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The district of Satu Mare (German: Sathmar, Hungarian: Szatmár) and district town by the same name are located in the northwest of Romania. The area is influenced by agriculture and inhabited by 370.000 people. In the north, Satu Mare borders on Ukraine, in the west on Hungary. Accordingly, the population of the district is diverse: it consists of Romanians (58 percent), Hungarians (35 percent), Germans (two percent) and other groups, such as Ukrainians and Slovakians (five percent).

The district of Satu Mare (German: Sathmar, Hungarian: Szatmár) and district town by the same name are located in the northwest of Romania. The area is influenced by agriculture and inhabited by 370.000 people. In the north, Satu Mare borders on Ukraine, in the west on Hungary. Accordingly, the population of the district is diverse: it consists of Romanians (58 percent), Hungarians (35 percent), Germans (two percent) and other groups, such as Ukrainians and Slovakians (five percent). However, the historical region of Hungarian Satu Mare (which existed until 1918) is larger than the Romanian district. Today, approximately a fourth of the region belongs to Hungary and a smaller part around the town of Welyka Palad belongs to Ukraine. After World Wars I and II, the ethnic composition of the region has changed drastically. After 1918, mostly Romanians were settled in the region. During World War II, Satu Mare had lost its Jews to Holocaust and after 1945 most of the Germans left the region.

The settlement of Germans was organised by the politician Count Sándor Károly. He initiated the Peace of Satu Mare in 1711 in which the Habsburgs made peace with the rebelling Hungarian gentry. Károly settled Swabian farmers and craftsmen on his land. Agents recruited catholic families from upper Swabia who then travelled from Ulm to Bratislava by ship in 1712. From there they took the country way to Satu Mare. Count Károly hoped that the colonisation would improve the agriculture and trade on his properties. However, the first wave of settlement ended in a catastrophe. The colonists did not have housing, the fields were marshy and the new settlers came in conflict with the local population.

In the long run, the settlement was successful though. More than 2.000 Swabian families came to Satu Mare until 1828. They modernised agriculture and crafts techniques in many villages. A contemporary description reads: “The Swabians are a diligent and wealthy people […]. A Swabian village can easily be recognised by the nice houses, large barns, painted doors and the strong horses used for field work.” Most of the Swabians of Satu Mare spoke the dialect of upper Swabia and had shared cultural and ethnic values. Their strong connection to Catholic faith was an important factor for their identity. Nevertheless, the Hungarian church dominated the region which led to a growing assimilation (magyarisation) of Swabians in the mid-19th century. Services were only held in Hungarian and school education was in Hungarian as well. This lead to a loss of their original dialect in the following generations and after the migration wave of 1989, Swabian dialect has disappeared completely in the region.

 


The city’s two parts with River Someş



Satu Mare saw a great development under bishop János Hám.



At the end of the 19th century, Satu Mare was still rather rural.