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.

Period after the Great Uprising

Following the suppression of the uprising, an absolutist regime was established in Austria and Hungary. All semi-constitutional privileges that Hungary had enjoyed until 1848 were abolished. Social organizations were banned, censorship was introduced, and stricter measures were imposed on the movement of Hungarian participants in the rebellion.

Archival records from that time related to Novi Bečej and its surroundings show the authorities' focus on the behavior of the Hungarians:
"Report from the military command in Novi Bečej that Hungarian refugees are spreading their ideas."
"The Royal Lieutenancy for Hungary informs the provincial administration that Leopold V. Rohonci, a former Honvéd officer, has been allowed to settle on his estate in Turski Bečej, with a request to be supervised."
"Notification that some merchants in Turski Bečej own Košut's shares issued in New York."

By the patent of November 18, 1849, Emperor Franz Joseph I established the new crownland of "Serbian Vojvodina and Tamiš Banat" with its seat in Timișoara. This crownland included Srem, Bačka, and the entire Banat with the Kraszó-Severin county. It means that even the parts of Banat inhabited exclusively by Romanians were included. This was not the desire of the Serbs, but it served Vienna's interests to use Romanians against Serbs, whom Vienna never fully trusted. The German governor led this Vojvodina, and the official language was German.

Austrian defeat by the French and the Kingdom of Piedmont in 1859, resulting in the loss of Lombardy, which was then the most densely populated province in Europe due to the irrigation system built in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, forced Austria to make significant concessions to dissatisfied Hungarians. Bach's absolutism was abolished, and a federal constitution was adopted. The "Serbian Vojvodina" was abolished, and for its abolition, Lajos Kossuth said: "Those who cried for it are the ones who lost," emphasizing its Serbian character.

Not long after, Austria suffered another defeat in the war against Prussia and Italy in 1866, leading to significant exhaustion of the country. To improve its internal situation, the Austrian government concluded an agreement with the Hungarians in 1867, transforming the Austrian Empire into the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, with two centers. Franz Joseph I (who reigned over Austria from 1848 to 1916) was the ruler of both states. As the Austrian emperor, he ruled semi-autocratically, while as the Hungarian king, he had to govern as a parliamentary monarch since Hungary had developed an aristocratic parliamentary system. Members of the Hungarian parliament were elected based on property qualifications, making it the most aristocratic government in Europe.

Although the Austrian part of the state was more industrially developed than Hungary, which was exclusively agrarian, Austria-Hungary was still behind England, Germany, the United States, France, and Belgium in terms of its industrial development in the 1870s and 1880s. However, it was ahead of Russia, Italy, and Japan. The industrialization of Austria-Hungary began more seriously in the 1870s when the construction of railways started rapidly, including the Segedin—Kikinda—Timișoara railway and other railways in Banat.

For the period after the Great Uprising and the abolition of absolutism, it is important to highlight the construction of railway lines. The first railway in Banat was built in 1856. For Novi Bečej and Vranjevo, this was a period when their trading power in grain transportation declined rapidly. The railway Veliki Bečkerek - Velika Kikinda was built in 1883, connecting Novi Bečej and Vranjevo with the world. However, the significance of Novi Bečej's port diminished not only with this railway but also with those built before it in Banat.

Shortly before the construction of the railway, the Velikokikind district was abolished in 1876, causing Vranjevo to lose its importance in the grain trade. The abolition of the district had a significant impact on Novi Bečej, as all the surrounding large villages, such as Melenci, Vranjevo, Kumane, Karlovo, and of course Taraš, became part of the Novi Bečej district. If these villages had not been added to the Novi Bečej district, Novi Bečej would have found it even more challenging to redirect its grain trade in different directions, using land transportation. Vranjevo had already suffered due to its proximity to Novi Bečej, and with the annexation to the district, this was felt even more.

For this period, it is essential to mention the establishment of savings and credit institutions and the first industrial enterprises, which contributed to maintaining trade but could not prevent the decline of the general economy, especially the commercial power of Novi Bečej and Vranjevo.

Despite the negative economic changes during this period, there were significant positive changes in cultural life.
Two significant events in 1860 coincide: Hungarians organized a reading association (Olvasoegvlet) in Novi Bečej, and Serbs in Vranjevo established the first professional theater among Serbs in general. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a demand for the opening of a civic school in Novi Bečej, but various authorities ignored it, and the school was opened only in 1908.

It is worth noting that in 1896, the name of Novi Bečej was changed to Turski Bečej, and in 1888, Vranjevo became Arač. These new names remained until the annexation to Yugoslavia when, at the beginning of 1919, Turski Bečej became Novi Bečej again, and Arač became Vranjevo.

The patriotism of the inhabitants of Novi Bečej of Hungarian nationality led to the erection of the Turul monument in 1903 in the square, where the park is today, commemorating the fighters for freedom in 1848-49. After eight years, or more precisely, on September 17, 1911, a monument to Honvéd General Count Leiningen Westerburg Karoly was erected. Both of these monuments were demolished after the First World War.

In the period after the Great Uprising, Vranjevo continuously progressed until the First World War. This progress was not linear because the changes in the broader plan of economic development of that part of Banat influenced its development. Despite losing in the grain trade due to the abolition of the Velikokikind district in 1876, it became the largest village in Banat. It developed as an agricultural settlement, and agriculture, within the Austro-Hungarian feudal state, enjoyed a privileged position. A large estate and a lot of "upper land" enabled the enrichment of individuals, and Vranjevo had parents who, early for Serbian rural conditions, sought to educate their children. When these children returned, they brought revolutionary changes to the way of life in the family and society. Unlike other villages in Banat, Vranjevo lived quite luxuriously.

Of course, this refers to the wealthier class of farmers, as servants and day laborers lived in poverty in all regions.

A significant event from this period is the establishment of the first Serbian professional theater in Vranjevo in 1860, followed by the establishment of a Serbian reading room, a singing society, an amateur theater company, and the organization of other cultural societies and associations that contributed to enriching social life and creating conditions for faster cultural progress in Vranjevo.

It is important to emphasize that the beginning of the twentieth century until the First World War represented a period of intensive development and a change in appearance for Novi Bečej and Vranjevo, not only in the city center but also in many other streets. During this time, not only the largest and most beautiful public buildings (schools, courts, banks, and savings banks, etc.) were built but also many of the most beautiful private buildings in Novi Bečej and Vranjevo that still exist today.

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