Alba County

Short History

Crossed by many water courses, blessed with fertile land, varied relief contours and large woods and forests, the territory of the present Alba county has always been, since times of yore, a land favouring the settlement and development of human communities. The oldest vestiges in this expanse date back to the Palaeolithic. Unlike the Palaeolithic, the Neolithic is much richer in vestiges. The discoveries made in Alba county stand proof to the existence of one of the most important Neolithic cultures in Transilvania, known in the specialised literature as the Petresti Culture. At the beginning of the second century AD, part of Dacia is conquered by the Roman emperor Trajan and turned into a province of the Roman Empire. The town of Apulum, present-day Alba-Iulia, stands out as one of the most important Roman settlements in Alba county. Ampelum, present-day Zlatna, follows as the second most important Roman town in this territory. The set-up and development of Ampelum is directly and strongly connected to the gold mines opened in the Apuseni Mountains (the Western Carpathians). After the Roman armies and the Roman administration withdraw south of the Danube, at the beginning of the eighth decade of the third century AD, the former Roman province is inhabited by a large native population, as attested by archaeological discoveries. The territory of the present Alba county is inhabited by a large population at that time, which makes it the abode of a large native population nurturing the continuity of the Romanian people for the next centuries. The chronicles, writs and archaeological discoveries speak of the emergence and development, as of the 9th century, of powerful economic and political settlements of the native Romanian population in Transilvania. Alba-Iulia is undoubtedly one of these well-shaped settlements, acting as a political, economic and religious centre of an incipient Romanian state-like organisation, a principality known as Voivodatul de la Balgrad. Hungary’s defeat by the Turks resulted in the emergence of the Autonomous Principality of Transilvania, with Alba-Iulia as capital town. Alba-Iulia is thus to become, for a century and a half, the most important political, cultural and humanistic centre of the Principality, the venue of several outstanding, far-reaching historical events. Alba-Iulia is the town welcoming, on 1 November 1599, the triumphant Prince Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave), the first to unite the Romanian Principalities into one and single state. The town becomes then the first capital of the three Romanian Principalities. The Princes’ Press, then the press of the Orthodox Metropolitan Church built by Mihai Viteazul starting 1597, issue, in the 16th-18th centuries, many books in Romanian, among which the Noul Testament de la Balgrad (New Testament) in 1648, Bucoavna in 1699 (the first ABC book in the history of Romanian education), as well as other 18 Romanian printings, Alba-Iulia becoming thus the most important printing centre of 17th century Transilvania. The decisive moments of the social and national struggle of the Romanian people in the 18th and 19th centuries could not leave Alba county out. The leaders of the 1784 Uprising, Horia, Closca and Crisan, are imprisoned in Alba-Iulia, investigated and then cruelly executed by racking on 28 February 1785. The Romanians’ resolve to defend their sacred right to freedom finds its most brilliant expression in the series of great and heroic achievements, between 1848 and 1849, having as hero Avram Iancu, the remarkable figure of the 1948 Revolution in Transilvania, present in Alba-Iulia with his legion. The end of WWI (1918) – that meant also the end of the last multinational empire, the Austro-Hungarian one, hence the deliverance of the peoples that had been part of it from under social and national oppression – made Alba-Iulia the venue where the national unity was to be completed. On 1 December 1918, Alba-Iulia was the place where the Union of Transilvania and Romania was solemnly and irrevocably decided and sanctioned by the Assembly of the delegates elected by the Romanians in Transilvania, the union of the modern Romanian national state being thus completed.

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Geographical Outline

Alba county, located in the central part of Romania, is a medium-sized county in terms of both area (624,157 hectares, i.e. 2.6 per cent of the Romanian territory) and population (402,097 inhabitants, placing 26th in the county hierarchy).  Alba-Iulia Municipality is the county seat, a town located on the left bank of the Mures river, at the confluence of the Ampoi and Sebes rivers, and has a population of 100,000 inhabitants. The Apuseni Mountains are to be found in the west and north-west. They are characterised by a complex geological structure with extremely rich and varied resources, as well as by their favouring the emergence of human settlements, which is creditable for the early shaping and steady increase in human potential in this area. Along with the rich sub-soil resources of non-ferrous (copper, lead, zinc ores) and precious (gold, silver) metals, the soil resources – farming land (mostly pastures and hayfields) and forests – play an important part in the economy of the county. The vast Mures Valley and its bordering areas represent important agricultural resources favouring cereal and vegetable crops, as well as animal husbandry. Likewise, the depression is the main corridor for road and railway communication allowing a vast inland and international traffic. The Mounts of Sebes lie in the south of the county. They have altitudes of over 2,000 m and have important hydro-power, forest and tourist resources.  About a quarter of the county area is covered by the Tarnave tableland, rich in agricultural resources (mostly cereal crops and vineyards) and natural gas deposits. The human settlements in Alba county follow a rather balanced pattern that shows in the ratio urban/rural population (55.4 per cent urban population) that is above the average at country level. The urban localities – three municipalities (Alba-Iulia, Aiud and Blaj) and eight towns (Abrud, Baia-de-Aries, Campeni, Cugir, Ocna-Mures, Sebes, Teius and Zlatna) – cover 20.2 per cent of total county area, placing Alba among the top five counties in this respect.     Romanians represent 90.1 per cent of total county population, followed by Hungarians (6.0 per cent), Romany (2.9 per cent) and Germans (0.8 per cent). The religious pattern shows the Orthodox top the list of religious beliefs with 85.6 per cent, followed by Reformed (4.2 per cent), Greek-Catholic (1.4 per cent) and Pentecostal (1.4 per cent).

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Touristic Information

The Alba country is situated in the central part of Romania, where the Transylvania Plateau, the Apuseni Mountains and the Meridional Carpathians meet each other. The county has a surface of 6,231 and the relief is varied: mountains, hills, plain. The main rivers are the Aries, Ampoi, Sebes and Cugir which flow into the Mures River, which is one of the most important Romania’s rivers and crosses the county from North-East to South-West and cutting it in two equal parts. The climate is a varied one. In the higher zones, the climate is moist and cold, and in the Mures Valley it is drier and warmer. The capital city of this county is the municipality of Alba Iulia (about 73,000 inhabitants). There are also a municipality (Blaj), six towns (Abrud, Aiud, Câmpeni, Ocna Mures, Sebes, Zlatna). The Alba county is connected with Romanian’s golden dream: the union of Transylvania with Romania and foundation of the Romania unitary national state done in December, 1st, 1918. At the last census, the population of the Alba county was of 413,919 inhabitants as follows: Romanians (90 per cent), Magyars (6 per cent), Gypsies (3 per cent), Germans (0.8 per cent) and other nationalities (0.1 per cent). The Alba county is a zone of a great tourist interest both for the Romanian traveler and foreign one. The tourist potential of this county consists in numberless vestiges of the millenary past, shown by historic, architectural and art monuments as well as the as the varied and picturesque landscape and natural reservations uniquely in Romania and in Europe too. The folk customs and traditions are a point of interest both for Romanian and foreign tourists. Among them we have to mention the Fair of Girls on the on the Gaina Mountain organized every year on about July, 20th (Sf. Ilie). The tourist places are numerous and interesting: in Alba Iulia – the Fortress built in 1715-1738 and inside there is the Catholic cathedral built in the XIIIth century, the Batthyanaeum Library founded in 1794 and having 60,000 volumes, the Orthodox Cathedral, the Union Hall, the National Museum of the Union. In the town of Abrud there are well-preserved some buildings with a mediaeval architecture; in Rosia Montana, at the Mining Museum the well-known waxed boards written in Latin; in Sebes there is the mediaeval fortress from the XIV-th century; in Aiud there is the fortress built in the XV-th century etc. The town of Blaj in an important cultural as well as a religious place on Uniates.

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Economy Profile

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