Archives of Memories: Presentations of the History of Novi Bečej through Anecdotes, Photographs and Untold Stories

Breathe life into the forgotten stories of Novi Bečej through our rich collection of articles dedicated to people and events from the past. Travel through the ages, exploring the colorful array of historical moments that shaped our city. Here, memories and reality meet, bringing old streets, stories and events to life through interesting anecdotes, untold legends and rare photographs. Experience Novi Bečej from a new angle, through the eyes of the past that shaped our present, while we try to preserve the spirit and heritage that makes our city unique.

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Short History of Novi Bečej

It is very challenging to briefly present the rich political, cultural, primarily multi-ethnic and multi-confessional history of our town, risking repeating much that may be known to you. However, I will attempt to convey what, in my opinion, is most important for our place in historical terms.

On the banks of the Tisza River, living in these areas was likely challenging and beautiful three millennia before the new era, as evidenced by archaeological Neolithic remains from around three thousand years BC at Matejski brod, and later from the Bronze Age at Borđoš, Šimuđ, and others. The first written sources date back to the 11th century, precisely to the year 1091. Though it cannot be definitively confirmed that this charter refers to our Bečej, it describes the Vandals plundering the Kumans, led by a certain Kapolča, likely crossing the Tisza around that location.

More reliable information about our Bečej is mentioned in a charter from Hungarian King Béla IV in 1238. Turbulent medieval times, particularly marked by the Crusades, heightened the importance of strategic and economic control over the crossing of the Tisza in these areas. The religious significance was also noteworthy, as witnessed by the construction of the magnificent Arača church, whose remains are still protected by UNESCO.

For the control of the Tisza crossing near Novi Bečej, where trade and especially the export of grain to the West thrived in the Middle Ages, a fortified town was built in the 14th century. Hungarian kings often bestowed this fortress upon their nobility, and for a time, it was held by Despot Stefan Lazarević, with Serbian Despot Đurađ Branković spending his old age there, enjoying the Tisza and hunting.

The mighty Turkish army, during its European campaign, captured the Bečej fortress on September 19, 1551, burning Arača in the process, later converting it into a mosque. The Turks themselves recognized the importance of the fortified town and its role in controlling navigation on the Tisza and crossing precisely there, where significant revenues could be generated. The renowned Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi, touring these areas in the 17th century, wrote that the "city on the Tisza is wonderful, rectangular, covering an area of 500 steps." He praised the inhabitants as very hospitable, and the town as pleasant and beautiful, with many gardens and vineyards.

After the Great Vienna War, and by the decisions of the peace treaties in Sremski Karlovci in 1699, this fortress was to be demolished, which unfortunately was conscientiously done in 1701.

From the mid-18th century, the development of two settlements near the fortress began - Vranjevo and Novi Bečej. Disbanded Serbian border guards who did not go to Imperial Russia founded the new settlement of Vranjevo in 1751, which became part of the Veliki Kikinda district. They now became important exporters of Banat grain, while the Novi Bečej settlement was populated mainly by Hungarian paupers working under the patronage of the Sisanji estate.

In the 19th century, both settlements experienced a certain civilization boom, especially with the construction of the railway in 1884. Novi Bečej and Vranjevo gained importance economically when a passenger river port was built. In 1872, a ship carrying Emperor Franz Joseph docked here, and he was particularly impressed by the Biserno Ostrvo wine, which he later frequently enjoyed.

For the industrial development of Novi Bečej, the coming decades would be crucial, not only with the construction of mills but also in 1907 with the establishment of a brick and tile factory by the Bon brothers.

It is worth mentioning the significant cultural tradition present in our town's history. For instance, even before the establishment of the Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad in 1861, there was an amateur theater company in Vranjevo.

Many significant personalities were born and lived in Novi Bečej. Besides well-known figures like composer Josif Marinković, theater scholar Joca Savić, Russian aircraft designer Ognjeslav Kostović, priest and academician Jene Sentklarai (Eugen Nedić), I would mention some names: Count Karolj Leiningen, son-in-law of Novi Bečej, who was executed in Arad after the 1848 revolution; Damaskin, or Dimitrije Branković, archimandrite of Krušedol Monastery and rector of the Karlovac Seminary; Bishop of Bačka Nikanor Iličić; Ljubomir Pavlović, physician and delegate in the Hungarian Parliament; lawyer and philanthropist Vladimir Glavaš; lawyer Vladimir Majinski; actress Draginja Ružić; the last ban of the Danube Banovina, Milorad Vlaškalin; teacher Žarko Čiplić; banker and printer Giga Jovanović; physician Oskar Sauer; photographer Konstantin Vukov; notary Jovan Pivnički; pharmacist Laslo Gulovič, and many, many others.

Between the two World Wars, Russian emigrants also left a significant cultural legacy when the women's Kharkov Institute, founded in Imperial Russia in 1812, was revived in Novi Bečej by the decision of the educational authorities of the Kingdom of SHS.

In the period between the two World Wars in 1929, there was an idea to administratively merge these two settlements, but the people of Vranjevo did not want that. Nevertheless, the merger occurred after the Second World War in 1946, when the settlement got a new name, Vološinovo, and only in 1952 did it adopt the name it bears today.

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