“Britain as a whole never was more tranquil and happy,” said the “Spectator,” then the organ of sedate Liberalism and enlightened Progress, in the summer of 1882. “No class is at war with society or the government: there is no disaffection anywhere, the Treasury is fairly full, the accumulations of capital are vast”; and then the writer goes on to compare Great Britain with Ireland, at that time under the iron heel of coercion, with Parnell and hundreds of his followers in jail, whilst outrages and murders, like those of Maamtrasma, were almost everyday occurrences. Some of the problems of the early eighties are with us yet. Ireland is still a bone of contention between political parties: the Channel tunnel is no nearer completion: and then as now, when other topics are exhausted, the “Spectator” can fill up its columns with Thought Transference and Psychical Research.
In 1994, the Romanian government and the people of Vlaicu faced a knotty problem: how to privatize the village collective farm set up under Romania’s state socialism. Before socialism, Vlaicu had maintained its own form of private property with some collective controls over land, animals, and agricultural products. That system lasted until the Russian takeover of 1945. Between then and 1959, however, Romania’s socialist authorities went from organizing cooperatives to coercing collectivization; they created both a state farm and a collective farm. In contrast to the government-owned and centrally managed state farm, Vlaicu’s households acquired provisional shares of the collective farm’s lands, on condition of using its facilities and producing their quotas of its crops.
Over the thirty years between 1959 and the collapse of Romanian socialism in 1989, numerous villagers whose families had previously held land left for city jobs, families that stayed in the village waxed or waned, and shares in the collective farm shifted accordingly. As the old regime collapsed, villagers often claimed the land they were then working, sold it, shared it with other family members, or passed it on to heirs. In 1994, then, the land commission had to decide which rights, whose rights, and as of what date, established claims to the land now being privatized. Hence the drama, as recorded in Verdery’s Weld notes:
Sivu comes in and is very noisy about what terrible things he’s going to do if his case isn’t settled. He has a piece in Filigore, claims it must be measured, Map says it already has been—they repeat this several times. Map gets mad because people want remeasuring: ‘‘We’ll never Wnish this job if people make us remeasure all the time!’’ One woman wants him to go measure in Lunca; he says, ‘‘We already did it there, if we have to go back we won’t get out for two weeks.’’ Sivu says loudly, ‘‘I don’t want anything except what’s mine!’’ He accosts Com’t: ‘‘Look into my eyes, you’re my godfather, I’m not asking for anything except what’s mine. I bought it from Gheorghe, it’s next to Ana and to Constantin. If you don’t give it to me, I’ll . . . I’ll do what no one’s done in all of Vlaicu.’’