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.

The Position of Serbs in Banat before the Turkish Conquest

After the fall of Smederevo in 1459, Turkish troops invaded the southern regions of Hungary, devastating settlements near the Sava and Danube rivers. Due to these incursions, the border of Hungary was almost deserted. Serbian nobles, residing in areas constantly exposed to Turkish invasions, sought help from the Hungarian government, but it was never granted. For a whole century, Serbian troops were almost exclusively at the forefront of the Hungarian army. Privileges granted to Serbs by the authorities just before war or other decisive moments were revoked once the danger subsided, rendering similar promises ineffective later on. Enthusiasm was lacking, primarily due to fatigue and exhaustion, as well as the realization that it was all mere deception. The idea of Christianity fighting against Muslims no longer held the same significance for Serbs.

The expansion of the Turkish empire in these regions was particularly significant for the feudal system. The Turks abolished nobility and feudal relationships. Fratar Đorđe (Utješinović), the bishop of Nándorfehérvár, wrote to King Ferdinand regarding promises made by Mehmed-pasha to the Serbs, assuring that the pasha would not inflict harm, allow them to use their lands, and protect them from any injustice. "The impoverished people easily believe in such promises because their only desire is to be free, without realizing that they will be in worse slavery under the Turks. We ourselves provide the cause for such sentiments as we exploit the peasants to such an extent that, apart from their wives and children, they can claim nothing else as their own."

In the initial stages of building their empire, the Turks behaved relatively tolerantly toward the conquered peoples. The Ottomans allowed the inhabitants of the conquered areas to continue living according to their customs and traditions. Religious tolerance was such, especially during the early period of their rule in Serbian lands and parts of Hungary, as was not known in Western Europe. Hence, the acceptance of Serbs alongside the Turks. During this time, the Serbs achieved one of their greatest political successes by restoring the Patriarchate. The renewal of the Patriarchate of Peć in 1557 brought together all Serbs from Thessaloniki to Buda in a religious, ethnic, political, and cultural community. It is considered that in such a community, the Serbian people were more united than in the empire of Dušan himself. The restoration of the Patriarchate of Peć in 1557 is one of the most significant events in Serbian history.

The Turkish policy aimed to win over the conquered peoples to facilitate further conquests, and their ambitions extended to Europe, especially Western Europe. The immediate plan was the conquest of Vienna. For such goals, a stable background was needed. To cover vast distances from their core territory, they had to ensure the regular supply of the army with food and other necessities, presupposing the normal functioning of the economy and life in the conquered regions, as the transportation means and roads of that time were not suitable for long-distance logistics.

Understanding this situation justifies and aligns perfectly with such a policy, leading Mehmed-pasha Sokolović to command the army advancing towards Erdelj. Mehmed Sokolović, originally a Serb from the border of Bosnia, taken to Istanbul as a boy to become a Janissary, completed his education and rose to the court of Suleiman the Magnificent as a silihdar. He progressed rapidly and, after returning from the Persian-Turkish war (1549), became the beylerbey of Rumelia, holding command of the Turkish army that would march on Erdelj.

The Turks considered that the predominantly Serbian population in Banat would make it easier, with Sokolović, to conquer Banat and smoothly advance into Erdelj with minimal effort. Some historians attribute greater significance to Mehmed-pasha Sokolović not forgetting his origins, claiming that this led to the restoration of the Patriarchate of Peć, with his brother Makarije appointed as patriarch. In correspondence with Hungarian magnates, Mehmed-pasha exclusively used the Serbian language and Cyrillic script.

Upon the arrival of the Turks, only Serbs remained in the flat part of Banat. After the Battle of Mohács and the fall of Buda, Serbs from other parts of Hungary also settled in Banat. Considering this situation, the Turks did everything to win over the Serbian population in Banat, even introducing the Serbian language as semi-official. Mehmed-pasha probably had patriotic feelings, but there is no doubt that the main role was played by the Ottoman Turkish policy towards the conquered peoples, contributing to the successful implementation of that policy. It would be hard to believe that Sokolović would act based on personal or national motives. Converts to Islam had to constantly prove their loyalty, demonstrating that they were more devoted to the Ottoman Empire than the true Ottomans themselves.

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