Logging and Industrial Railways in Royal Romania. “Tișița” and Joint Stock Companies Related to Its Interests (1907-1940)
This study examines the relationships of logging corporations in Romania (in formerly Putna County, today Vrancea County) funded by Hungarian Count Ármin Mikes, Italian-Austrian Jewish Camillo Castiglioni, and other contemporary industrial magnates, with the political power and local communities, covering several historical periods. After obtaining permits from the capital and additional concessions at the highest level, from 1907 it became possible for foreign-owned companies set up to exploit forests purchased from the community of the elders (obștea moșnenilor) to eventually move to the construction of timber factories, narrow gauge industrial railways, in public and private areas, leased for 20-25 years. For the railway trail, which also allowed limited passenger transport, the joint stock companies agreed with the village communities, who were somehow forced to conclude the contract, otherwise they risked an expropriation measure from the state that would have left them with a lower sum than the negotiated one.
Until the outbreak of the First World War, Bucharest’s politics supported corporate expansion, but then went on to officially sabotage of its activities. Under the Enemy Property Law of 12 June 1923, the joint stock company was nationalized, but the ongoing dispute culminated in a “transaction,” and in 1927 Tișița’s assets were returned to the Oituz Forestry Company from Brașov, owned by Ármin Mikes. During the interwar period, Romanian governments often took anti-Hungarian measures in order to obtain votes. Under political pressure, Oituz relinquished the right to use, and the corporate assets of Tișița were transferred to the State Forest House (Casa Pădurilor Statului), pending the settlement of another case in court. In February 1937, another “transaction” took place – an out-of-court settlement – between the Romanian state and Tișița’s management, in which the owner Mikes paid compensation in accordance with the terms of the agreement, in exchange for restoring the company’s private property. Oituz immediately withdrew from the continued use of the concession on the private goods of Tișița and proceeded to the dismantling of the railway line, the factory in Soveja, as well as the sale and capitalization of the industrial park. Although the industrial railway had a direct economic impact on 20 settlements in Putna County and contributed to the growth of general welfare and rural tourism, the local political elite could not intervene favorably at the ministerial level to pay the owner Mikes and thus prevent the liquidation of the railway.
The relationship between the local village communities and the company, which has always been seen as “foreign”, has been disputed since the beginning due to the way the logging took place, and the expiration of the first contracts caused other conflicts. The relationship between the “locals” and the “foreign” companies – respectively Ármin Mikes – can be measured primarily by the contracts concluded, as well as by the legal proceedings with the communes of Tulnici and Găuri. The demolition of the railway line in 1938 met resistance from the local population, which prevented it in several places, despite the fact that the Putna Gendarmes Legion had already protected the workers of Tișița. Following negotiations with Putna Prefecture, the company in difficulty finally decided that, in proportion to the length of the railway line, all the communes concerned should benefit from the public good – building a school, a church, etc. – in exchange, among other things, for the smooth dismantling of the railway line. The problems were not solved with another payment of money, after the prefecture of Putna did not pay the money to the villages immediately, and it took time for the village communities to understand that they could not spend the money on anything.