Like the majority of the European countries, the modern Romanian state was wrought through the unification of the historical provinces inhabited by Romanians. The merit of the public and military foundation of the principality of Moldova belongs to Bogdan of Cuhea from Maramures, in the middle of the 14th century.
According to his exploits recorded in the chronicles of his time, he detached himself from among all the other leaders and lords more preoccupied with defending their own properties and privileges in front of the expansionist tendencies of the Hungarian kings.
Bogdan came from a family that had owned twenty two villages on the upper course of the Iza (between Strâmtura and Bârsana), and also on the valley of the Vişeu river, and he had a fortified official residence at Cuhea.
At a certain moment, during the reign of Charles Robert d’Anjou (1308-1342) Bogdan had been proclaimed voievode of the entire Maramures. In this interval he succeeded to maintain the autonomy of the country as a principality; but at the beginning of the reign of Louis d’Anjou I (1342-1382), the royal house succeeded to banish Bogdan (probably in 1343). There are two hypotheses concerning the reasons of this political decision: either a conflict with the Hungarian noble Ioan, lord of the stronghold Visc, and representative of the king of Maramures, or a decision of the former king Charles Robert to impose a taxation (18 denari) for each “bondsman’s gate”, that could have resulted in an “ample movement of the peasants from Maramures” under the leadership of Bogdan, in defence of their former rights.
Almost two centuries of skirmishes followed, but in spite of the Hungarian crown’s accusation of “infidelity”, they did not dare to confiscate Bogdan’s properties or to take other measures, either legal or military, against him, due to the notoriety he enjoyed in the communities of Maramures.
In 1358 (or 1359), voievode Sas died and king Louis was too busy with his campaign against Dusan of Serbia and had no time to take care of a “faithful” succession to the throne of Moldova, though the Romanian territory on the eastern side of the Carpathians was a priority to the Hungarian royal house that was dreaming of an Angevine empire from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic.
The imperial dream was shattered by Bogdan who, in 1359, started from his residence in Cuhea, together with a number of warriors and crossed over the Prislop-Borşa pass to Moldova where drove away from the throne the heirs of Dragoş.
It is believed that Bogdan’s enterprise would not have been successful had he not used the surprise factor and the favourable moment, and if he had not had faithful and well-trained soldiers to whom the local population, dissatisfied by Hungary’s tendencies to sovereignty, adhered.
During the six years of his reign, Bogdan’s main concern was to repel King Louis’ attempts to take over the power in Moldavia. In 1859, Moldova will unite with Muntenia and in 1918, with Transylvania, giving birth to the modern Romanian state.
Haiduc Grigore Pintea “the Brave”
In the 17th century Transylvania, under emperor Leopold I of Austria, the Habsburg rule in this Romanian province had given rise to an ample movement of resistance of the population and also of the nobility. On this background, Rakoczi II started a “national liberations movement” relying both on the support of the bondsmen and on the help promised by the French king (Louis XVI) and the tsar of Russia (Peter the Great).
In the north-west of Transylvania (Maramures, Sătmar), the captain in Rakozi’s army was Grigore Pintea (1660-1703), leader of some bands of “haiduci” (outlaws) who for a number of years had supported the local population and were loathed by the Austrian nobility and authorities. That is why at the imperial court in Vienna they spoke with fear and admiration of “Pintyland”- a country where Pintea was “the fear of the rich and the mercy of the poor”.
It results from documents of those times that Grigore Pintea was an educated man, knowing several foreign languages and military techniques he had learned in the imperial garrison. An able diplomat and negotiator, Pintea was considered by the historians as “one of the most important Romanians from the 17th century” (N. Densuşianu, 1883).
In the spring of 1703, many towns from the north of Transylvania (Zalău Sătmar, Bistriţa, Dej, Sighet) had fallen into the hands of the rebels. Pintea’s army had to conquer the stronghold Baia Mare. During August the town had been under siege. After an ambush, Pintea was mortally wounded in front of the town’s southern gate.
The years have passed, but 20th century ethnologists who had studied the traditional culture from this region were surprised by the richness of the folkloric productions whose characters where either Pintea or his men. The area on which these “documents” had spread covered not only Maramures but also other counties.
“Pintea was a great and brave man. He had a wise horse. Then, the emperor’s men wanted to catch him. But he remained on horseback, there up, on a rock of the mountain Gutâi, and you can see even now in the stone the track made by the horse where he stood. Then, all of a sudden, the horse took off from the mountain with Pintea on his back, flew to the Stone peak of Şugatag; from there as fast as thought he flew to the Stone of Săpânţa. None such valiant man had ever been.” (Dumitru Lupu Feier, 72 years, Giuleşti, 1924)
Connected to this testimony and the strategy used by Pintea’s “haiducs” (rapid attacks and rapid withdrawals at distances of tens of kilometres), another legend has circulated, about a glider Pintea had built in order to escape from the Austrian soldiers.
The “Pintea Viteazul” brand has been enriched by the instalment of a tomb on the southern side of mountain Gutâi, close to the highway connecting Baia Mare to Sighetu Marmaţiei. An inn was built on the pass, bearing the name of Pintea Viteazul. Artist Geza Vida had consecrated him a study and sculptor Ioan Marchiş made a bust of the hero. During the ‘70s, there was a film made in Maramures about him and the wooden church from Budeşti preserves a chain mail shirt that probably had belonged to the famous “haiduc”.