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.

Social hierarchy and serfdom as the foundation of the 18th and 19th-century feudalism

In the county of Torontal in 1785, there were only 108 nobles, but just fifty years later, the number rose to 976, which is nine times more. Despite this rapid increase, the number of nobles was relatively small compared to the entire Monarchy, but they were wealthier than those in other counties.

On the hierarchical scale, following the nobility, there was the clergy. According to the 1785 census in Banat, there were 236 priests, exclusively Orthodox. According to regulations, every hundred households could have one priest, and the lord took care of their livelihood by assigning a tax-exempt session and lordly burdens. In case there were excess priests in a place, they managed their own lands like other peasants, paying taxes to both the state and their lord.

New Becej in 1758 had three priests for only seventy-three households. Vranjevo, immediately after settling by the border guards, also had three priests for only one hundred fifty families, while Melenci had five parish priests, and so on.

It seems that the priestly vocation was lucrative when so many and very young people opted for it. In New Becej, three priests were found, although one could easily handle all the duties. What is particularly characteristic is that they got married very young, with records showing marriages at the age of sixteen or seventeen (Orthodox priests cannot be ordained until they marry), so young individuals resorted to marriage only to secure a parish.

The priestly vocation seemed profitable, especially in larger parishes, as indicated by the request of the municipal registrar Aleksandar Jovanovic of Vranjevo on March 20, 1802, asking the Magistrate to recommend him to the bishop and consistory for his deceased father's parish. His father had been a parish priest in Vranjevo for forty years. Given Jovanovic's respectable and sober life as a registrar, and considering the municipality's desire for him as their priest, the Magistrate recommended him to the bishop and consistory.

Vranjevo, then as now, had three parishes. In Torontal County in 1836, there were seventy-one Orthodox and fifty-one Catholic parishes. Evangelicals had four, Calvinists two parishes, and Jews three synagogues.

On the third step of the social hierarchy in Torontal County were the horaciores, including state and county officials, doctors, lawyers, judges, professors, and prominent officials of certain manors. Their number was only sixty-two in 1785, but it increased to eight hundred eighty in 1846.

Citizens and craftsmen represented the next class, but in Torontal County, only craftsmen were listed, numbering 287 in 1785 and 3,645 in 1846.

Peasants comprised 98% of the population of Torontal County, forming a unique social class. Their status was determined by both feudal and urbarial law on the one hand, and privileges in the Veliko-Kikinda District on the other. In this case, both are of interest because Novi Becej was a manor, and Vranjevo was part of the District.

For the land granted for use, peasants were obliged, in addition to a portion of the yield, to provide labor to the lord. There were two types of peasants: those who, according to the Urbar regulations, gained a legal status that lords could not expel them from their land, and others, called "contractualists," whose rights were regulated by a contract. After the contract expired, the lord could take away their land, which often happened since landowners were landlords. The Hungarian Royal Chancellery strongly condemned such actions because, in 1823, entire villages were evicted from their homes and land. A similar incident occurred in New Becej in 1788 when the lord took land from 155 peasants.

Peasants with sessions lived better than those with less land because the wheat market offered opportunities for enrichment. Despite significant feudal obligations, the position of peasants in Torontal County was considered the most favorable in all of Hungary. Taxes, both state and lordly, were the lowest, and the land was the most fertile.

At the bottom of the hierarchy were the inkvilini, representing rural poverty - the proletariat. According to regulations from 1779 to 1848, inkvilini were considered not only those who (initially) did not own land and a house but also rural craftsmen and merchants.

In Torontal County, there were even entire villages of a thousand to two thousand inkvilini who cultivated and managed thousands of acres of land. This means that in Banat, inkvilini were more a layer with an unregulated legal status than exclusively rural poverty.

Day laborers were recruited from the inkvilini class. In the early 19th century, they sought jobs in nearby market towns. The number of day laborers was particularly high in New Becej and its surroundings, where the grain trade offered significant work opportunities.

The basis of feudal society was serfdom. In the Tisa Banat region, there were three types of serfs: state, lordly, and local.

State serfdom was utilized for transporting the army, transporting salt, repairing and constructing state buildings, building roads, embankments, and draining swampy land.

Spahi serfdom: A peasant with a full session was responsible for sixty days of serfdom with a four-horse team; a peasant with half a session had fifty-two days with a two-horse team; a peasant with a quarter session had eighteen days with a one-horse team; a peasant with an eighth session had ten days with a one-horse team. Inkvilini and day laborers were required to perform twelve days of manual serfdom.

State and spahi serfdom were compensated in minimal amounts. The only relief was the "instruction" that during summer agricultural work, serfdom could be performed for a maximum of two days per week.

Otherwise, the working hours on serfdom lasted from sunrise to sunset, with breaks for breakfast, lunch, and a snack, during which work was interrupted for one hour.

Local serfdom consisted of building and repairing roads, bridges within the municipal territory, maintaining and constructing churches, schools, and keeping night watch in the village. This serfdom was also determined in proportion to the size of the session.

Banat serfdom was twice as high as provided for by the Hungarian serfdom system at that time, but unlike that system, the chamber (camera) paid for the serfdom, which was not the case in the Hungarian serfdom system.

An overview of the annual serfdom of a peasant on the Bilets manor in Torontal County (in the Romanian part of Banat) with a full session in 1802: Andrija Martincev from Neuzina:

- Fifteen days for transporting grain to Novi Becej,
- Eight days for transporting chamber officials to Idvor and Konak,
- Three days for unloading the boat in Perlez,
- Four days for bringing a lawyer from Vel. Becskerek,
- Two days for carrying tiles,
- One day for transporting millet,
- Two days for mowing grass,
- Two days for carrying grass.

Out of a total of forty-five days of serfdom, thirty-seven were spent on transportation, and only eight days on agricultural work.

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