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from the border with Hungary and 50 kilometres from the border with Ukraine. The city administers four villages: Blidari (Kőbánya), Firiza (Felsőfernezely), Valea Borcutului (Borpatak) and Valea Neagră (Feketepatak).Prehistory
The city’s development on the middle course of Săsar River, in the middle of a plateau with a warm Mediterranean-like climate, has facilitated living conditions since the Palaeolithic.Ancient times
See also: Bronze Age in Romania, Dacians, and Dacia
During the Bronze Age the region was inhabited by Thracian tribes. Later, it was included in the Dacian Kingdom formed by the King Burebista when the mining exploration began, as the area is rich in gold and silver.
Baia Mare is first mentioned in written documents released by Charles I of Hungary in 1328 under the name of Rivulus Dominarum (English: Ladies’ River).
Later, in 1347 the town is presented in documents by Louis I of Hungary as an important medieval town with a prosperous mining industry. Its rules of organisation were characteristic of the free towns of that time. In 1411 the town and its surrounding areas, including the mines, were transferred into the property of the Hunyadi family by Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor, who recognised Janos Hunyadi’s contribution to stop the Turkish invasion of Western Europe.
The town entered in a period of prosperity, when St. Stephen Cathedral was built. Today the cathedral tower is one of the best-known of the town’s historic landmarks (see Stephen’s Tower). The first school, named Schola Rivulina, was opened in Baia Mare in 1547 by the Reformed Church following the Protestant Reformation.
In 1703 Pintea Viteazul and his band managed to free the town for a short period of time from the Holy Roman Empire, for which it served as the imperial treasury. Since then Pintea has been seen as an important figure in the town’s history, representing the dream of freedom. The Budesti Church has his chain mail shirt and a helmet reportedly worn by “Pintea the Brave”, as he was called. The Museum of Baia Mare displays his weapons and their harness.
In 1748 the city’s mining industry made a leap forward when the Austrian authorities created the headquarters of “Superior Mining”.
In the late nineteenth century, Simon Hollósy, István Réti, János Thorma, and Károly Ferenczy were among numerous young Hungarian and Romanian artists who left the area to study at the Munich Academy in Bavaria, because the Austro-Hungarian Empire lacked an art academy. In 1896, they decided to settle together in Baia Mare, then called Nagybánya, to work on art. Their artistic colony became known for a significant movement influencing the development of twentieth-century Hungarian art. Works by each of these important painters is held by the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest.
Following World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved, and in 1919, Baia Mare was annexed by the Kingdom of Romania. It was re-occupied by Hungary between 1940-1944 but returned to Romania after World War II. Shortly after World War II in postwar development, the town of Baia Mare started to grow in both population and inhabited area. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a new town centre was developed with modern architecture buildings and structures.
In 2000, Baia Mare was the site of what has been considered Europe’s worst ecological disaster since Chernobyl. The tailing dam at a gold processing plant broke and 100,000 cubic meters/70 tons of toxic cyanide and heavy metal-laced waste water escaped into the River Tisza and into Hungary, making its way into the Danube and affecting Romania, Hungary, Ukraine, Serbia, and Bulgaria. More than 1,400 tons of fish, numerous eagles, storks and otters all died. Scientists also fear the release may have led to the ultimate extinction of at least five fish species. Despite the accident’s happening in Romania, much of the impact was felt in Hungary. The accident prompted Hungary to ban the use of cyanide in gold processing and urge the rest of Europe to do the same.
Coat of arms
The coat of arms of Baia Mare was granted to the city by the Government in the late 1990s, early 200s, some years after the communist symbols established in 1968 where de facto out of use starting 1989.
The french shield is party per pale. In dexter on gules is an argent miner in a mine, in sinister on azure an or church tower. The shield is topped by a mural crown with seven towers.
The miner refers to the main local economical activity. The church tower refers to the local cultural/eclesial tradition. The crest shows the city’s status as a county seat.
The city is situated in the vicinity of the Gutâi and Igniş Mountains. Altitudes reach 1400 meters in some peaks. The area is famous for its outstanding landscapes, and the mountains are easily accessible from the city, famous routes being: Igniş (1307 m), Mogoşa (1246 m), Gutâi (1443 m), Creasta Cocosului (1450 m), Piatra Soimului (839 m), Plestioara (803 m), Dealul Bulat (683 m), Murgau (633 m), Dealul Crucii (500 m) etc. Some of these mountains provide skiing slopes, most notably the one at Mogoşa, which is the most difficult slope in Northern Romania. The city is situated in the Baia Mare valley and is encircled on all sides by hills and mountains, which makes the climate in the city milder than the rest of the surrounding area. Proof of this is that the outskirts of Baia Mare are the only areas where you can find chestnut trees that usually need Mediterranean climate to grow. This is the northernmost reach of the chestnut tree. However, abrupt temperature changes take place and, during the winters, the temperatures may occasionally drop below -20 degrees Celsius. The summers are mild, cooler than in the rest of the country. The precipitations in this area are quite high, due to the mountains in the north and east which do not allow the air masses to pass beyond the region’s limits, the average rainfall being almost 1000 mm/year. The city of Baia Mare is the most populous of Northern Romanian cities (Satu Mare, Suceava and Botoşani), with a population of approximately 149,735. It also has high a level of culture and education, being home to theatres, schools, museums and art galleries. Not far from the city there are a few very important natural reservations, among them Creasta Cocoşului, Cheile Tătărului, Lacul Albastru etc. Because of its privileged location in the Eastern Carpathian mountains it is considered one of the most picturesque cities in Romania.
As of 2011 census data, Baia Mare has a population of 114,925, a decrease from the figure recorded at the 2002 census.
The municipality of Baia Mare had a total population of 137,921 in 2002, the majority being Romanians. The ethnic composition of the city is as follows:
and 642 others, including Greeks, Turks, Italians, Lippovans, Poles and Slovaks.
Before the Second World War, Baia Mare had a community of more than 1.000 Jews, out of which only around 130 still live in the city, due to the deportation and extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust. Along with Rădăuţi, Gura Humorului and others, Baia Mare was one of the country’s shtetls. There is a synagogue dating from 1885.