Maramureş, with Baia Mare as its capital, was first documented in 1199. Prior to this, Dacian tribes are thought to have settled here around 1000 BC; today’s inhabitants believe they are descended from these tribes. When the Roman emperor Trajan conquered the rest of Romania in AD 106, his forces never made it over the range of mountains protecting the Maramureş villages.
Hungary gradually exerted its rule over the region from the 13th century onwards. Tartar invasions of the Hungarian-dominated region continued into the 17th and 18th centuries, the last documented battle being on the Prislop Pass in 1717. Numerous churches sprang up in Maramureş around this time to mark the Tartars’ final withdrawal from the region.
Maramureş was annexed by Transylvania in the mid-16th century, then ceded to the Austrian empire in 1699. It was not until 1918 that Maramureş was returned to Romania, albeit only part of it – the remainder went to what is now Ukraine.
Between 1940 and 1944 the Maramureş region – along with northern Transylvania and parts of Moldavia – fell under pro-Nazi Hungarian rule, during which time the entire Jewish population of its capital, Sighetu Marmaţiei, was shipped to Nazi Germany’s concentration camps.
Ceauşescu’s rule had little effect on the area. Indeed, he curiously encouraged the people here to maintain their traditional culture, contrary to his systemisation policies for the rest of Romania.