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.


It has long been my desire to gather as much material and data about the history of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo and to preserve it in an appropriate manner to prevent it from being forgotten. If I haven't collected as much as I wanted, I've done the most I could. In today's cultural world, almost every family knows its origin, not to mention cities and villages. Unfortunately, it is not the case with us. In Banat, until the First World War, only a few cities had their written history. They were written by Hungarian and German historians whose lives were tied to those cities. On their foundations, further research was conducted, especially after the First, and particularly after the Second World War, resulting in more comprehensive histories or monographs of those cities. Novi Bečej and Vranjevo don't have something similar. Dr. Jene Sentklarai, born in Vranjevo, and later a parish priest for about fifteen years in Novi Bečej, gave a brief overview of the history of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo in his book "History of the Parish of the Čanad Diocese."


Novi Becej is situated in the part of the Pannonian Plain, once a Roman province during the Roman Empire. The formation of the Pannonian Plain is linked to the evolution of the Eurasian mountain system, specifically the Carpathians. Before the Alps and Carpathians, this area was covered by the Mediterranean Sea. With the emergence of the Alps and the Dinaric Mountains, the connection to the Mediterranean was severed, and the Pannonian Plain became a continental sea - the so-called Sarmatian Sea.

As the Carpathians formed, a continental lake, known as the Pannonian or Pontic Sea (similar to today's Caspian Sea), emerged, disconnecting from other seas. The Panonian Sea, a western part of the larger Paretitis Sea stretching from the Alps to Turkestan in Asia, eventually turned into a freshwater Levantine lake due to geological shifts and sedimentation.

Novi Bečej during the era of great migrations

Situated at significant global crossroads, the Vojvodina region has undergone multiple changes in both its population and rulers over the centuries. The area where Novi Bečej stands today belonged to ancient Dacia. Dacians resisted Roman attacks for a long time until Trajan (101-107 AD) succeeded in turning their land into the Roman province of Dacia. Given that the region of Novi Bečej has always been suitable for connecting the left and right banks of the Tisza River, it is likely that Bečej existed as a town or province, perhaps under a different name, even during the rule of the Roman emperors.

Origin and Name Origins of Bečej

It is not precisely known when and how Novi Bečej got its name or who founded it. One thing is certain - Bečej, with its fortress, held a significant place among those influencing state politics in the course of historical events, sometimes across a broader territory.

After the decline of the settlement that existed in the Roman era at the site of today's Novi Bečej, little is heard about it for a considerable time, similar to other settlements in Banat. However, during the reign of Stephen I (997—1038), Bečej appears as an inhabited place and is soon mentioned as a village.

Novi Bečej, a royal free city and the seat of Torontal County

has a rich history. In its early revival, Bečej was annexed to the former Bečej County, possibly named after the later Veliki Bečkerek, also called Beče in the early days. The county borders have changed over time, but the author suggests the former Bečej County is identical to Torontal County. Bečej appeared in 1332 on the list of places paying tribute to the main Torontal County office, already a significant place.

It was recorded as the first civitas in Torontal County, later identified as an opidum in 1440, along with Arača, Bečkerek, and Bašaid. In the early 13th century, Temišvar, Čanad, Bečej, and Kovin emerged as cities - seats of counties in Banat. Bečej, declared the first royal free city in 1331 during King Robert's rule, paved the way for other cities like Temišvar in 1342 and Meze Šomlo, Hodaš, and Lugoš in the following years. The defeat of the Serbs by the Turks in 1371 and especially at Kosovo in 1389 forced them to rely more on the Hungarians in the fight against the Turks.

Migration of Serbs across the Sava and Danube

Serbian migrations to areas beyond the Sava and Danube date back to before the Battle of Kosovo. After it, migrations continued until the late 17th century, and in Banat until the late 18th century. The defeat at Kosovo in 1389 led to significant Serbian retreats northward. Dmitar, son of King Vukašin and brother of Kraljević Marko, first led Serbs to Banat in the late 14th century.

However, systematic settlement in Banat occurred under Despot Stefan Lazarević and Đurđe Branković. Wars between the Hungarians and Turks forced Serbs to move north and west. Their position was extremely difficult as these wars were fought on the territory they inhabited. Data on these migrations show that most settlers came from southern Serbia: Pomoravlje, Šumadija, Braničeva, and Timočka Krajina. Migrations were mostly voluntary, driven by the hope for better living conditions or to preserve life, but there were also instances of coercion during wartime.

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.

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.

Novi Bečej under the Turks

Historians find it quite challenging to study the conditions and life of our people in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially when it comes to a relatively broader area, such as the Banat region. It becomes even more difficult when the focus is narrowed down to a small territory, to a smaller place like Novi Bečej.

The Great Migration of the Serbs in 1690

Following the defeat of the Turks near Vienna in 1683, their expulsion and the liberation of cities continued: Buda in 1686, Szeged in 1687, Belgrade in 1688, all the way to Niš, Priština, Peć, Prizren, and Skopje.

In the Battle of Kačanik in 1690, the Austrian army was defeated, and in their retreat, they abandoned all regions up to Niš. The Turks mercilessly punished the Christian population in the areas from which the Austrian army withdrew, accusing them of faithlessness during the Turkish retreat from these regions. News of Turkish cruelty quickly spread throughout Serbia, prompting people to flee northward. Serbs fled towards Belgrade and the Sava River, as the Turks held Temišvar and its surroundings, posing a threat to the entire left bank of the Danube in Banat.

The Karlowitz Peace and the Destruction of the Novi Bečej Fortress

After Austria's victory over the Turks at Senta on September 11, 1697, the Turks withdrew to Banat. Troops under the command of Eugene of Savoy continued to pursue them on the left bank of the Tisza River in the direction of Belgrade. This led to the liberation of Bečej, Bečkerek, and further progress south, although the eastern part of Banat, including Temesvar, remained in Turkish hands.

The peace was eventually concluded with some delay in 1699 in Sremski Karlovci. According to the provisions of the Karlowitz Peace, the Turks completely abandoned Bačka and the western part of Srem from Slankamen towards Morović on the Bosut River, while the eastern part of Srem and the entire Banat remained under Turkish control. After signing the peace treaty, there was a significant delay in the withdrawal of the Austrian army from Banat.

Novi Bečej and Vranjevo after the expulsion of the Turks from Banat

Not much time passed after the conclusion of the Karlowitz Peace when a new war erupted between Austria and Turkey (1714–1718). In this war, the Austrians liberated Banat, the eastern part of Srem, captured Belgrade on August 15, 1717, and then took control of areas south of the Danube and Sava rivers, all the way to Niš.

Through the peace treaty signed in Požarevac on July 21, 1718, between Austria, the Republic of Venice, on one side, and Turkey, on the other, Banat and the entire Srem, along with the cities—Belgrade, Šabac, Bjeljina, Brčko, and in southern Serbia up to Paraćin, were ceded to Austria.

German Colonization

After the expulsion of the Turks and the Peace of Požarevac, Austria, for strategic-political reasons, wanted to transform Banat into the most advanced economic region. For this reason, it did not annex it to Hungary, but, upon the proposal of Eugene of Savoy, created a separate province called the "Tamiški Banat," directly tied to the court. All land and other material goods became state property. General Count Claudius Mercy was appointed as the governor of Banat.

In reality, Banat never constituted a unified entity, not even ethnically. The eastern, hilly part, predominantly inhabited by Romanians, had always been distinct from the western, flat Banat, mostly populated by Serbs. The hilly eastern part once formed a whole with Transylvania.

Vranjevo and the Disarmament of the Potisje-Pomorišje Border

After the Karlowitz and later the Požarevac peace treaties and the expulsion of the Turks from Banat and the northern part of Serbia, the need for the Potisje-Pomorišje border ceased. The resulting period of calm suited the Court to carry out the colonization of Germans, and for the Serbs, it meant a delay in the disarmament of the border and their transformation into serfs under Hungarian nobility.

Allegedly, Maria Theresa did not want to annex the territories of the Potisje-Pomorišje border to the counties, but under pressure from Hungarian nobility, she did so in 1741. The real disarmament of the border occurred only in 1750, and the Serbs were offered the option to move to Banat or stay in their current places but under county administration. Around this time, there was a campaign led by the Catholic Church to convert the Serbs to the Catholic faith (unionization), further unsettling the Serbs, leading to discussions about emigration to Russia.

The Settlement of Hungarians in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo

Hungarians were the most numerous ethnic group in the territory of present-day Vojvodina until their defeat at Mohács in 1526. However, this was not the case in Banat, where Serbs were the majority in comparison to other regions of Vojvodina.

During the Ottoman rule, the entire Vojvodina and parts of Srem that belonged to Croatia, as well as Baranja, were populated by Serbs. On Hungarian geographical maps, these areas were marked as "Racország."

The court aimed to Germanize Banat and Bačka through the settlement of Germans. Additionally, it was believed that transferring Hungarians from one region to another would achieve nothing, as it would leave the former without a workforce. Therefore, the settlement of Hungarians in these areas was reportedly postponed for this reason.

Settling of Jews in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo

Jews have been present in Hungary since the time of the first kings, and more intensive settlements occurred after their expulsion from Bohemia and other countries in Western Europe during and before the Crusades. They not only found refuge in Hungary and Poland but also prospered significantly in these countries. This, of course, should not be misunderstood, as they faced various difficulties, perhaps similar to those experienced by Jews in other Central and Western European countries during that time. For instance, the Austrian authorities created difficulties for them when settling in Banat after the expulsion of the Turks or in places closer to the border.

Roma in Novi Becej and Vranjevo

Roma are of Asian origin, and their ancient homeland is believed to be India, from which they left between the ninth and eleventh centuries. Before arriving in Europe, they lingered in Persia, Asia Minor, and Syria. They entered Europe during the fourteenth century: some through North Africa to Spain, and others through Asia Minor to the Balkans. They appeared in Crete in 1322, in Corfu in 1346, in Wallachia in 1370, in Zagreb in 1378, in Hungary and Germany in 1417. From Europe, they spread to other continents.

Planned Settlements and Living Conditions

Vast open spaces of land covered by wetlands, meadows, and forests, coupled with low population density and the significant personal insecurity of the Banat region's inhabitants under the Ottoman rule, led the people of Banat to adopt a sort of nomadic lifestyle. This was particularly true for those engaged in agriculture. To facilitate easier relocation and settling in new areas, people constructed huts and sheds made of wattle and reed, earthen dwellings, and similar structures that could be easily abandoned and, with minimal effort, rebuilt elsewhere. The desire to return to a previous location did not arise because settlement in a particular area had a temporary character until the land or pasture was utilized. This way of life persisted until the mid-eighteenth century.

Allocation of Land to Individual Families

As previously emphasized, the land in Banat belonged to the emperor, who granted it as an inheritance. The eldest son inherited the land, compensating his brothers with 3/4 of the redemption value. The land ownership was divided based on the size of the family, consisting of whole, half, and quarter sessions. According to Kempele's plan, a whole session in Banat amounted to 37 acres, including 24 acres of arable land, one acre of garden and yard, 6 acres of meadows, and six acres of hillocks, totaling 37 acres or "lanacs" (the local term). A half session comprised 21 acres (lanacs) arranged as 12—1—4—4 acres, while a quarter session had 13 acres arranged as 6—1—3—3.

Vranjevo in the Velikokikinda District

In the Tamiš Banat, along the lower course of the Tisa and the Danube, the Military Frontier (border) was organized from 1766 to 1768. At that time, the Serbian militia units, initially established in northern Banat, fell under civilian authority. Those who wished to remain in military service had to join the Serbian Banat Military Frontier. The relocation of those enlisted for military service took place between 1768 and 1774. During this period, many Serbs left Vranjevo and moved to southern Banat in the Military Frontier, and with them, 13 Hungarian craftsmen, who were the total number in Vranjevo, also moved.