In the last year, after having been in these last two countries not recognized by any sovereign state member of the United Nations, I got even more curious to read and look for many more cases. And what was my surprise when I found that if less than 100 years ago some independence would have prospered, the three years I lived in Romania would have been between two countries, since my city would have been split in two.
And that Banat… Where is it?
The truth is that when I searched and found the long list of extinct unrecognized countries and read the word Banat, I immediately got interested in it, since I knew that it was the area where I had been living.
In fact, I knew it because over four years ago, when I arrived with my bags to live in Arad, one of the first weekends I went to Belgrade. At that time, I had not yet met the , so I checked trains and buses and found that there was a train called Banat Special where the trip from Timişoara (the capital of the district in the south of Arad) to Belgrade cost only about 14€, round trip. I asked about and they said it was to promote the interest and the economic and cultural movement in this ancient region. And that was it.
The self-proclaimed Banat Republic was located in what nowadays is Romania, Serbia and Hungary. It comprised the Romanian districts of Timiş and Caraş-Severin in their entirety, and a small part of the districts of Arad and Mehedinţi. On the part of Serbia, it comprised only half of the province of Vojvodina and finally a small part of the Hungarian county of Csongrád. In fact, the exact boundaries can be known as it was basically delimited by the rivers that surrounded it: the Danube was its natural border to the south, the Tisza to the west and the Mureş to the north. On the east side, it was protected by the southern Carpathians.
Thus, the city where I lived was split in two as the river Mureş passes through. The old part of the city is in the north of the river, so nowadays would still be Romania. While the fortress of Arad and the new part of the city would remain to the south of the river, in the Banat Republic.
Now you see it, now you don’t
In the autumn of 1918, while the Austro-Hungarian empire was collapsing, the Banat region wanted to maintain its territorial integrity, which was now threatened by both Romanians and Serbs. Banat’s population was totally multi-ethnic. Rounding up, 40% of them were of Romanian ethnicity, 25% German, 18% Serbian and only 15% were Hungarian. And as if that was not enough, there were also other ethnic minority groups such as Croats, Slovaks, Bulgarians and Russians. Imagine how difficult it could be to come to terms with each other.
The Banat People’s Council was created with the four largest ethnic groups, but the Romanians, who wanted full integration with Romania, distanced themselves from the the Council seeing that the others were considering self-determination.
Finally on November 1, 1918, the independence of the Republic of Banat was declared on the balcony of the Local Council of Timişoara, which will be its capital. Only Hungary recognized the secession and Serbia quickly ordered its troops to take control of the Banato, which they when Timişoara fell on November 14 of the same year, only 14 days later.
Later, on 1920, the famous Trianon treaty was signed, which divided the Banat region between Romania, Hungary and what would eventually become the former Yugoslavia.
Authentic pearls lost in Europe
It is curious because, without even having known of its existence, if this Central European Republic existed today, I would have already visited more than ten of its localities. And the truth is that the vast majority are very worthwhile and are not known at all.
On the Serbian side, I have only been in Pancevo and Vrsac, where by the way, at the beginning of this adventure, I wrote an article about . The Romanian part of the Banat, I have seen more, starting with the beautiful Timişoara, known for being the first city in Europe with public electric lighting. Also, do not miss the quiet town of Orşova on the banks of the Danube and the majestic rock-cut statue of the last Dacian king in its outskirts. And the one that is undoubtedly one of my favorite provinces, Caraş-Severin, which has wonders like Băile Herculane, the beautiful waterfall Bigăr and the natural park Cheile Nerei-Beuşniţa.
Can be easily seen how Romania stole my heart and how unknown and undervalued I think it is, right?