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Hungarians can be divided into several subgroups according to local linguistic and cultural characteristics; subgroups with distinct identities include the Székelys, the Csángós, the Palóc and the Matyó. The Jász people are considered to be an originally Iranic ethnic group more closely related to the Ossetians than to other Hungarians.
The Hungarians' own ethnonym to denote themselves in the Early Middle Ages is uncertain. The exonym "Hungarian" is thought to be derived from Oghur-Turkic On-Ogur (literally "Ten Arrows" or "Ten Tribes"). Another possible explanation comes from the Old Russian "Yugra" ("?"). It may refer to the Hungarians during a time when they dwelt east of the Ural Mountains along the natural borders of Europe and Asia before their conquest of the Carpathian Basin.
The Hungarian people refer to themselves by the demonym "Magyar" rather than "Hungarian". "Magyar" possibly derived from the name of the most prominent Hungarian tribe, the "Megyer". The tribal name "Megyer" became "Magyar" in reference to the Hungarian people as a whole.
The obscure name kerel or keral, found in the 13th-century work the Secret History of the Mongols, possibly referred to Hungarians and derived from the Hungarian title király 'king'.
The historical Latin phrase "Natio Hungarica" ("Hungarian nation") had a wider and political meaning because it once referred to all nobles of the Kingdom of Hungary, regardless of their ethnicity or mother tongue.
The origin of Hungarians, the place and time of their ethnogenesis, has been a matter of debate. Due to the classification of Hungarian as an Ugric language, they are commonly considered an Ugric people that originated from the Ural Mountains, Western Siberia or the Middle Volga region. The relatedness of Hungarians with the Ugric peoples is almost exclusively founded on linguistic data and has been called into question. It is not backed with testimonies in historical sources or the results of natural science research.
However, the current consensus among linguists is that the Hungarian language is a member of the Uralic family and that it diverged from its Ugric relatives in the first half of the 1st millennium BC, in western Siberia, east of the southern Urals.
"Hungarian pre-history", i.e. the history of the "ancient Hungarians" before their arrival in the Carpathian basin at the end of the 9th century, is thus a "tenuous construct", based on linguistics, analogies in folklore, archaeology and subsequent written evidence. In the 21st century, historians have argued that "Hungarians" did not exist as a discrete ethnic group or people for centuries before their settlement in the Carpathian basin. Instead, the formation of the people with its distinct identity was a process. According to this view, Hungarians as a people emerged by the 9th century, subsequently incorporating other, ethnically and linguistically divergent, peoples.
Pre-4th century AD
Map of the presumptive Hungarian prehistory
During the 4th millennium BC, the Uralic-speaking peoples who were living in the central and southern regions of the Urals split up. Some dispersed towards the west and northwest and came into contact with Iranian speakers who were spreading northwards. From at least 2000 BC onwards, the Ugric-speakers became distinguished from the rest of the Uralic community, of which the ancestors of the Magyars, being located farther south, were the most numerous. Judging by evidence from burial mounds and settlement sites, they interacted with the Indo-IranianAndronovo culture.
4th century to c. 830
In the 4th and 5th centuries AD, the Hungarians moved from the west of the Ural Mountains to the area between the southern Ural Mountains and the Volga River known as Bashkiria (Bashkortostan) and Perm Krai. In the early 8th century, some of the Hungarians moved to the Don River to an area between the Volga, Don and the Seversky Donets rivers. Meanwhile, the descendants of those Hungarians who stayed in Bashkiria remained there as late as 1241.
The Hungarians around the Don River were subordinates of the Khazarkhaganate. Their neighbours were the archaeological Saltov culture, i.e. Bulgars (Proto-Bulgarians, Onogurs) and the Alans, from whom they learned gardening, elements of cattle breeding and of agriculture. Tradition holds that the Hungarians were organized in a confederacy of seven tribes. The names of the seven tribes were: Jen?, Kér, Keszi, Kürt-Gyarmat, Megyer, Nyék, and Tarján.
c. 830 to c. 895
Around 830, a rebellion broke out in the Khazar khaganate. As a result, three Kabar tribes of the Khazars joined the Hungarians and moved to what the Hungarians call the Etelköz, the territory between the Carpathians and the Dnieper River. The Hungarians faced their first attack by the Pechenegs around 854, though other sources state that an attack by Pechenegs was the reason for their departure to Etelköz. The new neighbours of the Hungarians were the Varangians and the eastern Slavs. From 862 onwards, the Hungarians (already referred to as the Ungri) along with their allies, the Kabars, started a series of looting raids from the Etelköz into the Carpathian Basin, mostly against the Eastern Frankish Empire (Germany) and Great Moravia, but also against the Balaton principality and Bulgaria.
In 895/896, under the leadership of Árpád, some Hungarians crossed the Carpathians and entered the Carpathian Basin. The tribe called Magyar was the leading tribe of the Hungarian alliance that conquered the centre of the basin. At the same time (c. 895), due to their involvement in the 894-896 Bulgaro-Byzantine war, Hungarians in Etelköz were attacked by Bulgaria and then by their old enemies the Pechenegs. The Bulgarians won the decisive battle of Southern Buh. It is uncertain whether or not those conflicts were the cause of the Hungarian departure from Etelköz.
From the upper Tisza region of the Carpathian Basin, the Hungarians intensified their looting raids across continental Europe. In 900, they moved from the upper Tisza river to Transdanubia (Pannonia), which later became the core of the arising Hungarian state. At the time of the Hungarian migration, the land was inhabited only by a sparse population of Slavs, numbering about 200,000, who were either assimilated or enslaved by the Hungarians.
Archaeological findings (e.g. in the Polish city of Przemy?l) suggest that many Hungarians remained to the north of the Carpathians after 895/896. There is also a consistent Hungarian population in Transylvania, the Székelys, who comprise 40% of the Hungarians in Romania. The Székely people's origin, and in particular the time of their settlement in Transylvania, is a matter of historical controversy.
The Pope approved Hungarian settlement in the area when their leaders converted to Christianity, and Stephen I (Szent István, or Saint Stephen) was crowned King of Hungary in 1001. The century between the arrival of the Hungarians from the eastern European plains and the consolidation of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1001 was dominated by pillaging campaigns across Europe, from Dania (Denmark) to the Iberian Peninsula (contemporary Spain and Portugal). After the acceptance of the nation into Christian Europe under Stephen I, Hungary served as a bulwark against further invasions from the east and south, especially by the Turks.
Population growth of Hungarians (900-1980)
At this time, the Hungarian nation numbered around 400,000 people.
Early modern period
The first accurate measurements of the population of the Kingdom of Hungary including ethnic composition were carried out in 1850-51. There is a debate among Hungarian and non-Hungarian (especially Slovak and Romanian) historians about the possible changes in the ethnic structure of the region throughout history. Some historians support the theory that the proportion of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin was at an almost constant 80% during the Middle Ages. Non-Hungarians numbered hardly more than 20% to 25% of the total population. The Hungarian population began to decrease only at the time of the Ottoman conquest, reaching as low as around 39% by the end of the 18th century. The decline of the Hungarians was due to the constant wars, Ottoman raids, famines, and plagues during the 150 years of Ottoman rule. The main zones of war were the territories inhabited by the Hungarians, so the death toll depleted them at a much higher rate than among other nationalities. In the 18th century, their proportion declined further because of the influx of new settlers from Europe, especially Slovaks, Serbs and Germans. In 1715 (after the Ottoman occupation), the Southern Great Plain was nearly uninhabited but now has 1.3 million inhabitants, nearly all of them Hungarians. As a consequence, having also the Habsburg colonization policies, the country underwent a great change in ethnic composition as its population more than tripled to 8 million between 1720 and 1787, while only 39% of its people were Hungarians, who lived primarily in the centre of the country.
Traditional Hungarian costumes, 1822
Other historians, particularly Slovaks and Romanians, argue that the drastic change in the ethnic structure hypothesized by Hungarian historians in fact did not occur. They argue that the Hungarians accounted for only about 30-40% of the Kingdom's population from its establishment. In particular, there is a fierce debate among Hungarians and Romanian historians about the ethnic composition of Transylvania through these times.
19th century to present
In the 19th century, the proportion of Hungarians in the Kingdom of Hungary rose gradually, reaching over 50% by 1900 due to higher natural growth and Magyarization. Between 1787 and 1910 the number of ethnic Hungarians rose from 2.3 million to 10.2 million, accompanied by the resettlement of the Great Hungarian Plain and Délvidék by mainly Roman Catholic Hungarian settlers from the northern and western counties of the Kingdom of Hungary.
Spontaneous assimilation was an important factor, especially among the German and Jewish minorities and the citizens of the bigger towns. On the other hand, about 1.5 million people (about two-thirds non-Hungarian) left the Kingdom of Hungary between 1890-1910 to escape from poverty.
Magyars (Hungarians) in Hungary, 1890 census
The Treaty of Trianon: Kingdom of Hungary lost 72% of its land and 3.3 million people of Hungarian ethnicity.
The years 1918 to 1920 were a turning point in the Hungarians' history. By the Treaty of Trianon, the Kingdom had been cut into several parts, leaving only a quarter of its original size. One-third of the Hungarians became minorities in the neighbouring countries. During the remainder of the 20th century, the Hungarians population of Hungary grew from 7.1 million (1920) to around 10.4 million (1980), despite losses during the Second World War and the wave of emigration after the attempted revolution in 1956. The number of Hungarians in the neighbouring countries tended to remain the same or slightly decreased, mostly due to assimilation (sometimes forced; see Slovakization and Romanianization) and to emigration to Hungary (in the 1990s, especially from Transylvania and Vojvodina).
After the "baby boom" of the 1950s (Ratkó era), a serious demographic crisis began to develop in Hungary and its neighbours. The Hungarian population reached its maximum in 1980, then began to decline.
There was a referendum in Hungary in December 2004 on whether to grant Hungarian citizenship to Hungarians living outside Hungary's borders (i.e. without requiring a permanent residence in Hungary). The referendum failed due to insufficient voter turnout. On 26 May 2010, Hungary's Parliament passed a bill granting dual citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living outside of Hungary. Some neighboring countries with sizable Hungarian minorities expressed concerns over the legislation.
Recent genetic research is in line with the previous archaeological and anthropological assumptions that the original Hungarian conqueror tribes were related to the Onogur-Bulgars. A substantial part of the conquerors show similarities to the Xiongnu and Asian Scythians and presumably this Inner Asian component on their way to Europe mixed with the peoples of the Pontic steppes. According to this study the conqueror Hungarians owed their mostly Europid characteristics to the descendants of the Srubnaya culture.
Neparáczki argues, based on new archeogenetic results, that the Conqueror Hungarians were mostly a mixture of Hunnic, Slavic, and Germanic tribes having comparable proportion of European and Asian origin and this composite people evolved in the steppes of Eastern Europe between 400 and 1000 AD. According to Neparáczki: "From all recent and archaic populations tested the Volga Tatars show the smallest genetic distance to the entire Conqueror population" and "a direct genetic relation of the Conquerors to Onogur-Bulgar ancestors of these groups is very feasible."
Another study on Y-Chromosome markers concluded that "modern Hungarian and Székely populations are genetically closely related", and that they "share similar components described for other Europeans, except for the presence of the haplogroup P*(xM173) in Székely samples, which may reflect a Central Asian connection, and high frequency of haplogroup J in both Székelys and Hungarians". The subclade of Haplogroup N, which is N-L1034 and a Uralic link, is shared by 4% of the Székely Hungarians and 15% of the closest language relatives the Mansis.
A 2007 study on the mtDNA, after precising that "Hungarians are unique among the other European populations because according to history the ancient Magyars had come from the eastern side of the Ural Mountains and settled down in the Carpathian basin in the 9th century AD", shows that the haplogroup M, "characteristic mainly for Asian populations", is "found in approximately 5% of the total", which thus "suggests that an Asian matrilineal ancestry, even if in a small incidence, can be detected among modern Hungarians."
According to a 2008 study, the mitochondrial lines of the modern Hungarians are indistinct from that of neighbouring West Slavs, but they are distinct from that of the ancient Hungarians (Magyars). Four 10th century skeletons from well documented cemeteries in Hungary of ancient Magyar individuals were sampled. Two of the four males belonged to Y-DNA Haplogroup N confirming their Uralic origin. None out of 100 sampled modern Hungarians carried the haplogroup, and just one of about 94 Székelys carried it. The study also stated that it was possible that the more numerous pre-existing populations or substantial later migrations, mostly Avars and Slavs, accepted the Uralic language of the elite.
Another genetic research have shown that the first-generation Magyar core gene pool originated in Central Asia/South Siberia and, as Magyars were moving westward, admixing with additional strata of people of European origin, and people of the Caucasus. Burial samples of the Karos-Eperjesszög Magyars place them genetically closest to Turkic peoples, modern south Caucasian peoples, and modern Western Europeans to a limited degree, while no specific Finno-Ugric markers were found. However, a 2008 study done on 10th century Magyar skeletons, indeed found a few Uralic samples.
An autosomal analysis, studying non-European admixture in Europeans, found 4.4% of admixture of non-European and non-Middle Eastern origin among Hungarians, which was the strongest among sampled populations. It was found at 3.6% in Belarusians, 2.5% in Romanians, 2.3% in Bulgarians and Lithuanians, 1.9% in Poles and 0% in Greeks. The authors stated "This signal might correspond to a small genetic legacy from invasions of peoples from the Asian steppes (e.g., the Huns, Magyars, and Bulgars) during the first millennium CE.".
Compared to the European nations, Andrea Vágó-Zalán's study determined that the Bulgarians were genetically the closest and the Estonians and Finns were among the furthest from the recent Hungarian population.
Anthropologically, the type of Magyars of the conquest phase shows similarities with modern Central Asians. The "Turanid" (South-Siberian) and the "Uralid" types from the Eurasian admixture were dominant among the conquering Hungarians.
According to a 2018 study on maternal lineages from remains from early Central Asian conqueror cemeteries in Hungary, one third carried "Central-Inner Asian" lineages, likely derived ultimately from the Magyars and "the Asian Scythians and Asian Huns" and the remaining two thirds "of the lineages most likely originated from the Bronze Age Potapovka-Poltavka-Srubnaya cultures of the Pontic-Caspian steppe." However, overall the contribution of Central Asian conquerors to the Hungarian gene pool was found to be small.
Another recent study from 2018 shows that ancient samples of both Magyars and Avars can clearly be linked to several Mongoloid groups of East Asia and Siberia. The samples are most closely related to populations in modern Mongolia and Northern China. The scientists suggest that modern groups like Yakuts or Tungusic peoples share a close relation to ancient Hungarians and Avars.
According to Pamjav Horolma's study, which is based on 230 samples and expected to include 6-8% Gypsy peoples, the small Hungarian haplogroup distribution study from Hungary is as follows: 26% R1a, 20% I2a, 19% R1b, 7% I, 6% J2, 5% H, 5% G2a, 5% E1b1b1a1, 3% J1, <1% N, <1% R2. According to another study by Pamjav, the area of Bodrogköz suggested to be a population isolate found an elevated frequency of Haplogroup N: R1a-M458 (20.4%), I2a1-P37 (19%), R1a-Z280 (14.3%), and E1b-M78 (10.2%). Various R1b-M343 subgroups accounted for 15% of the Bodrogköz population. Haplogroup N1c-Tat covered 6.2% of the lineages, but most of it belonged to the N1c-VL29 subgroup, which is more frequent among Balto-Slavic speaking than Finno-Ugric speaking peoples. Other haplogroups had frequencies of less than 5%.
Among 100 Hungarian men, 90 of whom from the Great Hungarian Plain, the following haplogroups and frequencies are obtained: 30% R1a, 15% R1b, 13% I2a1, 13% J2, 9% E1b1b1a, 8% I1, 3% G2, 3% J1, 3% I*, 1% E*, 1% F*, 1% K*. The 97 Székelys belong to the following haplogroups: 20% R1b, 19% R1a, 17% I1, 11% J2, 10% J1, 8% E1b1b1a, 5% I2a1, 5% G2, 3% P*, 1% E*, 1% N. It can be inferred that Szekelys have more significant German admixture. A study sampling 45 Palóc from Budapest and northern Hungary, found 60% R1a, 13% R1b, 11% I, 9% E, 2% G, 2% J2. A study estimating possible Inner Asian admixture among nearly 500 Hungarians based on paternal lineages only, estimated it at 5.1% in Hungary, at 7.4 in Székelys and at 6.3% at Csangos. It has boldly been noted that this is an upper limit by deep SNPs and that the main haplogroups responsible for that contribution are J2-M172 (negative M47, M67, L24, M12), J2-L24, R1a-Z93, Q-M242 and E-M78, the latter of which is typically European, while N is still negligible (1.7%). In an attempt to divide N into subgroups L1034 and L708, some Hungarian, Székely, and Uzbek samples were found to be L1034 SNP positive, while all Mongolians, Buryats, Khanty, Finnish, and Roma samples showed a negative result for this marker. The 2500 years old SNP L1034 was found typical for Mansi and Hungarians, the closest linguistic relatives.
The following information is inferred from 433 Hungarian samples from the Hungarian Magyar Y-DNA Project in Family Tree (29 May 2017):
Besides the various peoples mentioned above, the Magyars later were influenced by other populations in the Carpathian Basin. Among these are the Cumans, Pechenegs, Jazones, West Slavs, Germans, and Vlachs (Romanians). Ottomans, who occupied the central part of Hungary from c. 1526 until c. 1699, inevitably exerted an influence, as did the various nations (Germans, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, and others) that resettled depopulated territories after their departure. Similar to other European countries, Jewish, Armenian, and Roma (Gypsy) ethnic minorities have been living in Hungary since the Middle Ages.
Hungarian diaspora in the world (includes people with Hungarian ancestry or citizenship).
Hungarian diaspora (Magyar diaspora) is a term that encompasses the total ethnic Hungarian population located outside of current-day Hungary.
Kniezsa's (1938) view on the ethnic map of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 11th century, based on toponyms. Kniezsa's view has been criticized by many scholars, because of its non-compliance with later archaeological and onomastics research, but his map is still regularly cited in modern reliable sources. One of the most prominent critics of this map was Emil Petrovici.
The "Red Map", based on the controversial 1910 census (peak of the magyarization). Regions with population density below 20 persons/km2 (51.8 persons/sq. mi.) are left blank and the corresponding population is represented in the nearest region with population density above that limit. The vibrant, dominant red color was deliberately chosen to mark Hungarians while the light purple color of the Romanians, who were already the majority in the whole of Transylvania back then, is shadow-like.
^Discrimination in the EU in 2012(PDF). Special Eurobarometer (Report). 383. European Commission. November 2012. p. 233. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2 December 2012. Retrieved 2013. The question asked was "Do you consider yourself to be...?" With a card showing: Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Other Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, and Non-believer/Agnostic. Space was given for Other (SPONTANEOUS) and DK. Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu did not reach the 1% threshold.
^OED, s. v. "Ugrian": "Ugri, the name given by early Russian writers to a Finno-Ugric people dwelling east of the Ural Mountains".
^Obrusánszky, Borbála (2018). Angela Marcantonio (ed.). Are the Hungarians Ugric?(PDF). The state of the art of Uralic studies: tradition vs innovation. Sapienza Università Editrice. pp. 87-106, at p. 87-88.
^Nora Berend; Przemys?aw Urba?czyk; Przemys?aw Wiszewski (2013). "Hungarian 'pre-history' or 'ethnogenesis'?". Central Europe in the High Middle Ages: Bohemia, Hungary and Poland, c.900-c.1300. Cambridge University Press. p. 62.
^Róna-Tas, András (1999). "Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages": 96. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
^Kovrig, Bennett (2000), Partitioned nation: Hungarian minorities in Central Europe, in: Michael Mandelbaum (ed.), The new European Diasporas: National Minorities and Conflict in Eastern Europe, New York City: Council on Foreign Relations Press, pp. 19-80.
^Raffay Ern?: A vajdaságoktól a birodalomig. Az újkori Románia története (From voivodeships to the empire. The modern history of Romania). Publishing house JATE Kiadó, Szeged, 1989, pp. 155-156)
^ abcdefCsányi, B.; Bogácsi-Szabó, E.; Tömöry, Gy.; Czibula, Á.; Priskin, K.; Csõsz, A.; Mende, B.; Langó, P.; Csete, K.; Zsolnai, A.; Conant, E. K.; Downes, C. S.; Raskó, I. (July 2008). "Y-Chromosome Analysis of Ancient Hungarian and Two Modern Hungarian-Speaking Populations from the Carpathian Basin". Annals of Human Genetics. 72 (4): 519-534. doi:10.1111/j.1469-1809.2008.00440.x. PMID18373723. S2CID13217908.
^Nádasi, Edit; Gy?r?s, P.; Czakó, Márta; Bene, Judit; Kosztolányi, Sz; Fazekas, Sz; Dömösi, P.; Melegh, B. (22 May 2007). "Comparison of mtDNA haplogroups in Hungarians with four other European populations: A small incidence of descents with Asian origin". Acta Biologica Hungarica. 58 (2): 245-256. doi:10.1556/abiol.58.2007.2.11. PMID17585514.
^Pamjav, Horolma; Zalán, Andrea; Béres, Judit; Nagy, Melinda; Chang, Yuet Meng (May 2011). "Genetic structure of the paternal lineage of the Roma People". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 145 (1): 21-29. doi:10.1002/ajpa.21454. PMID21484758.
^Pamjav, Horolma; Fóthi, Á.; Fehér, T.; Fóthi, Erzsébet (1 August 2017). "A study of the Bodrogköz population in north-eastern Hungary by Y chromosomal haplotypes and haplogroups". Molecular Genetics and Genomics. 292 (4): 883-894. doi:10.1007/s00438-017-1319-z. PMID28409264. S2CID10107799.