Maramureş, a small and unique location in northern Romania, has carefully and distinctively preserved the culture, traditions and lifestyle of a mediaeval peasant past. Whilst Romania is on the verge of economically and socially joining the rest of Europe, Maramureş stands as a testament to the traditional, to a romantic era of simplicity, pride and moral values that many of us can only now read about or hear about from our grandparents.
Situated in the northwest of Romania, the region occupies an area of 6304 square kilometers, borders Ukraine and also the counties of Suceava, Bistrita Nasaud, Cluj, Salaj and Satu Mare.
Almost 50% of the region is considered mountainous. The Gutai, Ţibleş and Rodna Mountains, running northwest to east, separate Historical Maramures from the rest of the region while the Maramures Mountains form a natural and political boundary with Ukraine in the northeast.
The region is abundant with fast-flowing rivers. The names of the major rivers are used to distinguish the regions in Historical Maramures – the Iza, the Mara, the Viseu, the Tisa and the Cosău.
The first written documentation of Maramureş dates back to the year 1199, but archaeological evidence points to habitation of these lands since the Neolithic age. Whilst much of Dacia (the old name corresponding to lands south of the Carpathians and north of the Danube) was conquered by the Romans, Maramureş, in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, was largely independent.
In the middle ages, Dacian-Roman society was influenced by neighboring tribes. Feudal settlements were established between the 4th and 10th centuries and were largely institutionalized and sanctioned by the church. In the 13th century, Magyar (Hungarian) chiefs began their conquest of Transylvania and by the middle of the 14th century, the whole Transylvania region, including Maramures, was under Hungarian rule.
Maramures officially became part of the Transylvanian principality in 1526, then part of the Habsburg Empire in 1687 and was annexed by Hungary in 1703. Revolution in 1848 ended the Habsburg Dynasty and in 1918, Transylvania, including Maramures, united with the Kingdom of Romania.
Following the peace treaties of Paris, in 1920, Maramures loses to Czechoslovakia the territory from north of the Tisa river (a land that currently belongs to Ukraine).
In 1940, Maramures and Northern Transylvania was given by Nazi Germany to Hungary and subsequently returned in 1944 with the withdrawal of German and Hungarian troops. In the early 1960s most individual peasants were forced to give their lands to collective farms instituted under the communist regime. Despite this forced collectivization, genuine art and folk traditions continued to flourish in Maramureş.
Maramureş County is comprised of the following ethnographic zones: the Land of Maramureş, the Land of Lăpuş, the Land of Chioar, the largest part of the Codru Land and the zone of Baia Mare-Baia Sprie. Five of the wooden UNESCO World Heritage churches presented in this guide are situated in the Land of Maramureş (Deseşti, Budeşti, Bârsana, Poienile Izei, Ieud), two in the Land of Chioar (Şurdeşti and Plopiş) and one in the Land of Lăpuş (Rogoz).
*Source – MaramuresInfoTurism