The Betyárs continued an old, yet necessary tradition, which dates back to the seventeenth century, a time before the kuruces.
The poor, but young and strong men often ran away from their lives as serf and became soldiers in the castles defending the southern borders of the country, later becoming ruffians and turning against society as a whole, living their lives as criminals.
In the nineteenth century, they were enshrouded in a kind of romantic glory, since the stood up to the foreign rulers of the country, the Austrians. They moved deep into the woods (just like Robin Hood and co.), looking for and finding partners, living from one day to the next.
THE BETYÁRS (Someone should tell me, why all the Betyárs has a mustache?)
They didn’t exactly have such a noble cause as Robin Hood; and they didn’t distribute the wealth they stole from the rich amongst the poor, but rather wasted it away and spent it on themselves…
They often changed their companions, mainly because the authorities – the gendarmerie, the police, the hey duck, or the soldiers – finished them off. If a Betyár was caught – especially if he was known in a region or throughout the whole country – he was executed or imprisoned for decades (maybe those prisons were dark and small and dirty…)
Sobri the famous Betyár par example learned how to read and write in prison, along with some manners, allowing him to sway the wife of the jailer to help him escape (clever…)
Sobri made a living out of robbing people and became so famous that men came to join him from all over the country. He successfully staged a number of daring missions, increasing his fame and popularity. The people suppressed by foreign rule often thought of the Betyárs as national heroes or brave men, who weren’t afraid to fire at the gendarmerie. They did what most people only dreamt of doing…
The other infamous Betyár was Sándor Rózsa, was a legendary Hungarian outlaw
(and in Hungary there is a very good movie about he and his life, and I was in love with that Betyár :heart: ,well, I am sure I am not the only one…)
He is the best-known Hungarian Betyár. He enjoyed much the same esteem as Dick Turpin, with elements of Robin Hood thrown in for good measure. He played for high stakes right from the word go: if necessary, he murdered policemen without hesitation, which of course, wasn’t approved of by the authorities, who staged a man-hunt to find Rózsa.
In October 1848 on behalf of the Committee of Defence (Honvédelmi Bizottmány), he joined the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 with his company of 150. With their strange appearance and method of fighting (they fought with bullwhips and other odd weapons) they had success but because of their lack of discipline they were disbanded. Following the revolution, the authorities weren’t just hunting Sándor Rózsa as a murderer and a bandit, but as a political enemy as well.
Still, he quit his murderous life and got married under a false name, working as a range man. After their inital failure, the authorities gradually raised the ransom money and when the amount was worth a small fortune a close relative of the bandit gave him up.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment. He spent 9 years in prisons of Kufstein, Theresienstadt and Pétervárad till he was released in a general amnesty in 1868. During his life behind bars he was put on display for foreign tourists, which was a truly humiliating experience for him. He swore, that he will live an honest life in the future. However, once he was released, he couldn’t get any work and thus he was “forced” to gather his old band of men if he didn’t want to starve to death. He lived in a modern age by then (in the 1860s and 70s), so Sándor Rózsa stopped trains …
They caught him again, but this time, he didn’t survive his life sentence…
The Betyárs are an intrinsic element of Hungarian folklore.
Songs were sung about them as well as featuring in poems and folk art products People recalled their tales for a long time with open nostalgia as brave, although not entirely without blemish men who played tricks on the country’s foreign rules.
Listen to these beautiful songs about the Betyárs