"ZELENASI" - THE EARLIEST CREDITORS OF FARMERS IN SERBIA

Autor: Prof. Dragana Gnjatovic PhD

Summary: Trading Code of 1860 deprived farmers in Serbia of their passive capacity to incur liability by the bill of exchange. Thus when banking started to develop in the late 19th and the early 20th century, rural peasantry in Serbia remained unable to obtain in any legal manner a personal bill of exchange credit. At that time, the sole creditors of farmers were the usurers - or “Zelenasi” as they were colloquially called, actually translating into the “green-fingered loan sharks”. Encouraged by their high profits, “zelenasi” ventured into establishing shareholding banks in the provinces of the country. Farmers would be charged a triple or a four-fold interest rate higher than the maximum interest rate legally in force at that time in the country. The manic surge for founding small-scale provincial banks instigated a process of fragmentation and wide-spread dispersion of the banking capital in Serbia. This stood in contravention to all the processes of centralisation and aggregation of banking capital taking place at that time in Europe. The extreme measure of depriving farmers in Serbia of the passive capacity to incur liability by the bill of exchange was suspended only under the Law on the Privileged Agrarian Bank, passed in 1929.

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