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Starting with the first decades after the 1848 revolution, the emigration from Europe to America became a phenomenon. Only between 1870-1890 more that 10 million people left Europe. The highest level will be reached after 1890 when the central point of this exodus is moving in the agricultural countries of Europe: Italy, Russia and the Dual Monarchy of Austro-Hungary.

Unfortunately, the hungarian statistics will record the number of the emigrants only starting 1900. Between 1900-1914 the official number of the emigrants for the Banat's three counties [Temes, Torontal and Krasso-Soreny] will reach 153.653 persons [Torontal-82.574 emigrants; Temes-55.124; Krasso-Soreny-15.955]. The highest rate was reached in 1907 when 33.727 persons will leave the 3 counties1. For example, in this period 20% of Sacalaz’s inhabitants will emigrate! Only in 1906 from Jimbolia emigrated 787 people. 

After nationality in this period of time [1900-1914] we have: germans-89.455 emigrants; romanians-28.493; serbians-19.528; hungarians-10.623; others-5.554 persons. 

After the country of destination: USA-137.701 persons; Romania-5.509; Germany-4.814, other Balkan countries-4.093 emigrants.

If we will analyze the social structure of the emigrants we will see that mainly these were poor peasants. At the beginning of XX Century, 57,33% of the Banat rural population were agricultural proletarian4. For example, in 1902, 5.348 persons from Temes and Torontal were applying for passport. From these, 3.314 were zilieri2. In 1903, for the same 2 counties, the numbers are 12.348 emigrants [from which 6.098 were zilieri].

This is something expected; the emigration from the "contracting" villages3 started already at the beginning of the 1870's. For example, between 1872-1912, the population of the villages Uihei, Brestea and Sannmihaiu German diminish with 6,3%, 11,4% and 30,1%. For the land owners is was much cheaper to use machines for farming instead of human labor. According to a calculation made by the land agent Peter Ottlik from Izvin, in the first years of XX Century, the expanses for mechanic reaping of 1 Joch/iugar of corn was 7-8 crowns. The cost of manual reaping was double: 15-16 crowns. Due to these conditions, the landowners could impose [during the winter when the food was not enough and the peasants were forced to make new loans] their conditions of payment for the next year. This was not a problem in the first half of the XIX Century when the daily payment for a zilier work was 2 florin in harvest time and 1 florin in the rest of the year. But after 1860, their situation will worsen and they will become the main candidates for emigration.   


Why & How Did the Banaters Become Poor?

At the end of XVIII Century and up to 1818 in Europe exists a maximum demand of cereals [which will lead also to an explosion of the prices] caused by the French revolution and the Napoleonian's wars. This will lead to a flourished of the agriculture in Banat [especially of the cereals production] until 1813-1814 when the crops were very poor and a big hunger break out. Until the 1848 revolution, the Banat agriculture will stagnate. Then, due the Crimean War [1853-1856], when for 3 years all the russian exports to Europe are removed and due the catastrophic inundation from Tisa plain [1854-1855], the wheat form Banat was without any concurrence on the european market. The prices will rise quickly; on 31.05.1850 in Timisoara's market was paid 11/12 florin for 125,06 l [=cibla in romanian] of wheat. In 2 years time the price was double! In May 1854 the price was 33-35 florin for 61,5 l of wheat. Even if in the autumn of 1856 the price will fall to 3-4 florin, and remain at this price until 1859, the very poor harvest from England [in 1860] and France [in 1861] will raise again the demand of cereals from Banat.

In these conditions, the farmers will make big loans from banks [and moneylenders!] in order to buy machines and take bigger surfaces in lease. And in the Banat agriculture a big change occurs: the prevalence of the extensive mono-culture. And this will lead to big problems during the next half of century. It is very interesting to observe that was a time disparity between the time when the demands for agricultural products was big and the time of increase at the price of lease. In the first years of the '50, the price of lease was not so big and the products obtained would be enough to pay back the loans and the interests.

We have the diary of Mathias Siebold from Dudestii Noi; he was a common peasant with a farm of half of sesie6 and in 1859 loaned another half. From 21-24 iugare6 he would obtain 350 measurements [21.520-21.885 l] of wheat. For bread and seed he kept 90 measurements, for other expenses will earmark 50 measurements and would sell approximately 200 measurements. In 1859, the price of one measurements of wheat was 10 florins in February and 20 florins in August. If we take a medium price of 13 florins/measurement, this means that Mathias Siebold obtained an annual average of 2.600 florins in 1859. Big money for that time! But this perspective of enrichment will carry some hidden dangers for the future of banater's farm.

The increase of the land cultivated with cereals and new leases will increase spectacular the quantities; between 1850 and 1858, the wheat production will increase of 2,2 time; the oat/2,96 time; barley/1,46 time; maize/2,77 time. These increases were obtained extensively, by the increase of the surfaces of land cultivated.

The first "shock" will came in 1863-1864 when in Banat was a heavy dryness. In this year a lot of livestock was lost and new loans were made. To come out of the crises, the peasants did not see other solution than increase further the cultivated surfaces of land. Instead they obtain an increase of their debts because, due the occurrence of an "over production", the prices will not cover the loans and the interests! So, in the next 2 decades the situation will became desperate. Starting with the second half of '60's, the american cereals will flooded the european markets with cheep cereals and the Banat was "kicked" by some natural catastrophes [inundation in 1870-1871], the supra-production from 1872 or by the financial crisis from 1873. This year [1873] starts with the crass of banks from Vienna and Budapest and the "wave" will arrive quickly in Timisoara where 3 banks [from 5] will close their doors and the total loses were more that 7 million florins. Due the lack of the capital, the banks were forced to urge the pay-of the debts. So, the peasants were forced to liquidate their farms. We do not have complete statistics about the number of the farms liquidated in Banat due their debts, but only in 1882 their number was 15.000! This will lead to the increase of the proletarian workers in agriculture and to the increase of the number of potential emigrants. Even the 1882 harvest was excellent, the surfaces of land cultivated with wheat and maize will increase continuously up to 70% from the total surface of land in Timis and Torontal at the end of XIX Century. In this time we assists to an accentuate diminishing of the productivity with 27% up to 55% [from 11 maji of wheat/Joch in 1850-'60 to only 6-8 in 1890-1990]. So, at the end of XIX Century, in Banat existed almost 50.000 zilieri and servants and more than 38.000 farms [23,24%] with less then 5 Joch of land. This large number of the agricultural proletariat explains very well the mass emigration phenomena at the end of XIX Century-beginning of XX Century.

A lot of these emigrants dreamed to return to Banat with money and buy land here. Unfortunately, the statistics on the emigrants which will return to Banat are kept only starting 1905; between 1905-1914 their number was 31.265 [21.443 in Torontal County, 9.322 in Temes County and 860 in Krasso-Soreny County]. Their nationality was: germans- 16.637, romanians-5901, hungarians-1.824, serbs-597, others-1.287.

In lot of cases these emigrants will first forwarded a lot of money in Banat [trough the existing banks] in order to pay their debts and buy land. It is well known the Varias case5 where these emigrants forecasted over 1 million crowns before their return home. But this is already another story7



"The Problem of the Immigrant" by James Davenport Whelpley, London, 1905
Hungary's Emigration Law from 1903
Hungary's Emigration Regulations: Emigration Discouraged. Only One Route From Hungary


[1] the dates are to be found in Lajos Kakucs’s book "Contributii la istoria agriculturii din Banat; sec. XVIII-XIX", Editura Mirton, Timisoara, ed. 1998;

[2] zilier (romanian) = worker engaged and paid "by day";

[3] in romanian "sate contractualiste"; there were 41 such villages in Banat raised at the beginning of the XVIII Century;

[4] according with a statistics issued in 1895, the farms having between 20-100 Joch/iugar of land represents only 10,65% from the total number of Banat farms and these hold 27,25% of the agricultural land. In the same year, 38.019 farmstead [23,24% from the total number of farms existing in the 3 Banat counties: Temes, Torontal and Krasso-Soreny] had less then 5 Joch/iugar of land.

[5] see Karoly Berger's book "Temes varmegye gazdasagi viszonayai es gazdalkodasi rendszerei",  Budapest, ed. 1907, page 20. 

[6] 1 Session (Ansassigkeit)=4 Viertel-four quarters=1 Joch/iugar=0,575 Hektar [Ha] =1,43 acres
      1/2 Session (Halbe Ansassigkeit)=2 Viertel-two quarters=1/2 Joch

      1 Joch (Tagwerk) zu 1.600 Quadratklafter=0,575 Hektar=1,43 acres.

      1 Joch/iugar = 1600 Wiener Klfter2/stanjeni vienezi2=5751,7 m2

[7] The emigrants will bring also new ideas with them; in 1907, in Varias, several immigrants who returned from USA will raise an apricot tree cooperative farm [named "The Cooperative for the Cultivation of Apricot Trees from Varias"]. The Anton and Gillich families, who controlled also the activity of the Agricultural Bank from Varias, conducted this initiative. The 42 members of the cooperative had 120 equal shares and, from juridical point of view, they had unlimited responsibilities. The enterprise was sustained also with a loan of 155.000 crowns given by the Agricultural Bank from Varias and a prize of 1.000 crowns given by the Agricultural Ministry of the time. In the first year the farm was organized in "capitalist way". An administrator-supervisor was engaged to deal with the current problems. The land was rented and all the work was done using laborers paid in cash. The 20.640 apricot trees were planted in 1908. Between these young trees, in the first years, sugar beet was cultivated. In the short existence of this enterprise [between 1908-1916], two "big” crops were obtained. In 1913 the crop will bring a "clean" income of 47.423 crowns, which will cover all the expenses made from the beginning of the farm. In the years of WWI, due the lack of labor force and a factoring facility, the cooperative will have some financial problems and in 1916 will be liquidated.