian peasantry.

The Revolution of 1848 also resonated in the Balkans. The Wallachian peasants rose up against their enslavers, demanding the abolition of the" organic regulations " and the adoption of a new constitution that would make them independent of the boyars and their tenants.

The Provisional Government of 1848 intended to give land to the peasants for a "ransom". Some of the political figures of the time, such as Nikolai Balchesku, would not have hesitated to confiscate the boyar lands, but most of them were in favor of "ransom".

The peasants who were elected to the special committee to discuss the agrarian question were apparently from a well-to-do background. They demanded either the redemption of corvee and the preservation of tithes, or the purchase of land in order to create independent peasant farms. No agreement was reached, and due to the threatening behavior of the peasants and the unacceptability of their demands for the boyars, the committee was disbanded. Large and conservative-minded boyars agreed at best to sell land at a very high price, while the peasants sought to acquire land at the market price, i.e. 20 times cheaper.

Due to the short duration of the provisional Government's existence (only three months), the agrarian reform was not implemented. By agreement between the Russian and Turkish governments, Russian and Turkish troops occupied Wallachia, and reaction triumphed. The leaders of the revolutionary movement were forced to emigrate. Terrorized by the power of the boyars, the peasantry was temporarily silenced, and the Hungarian Revolution was drowned in the blood of its heroic defenders. There was no place to wait for help. The further, the more the situation of the peasants worsened, the corvee continued to grow, the boyars grew richer and seized new lands by hook or crook.

The author does not see in the Wallachian revolution of 1848 a desire for violence

1 See K. Marx. Capital, vol. I, p. 271.

page 142

resolution of the accumulated contradictions within feudal society. He believes that the "organic regulations" provided the Danubian principalities with three decades of social peace. He therefore sees the revolution of 1848 as the result of external influence, without trying to find out the causes of this revolution and the reasons for its defeat on the basis of an analysis of internal class forces and the international situation.

In connection with the reaction that followed the defeat of the revolution of 1848, which lasted until the end of the Crimean War (1856), the situation of the peasantry worsened even more: the corvee for the needs of the state, especially for the construction of highways, was growing; the Russian and then Austrian occupation of the principalities brought the peasantry to complete exhaustion.

Political representatives of the liberal boyars, who were in exile in France during the Crimean War, sought to draw the attention of the so-called great Powers to the situation of the principalities. Economists and politicians argued for the need for reforms aimed at freeing the peasants from serfdom and transferring them to the ownership of a certain amount of land for "redemption".

The large boyars believed that the peasants should still be left as tenants in the future, and not turned into owners of a certain allotment. This position of the big boyars is explained by the fact that in the conditions of growing exports of agricultural products, they sought to provide themselves with the necessary free labor at the expense of the peasants.

When the so-called great Powers invited the people of both principalities to speak out on the question of their unification, as well as on the reforms necessary to ensure the development of the principalities, the resistance of the large boyars did not allow them to make any decision on the agrarian question. It is characteristic that the agrarian question was brought up for discussion only in the Moldavian Divan ad hoc; the Wallachian Divan refused to discuss it, fearing to cause a premature break between the liberal and conservative boyars on the question of the unification of the principalities.

The Paris Convention of 1858 completely excluded the peasantry, small and middle bourgeoisie, from any participation in the political life of the united principalities. The new prince, Alexander Cuza, who was elected by both principalities, tried for five whole years - from 1859 to 1864 - to implement the agrarian reform legally, through the Assembly, but, meeting strong resistance, he realized the futility of resolving this issue through a conservative, reactionary chamber. After a coup d'etat, Cuza carried out the secularization of church land and agrarian reform.

The reform carried out, which turned the enslaved peasant into a free landowner, imposed on him great difficulties associated with paying off the debt for land. The conservative nobility, through various measures, in particular by allocating the worst quality land, forced the peasant to sell his labor. Nevertheless, this reform ensured some development of the principalities in the capitalist spirit.

The author dwells in detail on the conditions under which the reform was carried out, on the resistance of the conservative boyars, on the role of the liberal boyar - President-Minister of Cuza - Mikhail Kogalniceanu. It provides digital data on the number of families who received land and the size of plots for each category, depending on the number of cattle (category 1-4 heads of cattle, category 2 - 2 heads of cattle, and category 3-without cattle). Cuza and Kogalniceanu, who came from the small boyars, wanted to strengthen their power at the expense of the large boyars, relying on the peasants. Of course, the large boyars could not allow their political and economic positions to be belittled and began to fight against Kuza. This struggle eventually led to the overthrow of Cuza from the throne in 1856. In his place was put the German Prince Karl, one of the cousins of the former German Emperor Wilhelm II. The house of Karl Hohenzollern still dominates Romania today.

The author's conclusions are correct, but one-sided. An important aspect of the reform was that it contributed to the numerical growth of the proletariat, since the mizhlokashi (middle peasants) and Kodashi (poor people) were not able to live on the small "parcel" that they received, and therefore the working peasantry was forced to sell their labor to the capitalist tenant farmer.

The development of capitalism in Rumanian agriculture followed the Prussian path, with its slow progress and the painful conditions of existence of the small peasantry, which gradually became impoverished.

But the author does not see progressiveness in the agrarian reform of 1864. He only points out that the situation of the peasantry, especially the poor and middle peasants, continued to deteriorate. This, of course, is true, but the development process was not limited to this. Despite the prohibition to sell peasant allotments for 30 years after the agrarian reform, there is actually a concentration of peasant land in the hands of landlords, kulaks and usurers. The poorest peasantry, first of all, is forced to leave the countryside and seek a means of subsistence in the cities, thus being a factor in the creation of a new social class in Romania - the working class. In addition, it should be pointed out that Cuza and Kogalniceanu allocated only small plots of land to the peasants

page 143

They were given neither sufficient arable land nor seed materials. All this was done so that the peasants would continue to need it, so that they would remain dependent on the landlords and thus be forced to work their huge latifundia.

The peasants had to rent land from the landlords, both for sowing and for their flocks, since their own miserable plots could not feed them. This made the peasants completely dependent on the landlords. The landowner rented out land on condition that the peasant not only cultivated a certain amount of land, but also brought grain from the field and took it to market. In addition, the peasants were obliged to give the landowner a certain amount of products in kind (butter, meat, eggs).

Thus, the emancipation of the peasants from personal dependence was at the same time their emancipation from the land. This conclusion is confirmed by comparing the amount of land cultivated by the peasantry in accordance with the "organic regulations" with the amount obtained by them as a result of the reform. The peasantry was assigned no more property than the amount that it had cultivated before the reform, which was the norm of starvation for the middle peasants, and especially for the poor.

The author did not draw this conclusion, and could not, of course, do so, since he solves the question from a bourgeois point of view. The author's incorrect position is particularly pronounced when he talks about ways to resolve the agrarian question after the reform to the present time.

In his final conclusions, the author does not mention a word about the struggle of the Romanian peasantry against the landlords after the reform.

The value of Marcel Emrit's work lies in the fact that he thoroughly studied the agrarian question in the Danubian principalities before and after their unification. In this way, he made a serious contribution to historical science. Soviet historians will have an opportunity to get acquainted with this work and learn about the conditions of development of the state that is our neighbor, whose history is still neglected in our country.


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A. ZAKHARIANU, Criticism and bibliography. Reviews. The history of modern times. EMRYT, MARCEL. ROMANIAN PEASANTS FROM THE PEACE OF ADRIANOPLE TO THE LIBERATION OF THE LAND (1829-1864) // Chisinau: Library of Moldova (LIBRARY.MD). Updated: 11.06.2024. URL: (date of access: 17.07.2024).

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