Țara Zărandului

The Arpad (Magyar leader) conquest of this region was probably in the 10th century and the administrative regions from this time are called vármegye in Hungarian or comitatul in Romanian (from Latin comitatus). Various dates for the first documentation of the names for this region (1150, 1237, 1271, 1324) are given in Romanian and Hungarian texts (without any references!). Sometime between 1203 and 1214 the county of Zarand was separated from the county of Bihor, and the citadel of Zărand was founded after 1232.[1] The region continued as an administrative region with the county town of Zarand and then the town of Pâncota until the administrative region was abolished in 1848.[2]

Zărand means gold in Iranian language[3] which refers to the mountains above this locality that have been a source of gold from ancient times. The question of whether the name came from Hungarian via Uralic[4] or directly without change from Iranian via an earlier migration remains a mystery. The path of the word is from Old Persian daraniya (gold), giving the original Iranian Avestan with consonant z as zaranya, which remains in the Finno-Permic language group (for example with the Koni as zarńi), whereas the “z” is replaced by “s” to give sōrńi in the Proto-Uralic languages, and the Proto-Ugric “s” was lost in proto-Hungarian leading to arany.[5]

The medieval district includes the plain area as far west as Gyula. This plain region overlaps the ethnographic zones of Crișul Alb and Câmpia Aradului.

The depressions within the mountain area around Hălmagiu and Brad, plus the course of the river Crișul Alb from Sebiș and Gurahonț are often considered to be within Țara Zărandului. The area around Beliu, Hășmaș and Craiva in the Codru Moma mountains remained in the medieval region of Bihor, although being ethnographically close to Zarandului.

Ethnographic zones

For ethnographic simplicity I have separated the historic Zarand county into the mountain sub-zone with the title “Țara Zărandului” and the plain area with the title “Câmpia Crișului Alb”. This more accurately conveys the connection of the plain area to the neighbouring plain areas, as an interference zone of the historic Zarand and the Criș plain.

The inter-relation between the historic Zarand county, the geographically defined areas and the ethnographic zones is inconsistent.

Câmpia Crișului Alb, the plain of the river Crișul Alb, is the historic Țara Zărandului, and also part of “Crișana” which are the plains that lie along the western side of modern Romania. The sub-zones proposed by Viorel Nistor[6] in Câmpia Crișului Alb in the modern county of Arad are based on the local main towns – Ineu and Chișineu-Criș.

Câmpia Aradului is the plain around the city of Arad. In geographic terms this area is bounded to the south by the Mureș river, to the east by the mountains and to the north along a line of the villages, Pâncota, Caporal Alexa, Olari, Șimand and Sânmartin.[7] The sub-zones listed by Viorel Nistor[6] suggest that the northern limit of Câmpia Aradului is west from Șiria, thus excluding the villages of Țara Zărandului. To the east of Câmpia Aradului is the wine growing area in the foot hills known as Podgoria Aradului.

However, the “Dictionary of Traditional Art”[8] in the entry for Câmpia Aradului lists the large villages of Bocsig, Șicula, Mocrea, Chereluș and Seleuș, and says that this region extends south to the Mureș river. This list of villages north of Arad are within the medieval Țara Zărandului and also within Crișul Alb ethnographic zone, so different authors might term the ethnographic zone as Zarandului, Câmpia Crișului Alb or Câmpia Aradului. We can see this confusion in terms of zones when looking at the village of Șicula which is situated in the interference zone between Câmpia Aradului and Ţara Zarandului[9], but a different author situates the town in Câmpia Crișului Alb ethnographic zone and the sub-zone of Ineu.[10]


  1. Tuleu, Ioan (2020). Comuna Zarand. Bulboacă, Sorin & Sinaci, Doru (editors), Dicționarul istoric al localităților din județul Arad”, vol. III.214-218 Arad.
  2. Faur, Vasile (2016). Ţara Zărandului - Conscripţii. Cronică. Documente. Imagini, Editura.
  3. https://dexonline.ro/definitie/zarand
  4. Nagy, Géza (1890). A Zaránd név eredete. Ethnographia, 1, 211-212.
  5. Tiit-Rein, Viitso (2012). Early Metallurgy in Language: The History of Metal Names in Finnic. Grünthal, Riho & Kallio, Petri (editors), A Linguistic Map of Prehistoric Northern Europe. Helsinki, Société Finno-Ougrienne.
  6. Nistor, Viorel (1991). Folclore coregrafic Vol 1, Bucharest, Editura muzicala a uniunii compozitorilor si muzicologilor.
  7. Geografia României Vol. IV, Editura Academiei Române, 1992.
  8. Stoica, Georgeta & Petrescu, Paul (1997). Dictionar de Arta Populară, Bucharest, Editura Enciclopedica.
  9. Morariu, Radu Ioan (2005). Șicula monografie etnografică. Ministerul educaţiei şi cercetării universitatea din Oradea facultatea de istorie-geografie specializarea:istorie-geografie.
  10. Hord, Radu (2020). Comuna Șicula. Bulboacă, Sorin & Sinaci, Doru (editors), Dicționarul istoric al localităților din județul Arad”, vol. III.86-95 Arad.
Published on 6th May 2021