Zsáka Summary

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Zsáka is a Hungarian village, settled on the northwest edge of the marshland of Sárrét occupying the middle part of the territory east of the river Tisza, in the XI–XII centuries. Its oldest history can be inferred from its name. It was first mentioned in the form of Ysowlaka in 1214. It received its name after the founder, and owner of the settlement (Ysak–Isak–Isaac), which was a method customary in the XI century, which makes us conclude that our village had emerged much earlier. In the Middle Ages, it was owned by the Izsáki family, which set up its manorial centre here. In 1540, they fortified their manor house built in the XIII century, and later, in 1592, they re-built it into a castle. The main strength of the Zsáka castle was the moor that surrounded the whole settlement and the castle itself. During the dual election of kings (1526), although the whole area, that is Bihar county belonged to king John, Zsáka and its castle got to the hands of Ferdinand by his follower, András Izsák. Zsáka, and its castle became internationally known in 1566, at the time when John Sigismund took the castle, and this “monstrous deed” was published in several leaflets in the German language in Vienna to inform the Western general public. After this, Zsáka belonged to the principality of Transylvania, and consistently took part in our freedom fights. In 1613, Ferenc Rhédey (cca 1560–1621), one of the most prominent generals of prince István Bocskai received the domain of Zsáka, and the castle. Zsáka and its castle had their golden age in the XVI–XVII centuries, and it was also mentioned as an oppidum, and even as a civitas around the middle of the 1600-ies. The whole village together with the surrounding settlements accepted Reformation very early. Its Reformed church cherished the generous support of the Rhédey family and its off-spring, which significantly impacted its public life until now, and it also tied it to Debrecen. After the Turks were expelled, and the principality of Transylvania discontinued, the Rhédey family had difficulties in ensuring their estates, which then remained in their hands and the hands of their heirs of the female line until 1945.
Orthodox Rumanian cotters were settled in Zsáka at the beginning of the XVIII century. The Rumanians on average made one quarter of the population, and it is still the proportion today. This serfs’ village engaged in farming and animal husbandry (famous sheep breeding) in the dry parts of the land, and reed production, bulrush processing, animal keeping on meadows on the wetland, as well as fishing and hunting. The drainage, carried out in the middle of the XIX century, boosted farming, aimed at pushing animal keeping to the background, and eliminated the “old wetland”. By the turn of the XIX–XX centuries, there were some unhealthy property relations in Zsáka. There were some arbitrary seizures of land in the village already in 1848, and the population took part in large numbers and enthusiastically in the 1948–49 freedom fight and revolution. The agro-socialist movement also left its print. The first World War took the lives of 72 people in the village, but the more final blow on the life of the village came when the Trianon Peace Treaty deprived the village of its natural and historic centre, and most of its economic, social and cultural relations, thus thrusting it into the rank of the most underprivileged settlements. All this can also be traced in the demographic trend of the village. Zsáka had the highest number of population in 1910 (3,726 people); after then it has been on the decrease until now. Between the two world wars the public life of Zsáka got stronger on the one hand, but on the other hand, it became radicalised mostly due to the poverty that emerged from the aftermath of the economic world crisis. In spite of the economic problems and social tensions, Zsáka could retain its role of being a kind of mini centre for Furta, Darvas and Vekerd. The second world war took 74 victims in Zsáka – including the Jews that perished –, and also ruined the village from an economical perspective. Despite all this, the people set out towards the new, democratic life with great hopes in 1945. The land reform through the elimination of the system of large estates brought about a decisive change in Zsáka, as well. Its evolvement, however, was paralysed by the forced collectivisation started in 1948, which although was halted by the revolution in 1956, but was reinstated in the 1960-ies. The Hungarian Communist Party took more and more power by liquidating the civic opposition, and introduced the one-party system, and dictatorship. During the years of dictatorship Zsáka managed to pay back some of the old debts of the settlement by building the basic infrastructure. For instance, the electrification of the village in 1952 was of a basic significance, and ensured the possibility of further economic, social and cultural development. A new school was built, and the Rhédey manor house – after its successful renovation as a monument – was ensured for the purposes of public education. A small water plant was built, and not a long time ago, the village was connected to the gas supply system. However, industrialisation avoided Zsáka. Many of the industrialists and the young people chose commuting. The Farmers’ Cooperative established in 1945 became the leading institution of economic life. The originally hoped and planned democratic unfolding, however, only came with the change of the political and economic systems in 1998. Economic life, public administration (the form of self-governments), cultural life (Culture Hall, Village Library, Artists’ Site, the permanent exhibition of Gyula Madarász, painter, and the local paper Híreink, etc.) were reorganised in the spirit of democracy. With the upswing of nature conservation and tourism, new perspectives have opened for Zsáka now.



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