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 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.

Prohibitive measures were implemented against Hungarians in Banat. Hungarian nobles faced difficulties in purchasing land, which was easily acquired by Greeks, Armenians, Serbs, and Germans. This was intended to prevent or at least hinder the mass settlement of Hungarians in Banat. Over time, however, county administration was established in Banat, except for a certain period when Serbian villages belonging to the Veliki Kikinda District did not resist but instead encouraged the migration of Hungarians. The Hungarian Chamber particularly sought to settle Hungarians in the Banat region to "divide the compact mass of Serbs in Bačka and Banat" on both sides of the Tisza River.

According to data from the Zrenjanin Catholic Diocese, Hungarians settled in Novi Bečej even before the Treaty of Belgrade (1739). There was a Catholic chapel built with bricks in Novi Bečej as early as 1747. "It is difficult to provide precise information about the year of the first Hungarian settlement in Novi Bečej after the expulsion of the Turks, but records from the Bečej parish archive indicate that the first settlers came from Szeged and Belgrade. The settlers from Belgrade were reported to be craftsmen from various parts of Hungary who settled in Veliki Bečkerek and Novi Bečej."

In the History of the Parishes of the Čanad Diocese, it is stated that it was challenging to settle a population of another nationality in the villages of the Veliki Kikinda District. In 1778, Vranjevo had only twenty-eight Roman Catholics (Hungarians). However, after Tamiški Banat returned to Hungary and the neighboring place, Turski Bečej, came into the possession of the Šišanji nobility, the number of Roman Catholics (Hungarians) in Vranjevo started to increase. In 1786, 60 Hungarians were resettled, and from then on, farmers, craftsmen, ship carpenters (as ships were made of wood at that time), and millers from the vicinity of Szeged, Bačka, and the Moriš River region began to settle in Vranjevo. As Turski Bečej was a prosperous trading center at that time, with a flourishing grain trade, its river traffic enabled not only the population of Bečej but also the industrious Hungarian population in Vranjevo to earn a good income.

According to data from the Bishopric archive, in 1764, there were 214 Hungarian believers in Novi Bečej, and in Vranjevo, there were 13. In 1784, the Catholic parish priest of Novi Bečej was in a dispute with the local noble regarding subsidy payment. A year earlier, in 1783, the parish priest requested the county in Veliki Bečkerek to instruct the nobleman to establish a school and bring a teacher for Catholic children. There is also a response from Hadžimihajlo, the landowner of Novi Bečej, stating that he is willing to support a Catholic teacher if the teacher is educated. In 1784, there is a report of unjust treatment by the nobleman of Novi Bečej towards a resident named Miča Đerđ. In the same year, the Novi Bečej parish priest Nagy Szentmiklos requested the initiation of proceedings against the nobleman who withheld his mandatory annual salary. On August 12, 1874, they found a receipt for the paid annual salary to the Catholic parish priest in Novi Bečej.

Despite the efforts of Maria Theresa and later Joseph II, the settlement of Hungarians in Banat could not be prevented, especially since the regulation of rivers and the drainage of marshes and swamps required a workforce, and Hungarians were considered skilled and suitable workers for these tasks. In 1784, Hungarians were settled in Padej for this purpose, as their settlement on the Raba farmstead proved to be very successful in tobacco cultivation.

The largest Hungarian settlement in Banat was in Debeljača, established on a plain called Develak. The first colonists settled there in 1774, and the mass settlement of Hungarian masses in Debeljača took place in 1794.

In 1794, Novi Bečej saw a significant influx of Hungarians, with immigrants mainly being serfs (peasants) who had fled from Hodmezovasarhely and its surroundings due to heavy feudal burdens.

According to data from the Novi Bečej parish, there were 1,004 Catholics in Novi Bečej in 1810. The largest population growth in Bečej occurred from 1810 to 1846. According to the census of 1846, there were a total of 5,679 inhabitants, including 3,087 Hungarians and 2,592 Serbs. These figures differ significantly from those reported in the 1851 census, where the total population was 4,446, including 2,204 Hungarians and 2,242 Serbs. It is challenging to believe that the population decreased by a whole 1,200 inhabitants in five years. Conversely, it could only have continued to grow due to relatively high birth rates, and mechanical influx was intensive. The data published in 1851 is considered to be more realistic. Mass settlement of Hungarians in Novi Bečej occurred in 1820 from the vicinity of Szeged and Hodmezovasarhely.

Hungarians from Jászág and Kunágas (provinces in Hungary) settled the Arača homestead in 1826, later spreading to neighboring municipalities: Vranjevo, Novi Bečej, and Beodra.

The exact year of their arrival is unknown, but according to data from 1851, there was a Hungarian village with 130 houses and 864 inhabitants of Hungarian nationality near Novi Bečej, in Borđoš, engaged in tobacco cultivation.

The settlement of Hungarians continued even more intensively in the second half of the nineteenth century. According to data from 1905, their number in Novi Bečej was 5,452, compared to 1,961 Serbs. By 1910, this number had increased to 5,994.

In the upheaval of the 1914-1918 war, or after these regions joined Yugoslavia, the number of Hungarians in Novi Bečej either decreased or they emigrated. According to the 1921 census, the number of Hungarians in Novi Bečej was 4,439, which was 1,155 less than eleven years earlier. It is worth noting that the 1921 census included 639 residents classified as "other," who did not identify themselves as either Hungarians or Serbs. In the 1910 census, there were only nineteen individuals classified as "other." This could mean that in the 1910 census, Jews, Roma, and others either voluntarily identified as Hungarians or were classified as such by the enumerators.

The settlement of Hungarians in Banat, as diligent cubic workers, vegetable farmers, and tobacco growers, significantly contributed to the advancement of agriculture and the economy in northern and central Banat.

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