chapter  17
15 Pages

Katherine Verdery 'Caritas' and the Reconceptualization of Money in Romania

The present essay deals with one way in which people in formerly socialist Romania began learning to think differently about money and ‘the economy’. It is a pyramid scheme called ‘Caritas’, a scheme that achieved astonishing proportions between its inauguration in Transylvania in April 1992 and its collapse two years later. One of a large number of such schemes that appeared not just in Romania but in Russia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and many other countries in the region after 1989,2

Caritas surpassed these in magnitude, partly because of its special connections with the nationalist Party of Romanian National Unity (PRNU), headed by Gheorghe Funar. As mayor of the Transylvanian city of Cluj, where Caritas set up its headquarters soon after its founding,3 Funar openly welcomed its ‘patron’, Ioan Stoica, and rented him space right in city hall. This location helped build credibility, as many depositors assured me. Among Funar’s motives in supporting Caritas were his attempt to gain greater visibility and more financial resources for his party, which was at the time seeking greater leverage within Romania’s governing coalition.4