Romania Table of Contents
The process of socialist modernization greatly affected family life. Through education and a comprehensive welfare system, the state assumed responsibility for providing assistance and transmitting values. Although the family was identified as the fundamental unit of socialist society, and it heavily influenced the values of the younger generation, its primary role had become population reproduction. Even that role was no longer a private matter, but was subject to the whim of government policy. But the prediction that socialism would provide for the transfer of domestic duties from the home to the public sector fell far short of fruition. In 1989 communal dining facilities and public laundries were still largely unavailable, and because the tertiary sector of the economy received the lowest priority, services such as house cleaning, home repairs, and dry cleaning were either inadequate or nonexistent.
Consumer durables to lighten the burden of housework were available only to a privileged few. In the late 1960s, only 7.3 percent of households had electric refrigerators, 22.6 percent had gas stoves, 9.5 percent had washing machines, 3.2 percent had vacuum cleaners, and 38.8 percent had electric irons. By the late 1980s, the situation had improved somewhat, but the majority still lacked these items. In addition to the difficulties associated with home maintenance, shopping for the family was laborious and timeconsuming . The dearth of refrigerators and freezers forced most families to shop for food every day and because supermarkets were scarce, shopping entailed trips to several different stores where the customer typically had to stand in one queue to select merchandise and in another to pay for it. Inadequate public transportation made shopping even more toilsome.
Family life for rural Romanians differed in many respects from that of urban families. Their living standards were lower, and they maintained values and behavior patterns that were firmly rooted in traditional peasant life. The unavailability of electricity to many rural households made it impossible for them to use refrigerators and washing machines, which in many cases would have been prohibitively expensive. Even when electricity was available and they could afford the appliances, many peasant women still did their laundry at the stream because it was a traditional site of social interaction. Using a washing machine gave a woman a reputation for being lazy and antisocial. Likewise, many rural families eschewed refrigerators in favor of traditional ways of preserving food. Perhaps because farm produce was a source of income for many rural families, they consumed far less fresh meat, vegetables, and fruit than urban families, and the staple of the rural diet remained maize porridge flavored with cabbage, cheese, onion, or milk. This frugal everyday diet was interspersed with feasting on special occasions such as weddings, funerals, Easter, and Christmas.
Rural family life was much more heavily influenced by religion than was urban society. Romanian Orthodoxy, rich in tradition, dictated the rhythm of life in a calendar of numerous holiday celebrations. Church attendance in rural areas far surpassed that in urban places. Most rural people viewed the civil marriage ceremony required by the state as a mere formality and lived together only after a church wedding. In addition, divorce was much less common in rural parts. Rural families spent a remarkable amount of free time in church and in church-related activities. The average sermon lasted more than three hours. Visiting, folk music, folk dancing, and listening to the radio were other popular activities. Urban families, on the other hand, exhibited more secularized values and were more likely to use their free time to pursue cultural activities.
Although industrialization, urbanization, and education did not eliminate the cultural gap between rural and urban Romania, these processes did narrow it. Rural-urban contact occurred daily though commuting, and the accoutrements of urban living trickled back to families even in the most remote areas. Furthermore, although the influence of religion was not eradicated, it certainly declined, especially in urban areas, creating an unforeseen problem. Surveys indicated that the socialist ethics and values that the state expected the educational system to instill had not filled the void left by fading religious values.
Data as of July 1989
Romania Table of Contents