Romania has a long history of co-operation.

Indeed, the first producer and service cooperative – “The Society of Shoemakers” – was founded in Bucharest in 1879.

And, Romania can also lay claim to being one of the founders of the International Co-operative Alliance.

Nearly two decades after the Society of Shoemakers was founded, Dimitrie C. Butculescu – who is referred to as a co-operator, man of culture, researcher and politician – was one of the Honorary Presidents of the founding Congress of the ICA in 1895. But it wasn’t until 1951 that the first Congress of handicraft cooperatives was held and UCECOM founded. “In the desert of the communist regime, handicraft cooperatives were an oasis of private capital and co-operatives suffered many injustices,” UCECOM writes.

The period between 1959 and 1962 was dire for the patrimony of the cooperatives, they shrank in number by 55 per cent. “About 440 handicraft cooperatives were transformed abusively, without any compensation, into republican and local industry state enterprises,” the association explains.

After the Revolution of 1989 handicraft activities continue to run in almost all the urban centers of the country and across all economic classes. These handicraft cooperatives produced, and continue to produce today, industrial and consumer goods for the domestic market and export, and a variety of services to the population and economic operators. These traditional activities include production of folk art articles and artistic crafts, all of which reflect the essence of the Romanian spirit.

IYC Yearbook feature: