Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History

Explore the extraordinary past of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through the pages of the book 'Novi Bečej and Vranjevo through History.' Uncover political events, economic development, and cultural heritage of these Banat towns through richly documented stories. Follow the evolution from the earliest days to the present, delving into the intricate threads of political intrigues, economic transformations, and cultural ascensions. Experience the past through the eyes of the author as the pages of the book unfold before you, providing a unique perspective on the life and legacy of these significant locales.

Craftsmanship in Vojvodina: Development and Role Throughout History

Craftsmanship in Vojvodina: Development and Role Throughout History

Old travelogues and Turkish defters indicate that Serbs played a significant role as traders in the regions beyond the Sava and Danube even under the Turks, but very little is known about Serbian craftsmen from that period. Information about them only appears in the 18th century, which doesn't mean that craftsmanship among Serbs didn't exist in those regions much earlier.

Craftsmen, even under the Turks and later, organized themselves into guilds (esnafs), which was the case throughout Europe. Each craftsman had to belong to a specific guild and adhere to its statutes and rules. Only organized craftsmen—esnafs—were allowed to sell their products in shops in the marketplace and at fairs. The marketplace was divided into various crafts. In places where there were few craftsmen, two or three related crafts would unite into one guild.

The statutes or rules of the guilds bound their members with strict obligations, but also suppressed competition and ensured their livelihood. Among other things, these statutes cared for the professional solidarity and morality of their members. For instance, enticing another craftsman's customer was prohibited; a craftsman couldn't take over work begun by another master; trading in another craftsman's goods was forbidden, and so forth.

Preserved rules of the Serbian tailoring guild in Buda from 1695 include obligations for each master to fear God, to be honest and clean, and not to swear. There was no place in the guild for brawlers and coarse individuals. If a guild member was caught in adultery or fornication, they were expelled from the guild. Every member, no later than a year after acquiring the master's right, had to get married. An apprentice had to respect the master, refrain from smoking in front of him, be polite in behavior, not drink more than one glass of wine standing, not associate with coachmen and loafers, etc.

Primitive life and vast expanses of free land, coupled with a small population left in Banat after the expulsion of the Turks, all provided ideal conditions for the population to engage almost exclusively in agriculture. In villages, natural production prevailed, with almost all the needs of the population in clothing, footwear, and furniture, if it could be considered furniture, being met by the work of household members. Spahis were no exception to this when it came to landlords, while nobles met their needs in Pest and Vienna, or in the worst case, in larger cities such as Segedin and Timișoara. This state of affairs persisted until the mid-nineteenth century.

During the time of the Turks, Serbs had trades such as tailors (kabaničari), leather craftsmen (jorgandžije), candle makers (mumdžije), soap makers (sapundžije), cobblers, and bootmakers.

Serbs' lack of interest in trades resulted in the migration of craftsmen from elsewhere. After the establishment of the Veliki Bečkerek District, the protocols of the magistrates contain complaints from certain senators that craftsmen neglect, and even abandon, their trades and turn to agriculture, thus endangering the District's supply of craftsmen. Therefore, Judge Jovan Avakumović on December 21, 1790, warns the district magistrates that craftsmen, neglecting their trades, undermine efforts to increase their numbers by admitting new immigrant craftsmen. Therefore, it was decided that craftsmen who received the right of settlement (inkolat) would not be given arable land so that agriculture would not divert them from craftsmanship.

Measures were taken in the Veliki Bečkerek District to increase the number of craftsmen. For example, during the examination of pupil masses (orphans) on December 11, 1801, the magistrates condemned the negligence of caregivers in villages, allowing capable orphans to engage in agricultural work and suffer deprivation in their early youth. To ensure better care and upbringing of orphans, instructions were issued to caregivers, foreseeing that male orphans, especially those with decent inheritance, as soon as they finish elementary school, are sent for further education or apprenticeship in trades and commerce, according to their abilities and inclinations.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, or more precisely in 1822, among others, the following craftsmen appeared: tailors, shoemakers, and button weavers, and in Vranjevo in 1828: rope makers, furriers, tailors, cobblers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, locksmiths, coopers, glassmakers, weavers, chimney sweepers, butchers, soap makers, and saddlers.

According to the data, Vranjevo had 72 craftsmen in 1862, of which 50 were Serbs, including: 6 blacksmiths, 1 carpenter, 15 furriers, 1 rope maker, 4 tailors, 3 cobblers, 1 locksmith, 1 slipper maker, 4 harness makers, 3 barbers, 2 female and 2 male tailors, 1 soap maker, and 1 cooper. Besides Serbs and Hungarians, there were also Vlach craftsmen in the first half of the nineteenth century. Thus, the cobbler Teodor Varzić and Kosta Dimović and the carpenter Grigorije Varža are mentioned.

According to the census of 1781, there were a total of 71 watermills (suvačas) in the Veliki Bečkerek District, of which 17 were in Kikinda, 13 in Mokrin, 12 in Melenci, and 9 in Vranjevo. By 1847, this number had increased to 252. It is assumed that this increase in Vranjevo was greater than the corresponding share according to the total number in 1781, as Vranjevo progressed faster than other places in the District, and moreover, the population grew faster than in other places, except Kikinda.

In addition to the suvačas, Novi Bečej and Vranjevo also had watermills, which used the flow of the Tisa River to power millstones for grinding. Watermills, as will be seen in the chapter on transportation, impeded or hindered the navigation of ships because they were pulled by teams of horses that went along the shore.

Due to the increase in population, the need for grain milling grew steadily. Therefore, alongside watermills and suvačas, windmills were also constructed. Windmills had greater capacity than suvačas and even watermills, and their moving energy source was free. Consequently, windmills gradually displaced suvačas and watermills. They were cheaper than suvačas and easier to maintain than watermills, which were threatened by ice during winter and flooding in spring. Windmills remained in use until the Second World War. In Vranjevo, until the 1920s, there were three windmills in Utrine (today's Novo Selo across the railway line), and in Novi Bečej, a windmill persisted for a long time, located just behind the Serbian cemetery in the direction of the railway line, where the administrative building of the construction company Jedinstvo stands today.

Besides suvačas and windmills, oil mills were also significant, used for extracting edible oil from rapeseed. Oil mills, like suvačas, utilized horse-drawn power to operate grinding stones and presses for oil extraction. There were four or five oil mills in Vranjevo and Novi Bečej.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a growing demand for lime as a building material, prompting Milan Kimpan from Novi Bečej to build a lime kiln with three furnaces in 1911, on the road to Kumane. The lime kiln operated until 1926 when, due to financial difficulties Kimpan faced, production ceased. Later, perhaps in 1928, a German named Georg Petri built a new lime kiln across the railway line in Novi Bečej, at the approximate location of today's mill and silo. This lime kiln had two furnaces and operated until the Second World War. The renowned Novi Bečej bricklayer Farkaš built a new lime kiln on the road to Kumane in 1936, which had two furnaces. It also operated until the Second World War.

Until the Second World War, craftsmanship played a significant role in Vojvodina, and consequently in Novi Bečej. It was only then that the footwear and clothing industry (ready-to-wear) began to emerge. There was also no furniture industry or construction carpentry; all these needs were met through craftsmanship.

At that time, there was a different attitude towards consumption and a different understanding of quality, which significantly influenced the demand for artisanal services. Good quality of a product meant good material and solid craftsmanship, guaranteeing the durability of the goods. Today, quality is defined by fashion requirements in terms of shape, color, pattern, and practicality, with durability taking a back seat. Despite poor material, many personal use products are discarded without wearing out, merely because they become outdated.

Footwear was worn for a long time until the Second World War. Rarely did anyone have more than two pairs of shoes, and a peasant had only one pair of clogs. Everything was repaired until the cobbler said that any further repair was pointless. The same was true for clothing, pots, pans, stoves, locks, and all other items, hence the great need for craftsmen who would mend, repair, and thus extend the lifespan of consumer products.

To understand the role of craftsmen in the life of the population until the Second World War, here is an overview of craft shops in various locations within the Novi Bečej district. For Novi Bečej and Vranjevo, in addition to individual data, aggregate data for each type of craft are provided.

Craftsmen in Novi Bečej (considering the period between the two World Wars) were generally serious and hardworking individuals, as was characteristic of the majority of Novi Bečej residents, regardless of occupation or social status. This is quite understandable because in conditions of fierce competition and relatively weak purchasing power of the population, only hardworking individuals could sustain themselves. Users of artisanal services, or buyers of their products, were mainly locals, which obliged the craftsmen to be reliable since they had to count on that customer not just once, but repeatedly. Reputation was earned and maintained through the quality of services and goods and fair treatment of customers.

The fact that the majority of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo craftsmen were such speaks volumes, as they kept their shops running as long as they were capable of performing their tasks, and there were quite a few who passed their businesses down to their sons.

Modesty was a common characteristic among craftsmen. Those who overvalued their work or product couldn't survive.

The role of craftsmanship in the economy of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo is evident from the number of craft shops and the fact that three hundred and eight families made a living from artisanal services, which means that more than fifteen hundred residents were supported by craftsmanship (assuming that one household had an average of five members). If we add the number of assistants and apprentices who found work in those shops, then the number should be further increased. In 1938-39, there were 288 assistants and one hundred apprentices in craft shops in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo, confirming that more than 10% of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo's population lived off craftsmanship and that the influence of craftsmanship on the development of other areas of the economy and superstructure was significant.

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