Just after World War I when the famous miller family Szánthó had received an breakthrough patent to turn their milling process from grain to paprika, it received huge publicity, and not only for its innovative approach. The Délmagyarország newspaper in those days of December 1919, followed the happenings of a paprika-uprising that had started, now exactly 100 years ago.
The history of the paprika-uprising
But what exactly had caused the uprising in Szentmihály, a small village just outside of Szeged? The main cause was that the state had issued a new paprika decree, which required the millers to get a mandatory state certification. This measurment really put the goods in some kind of lock until the requested high quality standards were met, and until that time the owner of the mill was unable to meet all his payment obligations. Just imagine that this mandatory state certification was valid until 1983!
Soon after the publication of the decree, two inspectors, responsible for checking herbs, came down from Szeged to Szentmihály, which after the war was falling under French occupation and government. Their task of course to control the mills and write out the needed quality certifications.
Obviously, they were not greeted with great hostility by the local paprikamillers. The two inspectors hastily left and returned under police protection. When they came back the uprising or rebellion started to be really dangerous. Stones were thrown at officials and many of them got injured. They decided to retire again, and return with a larger regiment of fifty people detachment. In the village, the churchbells were set aside, and the local paprika workers attacked the officials with spades and hoes. Miklós Pottyondy, the head of the police unit, ordered to fire and many of the rebellions were shot down, resulting in two bodies laying dead in front of the church and many many wounded.
A Szánthó-family member was one of the victims
As we know from the publication in Délmagyarország on December 2nd, 1919: Lajos Szánthó was lucky, he just got wounded:
“Among the wounded is Lajos Szánthó, the owner of a paprika mill in Szentmihálytelke. She is being treated in the hospital because of a ribfracture. He claims that when he was arrested and interrogated in his Szentmihály mill, the police had mollestated him. Szánthó was in town when he learned that police had gone to Szentmihály and they wanted to convescate the paprika he had just collected in his mill. Therefore, he took his lawyer dr. Dezső Barta with him. Dr. Barta stated that when Sánthó went to the police for questioning, he was still fine. But when he came back from the interrogation he was confused and covered by mud. The other wounded people from Szentmihály are hospitalised in rooms 7, 8, 11 and 13.
There is no doubt that the people from Szentmihály have been misunderstanding the decision of the assembly. They believed that the new paprika decree would not have to be implemented until the delegation reporting to Budapest returned with a formal reply from the minister.”
The article does not end here, it also reports that József Szalay, the district captain, traveled to Budapest to explain to the government the inadequacy of the new paprika decree.
Of course, the process with the involvement of police, lawyers and many officials did not bring a quick solution. But probably nobody could have expected how long this would actually last, Five years have passed since the last meeting of the paprika-uprising and we plan to write about it in next week’s post.
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