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Post-Socialist Property Rights and Wrongs in Albania: An Ethnography of Agrarian Change

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Type: Journal Article
Author: de Waal, Clarissa
Journal: Conservation & Society
Volume: 2
Page(s): 19-50
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7613
Sector: Forestry
Region: Europe
Subject(s): property rights
land tenure and use
transitional economics
indigenous institutions
Abstract: "In Communist Albania privately owned land was eliminated. Decollectivisation procedures began in 1991. This ethnography focuses on post-socialist property relations with respect to ex-cooperative land, forest and partially distributed state farm land. In northern Albania ex-cooperative land was privatised according to customary law rather than state decree. This was chiefly for practical reasons, but symbolic reasons played a role, too. The procedure was widely perceived as just; agreed by customary rules and tolerated by the state. The forest remained state owned though customary usage rights in the forest were reasserted by villagers. State indifference to large-scale illegal felling has resulted in massive forest destruction. The status of ex-state farm land is anomalous, providing a fertile arena for electioneering politicians wooing squatters and painful in security for large numbers of highland village migrants. Post-socialist property relations in Albania have been characterised by government laissez-faire alternating with interventionism and corrupt practices. The population has had to resort to 'do-it-yourself' tactics. The oft-repeated cry: 'There is no state, there is no law'-- ska shtet, ska ligj--encapsulates the view from the ground."

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