Municipality of Novi Bečej, heir of the Faro Convention

In the spirit of shared heritage: Exploration and preservation of the cultural heritage of the Municipality of Novi Bečej alongside the significance of European heritage. This section represents a thorough analysis of the cultural treasures that adorn our municipality, while emphasizing its connection to the broader European context. Discover the rich tradition, architectural beauty, and cultural events that shape the identity of our community as we explore how heritage and innovation can together enrich our future. Through diverse texts, we delve into not only the wealth of heritage surrounding us but also the ways in which we preserve, revitalize, and share it with the world, bridging the past, present, and future.

Living with Heritage

This year, the Days of European Heritage are celebrated under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Information in the Government of the Republic of Serbia, for the fifteenth, jubilee time. The common theme of the event at the European level, chosen by the Council of Europe, "Cultural Heritage and Communities - Living with Heritage," is based on the principles of the Council of Europe Framework Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, known as the Faro Convention, adopted in 2005 with the aim of achieving greater unity among the member states of the Council of Europe in the preservation and enhancement of the concept of cultural heritage.

The Council of Europe is an international governmental organization that promotes the concept of cultural democracy and accessibility of common heritage to all European citizens, based on respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. The values and potentials of cultural heritage are significant resources for development and quality of life and require thoughtful use. The Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Convention in 2006, and the National Assembly ratified it in May 2009.
The Convention emphasizes the right of every individual to participate in activities related to cultural heritage as a form of the right to participate in cultural life, which is a fundamental human right established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations in 1948.
The Convention encourages citizens and decision-makers to actively and responsibly engage in the process of defining and managing cultural heritage, for the enjoyment of its benefits, adhering to the principle that every cultural heritage is valuable and represents a good basis for establishing and maintaining dialogue among cultures and religions, and cultural diversity constitutes the wealth of the European community of peoples.
The Convention represents continuity in the European process of developing cultural policy, building on the European Cultural Convention (1954), the European Convention on the Protection of the Architectural Heritage (1985), the European Convention on the Protection of Archaeological Heritage (1992), and the European Landscape Convention (2000).
Cultural heritage is identified as a set of resources inherited from the past that reflect and express tradition, beliefs, knowledge, and values that continuously evolve, and the community connected by heritage consists of individuals who value heritage and want to preserve and transmit it to future generations.
Decision-makers have an obligation to create conditions for defining the public interest proportional to the importance of cultural heritage, to establish an institutional framework for the preservation and protection of heritage through expert identification, valorization, study, interpretation, protection, preservation, and presentation, regardless of its origin, as well as a social and economic climate that will encourage activities related to cultural heritage and ensure the development strategy of all aspects of heritage.
Public authorities also have the task and increasingly the obligation to encourage volunteer initiatives as well as non-governmental organizations to act in the public interest in the field of heritage conservation by encouraging and accepting individual initiatives, organizing expert meetings and public forums for the exchange of views on the possibilities and obstacles contained in cultural heritage, to respect constructive criticism of heritage policy, thus achieving democratic accessibility and the right to heritage. It is particularly important to achieve accessibility to cultural heritage among young people and socially vulnerable groups to develop awareness of the values and significance of cultural heritage and the benefits it brings. Accessibility can be achieved by incorporating knowledge of cultural heritage into educational programs, and the entire educational system should establish strong links between general education and vocational training. The exchange of knowledge and skills in the educational system and beyond is a way of nurturing awareness of the significance of cultural heritage for societal development.
Therefore, it is necessary in the field of cultural heritage management to create a well-informed public administration that applies an integrated approach, develops and adopts legal, financial, and professional frameworks for coordinated and law-based action by all actors, and develops innovative ways of cooperation between the public and private sectors.
The sustainability of cultural heritage can be achieved by developing awareness among all social actors that decisions on changes to heritage can only be based on understanding its inherent cultural values; preservation must be based on the application of technical standards that take into account the specificities of heritage preservation and involve the use of materials, techniques, and skills derived from tradition, in high-quality work achieved through professional training, issuance of licenses and permits to individuals, companies, and institutions.

Organization of this year's central event marking the European Heritage Days has been entrusted to the Municipality of Novi Bečej, based on the assessment of the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia that this small community is a good example of how significant results can be achieved through the efforts of individuals and personal engagement. The theme, also the motto of this year's event, "Cultural Heritage and Community - Living with Heritage," can be vividly and convincingly illustrated through the actions of individuals from this community who are true adherents of the Faro Convention.

Two friends, Dragan Rauški and Saša Vojnović, who were later joined by Đorđe Popov, approximately of the same age, from the same place - Novo Miloševo, neighbors and like-minded individuals, began their concern for heritage and identity preservation as very young people, about twenty years ago. They directed their enthusiasm, energy, and drive towards the identification, valorization, protection, and presentation of heritage primarily from their own homeland, eventually expanding their interests and activities to the wider local community, the Municipality of Novi Bečej, which also includes the villages of Kumane and Bočar. Through their voluntary work and results, they eventually became part of decision-making bodies in the Municipality of Novi Bečej, assuming public authorities and responsibilities.

Their enthusiasm was based on the awareness of the richness of heritage contained in typical Vojvodina peasant houses with gables, yards, and gardens, agricultural tools, household items, furniture, mansions, and economic buildings, costumes, customs, skills, and crafts. They also directed their efforts towards nurturing pride in the legacy of significant historical figures who contributed to societal development despite the diversity of religions, languages, and cultures.

The initial driver of their voluntary engagement was the institutional activity on the preparation of the cultural heritage protection study of the Municipality of Novi Bečej, carried out in 1994 by the expert team of the Provincial Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, with the support of then young officials of the Local Community of Novo Miloševo in collecting data in the field about the richness of the cultural heritage fund. In return, the Institute sparked interest and awareness of the value of heritage and the need for joint efforts in its preservation and presentation among these "young lions" who, in the following years and decades, from voluntary to institutional participation in the bodies of local self-government, devised and implemented numerous projects.

The most significant projects, done in cooperation with the competent institutes for the protection of cultural monuments, provincial and Zrenjanin-based, are related to the heritage of Novo Miloševo and the Karačonji family - the project of relocating the chemical industry from the Karačonji mansion, the project of mansion restoration and reconstruction, projects of restoration and adaptation of economic buildings from the Karačonji complex: grain warehouse and barn into multipurpose spaces, publishing the results of monument reconnaissance and valorization, placing objects and spatial units under protection in the territory of the Municipality to support and collaborate on the implementation of a development project for the partial reconstruction, restoration, conservation, and presentation of the remains of the medieval basilica Arača, a cultural asset of exceptional importance, which has great development potential for the Municipality of Novi Bečej.

Young officials, driven by awareness of the richness of cultural heritage and developmental potentials, conceived and brought to readiness for implementation a project of a SPA center in Novo Miloševo, near the Karačonji mansion. The tourist potential of this complex is significant. The Municipality of Novi Bečej has developed a master plan and a comprehensive feasibility study for Novo Miloševo, where significant thermal water resources are located, recognized as a regional interest. The project considers possibilities of incorporating the mansion into the SPA center complex, which would provide funds for restoration, finding appropriate use, and ensuring sustainable development of the mansion. The complexity of the project requires support not only from local self-government, which is secured, but also from the Government of the Republic of Serbia as the project has a strategic character.

A special story is represented by the Žeravica Museum and its family members, father Milorad and son Čedomir, incredible enthusiasts of tractors and agricultural machinery who invested tremendous effort and exclusively their funds in the acquisition, repair, and regular maintenance of a remarkably rich collection numbering over 140 tractors, some of which are rare due to their age and technical characteristics, and some specimens represent a small number preserved in the whole world. Although these humble collectors do not seek society's help, the significance and uniqueness of this collection should attract all the attention of relevant institutions for the purpose of documenting, valorizing, and protecting the technical heritage collection.

The Tisa Watercolor Academy emerged spontaneously from the desire of architect Milorad Berbakov to gather his artist friends in communal gatherings and impressions recording about the Tisa River, its natural and man-made surroundings. The Academy lasted for over two decades thanks to the will and enthusiasm of individuals, upon which most cultural events in the Municipality of Novi Bečej rely. Initial ideas from individuals are accepted by a smaller or larger group of followers, and then by the community, developing them into events, museum collections, art colonies.

Watercolorists gathered around Miša Berbakov formed a closed group that, besides painting with watercolors where mistakes are not acknowledged and corrected, organized unforgettable gatherings on and around the Tisa River. The group changed, expanded, rejuvenated, and complemented, creating an enviable number of paintings that today constitute the collection of the Tisa Watercolor Academy.

The Novi Bečej Cultural Center and the Municipality continue to follow and support artists during the duration of the art colony. Artists continue to socialize, visit Novi Bečej and its surroundings, recording their impressions on paintings that become an integral part of cultural heritage.

The Vlahović family in Novo Miloševo demonstrates exceptional dedication to artistic and cultural creation, as well as publishing activities, having published around 300 titles. They nurture the tradition and concept of the historical multicultural Banat through the preservation of intangible heritage embodied in the specifics of language, customs, ways of thinking, and life of the people in Banat.

The Novi Bečej Tourist Organization organizes numerous cultural events, the most significant of which is the three-day "Gospojina" festival, which attracts a large number of young people from the wider region at the end of August.

The private tourist agency Arač Turizam, led by a young couple, the Links, who are IT professionals, have chosen to stay in their hometown instead of seeking opportunities in Budapest or another European city. They present the cultural heritage of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina to tourists from Serbia and Hungary. The civil association "Arač 95" significantly aids professional conservation institutions through their volunteer activities in researching, preserving, restoring, and presenting cultural heritage, contributing to the enrichment of the cultural heritage fund.

Every year, the Municipality of Novi Bečej allocates certain funds for cultural needs and, specifically, for the protection of cultural and natural heritage. It serves as an exemplary local self-government with a modern and versatile approach to its heritage, while fully cooperating and adopting the proposals of the professional conservation service.

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