Discovering Novi Bečej: Stories, people, history

By the paths of the past: Discover the rich history, interesting events and unforgettable people who have shaped Novi Bečej through time, as we return together to the heart of this beautiful city on the banks of the Tisza.

In the eve of the economic crisis

In the eve of the economic crisis

Novi Becej was a county seat. This county also included the villages of Vranjevo, Beodra, Dragutinovo (Beodra and Dragutinovo now form Novo Milosevo), Kumane, Melenci, Torda, and Taras. With an area of 812 km2 and a population of 48,449, the county ranked among the ten largest out of the total of 38 counties in the Danube Banovina. Initially, the Danube Banovina included not only the present-day Vojvodina but also the Croatian part of Srem and Baranja.

The villages belonging to the Novi Becej county were not only administratively connected but were primarily economically dependent on Novi Becej. Without such an economic hinterland, the vitality of Novi Becej at that time would be unimaginable.

Thanks to its rich surroundings and the Tisa River, Novi Becej, with 16,350 inhabitants, was a lively and bustling town, even though it was situated between larger cities like Kikinda with 28,000, Veliki Bečkerek (Zrenjanin) with 32,000 inhabitants on the Banat side, and Stari Becej with 20,500 inhabitants on the Bačka side. To give an idea of the size of these cities, it is enough to know that Belgrade had 220,000 inhabitants at that time, Šabac 12,000, Čačak 9,000, Užice 7,000, Kraljevo 7,000, etc.

As the seat of the Novi Becej county, connected with nearby villages, it was linked by poor roads. Apart from the gravel road Novi Becej - Beodra and Novi Becej - Bašaid, all other places, both among themselves and with the town, were connected by summer roads that were almost impassable from autumn to spring. Such were the roads throughout Banat.

One might rightfully ask today: how could Novi Becej thrive and be a busy town under such conditions? In addition to the rich surroundings, large villages, and the Tisa River, the poor communication, bad roads, and relatively expensive railway transport pointed towards shorter distances for the transportation of goods by horse-drawn vehicles.

Thus, due to the desire to save money and time, the surrounding villages oriented themselves towards Novi Becej, as it was closer than Bečkerek and Kikinda. Beodra, Dragutinovo, and Bašaid were only connected to Novi Becej by a, at that time, rare gravel road that could be used year-round. This was especially important for the villages of Bašaid and Torda, which had no railway connection with the rest of the world.

Economizing was always present among the Banat peasants, known not only for their industriousness but also for their frugality. They always tried to combine their visits to Novi Becej for business in the court, tax office, land registry, or other county authorities with market days, bringing goods to the market or buying necessary items for their families at a Novi Becej store.

This was a period when people lived much more modestly, calculating with half a dinar. It was enough, for example, for one kilogram of sugar to cost 13 dinars in a Novi Becej store and 13.50 in Kumane for a peasant to buy sugar upon arriving in Novi Becej instead of Kumane. Price differences and a greater variety of industrial products encouraged households in the surrounding villages to meet all their needs for industrial goods when going to town. Hence, the vibrancy and trade in Novi Becej.

At that time, the Tisa River was not just an ornament to the town; it was the "lifeline" of the entire region from an economic perspective. In the conditions of poor roads and expensive railway transport, transportation over longer distances was done by water as the then incomparably cheapest option. Statistics show that Novi Becej was the busiest port on the Tisa River. Life revolved around it more than in other cities through which it meandered. Ten barges were loaded and unloaded daily at the Novi Becej port. Wheat and corn, roof tiles, flour, cut wood, and other products were loaded there, not only produced in Novi Becej but also in the majority of Northern Banat.

Novi Becej and its surroundings provided large market surpluses of agricultural products, and thanks to that, this area was also a large consumer of industrial products. The significant trade in commerce and crafts allowed not only laborers and educators but also traders and craftsmen to emerge as major consumers of various goods, including those of the highest quality. Part of the population was a large consumer of quality fruits and vegetables. This is illustrated by the fact that there was a large greenhouse (glass garden) for the production of early vegetables in Novi Becej. In addition, perhaps the highest quality fruit and grapes in Vojvodina were produced on the Pearl Island. Fruits and early vegetables found consumers not only in Novi Becej but also in Novi Sad and other larger cities, and in the past, during the Austro-Hungarian period, in Szeged, Budapest, and Vienna. However, part of it was consumed in Novi Becej itself. This is the answer to the question of why this production developed in Novi Becej when the whole of Vojvodina was suitable for the development of fruit growing, viticulture, and vegetable growing.

The economic strength of Novi Becej is also evident from the fact that from 1924, perhaps the only town in Yugoslavia, and certainly the only one in Vojvodina, had a fully private gymnasium. This gymnasium was supported partly by the tuition fees of students but certainly also by subsidies from Novi Becej and Vranjevo. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that Novi Becej had three banks - savings banks: Turskobecej Savings Bank d.d., National Savings Bank d.d. established in 1882, and Serbian Savings Bank d.d. established in 1900 as a cooperative, which was converted into a joint-stock company already in 1905.

The majority of Novi Becej residents were engaged in agriculture, which was the dominant sector of the economy. A large number of residents were landless. Landless individuals were mostly unskilled labor, which forced them to work for wealthier farmers and large landowners or engage in the most difficult physical work: digging canals, building embankments, roads, etc. The so-called "kubikasi" contributed to the high consumption of Novi Becej.

Industry was more than modest, and its share in employment was negligible. The brickyard and tile factory "Braća Bohn," today's "Polet," employed 300-350 workers only in the season from March to October. Besides the brickyard, there were also three mills, one smaller one milling only for personal use, and the other two with commercial milling. The mill, located by the Tisa River, where the dairy is now, had a planer (sawmill) in its composition, which Novi Becej residents called "Buda," and employed 100-150 workers.

Part of the furniture produced there was for export, primarily to Canada.

Some economic activities started immediately after the First World War. The foundry, for the time being, employed only one worker, a locksmith and a stove installer. However, he was not engaged in mass production of stoves, but the forge was registered for machine welding and manufacture of small agricultural tools, kitchen tools, knives, etc.

Economic conditions and the number of inhabitants allowed only the performance of a few more demanding trades, and that is why they existed only for a short time, not because there was no demand for their products but because of inadequate demand, i.e., a market that was too small for such a specialized activity.

The size of the town and the development of roads that led towards it attracted various traveling salesmen and other so-called traveling entrepreneurs. Some of them found their home in Novi Becej, while others had Novi Becej as their workplace.

The important thing is that Novi Becej was very well connected with other cities by a railway. Railway stations in the surrounding villages were not only for the transport of passengers and goods to Novi Becej and back but also for the needs of their residents. One part of the goods was delivered from the railway station to the county town by horse-drawn vehicles.

Goods were delivered to the county town from the surrounding villages not only by horse-drawn vehicles but also by peasants and tradesmen carrying goods on their backs. Some tradesmen carried their goods in wagons pulled by horses. That's how a certain Vranjevo horse-drawn vehicle carried goods to Novi Becej.

A good orientation and economic development have always been associated with the road and its conditions. In order to contribute to the further development of roads, a summary of proposals for improving the road network in the Novi Becej county was made. A contribution to better roads and communication was also made by Novi Becej County's economic development committee. They gave a modest, but necessary contribution by providing funds for the Novi Becej - Beodra road that linked Novi Becej with the future.

It is important to note that roads at that time were not intended for passenger cars. Although the first cars appeared in Banat, they were still a rarity. Peasants and small farmers, as well as richer ones, still used horse-drawn vehicles to transport goods. As there was a limited number of passenger cars, traveling from one place to another was done by train or horse-drawn carriage. There was a need for better road conditions for horse-drawn vehicles, especially considering the poorer and uneven state of roads.

The reasons for the construction of new roads were mainly economic. At that time, the farmers themselves built and maintained roads, following an example from countries with advanced agriculture.

The area of the county was large, and there was a need for new roads. Novi Becej, as the county seat, had to be well connected with other places in the county. Therefore, it is not surprising that the economy was one of the main factors in the construction of roads. Economic and political aspects influenced the development of the road network in the Novi Becej county.

The planned construction of a railway from Kikinda through Srpski Krstur and Novi Becej to Bečkerek, which was the project of the Novi Becej industrialist Josif Jerkov, also contributed to the creation of conditions for the better connection of Novi Becej with other places.

However, the economic crisis and the unfavorable conditions for the financing of the construction of a new railway in Banat meant that the planned railway would never be built.

The desire to build a railway was also expressed by the Banat Peasant Union, which considered the construction of the railway as one of the conditions for the economic development of Banat.

The conditions of the economic crisis influenced the road conditions in the county. The state at that time tried to help the construction of roads, but due to the economic crisis, the realization of plans was slow. One of the main problems was the limited budget.

Despite the unfavorable conditions, there were also attempts to improve the state of the road network. Therefore, in 1934, the Assembly of the Novi Becej County adopted a decision to invest funds in the construction of a new road from Novi Becej to Beodra.

The existing road from Novi Becej to Beodra, as mentioned earlier, was a gravel road, and the new road was supposed to connect these two places. The decision to invest in the construction of the road was made at the time when the road was not considered a priority issue. However, it seems that the economic situation and the overall conditions influenced this decision. It is possible that the Novi Becej County Assembly considered the construction of the road as an economic necessity, taking into account the economic situation and the need to improve road conditions.

The construction of the road was planned as a way to improve the economic situation and help the farmers. Therefore, the economic development committee of the Novi Becej County Assembly took the initiative to collect funds for the construction of the road. The funds were collected from the inhabitants of the Novi Becej county. The county itself did not have enough money to finance the construction of the road, so it had to rely on the funds collected from the inhabitants.

The construction of the road from Novi Becej to Beodra was an important project for the county, as it was considered a way to improve the overall economic situation. The road was planned to connect the two places and provide better conditions for the transportation of goods. The construction of the road was also expected to contribute to the development of trade and other economic activities in the county.

The construction of the road was an important project for the Novi Becej county, as it was expected to have a positive impact on the economic situation. The road was planned to connect Novi Becej with Beodra and provide better conditions for the transportation of goods. The construction of the road was considered a way to improve the overall economic situation in the county and contribute to the development of trade and other economic activities.

Related Articles

Graphic Industry

Food Industry

Footwear Industry