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 East Slavic "Yugra" ("Югра"). 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. The Hungarian language is classified as an Ugric language, and Hungarians are commonly considered an Ugric people that originated from the Ural Mountains, Western Siberia or the Middle Volga region. The relatedness of Hungarians with other Ugric peoples is confirmed by linguistic and genetic data, but modern Hungarians have substantial admixture from local European populations.
The 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, and arrived into Central Europe by the historical Magyar or Hungarian "conquerors".
The historical Magyars were found to show significant affinity to modern Bashkirs, and stood also in contact with Iranian peoples (especially Jaszic speakers), Turkic peoples (presumably Oghuric speakers) and Slavs. The historical Magyars created an alliance of steppe tribes, consisting of an Ugric/Magyar ruling class, Iranian but also Turkic (Oghuric) and Slavic tribes, which conquered the Pannonian Steppe and surrounding regions, giving rise to modern Hungarians and Hungarian culture.
"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.
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 Turkic and 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 and Baikal-Altai Asian cultures.
4th century to c. 830
In the 4th and 5th centuries AD, the Hungarians moved to 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: Jenő, 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. 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 862, Prince Rastislav of Moravia rebelled against the Franks, and after hiring Hungarian troops, won his independence; this was the first time that Hungarians expeditionary troops entered the Carpathian Basin. In 862, Archbishop Hincmar of Reims records the campaign of unknown enemies called "Ungri", giving the first mention of the Hungarians in Western Europe. In 881, the Hungarian forces fought together with the Kabars in the Vienna Basin. According to historian György Szabados and archeologist Miklós Béla Szőke, a group of Hungarians were already living in the Carpathian Basin at that time, so they could quickly intervene in the events of the Carolingian Empire. The number of recorded battles increased from the end of the 9th century. In the late Avar period, a part of Hungarians was already present in the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century, this has been supported by genetic and archaeological research, because there are graves in which Avar descendants are buried in Hungarian clothes. The contemporary local population is descended from previous peoples of the Carpathian Basin, and a large number of people survived to the 10th century from the previous Avar period. An important segment of this Avar era Hungarians is that the Hungarian county system of King Saint Stephen I may be largely based on the power centers formed during the Avar period. Based on DNA evidence, the Proto-Hungarians admixed with Sarmatians and Huns, this three genetic components appear in the graves of the Hungarian conqueror elite of the 9th century. Based on the DNA in the Hungarian conqueror graves, the conquerors had eastern origin, but the vast majority of the Hungarian conquerors had European genome. The cemeteries of the Hungarian commoners had fewer Asian genomes than the cemeteries of the Hungarian elite. According to some genetic studies, there is a genetic continuity from the Bronze Age, a continuous migration of the Steppe folks from east to the Carpathian Basin. Other studies point out that the Hungarian Conqueror group and the local population started admixing only on the second half of the 10th century, and that research done of the first and second generation cemeteries in the Carpathian basin show uniparental lineages can be derived from Iron Age Sargat culture’s population, suggesting "only limited interaction with the local population of the Carpathian Basin"
The Hungarians took possession of the Carpathian Basin in a pre-planned manner, with a long move-in between 862 and 895. This is confirmed by the archaeological findings, in the 10th century Hungarian cemeteries, the graves of women, children and elderly people are located next to the warriors, they were buried according to the same traditions, wore the same style of ornaments, and belonged to the same anthropological group. The Hungarian military events of the following years prove that the Hungarian population that settled in the Carpathian Basin was not a weakened population without a significant military power. Other theories assert that the move of the Hungarians was forced or at least hastened by the joint attacks of Pechenegs and Bulgarians. According to eleventh-century tradition, the road taken by the Hungarians under Prince Álmos took them first to Transylvania in 895. This is supported by an eleventh-century Russian tradition that the Hungarians moved to the Carpathian Basin by way of Kiev. Prince Álmos, the sacred leader of the Hungarian Great Principality died before he could reach Pannonia, he was sacrificed in Transylvania.
In 895/896, under the leadership of Árpád, some Hungarians crossed the Carpathians and entered the Carpathian Basin. The tribe called Megyer 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 contributed to the Hungarian departure from Etelköz.
From the upper Tisza region of the Carpathian Basin, the Hungarians intensified their campaigns across continental Europe. In 900, they moved from the upper Tisza river to Transdanubia, which later became the core of the arising Hungarian state. By 902, the borders were pushed to the South-Moravian Carpathians and the Principality of Moravia collapsed. 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 Przemyśl) 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.
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.
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.
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.
Archeological mtDNA haplogroups show a similarity between Hungarians and Turkic-speaking Tatars and Bashkirs, while another study found a link between the Mansi and Bashkirs, suggesting that the Bashkirs are a mixture of Turkic, Ugric and Indo-European contributions. The homeland of ancient Hungarians is around the Ural Mountains, and the Hungarian affinities with the Karayakupovo culture is widely accepted among researchers. A full found that the Bashkirs, next to their high European ancestry, displayed affinity to both Uralic-speaking populations of Northern Asia, as well as Inner Asian Turkic groups, "pointing to a mismatch of their cultural background and genetic ancestry and an intricacy of the historic interface between Turkic and Uralic populations".
Neparáczki et al. argues, based on archeogenetic results, that the historical Hungarian Conquerors were mostly a mixture of Central Asian Steppe groups, Slavic, and Germanic tribes, and this composite people evolved 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." Genetic data found high affinity between Magyar conquerors, the historical Bolgars, and modern day Turkic-speaking peoples in the Volga region, suggesting a possible language shifted from an Uralic (Ugric) to Turkic languages.
Hunnish origin or influences on Hungarians and Székelys have always been a matter of debate among scholars. In Hungary, a legend developed based on medieval chronicles that the Hungarians, and the Székely ethnic group in particular, are descended from the Huns. However, mainstream scholarship dismisses a close connection between the Hungarians and Huns. A genetic study published in Scientific Reports in November 2019 led by Neparáczki Endre had examined the remains of three males from three separate 5th century Hunnic cemeteries in the Pannonian Basin. They were found to be carrying the paternal haplogroups Q1a2, R1b1a1b1a1a1 and R1a1a1b2a2. In modern Europe, Q1a2 is rare and has its highest frequency among the Székelys. It is believed that conquering Magyars may have been Avar, Hunnish and Xiongnu influences.
Foundation of the Hungarian state is connected to the Hungarian conquerors, who arrived from the Pontic steppes as a confederation of seven tribes. The Hungarians arrived in the frame of a strong centralized steppe-empire under the leadership of Grand Prince Álmos and his son Árpád, they became founders of the Árpád dynasty, the Hungarian ruling dynasty and the Hungarian state. The Árpád dynasty claimed to be a direct descendant of the great Hun leader Attila. In Hungary, a legend developed based on foreign and Hungarian medieval chronicles that the Hungarians, and the Székely ethnic group in particular, are descended from the Huns. The basic premise of the Hungarian medieval chronicle tradition was that the Huns, i.e. the Hungarians coming out twice from Scythia, the guiding principle was the Hun-Hungarian continuity. Mainstream scholarship dismisses a close connection between the Hungarians and Huns.
Hungarian males possess a high frequency of haplogroup R1a-Z280 and a low frequency of haplogroup N-Tat, which is uncommon among most Uralic-speaking populations.
In the case of the Southern Mansi males, the most frequent haplogroups were N1b-P43 (33%), N1c-L1034 (28%) and R1a-Z280 (19%).The Konda Mansi population shared common haplotypes within haplogroups R1a-Z280 or N-M46 with Hungarian speakers, which may suggest that the Hungarians were in contact with the Mansi people during their migration to the Carpathian Basin.
According to a 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, (including Cuman descendents from Kunság region) 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 Csángós.
An analysis of Bashkir samples from the Burzyansky and Abzelilovsky districts of the Republic of Bashkortostan in the Volga-Ural region, revealed them to belong to the R1a subclade R1a-SUR51, which is shared in significant amounts with the historical Magyars and the royal Hungarian lineage, and representing the closest kin to the Hungarian Árpád dynasty. This subclade was also found among historical Scytho-Iranian samples in modern day Afghanistan.
Historical Magyar conquerors had a higher eastern paternal haplogroup frequency, with around ~37.5% to up to 50% Haplogroup N-M231, as well as lower frequency of Haplogroup C-M217 at 6.25%. While haplogroup N can be associated with Uralic/Ugric groups, C-M217 may be associated with Turkic-speakers (especially with Kipchaks).
Modern Hungarians show relative close affinity to surrounding populations, but harbour a small "Siberian" component maximized among the Samoyedic Nganasan people, and argued to have arrived with the historical Magyars. Modern Hungarians formed from several historical population groupings, including the historical Magyars, assimilated Slavic and Germanic groups, as well as Central Asian Steppe tribes (presumably Turkic and Iranian tribes). Genetic analyses link parts of the historical Magyars ancestors to Eastern Siberian hunter-gatherers. These historical Eastern Siberian hunter-gatherers were characterized by high Ancient Northern East Asian ancestry.
The historical Magyar genome corresponds largely with the modern Bashkirs, and can be modeled as ~50% Mansi-like, ~35% Sarmatian-like, and ~15% Hun/Xiongnu-like. The admixture event is suggested to have taken place in the Southern Ural region at 643–431 BCE. Modern Hungarians were found to be admixed descendants of the historical Magyar conquerors with local Europeans, as 31 Hungarian samples could be modelled as two-way admixtures of "Conq_Asia_Core" and "EU_Core" in varying degrees. The historical Magyar component among modern Hungarians is estimated at an average frequency of 13%, which can be explained by the relative smaller population size of Magyar conquerors compared to local European groups.
Besides the various peoples mentioned above, the Magyars were later 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 the depopulated central and southern territories of the kingdom (roughly present-day South Hungary, Vojvodina in Serbia and Banat in Romania) after their departure. Similar to other European countries, Armenian, and Roma (Gypsy) ethnic minorities have been living in Hungary since the Middle Ages. Jews have been living in Hungary since the Roman era, as the archeological evidence of jewish gravestones dating from this period demonstrates.
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 1910 census. 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. Red color to mark Hungarians and light purple color to mark Walachians.
Hungary proper where Hungarians are the ethnic majority people
Regions outside Hungary where there are Hungarian minorities
^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 14 August 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.
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^Kosáry Domokos, Bevezetés a magyar történelem forrásaiba és irodalmába 1, p. 29
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