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.

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.

Despite the efforts made by authorities to populate Banat quickly, until its incorporation into Hungary in 1779, the number of settled Germans, French, Spaniards, and Italians barely reached around 40,000. The Hungarian population was minimal during this period.

In pursuit of a planned colonization, Baron Kotman's proposal was accepted to develop agriculture and animal husbandry in Bačka and Banat. This aimed at enabling these regions to sustain the army with food during prolonged wars. The proposal involved surveying the fields and creating maps (geographical charts) indicating fields, meadows, roads, and bridges. For villages, Kotman envisioned elevated lands untouched by floods, preferably situated in the center of the fields. Wells were planned for villages, and near the villages, there were mounds and gardens (plots).

Kotman suggested larger villages to save on building churches, schools, and other public facilities. In contrast, Maria Theresa advocated for smaller villages to have fields closer to the homesteads for more intensive cultivation. Maria Theresa's stance was accepted.

Each village received its church, school, municipal building, a tavern, and several villages had a doctor. Based on this, a plan for the settlement of Germans in Banat was created.

Floods complicated settlement in Banat. Villages often had to be in wetlands, so it was necessary to mark areas near rivers where villages could be built without the risk of flooding. Construction of roads, field paths, wells, and bridges was planned. According to these plans, roads had to be ten paces wide, and field paths three to four paces wide.

According to Kotman's plan, each house was to have its garden for vegetables and fruits, and villages were to have their forests, willow groves, and mulberry trees for silkworm breeding. Even Novi Bečej had its mulberry tree plantation until 1935, located in the part of Lole Ribara Street. Mulberry trees were also planted alongside roads for silkworm cultivation and shade. Mounds were also to be surrounded by mulberry trees, and poplars, poplars, or elms were to be planted sporadically in fields to provide shade for agricultural workers and livestock. This plantation served for easy orientation on otherwise monotonous terrain.

Village fields were divided into three parts: one for autumn sowing, another for spring sowing, and the third for livestock grazing. Meadows at the ends of the fields were designated for haymaking and grazing. The plan aimed for saline soil in Banat to be planted with fast-growing trees, improving the soil and gradually converting it into arable land. Field plots were divided by lanes, and individual estates were marked with stakes bearing the house numbers of the owners.

As planned, villages were built in the shape of squares or rectangles, depending on the configuration of available land. In the center of the village, a square was planned where a church, school, and other public buildings would be constructed. Straight longitudinal and transverse streets with well-spaced houses were planned, each with its own well. Main streets were to be eighteen to twenty paces wide, while side streets six to eight paces wide.

This plan needed to be adapted for previously built villages—known as the "dispersed" type—where Serbs and Romanians lived. Significant changes occurred in the 1770s when authorities aimed to align villages.

The plan suggested that the front of houses face the street, with a nine-pace gap between them to prevent fire spread. Stables and sheds were to be built as extensions to houses in the backyard.

Initially, the aligned houses were log cabins, later made of wattle, occasionally of bricks, with eaves facing the street made of twigs or planks. The house had a room facing the street, a kitchen, and a storage room (pantry) facing the backyard. The room contained an adobe stove, and the kitchen had an open chimney built with adobe in a conical shape slightly above the roof. The roof was made of reed or thatch, slightly hanging over the eaves facing the street.

Houses remained mostly made of wattle and covered with thatch until the end of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century.

The population made their own clothes, and only in Bečkerek was a "modern clothing style" prevalent by 1788.

Furniture in houses consisted of tables and benches, beds, and chests. Only after 1830 did some progress occur, with the appearance of pictures on walls. Books did not appear in rural households at that time.

In the yards, wells were lined with wood on the inside to prevent water from affecting the damp wood; occasionally, salt was thrown into the well.

Later buildings, constructed in a Western style, were very solid, especially state buildings. These had thick walls and distinctive high roofs with massive yet beautifully crafted chimneys rising above them. Facades usually featured several smaller windows secured with iron bars. The backyard side of the house had a corridor with wide arched arcades.

In addition to classifying land in the Torontal County in the Velikokikinda District, a classification of houses was also implemented. The criteria used are unknown, but it seems that buildings for jurisdiction and public purposes fell under the first and second classes, while houses of the third and fourth classes represented agricultural homes.

Comparing the number of houses obtained in this way with the number of households, a considerable number of households had no houses. This does not mean they did not have houses; they just did not meet the categorization criteria, as they lived in earthen houses, semi-earthen houses, or huts. This condition persisted until the 1820s.

According to data from 1781, Vranjevo had: 1 house of the II class, 13 houses of the III class, and 25 houses of the IV class, totaling 39 houses, while 77 households were without houses.

Life was good when the year was productive, but famine occurred in years of poor harvest. Extended and strict fasting was not a sign of abundance but of poverty; therefore, faith had a greater influence on people's behavior during fasting than it otherwise would have.

Work, especially in the nineteenth century, was done from morning till night in the summer, while winter was a time for rest and entertainment. Weddings, feasts, and religious celebrations were occasions where food and drinks were consumed until exhaustion.

A characteristic of life in Banat was that young men married early, and girls married later, so after giving birth to two or three children, they appeared much older than they actually were. This was a common practice, even priests married at fifteen to seventeen years of age.

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