The Magyars were related to the Huns

History of Hungary - History of the Hungarians

The history of Hungary can and must be viewed from the point of view of the history of the geographical area on the one hand, and the history of the Magyar people on the other.

As in all other European countries, the population of Hungary is by no means as homogeneous in origin as the ideology of nation states (one people, one language, one state) that emerged in the 19th century would lead us to believe. This is a consequence of the European migration in the early Middle Ages (5th - 9th centuries). Rather, in most European countries there is a predominant ethnic group that shapes the language and culture of the country to varying degrees, while the culture of the other ethnic groups has more or less been forgotten over the centuries. In present-day Hungary, the Magyars are the largest group of people who shape the Hungarian language and culture.

The history of the Country of Hungary First of all, it must be said that, after the loss of territory, mainly as a result of the two world wars, the current territory of Hungary only accounts for around a third of the largest extent of the former Hungarian kingdom. While today a considerable part of the people belonging to the Hungarians because of their language and culture live in the neighboring countries of Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Austria, conversely, there are also linguistic minorities in what is now Hungary and there are periods in the history of Hungary in which large parts of the population of the Kingdom of Hungary did not speak Hungarian.

Regardless of whether one sees this as a cultural enrichment or perceives it as a problem - the fact is that the idea of ​​a "nation state with a unified nation with one language and religion" so popular in the 19th century, especially in Hungary - as in most European countries - never corresponded to reality and could not be established without the expulsion of minorities who have lived here for centuries. This is true even for the classic large nation states of Germany (Danish minority in Schleswig-Holstein) and France (Basques, Bretons, Alemannic-speaking Alsatians).

In addition, the history of all European countries is strongly influenced by the migration movements of the European and Near Eastern peoples. There are also traces of Stone Age settlement in Hungary, later among others the Celts moved on their way from Galatia (today's Turkey) to France and the British Isles through Hungary and at times, individual groups also settled permanently in Hungary.

As everywhere in Western and Central Europe, there were practically no written records of the inhabitants in Hungary until the Middle Ages and only sparse descriptions from Greek and Roman sources, which were also strongly influenced by the prejudices of these civilized peoples against the so-called "barbarians". For the time before Christ, one is essentially dependent on finds from archaeological excavations.

The People of the Hungarians (which itself Magyars call), with its language so very different from all other European peoples with the exception of the Finns, comes from the Siberian steppes and only reached Hungary in the Middle Ages and settled there towards the end of the 9th century.

After the Greeks and Romans, Celts, Teutons and Slavs, the Hungarians are among the last immigrants in prehistoric Europe - if you disregard the Turks (Ottomans) who invaded Hungary in 1541 and advanced to the gates of Vienna in 1683, but after the Battle of Mount Harsány (1687, also called the Second Battle of Mohács) were driven out by a Habsburg army.

Prehistory and early history of Hungary

From the finds of simple stone tools, one can conclude that people apparently lived in what is now Hungary as early as the Paleolithic. To this day there is hardly any evidence of settlement in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. However, this is by no means proof that Hungary was unpopulated at this time.

Antiquity: Celts and Romans

In the 6th century BC According to a report by the ancient Greek scholar Herodotus, steppe peoples who were related to the Scythians and spoke Persian lived in Hungary.

In the 4th century BC The penetrated Celts to Hungary and from there gradually settled large parts of Western Europe. During this period Hungary was known as Pannonia and was known for a highly developed agriculture and iron production.

From 29 BC The Romans advanced into Hungary. Large parts of the country were devastated in long wars with the Dacians and Teutons. Under the later emperor Tiberius it was Pannonia to a Roman province with Carnutum as the capital. The ruins of Carnutum lie between Vienna and today's Austro-Hungarian border.

As everywhere else, the Romans developed intensive building activity in Hungary. For example, in Budapest (Roman Aquincum), Pécs (Sopianae) and Szombathely (Savaria) Remains of large buildings with central heating and amphitheater have been preserved. The Roman administration also began to document important events in writing. Christianity spread in Hungary around 400 as it did everywhere in the Roman Empire.

Time of the Great Migration: Huns, Teutons and Slavs

Around 430 AD the conquered Huns Pannonia and took over rule from the Romans. However, their further expansion was stopped in 451 AD in the battle of the Catalaunian fields and after the death of the Hun king Attila in 453 AD the Hun empire quickly disintegrated. The peoples residing in Hungary rebelled against the rule of the Huns.

In 455 AD, two years after the death of Attila, king of the Huns, the Gepid, a Germanic tribe, the Huns from the Carpathian Basin. The Gepids ruled the east of the Carpathian Basin, two other Germanic tribes (the Ostrogoths and the Lombards) the west.

In the 6th century AD, the horsemen met the Avars from Central Asia to Hungary. They take advantage of the power struggles among the Germanic tribes of the Gepids and Lombards and spread across the Carpathian Basin from 560 AD. From there they undertook expeditions of conquest and raids in Central Europe and became an important power factor between the Western European Franconian Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire of the Byzantines.

The Avars ruled over a large number of population groups of different origins. There were always riots, especially that Slavs and the Bulgarians on the edge of the Avar Empire. The Frankish emperor Charlemagne and the Bulgarian Khan Krum defeated the Avars in several battles between 791 and 803. After the fall of the Avar Empire, part of the population, especially Slavs, moved from the edge of the Avar Empire to the Carpathian Basin. In the 9th century, the Slavs formed the largest ethnic group in what is now Hungary.

Due to the upheavals of the Great Migration, Christianity disappeared from Hungary for the next 500 years or so. It was replaced by the traditional religions of the newly immigrated peoples.

Prehistory and early history of the Hungarian people

The Hungarian language shows - apart from a normal number of loan and foreign words - no similarities with the large European language families (Romance, Germanic, Slavic). There is only a certain relationship to the Finnish language.

Science today assumes that the Magyars and Finns have common ancestors who originally lived as nomads in what is now western Siberia. Around 2000 BC The ancestors of the Finns moved to the west, the Ugrians (Ostyaks, Woguls and Magyars) to the southeast in the northern Urals.

In this area the Ugrians met the Urirans, from whom they took over cattle breeding, horse breeding and probably also metal processing and settled down. This can be reconstructed from archaeological finds. The Ugric culture in this epoch from approx. 1900 to 800 BC. Chr. Is called Andronovo culture designated.

Around 1000 BC Due to global warming, the vegetation zones shifted further north and the forest steppes inhabited by the Ugrians became dry steppes. A part of the Ugrians avoided the desertification and moved north to the area of ​​the river Ob (Obugrier), the ancestors of the Magyars stayed in their settlement areas and adapted their way of life and became semi-nomads again.

Around 500 BC The climate cooled down again. This time the Magyars migrated south and met the Uriran tribes of the Scythians and Sarmatians there. Archaeological finds and loanwords prove an intensive cultural exchange in this epoch.

The Magyars at the time of the Great Migration

Another 1000 years later, at the time of the great European migration around 500 AD, the Magyars left the steppes in the southeastern Urals and moved west into what is now Bashkiria. During an exploration trip, the Dominican monk Julianus met descendants of the Magyars between the Volga and the Ural Mountains on behalf of Béla IV. Archaeological finds of death masks also show that the Magyars lived in Bashkiria for a long time. Similar masks were found on the one hand by the Obugriians and on the other hand in Hungarian graves from the time of the Magyar conquest (around 900 AD).

A large part of the Magyars probably moved to the area between the Don and the Azov Sea in the 7th to 8th centuries and settled there again. During this time the Magyars were under the rule of the Khazars. Around 200 Khazarian loan words in the Hungarian language from the field of agriculture and handicrafts testify to the great cultural influence of the Khazars.

Between 820 and 839 there were Kabar uprisings in the territory of the Khazars, in which the Magyars were apparently also involved. After the failure of the uprising, many Kabars fled to the Magyars and were accepted into the tribal association as the eighth tribe, alongside the traditional seven Magyar tribes (Nyék, Megyer, Kürtgyarmat, Tarján, Jenő, Kér and Keszi). However, the Khazars regained the upper hand and so the Magyars felt compelled to move further west.

According to tradition, the Magyars settled in what is known as the land between the rivers (Hungarian: Etelköz), the exact location of which is not clear. Presumably it was somewhere east of the Carpathian Mountains and northeast of the Black Sea. From there, her riding troops, up to 20,000 strong, made forays into the Pannonian Plain for the first time.

In Etelköz, the Magyars had to reckon with attacks by the Khazars again and again, so they concluded alliances with Byzantium (Eastern Current), Moravia and the Frankish Empire. Together with the Byzantines they fought against the Bulgarians, who in turn allied with the Pechenegs advancing from the east. Around 894 the Bulgarians suffered some defeats against Byzantium and concluded a separate peace with Byzantium, which did not involve the Magyars. Together with the Pechenegs, they then attacked the Magyars.

The Magyar conquest of Hungary

Around 862 the cavalry of the Magyars from Etelköz (east of the Carpathian Mountains) made an advance westward into the Carpathian Basin. 881 attacked them a second time. In these two campaigns they were stopped by the East Franconia.

It was not until 889 that the Magyars succeeded in plundering Greater Moravia and parts of the East Franconian Empire. In 892 they were recruited by the East Franconia as allies in a war against Great Moravia. In the same year they defeated the Lombards together with the East Franconians. Shortly afterwards the East Franconian King Arnulf and in 894 also the Great Moravian King Sventopluk died.

The disputes over the succession weakened the kingdoms of Great Moravia and Eastern Franconia. The Magyars use the power vacuum that has developed in the relatively sparsely populated Carpathian Basin. Between 894 and 897 the military commander in chief led Prince Árpád the Magyars across the Carpathian Mountains into the Pannonian Plain, where they were better able to defend themselves against their eastern neighbors thanks to the natural borders. Around 900 the Magyars also conquered the Greater Moravian province of Transdanubia.

At the time of the conquest, the Magyar tribes formed a rather loose tribal association. They chose two leaders of the tribal association, a spiritual-political leader and a military commander-in-chief, following the model of the Khazars, but the individual tribes regulated their own affairs and undertook forays into neighboring states without much consultation with one another.

The Magyar conquest took place gradually from the Carpathian Mountains. At the Diet of Szeged in 898, the Magyars decided the foundations for the organization and administration of their new state of Hungary. Like the rest of the European peoples, the Hungarians were part of a class society in the Middle Ages

  • a small upper class of Nobles
  • a wealthy one Middle classwho performed military service
  • a poor but free lower class who had to do labor services and pay taxes
  • and serfs (slaves) owned by the nobility.

The serfs included, on the one hand, the Slavs and Avars who were resident when the land was conquered, as well as prisoners of war and, on the other hand, formerly free tribesmen who were heavily in debt and could no longer pay their debts.

The Magyars obviously adopted a great deal of agricultural and administrative knowledge from the local Slavic population, as shown not least by the large number of around 1500 Slavic loanwords in the Hungarian language from these areas.

As Kurszán, the political-religious leader of the Hungarian tribal association was murdered at a feast in 904, the military commander-in-chief took advantage of it Árpád this opportunity eliminated Kurszán's followers by force and seized sole rule. With this the institution of the dual principality in Hungary came to an end, but not the relatively great independence of the individual tribes and their tribal princes. It was not until the second half of the 10th century that Árpád's heirs, the Árpáden, were able to enforce the claim to sole rule in practice to some extent.

The time of forays

As with the Teutons and Huns in the early Middle Ages and the Arab Saracens around the same time, the power and economic strength of the nobility in Hungary were based on the fact that the nobles, as military leaders, successfully planned and planned the conquest of new areas and the subjugation of the local population managed and, in the event of success, claimed a large part of the spoils of war (especially the enslaved natives and prisoners of war) for themselves. This pattern always included shorter and longer forays beyond one's own settlement area, in which the aim was not the permanent conquest of an area, but only the loot. Tribute payments were also demanded from individual areas - today this would be called state protection racket.

In the 10th century the Germanic tribes had already established themselves in western and southern Europe and their most powerful princes as kings and emperors had relatively strong centralized state power, so that the raids of the local robber barons came more and more into conflict with the central authority and accordingly contained them were.

The Magyars, on the other hand, had only just arrived in Hungary, their tribal princes were still fighting among themselves for power and supremacy and were not yet able to rely on a large number of serfs to work the fields. In the 10th century, the Magyars undertook around 50 forays into Western Europe that took them to northern Germany, Spain and southern Italy. The romantic Hungarian historiography of the 19th century presents the forays as "great adventures" ("kalandozások").

The Western Europeans increasingly saw the "adventures" of the Hungarian cavalry armies as a nuisance. In 933 the East Franconian King Heinrich I refused to pay the requested tribute and raised a large army. In the battle of Riyadh the Hungarians suffered their first major defeat. They were defeated in the battle on the Lechfeld near Augsburg (955). Three Hungarian tribal princes (Bulcsú, Lél and Súr) were captured and then hanged.

The east of today's Austria fell back to Eastern Franconia and the Hungarian Grand Duke Taksony, a grandson of Árpád, took control of the Neutra principality (south of today's Slovakia), which had been conquered by the tribal prince Lél. Taksony stopped the forays to the west, but continued to take tribute from Byzantium. In the battle of Arkadiupolis in 966, the Byzantines also stopped the Hungarian forays to the south.

The Christianization of Hungary

In 950 one of the Hungarian tribal princes went to Byzantium to be baptized in the Greek Orthodox rite and thereby strengthen relations with the Eastern Roman Empire. On the way back he brought a mission bishop from Constantinople to Hungary. But because other tribes continued to raid and demanded tribute from Byzantium, there was no lasting alliance for the time being.

The decision of the prince was more significant for the Christianization of Hungary Géza, a great-grandson of Árpád, to improve relations with the German Empire after the Hungarian defeat in the Battle of Lechfeld (955) against the German Emperor Otto I. With this motivation he was baptized in the Catholic faith and brought Christian missionaries from Western Europe into the country, without, however, inwardly completely renouncing the traditional religion of his ancestors.

It was not until Géza's son Vajk, who referred to the name Stephan (Hungarian: Istvan) was baptized, is considered the real father of the Christianization of the Hungarians. Stephen's marriage to Gisela, the daughter of the Duke of Bavaria, sealed the close ties with Germany. Stephan I. received the royal crown from Pope Silvester II in 1001. For his services to the Christianization of Hungarians, Stephan I was canonized after his death.

The heyday of the Kingdom of Hungary

In the 11th century, the successors of Stephen I consolidated their power over the Kingdom of Hungary. From 1102 there was a personal union with the Kingdom of Croatia, and Bosnia and Little Wallachia also came under Hungarian rule for a long time. A Mongol invasion (1241-42) devastated Hungary. King Bela IV then had strong stone fortresses reached in order to be better armed against such attacks. In this context, a castle was also built on Castle Hill in Buda. The Arpad dynasty died with András III. who ruled from 1290-1301.

From 1308-1387 Hungary was ruled by kings from the House of Anjou. King Charles Robert of the House of Anjou moved the seat of government from Visegrad to Buda, and his son had a new palace built on the castle hill. After Ludwig the Great died without male descendants, his son-in-law Sigismund of Luxemburg succeeded him on the throne. Sigismund built the Gothic palace on Buda Castle Hill and the Visegrad and Tata castles. The Luxembourg dynasty ruled Hungary from 1387-1437.

Under king Matthias Corvinus (1458–1490) Hungary reached its greatest extent and briefly included eastern Austria, Moravia and Silesia. Hungary was a spiritual center in Europe in the 15th century and had, among other things, the second largest library after that of the Vatican.

Tripartite division of the empire: Hungary under the Ottomans

1453 conquered the Ottomans (Turks) the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire and subsequently pushed further and further into the Balkans. At Mohács there was a decisive battle between the Ottomans and the Hungarians in 1526. The Hungarian King Ludwig II and a large part of the Hungarian nobility were killed in battle. Hungary was weakened by a dispute for succession to the throne between Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and Prince Johann Zápolya over the successor to Ludwig II.

After Prince Zápolya's death in 1540, the Ottomans quickly conquered the most important cities in central Hungary between 1541 and 1543: Buda, Gran, Székesfehérvár (Stuhlweissenburg) and Pécs (Fünfkirchen). Central Hungary was incorporated directly into the Ottoman Empire as a province. The Principality of Transylvania at that time - which has been assigned to Romania since the world wars of the 20th century and still has a strong Hungarian minority today - became an Ottoman vassal state. The rest of the Kingdom of Hungary, consisting of Burgenland (eastern Austria), a narrow strip in western Hungary, western Croatia, Slovakia and northern Hungary, fell to the Habsburgs as inheritance.

In fact, Hungary had thus lost its state independence, although the Habsburgs did not formally abolish the title of Hungarian king, but simply claimed it for themselves and had themselves crowned both kings of Austria and kings of Hungary. The capital of Habsburg Hungary was Bratislava (Pressburg), today's capital of Slovakia.

For a long time Hungary remained the battlefield between the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg monarchy. Large areas of land have been depopulated as a result of fighting, attacks on the civilian population, hunger and epidemics.

The k.u.k. Dual Monarchy Austria-Hungary

After the second siege of Vienna by the Turks in 1683, the Habsburg army, with German and Polish support, succeeded in recapturing the parts of Hungary administered by the Ottomans. This did not happen out of generosity towards the Hungarians, but on the one hand out of the desire to expand their own power and on the other hand out of the need to create a buffer zone between the Habsburg heartland with its capital Vienna and the Ottoman Empire.

In order to compensate for the population losses from the Turkish wars, the Habsburgs settled German and Serbian emigrants in Hungary after the reconquest. As a result, however, the Hungarians became a minority in their own country, after all, they remained the largest group of the population. From the perspective of the Habsburgs, this was probably a desirable side effect because it dampened the Hungarian desire for state independence.

In the 19th century, Empress Maria Theresa settled the so-called Danube Swabia from southern Germany to Hungary. The Danube Swabians maintain their own culture in the Hungarian heartland as well as in Transylvania (today's northern Romania).

Against the Habsburg rule there were long lasting, but ultimately unsuccessful, uprisings such as the Kuruc uprisings of 1703-1711 led by nobles. The national-liberal movement of the early 19th century achieved the introduction of Hungarian instead of Latin as the official language in 1825. Count István Széchenyi reached with his Reforms Great progress in the field of economics, administration and tax law.

In the context of the Europe-wide liberal movement In the 19th century, in the revolutionary year of 1848, Hungarians also fought for the abolition of the Habsburg monarchy. Lajos Kossuth and Lajos Batthyány proclaimed Hungary's independence from Habsburg Austria in Debrecen. However, the revolution was suppressed in 1849 with the support of the Russian tsar, and 14 leaders were executed.

It was only because of the external weakness of the Austrian Empire that Emperor Franz Josef was forced to compromise with Hungary in 1867. Ferenc Deák seized the opportunity and, with clear but moderate demands, achieved extensive Hungarian self-government within the framework of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy. The Kingdom of Croatia was also granted self-government under the common crown in 1868. Already in the late 19th century there was a development from a large multi-ethnic empire to smaller nation states. with limited national cohesion.

The liberal Hungarian government of the Prime Minister Kálmán Tisza (1875-1890) modernized the economy, justice, social affairs and politics. Finance minister Sándor Wekerle introduced the taxation of large estates and was thus able to increase the state revenue several times over and put the state budget on a sustainable basis.

First World War

After the defeat of Germany and the k.u.k. During the First World War, Austria-Hungary was divided up and many areas were given independence or ceded to neighboring states. On the one hand, Hungary became independent of Habsburg Austria as a republic, but on the other hand it lost in Peace of Trianon about two thirds of its territory and population. These included three million Magyars in Transylvania, southern Slovakia and Vojvodina. With this number, however, it should be borne in mind that some areas such as Croatia already had a clear non-Hungarian majority of the population and in some cases also had an autonomous status.

Between the wars and the Second World War

In the decades that followed, Hungarian politics devoted much of its energy to revising the Trianon borders. In the alliance with the National Socialist Greater Germany, Hungarian-settled and other areas were re-incorporated into the national territory between 1938 and 1941.

When the German defeat in World War II loomed, the Hungarian government tried to switch to the side of the Allies. As in Italy, the German Wehrmacht then took control in a coup.

The systematic persecution and deportation of Hungarian Jews only began under the direct administration of Hungary by the German Wehrmacht and the SS. By the end of the war, around half a million Hungarian Jews fell victim to the Holocaust.


After the invasion of the Red Army, Hungary fell under the Soviet sphere of influence; the Hungarian People's Republic was proclaimed, again within the borders of Trianon.

On October 23 1956 the Hungarians leaned in one Popular uprising against the communist dictatorship. The Soviet Union put down the uprising with massive armed force. Many Hungarians fled to western countries, especially to Austria, but Switzerland and the Federal Republic of Germany also took in many refugees. October 23rd has been a national day of remembrance in Hungary since 1989.

Then led János Kádár with the approval of the Soviet Union the system of the so-called Goulash communism a. This term is used to describe the attempt to combine a course that was politically loyal to Moscow with economic relief that went relatively far for the conditions in the Eastern Bloc at the time.

Wende and EU membership

In 1989, among other things, the fall of the Iron Curtain came from Hungary and with it the end of Soviet rule in Eastern Europe. Even before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many GDR citizens managed to flee across the Hungarian-Austrian border, which in turn put the GDR government under pressure.

The transformation of the communist planned economy into a market economy also posed a major challenge for Hungary.

Today Hungary is a member of the EU, but like most European countries is struggling with the consequences of the financial crisis and the collapse of the long-term stable exchange rate system.

© 2012-2013 Markus Jud, LucerneLast update: September 30, 2013
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