Accepted Paper:

"We don't sell our country!" Property restitution and identity politics in postsocialist Romania  


Damiana Otoiu (Bucharest University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the "reconstruction of property" in postsocialist Romania through the investigation of the policies concerning Jewish properties. I show how the process of reprivatisation intersects with “ethno-national” political discourses and projects.

Paper long abstract:

Like most of the Central and Eastern European countries, Romania put in place restitution policies after the collapse of the communist regime. However, the first restitution laws privileged certain categories, while excluding the non-citizens (emigrants who had lost or renounced their citizenship), the non-residents (citizens of a state who reside abroad), the formers owners dispossessed before 1945, and the so-called "religious and ethnic minorities".

While most political leaders have justified the legal cut-offs by a necessary limitation of restitution due to budget constraints, others have explained this agenda by using "national" (or nationalistic) arguments. Their arguments are often built around the idea of "Romanianess": they claim that the government should have implemented in Romania "ethnos"-based restitution policies. "A country is a living organism. If we cut it into pieces, in concert with the foreigners, we will offend God…" (says a member of the nationalistic Great Romania Party).

My research aims to give an answer to the following questions: how the process of reprivatisation intersects with "ethno-national" political discourses and projects? Is this "ethnification" of restitution policies (Offe 1997) seen as legitimate not only by some of the politicians, but also by their potential voters?

My research is based on a field-work conducted in Bucharest, Romania (2004 - 2007), in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Israel (2006, 2008) and on research in the archives.

Panel W059
Experiencing borders and boundaries in the post-socialist Southeastern Europe (SEE)