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.

Sale of feudal estates in Banat and the New Becej landlord

The characteristics of Banat in the eighteenth century include significant migrations, colonizations, and various administrative-economic experiments. Despite ambitious ideas for Banat's development, little was achieved. Banat languished, awaiting more radical changes in economic policy.

The true state of Banat was depicted by Joseph II, son of Maria Theresa, in his report from his journey through Banat in 1768. Among other things, he stated that no one feels Banat as their homeland. Despite its fertile land, the conditions were appalling, particularly in terms of agrarian relationships. The population seemed transient, arriving momentarily and departing with livestock and entire households without much attachment or remorse for the region. Everyone felt like insecure occupants, trying to exploit the land where they found themselves.

According to Joseph II, Serbian and Romanian peasants had lost the will for serious land cultivation due to constant new taxes, and German colonists were encroaching on the territory at the expense of Serbs and Romanians. The practice of village leaders redistributing arable land to peasants each year worsened the already difficult situation.

During his journey through Banat in 1768, Joseph II, accompanied by Prince Albert and Count Nostitz, visited Novi Becej on May 10th and 11th. He revisited Novi Becej during his second trip to the region in 1773, traveling from there to Veliki Beckerek via Melenaci.

Dvorska komora, in collaboration with Vienna Bank, leased wastelands to Armenian, Macedonian, Greek, and Aromanian tenants who formed a society to defend their interests. In his report, Joseph II condemned the practices and enrichment of these merchants, accusing them of ruthlessly exploiting the land and peasants.

Regarding administration in the Tamiš Banat, Joseph II criticized it, stating, "In Banat, the most corrupt system prevails, unimaginably harmful economic activity, and nowhere in the world can one find as many lazy and corrupt officials as here." He proposed swift solutions to his mother, Maria Theresa, advocating for the refeudalization of Tamiš Banat and the restoration of the Hungarian feudal system.

The State Council accepted Joseph II's proposal, leading to the sale of state-owned estates, with Tamiš Banat remaining a separate Austrian province. The Hungarian court administration opposed this and insisted on incorporating Banat into Hungary. Eventually, the State Council accepted this, gaining the right to freely dispose of Banat's state-owned properties.

After the re-incorporation into Hungary, the following administrative units emerged in the former Tamiš Banat territory: Torontal, Tamiš, and Krašovo counties under Hungarian administration, Veliki Kikinda privileged district as an independent unit, and the Banat military border along the Danube from Pančevo to Orșova. Torontal County was officially restored on July 13, 1779, in Veliki Beckerek (Zrenjanin), with its entire administration.

In Joseph II's proposal for the sale of Banat's estates, he outlined conditions such as allowing free purchase regardless of the buyer's nationality, religion, or social origin. Buyers received significant payment facilitation, a 4% interest credit, and new settlers on these lands were exempt from any tax or urbarial obligations for six years.

The sale plan excluded lands belonging to Veliki Kikinda district or Veliki Beckerek, as well as a significant portion of estates in the eastern part of Banat. Estates were grouped before the auction, each domain alongside arable land receiving forests and marshes. Estates were classified into four classes based on their value.

Buyers enjoyed privileges such as acquiring the title of Hungarian nobility, paying half the amount in cash, with the remaining half subject to registration and payable within ten years at 4% interest.

Owners of purchased estates gained all the rights that belonged to a lord according to Hungarian feudal laws, both over the land and its inhabitants. The new landowners were mainly Greek, Armenian, Aromanian, and Serbian merchants who acquired estates through their capital but did not immediately receive noble privileges.

Most of these estates were bought below their actual value. In 1793, the chamber inspector Desan reported instances where estates were resold at double the price on the same day. The court acknowledged these reports, raised the prices of already sold estates, and most landowners had to pay the adjusted amount.

The new landlords were harsh in exploiting peasants, prompting the suspension of further sales of state-owned estates in 1783, even though everything was prepared for new auctions. Concerns arose about whether leasing the remaining better-quality land might yield more than selling it at auction.

The outbreak of a new war with France in 1792 compelled the court to decide to sell as much land as possible. They reiterated that Veliki Kikinda district, Veliki Beckerek, places with large forests, and those near navigable rivers and mines should not be touched.

The New Becej estate was purchased by Paul Hadzimihajlo, a Cincar (Aromanian) merchant, as a first-class taxpayer, for the sum of 120,828.44 forints in 1782. Although the purchase took place in 1782, in archival material from 1783, there is a promissory note from the New Becej landlord, Paul Hadzimihajlo, for 104,000 forints. This suggests that he paid less than 50% of the value in cash, approximately 14%.

Paul Hadzimihajlo came to this region from the Macedonian town of Siaste. He settled in Novi Becej with his wife Agnes and son Jovan Pavle, who married a Greek woman named Klara Papapoliso. They were married until 1800 when Pavle Jovan died. The widowed Klara raised eight children (sons: Pavle and Nikola, and daughters: Agnes, Erzsebet, Konstantina, Marija, Anastazija, and Jelisaveta). The oldest son, Pavle, studied law in Nadvarad (Oradea Mare in Romania) and died young in Vienna in 1813. The second son, Nikola, who was the heir to the estate, studied philosophy in Vienna and Szeged.

In 1799, King Franz II granted the Hadzimihajlo-Sisanji family and his son Jovan Pavle the title of nobility. Klara was a generous benefactor of the Orthodox Church, contributing to the completion of the church. She also supported the construction of the Catholic Church and Hungarian school in Novi Becej. Klara was buried in the Orthodox Church in Novi Becej.

The last direct descendants of the Hadzimihajlo family are three granddaughters of Pavle Hadzimihajlo: Elizabeta, married to Count and General Karolj Leningen of the Austro-Hungarian army; another married to Colonel Lipot Rohonci; and the third married to wealthy landowner Đula Urban. Leiningen and Rohonci were prominent figures in the Hungarian army during the 1848-49 revolution, with Rohonci gaining fame in the Battle of Novi Becej on October 13, 1848.

The Hadzimihajlo-Sisanji castle, with auxiliary buildings and a park,

was located where the current public health building and all residential buildings next to it to Svetozar Miletić Street stand. This also included a part of Zarko Zrenjanin Street, where the Municipal Court and other residential buildings are today, extending from Svetozar Miletić Street to Liberation Square.

The castle was demolished in 1908, and the present buildings and the district court on Zarko Zrenjanin Street were constructed on that site and part of the park. Lipot Rohonci, the son-in-law of the Sisanji family, built a house where part of the Cooperative Home is now located (on the corner of the Cooperative Home). Across from Rohonci, on the valley, where the Health Center is today, one of the descendants of the Sisanji family, through the female line, built a castle, Elemer Sojmos Urban. In 1927, Vićentije Marković, an optant from Sirig near Szeged, bought that castle.

The landlord's responsibilities included promoting agriculture, which was in their interest, and encouraging infrastructure development. They were obligated to build churches, schools, and other public buildings contributing to education and the general culture of the population. These obligations were burdensome for the landlords, involving material expenses, and the more enlightened and economically independent people were less willing to accept the increasing landlord impositions, which often lacked legal or basic moral justification.

Although Paul Hadzimihajlo became the owner of the New Becej estate in 1782, complaints from the population about his behavior were already recorded in 1783 archives. Traders from Karlovac complained about high taxes in Novi Becej in 1783, while Isak Kis, a nobleman from Itebej, complained about high tolls for livestock in Novi Becej. In the same year, residents of Novi Becej complained and requested the county to compel Lord Hadzimihajlo to support the school, establish a Catholic school, and pay a teacher. Complaints from citizens about the landlord's conduct were frequent, and in 1784, the Catholic parish priest in Novi Becej, Nagy Szent-Miklos, complained that he was withholding his annual salary. In 1788, the lord seized land from 155 peasants and provided them with other land, which they were dissatisfied with. In 1830, he confiscated 3,340 acres of arable land, leading to a peasant rebellion in Novi Becej.

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