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Shabats, Servia (Town) 1911 Profile, #06: Land Tenure



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More than four-fifths of the Servians are peasant farmers; and the great majority of these cultivate the land belonging to their own families. Holdings are generally small, not exceeding an average of 20 acres for each household. They cannot be sold or mortgaged entire; the law forbids the alienation for debt of a peasant's cottage, his garden or courtyard, his plough, his last six yutara 1 of land and the cattle necessary for working his farm. Besides the small farms there is the zadruga, a form of community which appears to date from prehistoric times, and mainly survives along the Bosnian frontier, though tending to disappear everywhere and to be replaced by rural co-operation. Under the zadruga system, each homestead or cluster of cottages is occupied by a group of families connected by blood and dwelling together on strictly communistic principles. The association is ruled by a house-father (dornanyin or staryeshina) and a house-mother (domanyitsa), who assign to the members their respective tasks. The staryeshina may be the patriarch of the community, but is often chosen by the rest of the members on account of his prudence and ability; nor is his wife necessarily the domanyitsa. In addition to the farm work, the members often practise various trades, the proceeds of which are paid into the common treasury. The community sometimes includes a priest, whose fees for baptism, &c., augment the common fund. The buildings belonging to the homesteads are enclosed within an immense palisade, inside which a large expanse of fields is mostly planted with plum, damson, and other fruit-trees, surrounding the houses of the occupiers. In the midst of these is the house of the staryeshina, which contains the common kitchen, eating hall, and family hall of the entire homestead. Here all the members assemble in the evening for conversation and amusement, the women spinning, while the children play. The houses are mostly very small wooden structures, serving for little else but sleeping places. But that of the staryeshina is often of brick, and is invariably of better construction than the rest. The houses are often raised on piles, above the level of the floods which occur so frequently near the Save and Drina. Zadrugas were very prosperous, as they had always a sufficient number of hands at command, and their members combined to obtain implements and cattle. But with the establishment of order and security, the zadrugas began rapidly to disappear, a further cause of their dissolution being the fact that members could legally acquire private property (osobina). A new stimulus was given to agriculture by the encouragement which King Alexander personally extended to the establishment of rural co-operative associations on the Raiffeisen principles. The object of these associations is principally to facilitate the acquisition of improved implements and better breeds of cattle. No fewer than too of such credit societies were founded between 1894 and 1899. The total number of agricultural co-operative societies exceeded 500 in 1910; each has its tribunal (Conseil des Prud'hommes), which arbitrates in disputes; and all together, with the state-aided Cooperative Caisse, which lends money to the smaller societies, form a single great organization known as the General Union.

Small holdings were in themselves a hindrance to Servian agricultural progress, inasmuch as small farmers cannot afford the cost of scientific farming; hence the great success of co-operation. As a rule, also, the lots of ground belonging to one household or family do not lie together, but are dispersed in different, very often distant, parts of the village land. To meet this difficulty, a farmer with more crops than he can reap unaided will summon his neighbours to his assistance, supplying them with food, but no money, and binding himself to repay the service in kind. This form of voluntary cooperation is called moba. Another serious drawback to the economic position is that Servia has no seaboard, and that it is far from the nearest export harbours (e.g. Galatz, Salonica, Fiume). In such a situation the country is at the mercy of hostile tariffs.

NOTE: This article is an historical reference based on the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, now in the Public Domain. The text is provided through scanning and OCR conversion. There may be transcription errors in the article. Encyclopedia style: 1) For reasons of cost and academic writing style, the paragraphs are long in length. 2) Contributors to articles are sometimes identified by their initials in parentheses at the end of the article. 3) Some articles include a section called "Authorities," a record of all the sources used when writing the article. 4) Information is based on knowledge available in 1911 and may be inaccurate, especially in the areas of science, law, and ethnography. 5) Images and diagrams from the original are not included with article. 6) Do not use this information for medical or legal guidance or any research requiring current information.

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      "Shabats, Servia," The Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 24, Sainte-Claire Deville, etienne Henri to Shuttle (11th ed.), (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911); digital edition, (http://mygenshare.com : posted 15 Jan 2013)

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