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Upper Hungary is the usual English translation of two terms:

1. The older Hungarian term Felső-Magyarország (literally: "Upper Hungary"; Slovak: Horné Uhorsko; German: Oberungarn) formally referred to what is today approximately eastern Slovakia in the 16th-18th centuries and informally to all the northern parts of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 19th century.

2. The Hungarian Felvidék (literally: "Upper Country", "Upland", "Highland"; Slovak: Horná zem; German: Oberungarn; Yiddish: "אױבערלאַנד",) has had several informal meanings:
  • In the 19th century and part of the 18th, it was usually used:
    • to denote the mountainous northern part of the Kingdom of Hungary as opposed to the southern lowlands
    • more generally, to denote regions or territories situated at a higher altitude than the settlement of the speaker
    • as a synonym for the then-meaning of Felső-Magyarország

  • After World War I, the meaning in the Hungarian language was restricted to Slovakiamarker and Carpathian Rutheniamarker, and after World War II to Slovakia only. At the same time, the word felvidék remains a common Hungarian noun applied to areas at higher elevations, e.g., Balaton-felvidék, a hilly region and national park adjacent to Lake Balatonmarker.

16th - 18th centuries

The term emerged approximately after the conquest of today's Hungary by the Ottomans in the 16th century when Felső-Magyarország (German: Oberungarn; Slovak: Horné Uhorsko) referred to present-day whole Slovakia and the adjacent territories of today's Hungarymarker and Ukrainemarker that were not occupied by the Ottoman Empire. That territory formed a separate military district (the "Captaincy of Upper Hungary" (1564–1686) headquartered in Kaschau/Kassa/Košicemarker) within Royal Hungary. At that time, present-day western Slovakia, and sometimes also the remaining territories of Royal Hungary to the south of it, were called Lower Hungary (Hungarian: Alsó-Magyarország; German: Niederungarn; Slovak: Dolné Uhorsko).

This usage occurs in many texts up to around 1800 – for example, the renowned mining school of Schemnitz/Selmecbánya/Banská Štiavnicamarker in present-day central Slovakia was founded in "Lower" Hungary (not in "Upper" Hungary) in the 18th century and Pressburg (today Bratislavamarker) was also referred to as being in "Lower" Hungary in the late 18th century.

17th century - early 20th century

From the end of the 17th century (in many texts however only after around 1800) until 1918, the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary north of the Tisza and the Danube, which comprised present-day Slovakiamarker, Carpathian Rutheniamarker, and approximately the Hungarianmarker counties of Nógrádmarker, Hevesmarker, and Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplénmarker, was informally called either "Upper Hungary" or "Upland" (Felső-Magyarország or Felvidék). Although not strictly defined, the name Felvidék became commonplace to the point that at least one publication concerning the area used it as its title. Other nations used the terms "Upper Hungary" (for the northern part of the Kingdom), "Slovakia" (only for the territory predominantly inhabited by the Slovaks), and "Ruthenia" (the territory predominantly inhabited by the Ruthenians) in parallel. The Slovaks themselves called the territories of the Kingdom of Hungary to the south of Slovakia Dolná zem ("Lower Land").

In the course of the creation of Czechoslovakiamarker at the end of World War I, Czechoslovakia originally demanded that all of the so-called Upper Hungary be added to Czechoslovak territory (i.e. including the territory between the Tisza River and present-day Slovakiamarker). The claim for its acquisition, however, was not based on the whole area having a single common name, "Upper Hungary", but on the presence of a Slovak minority in the region.

Modern usage

After World War I, the meaning of Felvidék in the Hungarian language (Felső-Magyarország was not used anymore) was restricted to Slovakiamarker and Carpathian Rutheniamarker. Today the term Felvidék is sometimes used in Hungary when speaking about Slovakia (among others by nationalists), and it is exclusively (and anachronistically) used in Hungarian historical literature when speaking about the Middle Ages, i.e., before the name actually came into existence. The three counties of the region that remained in Hungary after World War I, however, are never called Upper Hungary today, only Northern Hungary (Észak-Magyarország). Any use of the word Felvidék to denote all of modern Slovakia is considered offensive by Slovaks, and inappropriate by some Hungarians, but it is now commonly used by the sizeable Hungarian minority in the southern border-zone of Slovakia to identify the Hungarian-majority areas where they live. Some of them call themselves felvidéki magyarok, i.e. the "Upland Magyars." The word felvidék also functions as an ordinary noun used to denote areas at higher elevations in present-day Hungarymarker, and to translate similar foreign place names (e.g., Skót felvidék, the "Scottish Highlands").

Middle Ages

The term Upper Hungary often occurs in publications on history as a somewhat anachronistic translation of other, earlier (at that time Latin) designations denoting approximately the same territory. These other terms were, for example, Partes Danubii septentrionales (Territories to the north of the Danube) or Partes regni superiores (Upper parts of the Kingdom). The actual name "Upper Hungary" arose later from the latter phrase.

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