A Remembrance of the Past; Building for the Future." ~ Eve Eckert Koehler

Remembering Our Danube Swabian Ancestors

Chapter 5

The Rule of the Turks

By Josef Schramm
Translation by Brad Schwebler

   The farmers’ uprising and the resulting punishment of the farmers had already extensively depopulated the Batschka.  With the battle of Mohatsch the nobility already had to leave the land, and the Turks took the war’s booty, what was still remaining.

   At first the Batschka was administered by the East Hungarian vassal state of Johann Zapolyas and in 1543 it was also first formally incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.  In Ofen a pashalik (seat of a pasha) was created, under whom 25 sandshakats were placed.  The Batschka came under the Segedin Sandshakat and it was divided into 6 Nahien (neighborhoods) with seats in Baja, Theresiopel, Sombor, Batsch, Titel, and Segedin.  The environs of present day Neusatz belonged to the Nahie of Peterwardein of the Syrmian Sandshakat.

   Contrary to the frequently prevailing opinion the Turks did not depopulate the land, but populated it.  Here is a comparison for confirmation of this assertion: In the year 1520, in the Hungarian time, there were 569 settlements with 2000 homes.  In the year 1590, in Turkish times, there were 291 settlements with 5,674 Christian homes and Turks still came as well.

   Unlike the earlier inhabitants entering rural settlements of Serbia and Wallachia (Romania), the Turks, Tatars, Armenians, and Greeks settled in the cities.  Among the cities the most important were Baja, Sombor, Batsch, and Titel, but also smaller market villages had special meaning like Hodschag, Kala, Palanka, Schmatz (later Neusatz – today Novi Sad), Betsche.   How important these cities were one can see from the 14 mosques in Sombor and eight in Batsch.  The homes in the cities had many times more floors, built of a patchwork, with roofs of shingles.  The stores were open with two vertical closure flaps.  The streets were paved with bricks or wood. 

   The rural settlements showed as a rule the picture of a hodgepodge of houses.  The houses were made of wood, patchwork, or stamped earth, but besides that one also lived in Löß Plateau caves or earth pits.  The homes in the cities were so well cared for, that the homes in the villages appeared to be neglected by the travelers.

   The traffic developed by water on the rivers and by land on the roads, which had to be built by the Turks as well as the bridges.  The Tatar riders assured the postal traffic, the caravans played the part of hotels at the time.

   The economic life was decided by the livestock breeds, then the other branches of economic activity followed.  The livestock breeders had their place of residence in the lands of the Balkan Peninsula, migrated with their herds to Pannonia to find the winter pastures here.  Soon after that the herd owner established their main place of residence in Pannonia and sent their herds from here to the summer pastures in the Balkan mountains or the Carpathians.  In the first place the sheep breeds stood.  A large family (Zadruga) owned as a rule 2000 – 4000 animals.

   The horse breeds were just as important since the Ottoman army needed very many horses.  Beef cattle were kept in large herds and there were at the time large herds of buffaloes and camels.  The pig breeds were of little importance because the Islamic religion forbid the enjoyment of pig meat.  Hunting, bee breeding, and fishing supplied good yields, however agriculture steadily increased.  For the provisions of the garrisons and cities with grain and vegetables the Turkish state had to resettle farmers from the Balkan lands to Pannonia by force.

   In Turkish times craftwork was especially blossoming.  In the narrow alleys of the cities were the individual branches of trade especially represented.  Here there were sword-, knife-, copper-, and kettle forges, tanner, furrier, saddle maker, butcher, confectioner, cook, then wagon maker, binder, cabinet maker, roofer, shoemaker, tailor, weaver, potter, mason.

   The trade was lively and found on the marketplaces, “Caršija”, instead.  There one could buy wares from Vienna, Beirut, Egypt, Tripoli, or also exchange products of the land such as cattle, hides, hay, food, etc.

   Instead of the medieval cultural landscape impressed by the Magyars, entering after the destruction of the cultural landscape, it was impressed by the Middle East or Balkan points of view.  So just as the medieval cultural point of view was completely destroyed, so was the Turkish cultural landscape.  As soon as the authority of the sultans decreased, the discipline slackened.  As the demand for war was always greater, many farmers and livestock breeders left, but also craftsmen and sales people of the Batschka went to a protected region.  In the war and revolution years of 1683 and 1711 the Ottoman cultural landscape was completely destroyed, partly by the Ottomans, partly by the imperials, partly by the rebellious Kuruzzen?  In the Batschka only a few people lived, perhaps one or two per square kilometer.  The face of the landscape was a kind of secondary natural landscape.

[Published at 19 Sep 2005 by Jody McKim Pharr]

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The Rule of the Turks