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{{Infobox Ethnic group
group = Hungarians

image =
Saint Stephen I Matthias Corvinus Gábor Bethlen Béla Bartók
Tivadar Kosztka János Bolyai Loránd Eötvös József Eötvös
population = c. 15.0 million
region1 = Central Europe
pop1 = c. 10.65 million
ref1 =
region2 =
pop2 = 9,967,921 (2001)
ref2 =
region3 =
pop3 = 520,528 (2001)
ref3 =
region4 =
pop4 = 14,672 (2001)
ref4 =
region5 =
pop5 = 120,000 (2004)
ref5 =
region6 =
pop6 = 40,583 (2001)
ref6 =
region7 =
pop7 = 6,243 (2002)
ref7 =
region8 = Southeastern Europe
pop8 = c. 1.75 million
region9 =
pop9 = 1,434,377 (2002)
ref9 =
region10 =
pop10 = 293,299 (2002)
ref10 =
region11 =
pop11 = 16,595 (2001)
ref11 =
region12 =
pop12 = 6,800 (2001)
ref12 =
region13 =
pop13 = 893 (1991)
ref13 =
region12 =
pop12 = 2,003 (2002)
ref12 =
region14 = Eastern Europe
pop14 = 160,000
ref14 =
region15 =
pop15 = 156,600 (2001)
ref15 =
region16 =
pop16 = 3,768 (2002)
ref16 =
region17 = Western Europe
pop17 = 120,000
ref17 =
region18 =
pop18 = 80,135 (2001)
ref18 =
region19 =
pop19 = 3,328 (2006)
ref19 =
region20 = North America
pop20 = c. 1.9 million
ref20 =
region21 =
pop21 = 1,563,081 (2006)
ref21 =
region22 =
pop22 = 315,510 (2006)
ref22 =
region23 = South America
pop23 = 100,000
ref23 =
region24 =
pop24 = 80,000
ref24 =
region25 =
pop25 = 40–50,000
ref25 =
region26 =
pop26 = 40,000
region27 = Asia
pop27 =
ref27 =
region28 =
pop28 = 1,114
ref28 =
region29 = Australasia (AUS / NZmarker)
pop29 = 62,000
ref29 =
region30 =
pop30 =
ref30 =
region31 =
pop31 = 214
ref31 =
region32 = Africa
pop32 = 10,000
ref32 =
languages = Hungarian
religions = align="center" style="background:transparent; text-align:left;"
style="width:30em;"  Predominantly Roman Catholic and Protestant  , but also including Greek Catholic, Jewish and Unaffiliated.
related=}}Hungarians (in ) are an ethnic group primarily associated with Hungarymarker. There are around 10 million Hungarians in Hungarymarker (as of 2001). Hungarians were the main inhabitants of the Kingdom of Hungary that existed through most of the second millennium. The territory of this country was dismembered at the Treaty of Trianon (1920), and as a result, 3,425,000 Hungarians found themselves separated from their motherland. Their numbers today are: in the territories of present-day Romaniamarker (1,440,000; see: Hungarians in Romania), Slovakiamarker (520,500; see Hungarians in Slovakia), Serbiamarker (293,000; see Hungarians in Vojvodina), Ukrainemarker (156,000; see: Hungarians in Ukraine), Austriamarker (40,583), Croatiamarker (16,500), the Czech Republicmarker (14,600) and Sloveniamarker (10,000). Significant groups of people with Hungarian ancestry live in various other parts of the world (e.g. 1,400,000 in the United States), but unlike the Hungarians living within the former Kingdom of Hungary, only some of these largely preserve the Hungarian language and traditions. The Hungarians can be classified in several sub-groups according to local linguistic and cultural characteristics. Hungarian ethnic subgroups that have a distinct identity are the Székelys, Csángós, Jassic people and Palócs.


The word "Hungarian" is thought to be derived from the Bulgar-Turkic Onogur, possibly because the Magyars were neighbours (or confederates) of the Empire of the Onogurs in the sixth century, whose leading tribal union was called the "Onogurs" (meaning "ten tribes" or "ten arrows" in Old Turkic; see below).

The "H-" prefix in many languages (Hungarians, Hongrois, Hungarus etc.) is a later addition. It was taken over from the name of the "Huns", a semi-nomadic tribe that briefly lived in the area of present-day Hungary and, according to legends originating in the medieval period, were the people from which the Magyars arose. The identification of the "Hungarians" with the "Huns" has often occurred in historiography and literature. Even today, Hun names like Attila and Réka are popular among Hungarians. This identification began to be disputed in the late nineteenth century and is still a source of major controversy among scholars about the nature of the connection between the two.

"Magyar" is the term Hungarians use, in their own language, to refer to themselves or to their language. The English equivalent for the word would be "Hungarian". However, the word "Magyar" is frequently used in English texts when referring to Hungarian ethnicity, and, in a broader context, when describing the ancient nomadic Hungarian/Magyar tribes. Some sources claim "Magyar" to be the proper name of the ethnic group. "Hungarian" took root in the English language over the centuries.

Many theories exist on the origins and meanings of the word "Magyar"", although the etymology of the words Hungary and Hungarian is accompanied by less debate. In Old Slavic texts Hungarians were referred to as Ugors or Ogurs (Ugri), in Byzantine and early Latin texts uniguri, Ungri words were used, presumably from the Turkic word On ogur, meaning ten arrows, i.e., seven traditionally Hungarian tribes —Megyer, Jenő, Keszi, Nyék, Kér, Tarján plus the merged Kürt and Gyarmat— joined by three Kabar tribes whose names are not known for sure (with the usual suspects being Ság, Ladány, Berény, Tárkány). Later, from the Unugor form evolved the words Ungarus, Ungar, Ungarn, and Venger. In the Middle Ages the Latin Ungarus, Ungaria words changed to Hungarus, Hungaria, that also referred to the Hungarians being related to the Huns. This finally was the base for many languages' word for Hungarian/Hungary.

Ethnic affiliations and genetic origins

The origin of the Hungarians is partly disputed. The most widely-accepted Finno-Ugric theory of origin from the late nineteenth century is based primarily on linguistic and ethnographical arguments. Contesting these, the theory is criticized as relying too much on August Schleicher's Stammbaumtheorie of historical linguistics, and some cite that Finno-Ugric-speaking peoples have a wide range of cultural, ethnic and genetic variation. It should also be noted that though old and modern-day Hungarians have a predominantly European genetic makeup, one researcher states that about 13% of the population have retained the other Uralic language speakers' genes, while another sees no genetic continuity. There are also other theories stating that the Magyars are descendants of Scythians, Huns and/or Avars.

The Hungarian language belongs to the Finno-Ugric group of languages. The closest related languages are the Khanty language (or Ostyak) and the Mansi language (or Vogul).According to a genetic study published in 2000 in the American academic journal Science, the ancestors of Hungarians appeared in Europe around 40,000 years ago and genetically, the most closely related ethnic groups are Poles, Croats, Ukrainians, and other surrounding ethnic groups. However, linguist and historian András Róna-Tas notes that no historic conclusions may be drawn yet based on genetic research.Based on the Kosztolnyik's research , not so long ago, historical research concluded the term "magyar" derived from the name of (prince) Muageris (also known as Mugel), by arguing that "Muageris" had to be a personal name taken from the descriptive designation of a people. It presented the hypothesis that the Huns in the Crimea were, really, the Onogurs, and the names of the two princes mentioned by Malalas (Grodas and Muageris – Hunnic rulers ) as living in the region of Maeotian Lakemarker (Sea of Azov) and of the Kuban stream during the earlier half of the sixth century, actually referred to people under the rule of the Magyar (Muageris) tribe.

Pre-fourth century AD

Sometime during the fourth millennium BC, the Uralic-speaking peoples who were living in the central and southern regions of the Uralsmarker split up. The peoples speaking Finno-Ugric languages dispersed primarily towards the west and northwest and came into contact with Iranian speakers who were spreading northwards. From at least 2000  BC onwards, the Ugrian speakers became distinguished from the rest of the Finno-Ugric community. Judging by evidence from burial mounds and settlement sites, they interacted with the Andronovo Culture. More advanced tribes arriving from the southern steppes taught them how to farm, breed cattle and produce bronze objects . Around 1500 BC, they started to breed horses and horse riding became one of their typical activities .

In the early first millennium BC, the northern Ugrian subgroup (the Ob-Ugrians) moved to the lower Ob River, while southern Ugrians remained in the south and became nomadic herdsmen . Since these southern Ugrians became the ancestors of the Magyars, this division is usually marked as the beginning of the Magyars as a distinct ethnic group . During the following centuries, the Magyars continued to live in the wood-steppes and steppes southeast of the Ural Mountains, strongly influenced by their immediate neighbours of Iranian extraction .

Fourth century to c.830 AD

Map showing location of the Magyars in 600 AD.
In the fourth and fifth centuries AD, the Magyars 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 eighth century, some of the Magyars moved to the Don River to an area between the Volga, Don and the Seversky Donetsmarker rivers. Meanwhile, the descendants of those Magyars who stayed in Bashkiria remained there as late as 1241. As a consequence, earlier scholarship considered the Magyars and the Bashkirs as two branches of the same nation . The earlier Bashkirs, however, were decimated during the Mongol invasion of Europe (thirteenth century) and assimilated into Turkic peoples .

The Magyars around the Don River were subordinates of the Khazar khaganate. Their neighbours were the archaeological Saltov Culture, i.e. Bulgars (Proto-Bulgarians, descendants of the Onogurs) and the Alans, from whom they learned gardening, elements of cattle breeding and of agriculture. The Bulgars and Magyars shared a long-lasting relationship in Khazaria, either by alliance or rivalry . The system of two rulers (later known as kende and gyula) is also thought to be a major inheritance from the Khazars . Tradition holds that the Magyars were organized in a confederacy of tribes called hétmagyar (lit. seven Hungarians). The tribes of the hétmagyar were; Jenő, Kér, Keszi, Kürt-Gyarmat, Megyer, Nyék, and Tarján. The confederacy was formed as a border defending allies of Khazaria mainly during the reign of Khagan Bulan and Ovadyah, with the Magyar tribe as ascendant .

c.830 to c.895

Migration of the Magyars, and the Honfoglalás
Around 830, a civil war broke out in the Khazar khaganate. As a result, three Kabar tribes out of the Khazars joined the Magyars and they moved to what the Magyars call the Etelköz, i.e. the territory between the Carpathiansmarker and the Dnieper River (today's Ukrainemarker) . Around 854, the Magyars had to face a first attack by the Pechenegs. (According to other sources, the reason for the departure of the Magyars to Etelköz was the attack of the Pechenegs .) Both the Kabars and earlier the Bulgars may have taught the Magyars their Turkic languages; according to the Finno-Ugric theory , this is used to account for at least three hundred Turkic words and names still in modern Hungarian. The new neighbours of the Magyars were the Vikings and the eastern Slavs. Archaeological findings suggest that the Magyars entered into intense interaction with both groups . From 862 onwards, the Magyars (already referred to as the Ungri) along with their allies, the Kabars, started a series of looting raids from the Etelköz to the Carpathian Basin–mostly against the Eastern Frankish Empire (Germany) and Great Moravia, but also against the Balaton principality and Bulgariamarker.

Entering the Carpathian Basin (after 895)

Hungarian campaigns in the 10th century.
Most European nations were literally praying for mercy, as a notable prayer of the time shows: "Sagittis hungarorum libera nos Domine" – "Lord save us from the arrows of Hungarians"
Eastern Hemisphere, 1100 A.D.
Population growth of the Magyars (900–1980)
In 895/896, probably under the leadership of Árpád, some Magyars crossed the Carpathiansmarker and entered the Carpathian Basin. The tribe called Magyars (Megyer) was the leading tribe of the Magyar alliance that conquered the center of the basin. At the same time (c.895), due to their involvement in the 894–896 Bulgaro-Byzantine war, Magyars in Etelköz were attacked by Bulgariamarker and then by their old enemies the Pechenegs. It is uncertain whether or not those conflicts were the cause of the Magyar departure from Etelköz.

In the Carpathian Basin, the Magyars initially occupied the Great Moravian territory at the upper/middle Tisza river, a sparsely populated territory, where, according to Arabian sources , Great Moravia used to send its criminals, and where the Roman Empire had settled the Iazyges centuries earlier. From there, they 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 Magyar migration, the land was inhabited only by a sparse population of Slavs, numbering about 200,000, who were either assimilated or enslaved by the Magyars. Their allies, the Kabars (probably led by Kurszán), appear to have settled in the region around Bihar .

Remnants of the Avars lived in the southwest. After the battle of Augsburg (956), the Magyars stopped their raids against Western Europe.

Many of the Magyars, however, remained to the north of the Carpathians after 895/896, as archaeological findings suggest (e.g. Polishmarker Przemyślmarker). They seem to have joined the other Magyars in 900. There is also a consistent Hungarian population in Transylvania, the Székelys, comprise 40% of the Hungarian minority in Romania. The Székely people's origin, and in particular the time of their settlement in Transylvania, is a matter of historical controversy.

History after 900

Medieval Hungary controlled more territory than medieval France, and the population of medieval Hungary was the third largest of any country in Europe.The Magyar leader Árpád is believed to have led the Hungarians into the Carpathian Basin in 896. In 907, the Magyars destroyed a Bavarianmarker army at Pozsony and laid Germany, France and Italy open to Magyar raids. These raids were fast and devastating. The Magyars defeated Louis the Child's Imperial Army near Augsburgmarker in 910. From 917 to 925, Magyars raided through Baslemarker, Alsacemarker, Burgundy, Saxonymarker, and Provence. Magyar expansion was checked at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955. Although the battle at Lechfeld stopped the Magyar raids against Western Europe, the raids on the Balkan Peninsula continued until 970. Hungarian settlement in the area was approved by the Pope when their leaders accepted Christianity, and Stephen I the Saint (Szent István) was crowned King of Hungary in 1001. The century between the Magyars' arrival from the eastern European plains and the consolidation of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1001 was dominated by pillaging campaigns across Europe, from Dania (Denmarkmarker) to the Iberian Peninsulamarker (modern Spain and Portugal). After the country's acceptance into Christian Europe under Stephen I, Hungary served as a bulwark against further invasions from the east and south, especially against the Turks.

At this time, the Hungarian nation numbered between 25,000 and 1,000,000 people. The Slavic population in present-day Hungary were culturally assimilated by the Magyar culture.

The name "Hungarian" has also a wider meaning, as it once referred to all inhabitants of the Kingdom of Hungary irrespective of their ethnicity.

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 Magyar and non-Magyar (especially Slovak and Romanian) historians about the possible changes in the ethnic structure throughout history:

  • Some historians, especially Hungarians , support the theory that the Magyars' percentage in the Carpathian Basin was at an almost constant 80% during the Middle Ages -non Magyars numbered hardly more than 20 to 25 percent of the total population- and began to decrease only at the time of the Ottoman conquest, reaching as low as around 39% in the end of the eighteenth century. The decline of the Magyars 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 Magyars, so the death toll among them was much higher than among other nationalities. In the 18th century their percentage declined further because of the influx of new settlers from Europe, especially Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, and Germans. Droves of Romanians entered Transylvania during the same period. As a consequence of the Turkish occupation and the Habsburg colonization policies, the country underwent a great change in ethnic composition. Hungary's population more than tripled to 8 million between 1720 and 1787, however, only 39 percent of its people were Magyars, who lived mainly in the center of the country.
  • Others, particularly Slovak and Romanian historians, tend to emphasise the multi-ethnic nature of the Kingdom even in the Middle Ages and argue that the drastic change in the ethnic structure hypothesized by Hungarian historians in fact did not occur. Therefore, the Magyars are supposed to have accounted only for about 30–40% of the Kingdom's population since its establishment. In particular, there is a fierce debate among Magyar and Romanian historians about the ethnic composition of Transylvania through the times; see Origin of the Romanians.

In the nineteenth century, the percentage of Magyars in the Kingdom of Hungary rose gradually, reaching over 50% by 1900, mostly because of (economic) immigration, and partially because of some magyarization. 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 (of whom about two-thirds were 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 Magyars' 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 Magyars became minorities in the neighbouring countries. During the remainder of the twentieth century, the Magyar population of Hungary grew from 7.1 million (1920) to around 10.4 million (1980), in spite of 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 emigration to Hungary (in the 1990s, especially from Transylvania and Vojvodinamarker).

After the "baby boom" of the 1950s (Ratkó era), a serious demographic crisis began to develop in Hungary and its neighbours. The Magyar population reached its maximum in 1980, after which it began to decline. This decline is expected to continue at least until 2050, at which time the population will probably be between 8 and 9 million.

Today, the Magyars represent around 35% of the population of the Carpathian Basin. Their number is around 12–13 million. While other ethnic groups increased their numbers two, three or even more times during the twentieth century, the Magyar population stagnated. Between 1950 and 1980, the increase in Hungary's population was the fourth slowest in the world, after East Germanymarker, Bulgariamarker and St. Kitts and Nevismarker: 16.4% (from 9,204,799 to 10,709,463).

There was a referendum in Hungary in December 2004 on whether to grant Hungarian citizenship to Magyars living outside Hungary's borders (i.e. without requiring a permanent residence in Hungary). The referendum failed due to insufficient voter turnout.

Later influences

Besides the various peoples mentioned above, the Magyars assimilated or were influenced by subsequent peoples arriving in the Carpathian Basin. Among these are the Cumanians, Pechenegs, Jazones, Germans and other Western European settlers in the Middle Ages. Romanians and Slovaks have lived together and blended with Magyars since early medieval times. Ottomans, who occupied the central part of present-day Hungary from c.1541 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. The advanced economic and political conditions of the Slavs, who had preceded the Magyars' arrival but continued to migrate thereafter, and those of the Germans exerted a significant influence; many Hungarian words relating to agriculture, politics, religion and handicrafts were borrowed from Slavic languages. Similar to other European countries, both Jewish and Roma (Gypsy) minorities have been living in Hungary since the Middle Ages.

Maps and images

Image:Hungary 13th cent.png|Kingdom of Hungary in the late 13th centuryImage:Hungary-ethnic groups.jpg|Image:Redmap.jpg|Image:MagyarsOutsideHungary.png|Areas with ethnic Hungarian majorities in the neighboring countries of Hungary, according to László Sebők.Image:Magyars (Hungarians) in Hungary, census 1890.jpg|Hungarians in Greater Hungary
(census 1890)
Image:Szekelys-in-hungary.png|Migrations of the Székely HungariansImage:Hungarians in Romania blank.svg|Hungarians in RomaniaImage:Szekely03.png|Hungarians in Harghitamarker, Covasnamarker, and Mureş counties of Romania (2002 data)Image:Vojvodina ethnic2002.png|Hungarians in Vojvodina, SerbiaImage:Hungarians in vojvodina2002.png|Hungarians in Vojvodina (2002 census)Image:Voivodina Hungarians women's national costume .png|Voivodina Hungarians women's national costumeImage:National costume and dance Csárdás.jpg|Csárdás folk dance in Skorenovacmarker, Vojvodina, SerbiaImage:Székely village.jpg|A Székely village in Covasna County, RomaniamarkerImage:Dist_of_hu_lang_europe.png|Regions where Hungarian is spoken

See also


  1. Republic of Macedonia - State Statistical Office
  2. CSO Ireland - 2006 Census
  3. Molnar, A Concise History of Hungary, p. 262 online
  4. Richard C. Frucht, Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture p. 359–360 online
  5. OSZK.
  6. Hungary - The Árpáds, Encyclopædia Britannica
  7. Hungary The Medieval Period - Flags, Maps, Economy, History, Climate, Natural Resources, Current Issues, International Agreements, Population, Social Statistics, Political System
  8. Hungary - Origins and Language
  9. Mit jelent az a szó, hogy magyar? - NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGYARORSZÁG
  10. Translated from the Hungarian Wikipedia article on the topic.
  11. Emese Saga
  12. uirala theory-BACKGROUND - FinnoUgric Languages
  13. Genetic structure in relation to the history of Hungarian ethnic groups | Human Biology | Find Articles at
  14. Comparison of maternal lineage and biogeographic analyses of ancient and modern Hungarian populations, U.S. National Library of Medicine
  15. Kosztolnyik, Z. J., Hungary under the early Árpáds, 890s to 1063, page 29, Distributed by Columbia University Press, 2002 ISBN 0-88033-503-3, Library of congress control number 2002112276
  16. Magyars
  17. The Maygars of Hungary
  18. History of Hungary, 895-970
  19. The Magyars (650-997 AD)
  20. Milan Tutorov, Banatska rapsodija, istorika Zrenjanina i Banata, Novi Sad, 2001.
  21. Hungarian historians give the lowest estimates as 70,000 people, while Serbian and Slovak authors suggest much lower numbers; around 25,000.
  22. Specifically, the Latin term natio hungarica referred to all nobles of the Kingdom of Hungary regardless of their ethnicity.
  23. Hungary. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved May 11, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  24. Historical World Atlas. With the commendation of the Royal Geographical Society. Carthographia, Budapest, Hungary, 2005. ISBN 963-352-002-9CM
  25. Peaks/waves of immigration
  26. 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: Council on Foreign Relations Press, pp. 19–80.
  27. Raffay Ernő: 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)
  28. Sebők László's ethnic map of Central and Southeastern Europe


External links

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