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.

Turkish Conquest of Novi Bečej and Banat

After the conclusion of the war with Persia at the end of 1549, Suleiman shifted the focus of his policy back to Hungary, specifically Transylvania. In February 1551, he demanded the payment of overdue tribute and the surrender of Bečej and Bečkerek, along with other cities in Banat.

The Hungarian parliament rejected the demand for the surrender of Bečej and Bečkerek. In the early summer of 1551, General Kastaldo arrived in Banat with a weak military force and captured fortified places such as Bečej, Bečkerek, Timișoara, and others. Aldan's 400 horsemen, 2000 hussars led by Andrija Batori, 1000 Serbian horsemen, and 100 hajduks arrived in Timișoara. The Turks, informed through their contacts, ordered Rumelian Beylerbey Mehmed Sokolović to capture the fortified places in Banat.

While the Turkish army gathered and prepared for the campaign, the situation on the Hungarian side was very poor. The country was exhausted from war and dynastic conflicts, fortresses were neglected, and their repair was undertaken "only when it was time to face the enemy." The lack of seriousness in defense preparations is evident in the fact that Batori and Nadaždi fortified Bečej and Bečkerek with 500 horsemen only when an immediate danger arose.

Bečej Fortress was in a bad state. The town had been abandoned even before the arrival of the Turks, and the guard withdrew into the fortress. At the last moment, Andrija Batori sent his deputy, István Lošonci, to organize the defense of Bečej and reinforce the garrison. This reinforcement consisted of 100 infantry and 100 cavalry. However, Lošonci returned to Timișoara before the battle.

Arad Castellan Mihajlo Harašti, having converted the Benedictine monastery in Arača into a fortress, sought reinforcements in personnel and ammunition. At the same time, he asked for help from Lošonci and Bečkerek Castellan Lovro Balog. All these last-minute efforts were in vain.

The area the Turks attacked was mainly populated by Serbs, but they could no longer be motivated to fight by any promises. On September 15, 1551, Mehmed Pasha besieged Bečej with ten cannons. The Bečej garrison, commanded by Tomaš Sentanaji and Figedi, held out bravely, even launching an assault on the Turks and inflicting heavy losses. The fight lasted for four days, and on September 19, between Friday and Saturday night, the battle raged all night. Only at dawn did the Turks penetrate the fortress and massacre everyone inside.

While the battle was still ongoing, Bečej's commander Tomaš Santanaji and his assistants Gabriel Figedi, Emerih Nađ, and Janoš Sentimreji went to the Turkish camp to negotiate surrender terms. The Turkish conditions were unacceptable to the Bečej negotiators, who wanted to return and continue defending the city. However, despite the promise given, Mehmed Pasha prevented their return. The entire Turkish army attacked the city, capturing it. The garrison of three to four hundred Hungarians, along with their commanders, was slaughtered to the last man.

Thus, on September 19, 1551, the Turks conquered the city of Bečej, leaving their garrison there. The next day, they arrived in Arača. While the battle for Bečej was still ongoing, the Serbs in Arača held a meeting where they decided to surrender to the Turks without a fight. They informed Mehmed Pasha of this decision through their envoy Đorđe Radovanov. Despite taking Arača without a fight, the Turks burned the beautiful fortified church.

Immediately after the fall of Bečej, commanders in Transylvania sought help from the Hungarian nobility outside Transylvania, but all efforts could not stop the Turks. After the fall of Timișoara in the summer of 1552, the Turks occupied the entire Banat.

In the conquest of Timișoara, Mehmed Pasha used a tactic of least resistance. Instead of going directly to Timișoara, he went through Lipova, counting on the support of the Serbs. Temporary failures in capturing Lipova and Timișoara forced the Turks to withdraw to Bečej, and all cities, except Bečej and Bečkerek, fell back into the hands of the Hungarians. Thus, Mehmed Pasha Sokolović spent the entire November and December of 1551 in Bečej and Bečkerek.

King Ferdinand urged his commanders to continue the war, especially to capture Bečej and Bečkerek. Despite all efforts, they were unsuccessful. Bečej and Bečkerek remained under Turkish control. Lošonci attempted to take them by inciting a local uprising, but the Turks captured the rebels and punished them mercilessly. Later, Friar Đorđe tried peaceful means to regain Bečej and Bečkerek but also without success.

Throughout the struggle for Banat, Bečej was important for both the Hungarian and Turkish sides. This is understandable because, before the Turkish conquest, it was the seat of the Torontál County and had a significant fortress in a strategically important location on the Tisza River.

After the conquest of Banat, the Turks called it the Timișoara Province, with a beylerbey at its head. Banat was divided into sanjaks, and sanjaks into nahiyas (kadiluks) where judges (kadis) ruled. Mehmed Pasha's successor, Ahmet Pasha, who commanded the conquest of Timișoara, appointed people who knew Serbian to lead the sanjaks. He himself used this language in communication with Hungarian representatives in Transylvania. As already emphasized, all of this was a calculated policy to secure a peaceful rear in the interest of further conquering new territories.

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