Main Types of Hungarian Peasant Forest Ownership Following the Liberation of the Serfs in 1848 - The study shows the main types of forest communities and the characteristics of the use of individually-owned forests from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. The peasant forest communities formed after the liberation of the serfs and in places surviving right up to the 1960s had before them the example of the feudal-type commonage of the nobility. In the commonages of the former serfs the members drew lots to determine their share of the timber from the jointly owned and used forest on the basis of forest laws. When the large estates were divided up in 1945 the poor also jointly managed the forests allotted to them. The forest holdings that arose following the joint purchase of forests, a common practice from the early 20th century, operated on the basis of the same principles as the commonages.
The possession or usage of arable land according to family was widespread in Europe from the Middle Ages onwards. For this reason one also finds in Hungary the communal use of those disparate and not easily manageable pieces of woodland and pasturage. This occurred within the organizational context of the commonage. With the benefit of his ethnographical and historical research in Northern Hungary the author looks at the commonages of the nobility that emerged during the feudal period; the workings of the commonage of the former serfs, and the woodland and pasturage associations that came into being following the emancipation of the serfs in 1848; and the various forms they took right up until the end of the 20th century. The commonages managed the undivided common property, and regulated the usage of woodland and pasturage. The commonages of the nobility were guaranteed regular income by the leasing out of the rights they had obtained from the crown (regale) to hold markets, and run inns and slaughterhouses. Commonages of the nobility abided by common law. Although peasant woodland and pasturage associations became subject to state regulation during the 19th and 20th centuries, they never became uniform on account of being subject to varying local traditions.
Woodland industries and trades in Hungary’s northern central hills. In the sevententh and eighteenth centuries the region’s glassworks and iron forges depended on wood for fuel. It was then that Slovak forestry workers settled in the hilly interiors of Hungary’s northern counties. Apart from the felling of trees and the carriage of timber, employment came in the form of the fashioning of wooden pit props and shingles, and from the second half of the 19th century the production of railway sleepers. In the hearts of the hilly regions there were many who produced handles for tools and farming implements, yokes and baskets for sale. These they traded on the Great Plain in return for wheat and maize. The technology and modes of employment associated with charcoal and limeburning were prevalent until the middle of the 20th century. Woodland shelters were continually being built by those working in the forests to protect them against the elements. These structures took many forms.
The tools used for woodcutting in Hungary in the Middle Ages were the hatchet and the axe. From the end of the Middle Ages the axe was used for felling and the hatchet for cutting and shaping. Under the influence of Western European forestry technology and planned forestry management, the saw began to appear in forestry work at the end of the 18th century and spread in the 19th century. In folk practice both the axe and the saw were used in the late 19th to early 20th century. The axe was used to fell smaller trees. When felling thicker trees a V-shaped cut was first made from the tree then two-men used a cross-cut saw from the other side of the tree to fell it. A hand-saw for one person was used to cut up smaller logs. It is an indication of the importance of the saw as a woodcutting tool that in the first half of the 20th century the term pár (pair) previously used for the groups of woodcutters was replaced by fûrész (saw). The last station of the process came in the mid-20th century when the team of woodcutters working with a power saw came to be called a motor.
The population of the villages and market towns
in the hilly areas of Hungary have countless ties to the forest. However,
forest utilisation was restricted by regulations imposed by the state and the
large estate-owners. From the mid-18th century the extent to which serfs and
cotters could use the forest and the services they were required to provide
were regulated uniformly at the national level. Village people regularly
violated the central rules and measures of the estate-owners for protection of
the forest, in order to provide themselves with firewood, graze animals and
sell timber. The peasant forest communities formed after the liberation of the
serfs in 1848 were established on the basis of national laws, but local
traditions and local economic interests also influenced their operation. The
forest communities themselves regulated the management of the common forest
assets and the share of the profits. Their functioning was characterised by
internal autonomy and continuous collective control.
Forest labourers’ buildings in Northern Hungary
. The forest has always been important in the lives of those living in Northern Hungary. Apart from the foodstuffs, the fuel and the building materials it provided, the forest was also a source of work for the poorer sections of society. The woodcutters, woodcarvers, limeburners and charcoal burners spent their nights in temporary or semi-permanent huts. This study outlines the various forms such woodland structures took. The most simple type was a half-sided and barrel-roofed hut designed to provide protection against the wind and the rain. Apart from the closed winter huts the most characteristic types are the round and rectangular huts with an open hearth in the middle used by woodcutters and limeburners. In these the men were able to sleep under the protected sides of the structure surrounding the fire.