THE CONTROVERSY ON THE ORIGINS AND EARLY HISTORY OF THE HUNGARIANS
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This study provides an overview of the principal theories about the origins and early history of the Hungarians, with the objective of determining a scientifically acceptable alternative orientation in a field which has been dominated for the past 150 years by political and ideological interests. The purpose of this study is therefore to outline a more objective perspective by examining the principal research orientations regarding the origins and early history of the Hungarians. The historical period in question covers the time span from the first Neolithic settlement of the Carpathian Basin (5000 BC) to the Christianization of Hungary which began around 1000 AD.
What is it exactly that is being celebrated on the occasion of the 1100th anniversary of Hungary's founding in 896 AD? Is it Árpád's "pagan" Hungary or king István's (Stephen) Christian Hungary? Opinions differ greatly on this complex question. In general, contemporary Hungarian historiography seems to be concentrating more on the last 1000 years of Hungarian history from a predominantly Western point of view, thereby artificially restricting Hungarian history and isolating it from its pre-Christian historical and cultural roots which are often misrepresented or ignored. Hungarian history needs to be reassessed in a broader and more balanced perspective.
The principal opposing views are, on the one hand, the traditional account of Hungarian origins rooted in the pre-Christian era, which shows a remarkable degree of compatibility with the Sumerian-Hungarian relationship demonstrated by international orientalist research starting in the first half of the 19th c., and, on the other hand, the more recent Finno-Ugrian theory which was essentially the product of foreign regimes in Hungary: Habsburg in the 19th c., and communist in the 20th c. The traditional account of Hungarian origins states that the Magyars and the Huns were identical and traces their roots back to Ancient Mesopotamia. Sumerian-Hungarian ethno-linguistic research seems to confirm this. The Finno-Ugrian theory has sought to contradict the traditional account of Hungarian origins and the Sumerian-Hungarian relationship through a seemingly scientific linguistic approach. However, a more careful analysis of the facts reveals that the methodology of the Finno-Ugrian school is unscientific and that the motives of the Finno-Ugrian theory's promoters are political and ideological: their objective has been to weaken the Hungarian national identity by instilling a collective inferiority complex in order to weaken national resistance and to consolidate foreign rule in Hungary. The current "mainstream" Hungarian historiography adheres to the Finno-Ugrian orientation, promoting the view that the Hungarians were "primitive Asiatic latecomers and intruders" in the more "civilized" Europe. This official historical interpretation is therefore characterized by a dogmatic state of denial which deliberately ignores or dismisses the ancient Turanian origins of the Hungarians, the Sumerian-Scythian-Hun-Avar-Magyar identity and continuity, and the fundamental cultural, political and military Hungarian achievements of the millenia prior to 1000 AD which laid the foundations of the Hungarian state.
The medieval Hungarian sources refer to the story of the Biblical Nimrod, son of Kush, and Eneth, whose two sons, Hunor and Magor, led the Huns and the Magyars from the regions neighbouring Persia to the land known as Scythia - a designation generally given to the region stretching from the Carpathians into Central Asia (1). From Scythia, first the Huns (5th c. AD), then Árpád's Magyars (895-896 AD) established themselves in the Carpathian Basin. It is also stated in these sources that Árpád was a descendent of Atilla, and that therefore, under Árpád's leadership, the Magyars reconquered Hungary as their rightful inheritance from their Hun forebears (2).
The contemporary Persian, Armenian, Arab, Greek, Russian and Western sources generally concur with the Caucasian-Caspian origin of the Magyars and with the Scythian-Hun-Avar-Magyar identity (3). It is also interesting to note that although the Byzantine sources generally referred to the Magyars as "Turks" (Turkoi), they also mention that by their own account, the Magyars' previously known name which they used themselves was, in Greek translation, "Sabartoi asphaloi" (4). This is extremely important because this name refers to the Sabir people, also known as the Subareans, who inhabited the land known by the Babylonians and Assyrians as Subartu which was situated in the Transcaucasian-Northern Mesopotamian-Western Iranian region (5). By their own account, the Sumerians of Southern Mesopotamia also came from this region which they referred to as Subir-Ki (6).
The Hun-Magyar relationship is also referred to in the recently published Hungarian translation of a Turkish version of the history of Hungary, (Tarihi Üngürüsz), based on an earlier Latin text lost during the Turkish wars (16th-17th c.). This source also mentions that when the Huns and the Magyars arrived in Hungary, they both found peoples already settled there who spoke the same language as themselves, thus lending support to the Hun-Magyar identity and extending the continuity of the Hungarian people in the Carpathian Basin further back in time (7).
The traditional account of Hungarian origins and early history was generally accepted until the middle of the 19th c. However, since then, the credibility of this account has been questioned. It was argued that the ancient and medieval sources did not stand up to modern "scientific method and evidence". Nevertheless, it should be taken into consideration that the medieval Hungarian chronicles were most likely based upon earlier sources which have been destroyed or lost during the forced Christianization of Hungary and during the subsequent foreign invasions, and that the stories told in the original sources, like many historical myths and legends transmitted by folklore, are often based on real historical facts.(Back)
The Finno-Ugrian theory's origins can be traced back to a book published in 1770 by a Hungarian Jesuit, János Sajnovics, in which he claimed that the Hungarian language is identical to that of the Lapps (8). This work had no immediate significant impact in Hungary, but it was followed up by mainly German linguists, among whom August von Schlözer played the leading role in the development of the Finno-Ugrian linguistic school (9). This school had a determining influence on the development of linguistic research in Hungary during the second half of the 19th c., where linguists of German origin also played a leading role (10). At that time, Hungary was ruled by the Habsburgs, and German influence was very strong in the political, economic, social, and cultural fields.
It is also important to note that the 19th c. saw the rise of modern nationalism throughout Europe, and that German nationalism was among the most chauvinistic. It was in this context that the idea of a superior Aryan race was conceived. Although the term "Aryan race" is no longer considered politically correct and has been replaced by the more scientifically-sounding "Indo-European" term, the fundamental assumption of this ethno-linguistic group's cultural pre-eminence is still being maintained today (11). Just as the proponents of this theory sought to prove their claims of Indo-European (Aryan) cultural superiority, they also sought to prove that, conversely, non-Indo-Europeans were culturally inferior. The Finno-Ugrian theory was therefore promoted in this ideologically biased context (12).
Following the defeat of the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848-49, the repressive Habsburg regime took over the Hungarian academic institutions and imposed the exclusive research orientation of the Finno-Ugrian theory about the origin of the Hungarians (13). Thus, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences became an instrument of the Habsburg regime's cultural policy of Germanization, which sought to weaken the Hungarian national identity - thereby facilitating foreign domination - through the distortion and falsification of information relating to the origin, history, culture, and language of the Hungarians, censoring and prohibiting any publication or research which did not conform to the officially imposed Finno-Ugrian theory. This was also the case under the Hungarian Communist regime which also pursued an anti-Hungarian policy with the objective of Russification. It was therefore in the interest of these regimes to "let the conquered Hungarians believe that they have an ancestry more primitive than that of the Indo-European peoples. In Habsburg times Hungarian children were taught that most of their civilization came from the Germans: today they are taught that their 'barbaric' ancestors were civilized by the educated Slavs" (14).
The Finno-Ugrian theory proved to be most suitable for this purpose. This theory claims that the Hungarians originated from primitive Siberian hunter-gatherer nomads who wandered Westward and who acquired a higher culture upon coming into contact with Indo-Europeans and other peoples (15). This theory has been increasingly brought under criticism by dissident and exiled Hungarian researchers because of its negative portrayal of the Hungarians in relation to their neighbours, because of the historical and political circumstances under which this theory has been imposed and perpetuated, and because this theory fails to take into consideration a substantial amount of scientific data which contradicts it (16). It should also be noted that according to the scientific review "Nature" (20/02/92), the quality of the research conducted at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences is rather poor, and this also seems to apply to the Finno-Ugrian research orientation.
The Finno-Ugrian theory is based on the hypothetical family-tree model and chronology of the Indo-European ethno-linguistic group's evolution (17). The family-tree model assumes that the members of a defined ethno-linguistic group originated from a common ancestral people which spoke a common ancestral language and lived in a common ancestral homeland from which various groups migrated to form the distinct branches of an ethno-linguistic family. Thus, the Finno-Ugrian theory states that the Finno-Ugrian group separated from the ancestral Uralic group between 5000 and 4000 BC; between 3000 and 2000 BC the Finnic and Ugrian branches separated, and around 1000 BC the "proto-Hungarians" separated from the "Ob-Ugrians" and migrated Westward (18). However, the validity of this monolithic family-tree model has been increasingly questioned by several researchers, including some Indo-European scholars (19).
Although this hypothetical process was supposed to have taken place in the Ural region, the exact location of the various "ancestral homelands" occupied by the various branches and the chronology of these events are still subject to various interpretations as there is no unanimous agreement among Finno-Ugrian scholars themselves (20). The significant degree of uncertainty and confusion which still exists within this field of research is due to the fact that the Finno-Ugrian theory is essentially based on linguistic speculation which is not supported by any conclusive archeological, anthropological and historical evidence (21). In fact, most of the available evidence seems to contradict the Finno-Ugrian theory, and furthermore, serious reservations have been raised concerning some of its linguistic arguments (22). Several researchers have also pointed out that the Finno-Ugrian theory contains serious methodological inconsistencies and errors, that the term "Finno-Ugrian" itself is arbitrary and unscientific, and that the inclusion of Hungarian in the Uralic group is artificial and without adequate scientific basis (23).
It is not the apparent linguistic similarities between the Hungarian and the Uralic languages which are in question, but the nature and degree of the relationship between the two groups. The Finno-Ugrian theory's assumption that the Hungarians are directly descended from the "Finno-Ugrians" and that the Uralic peoples are the only ethno-linguistic relatives of the Hungarians seems to be fundamentally flawed: a specific linguistic relationship does not necessarily correspond to a genetic relationship, nor can it exclude relationships with other ethnic groups. The Finno-Ugrian theory rejects the possibility that the Uralic group may somehow be related to other ethno-linguistic groups such as the Altaic group (24), perhaps partly because the first major challenge to the Finno-Ugrian theory came from advocates of the theory that the Hungarians were of Turkic origin, based on the numerous and significant observable linguistic, cultural and anthropological similarities between the Hungarian and Turkic peoples, as well as on historical evidence (25).
In fact, comparative linguistic analysis has shown that there are many similarities between Hungarian and several other major Eurasian ethno-linguistic groups, and although the Finno-Ugrian theory claims that these similarities are the results of borrowings on the part of the Hungarians (26), it nevertheless appears that the Finno-Ugrian theory requires a fundamental revision concerning the relationship between the Hungarians and the Uralic group, as well as their relationship to other ethno-linguistic groups. An alternative explanation for the existing linguistic relationship between Hungarian and other languages, including the Uralic and Altaic languages, is provided by the Sumerian ethno-linguistic and cultural diffusion theory, according to which the Eurasian ethno-linguistic groups were formed under the dominant cultural and linguistic influence of the Sumerian-related peoples originating from the Near East and which have progressively spread throughout Eurasia during several millenia since the Neolithic period (5000 BC). (Back)
After British, French and German archeologists and linguists discovered and deciphered the oldest known written records in Mesopotamia and its neighbouring regions during the first half of the 19th c., they came to the conclusion that the language of those ancient inscriptions was neither Indo-European nor Semitic, but an agglutinative language which demonstrated significant similarities with the group of agglutinative languages known at the time as the Turanian ethno-linguistic group which included Hungarian, Turkic, Mongolian and Finnic (later referred to as the Ural-Altaic group) (27).
The recognition and acceptance of the Sumerian-Turanian ethno-linguistic relationship grew significantly in international orientalist circles until the 1870's (28). However, two factors hampered the further progress of research in this field. First, in Hungary, as a result of the imposition of the Finno-Ugrian theory as official doctrine following the 1848-49 War of Independence, all research concerning the Sumerian question was discouraged and this official attitude still prevails today in Hungary (29).
The second factor which had a considerable impact on the international level was the promotion of the theory that the Sumerians had never existed and that their language was invented by the Semitic priests of Babylonia as a means of secret communication (30). This theory was devised by J. Halevy, a rabbi from Bucharest who had obtained a position at the Sorbonne. This radical theory, despite its numerous flaws and obvious ideological motive, had a divisive effect among orientalists and broke the momentum gained by the advocates of the Sumerian-Turanian relationship. Since then, the Sumerian question seems to have been relegated to a minor status and passed under silence, the Sumerians having been generally dismissed as an isolated ethno-linguistic group of unknown origin having no known affinities with modern ethno-linguistic groups (31).
The silence was broken after WWII by Hungarian expatriates in the West who rediscovered the Sumerian question as they were able to gain access to the original Western sources of documentation on the Sumerians. These Hungarian researchers accumulated a considerable amount of evidence in support of the theory that the Sumerian and Hungarian languages are related. The reaction from official academic circles in Communist Hungary was that of categorical dismissal and discrediting of the Hungarian expatriate researchers, claiming that they were not competent in the field of Sumerology and that they were ideologically motivated. However, to this day, no conclusive evidence has been provided by official Hungarian academic circles to prove their claims regarding the Sumerian question and the origin of the Hungarians, as they simply refuse to examine the question in an open, rational and scientific manner. This attitude seems to be ideologically motivated (32).
The principal arguments against the Sumerian-Hungarian relationship appear to be unfounded: first, the apparent ambiguity arising from the polyphonic and polysemantic character of Mesopotamian cuneiform written symbols, which would render uncertain the decipherment of the ancient texts and the identification of their language. This apparent confusion is the result of the fact that the Semitic peoples which settled in Sumerian Mesopotamia (from 2340 BC) adopted the Sumerian writing system, but re-assigned new phonetic and semantic values to the Sumerian cuneiform characters (33). This was clearly shown by the multilingual inscriptions which included syllabaries and dictionaries explaining the Sumerian and Semitic phonetic and semantic values of the characters (34).
Also, the intermingling of the Sumerian and Semitic populations of Mesopotamia was reflected in the evolution of the Sumerian language (35). However, it would be misleading to compare the resultant hybridized Mesopotamian dialects to the Hungarian language since this would apparently weaken the Sumerian-Hungarian linguistic correlation. Thus, it should be taken into account that the Sumerians had existed in Mesopotamia for several thousand years prior to the arrival of the Semitic peoples, and that during this period, several regional dialects had evolved (36). Another factor which should be considered by linguists is the fact that the Hungarian language has been somewhat modified since the 19th c., and that as a result, some of the more archaic forms of Hungarian which have shown a definite relationship to Sumerian are no longer used in modern Hungarian. It seems therefore that in order to obtain more accurate results in comparative Hungarian-Sumerian linguistic analysis, it is the most archaic forms of these two languages which should be compared.
The principal results of the research conducted so far on the Sumerian-Hungarian relationship have indicated that these languages have over a thousand common word roots and a very similar grammatical structure (37). In his Sumerian Etymological Dictionary and Comparative Grammar, Kálmán Gosztony, professor of Sumerian philology at the Sorbonne, demonstrated that the grammatical structure of the Hungarian language is the closest to that of the Sumerian language: out of the 53 characteristics of Sumerian grammar, there are 51 matching characteristics in the Hungarian language, 29 in the Turkic languages, 24 in the Caucasian languages, 21 in the Uralic languages, 5 in the Semitic languages, and 4 in the Indo-European languages.
The linguistic similarities between Sumerian, Hungarian and other languages are corroborated by the archeological and anthropological data discovered so far. These archeological finds indicate that the Sumerians were the first settlers of Southern Mesopotamia (5000 BC), where they had come from the mountainous regions to the North and East with their knowledge of agriculture and metallurgy, and where they built the first cities. Increased food production through the use of irrigation allowed an unprecedented population increase, resulting in successive migratory waves which can be traced archeologically and anthropologically throughout Eurasia and North Africa (38). Thus, from the evidence left by this process of colonization, it appears that the Sumerian city-states were able to exert a preponderant economic, cultural, linguistic and ethnic influence during several thousand years not only in Mesopotamia and the rest of the Near East, but also beyond, in the Mediterranean Basin, in the Danubian Basin, in the regions North of the Caucasus and of the Black Sea, in the Caspian-Aral, Volga-Ural, and Altai regions, as well as in Iran and India. It seems therefore that the Sumerians and their civilization had a determining influence not only on later Near-Eastern civilizations, but also on the Mediterranean, Indian, and even Chinese civilizations, as well as on the formation of the various Eurasian ethno-linguistic groups (39).
One of the most comprehensive studies examining this complex question is László Götz's 5-volume 1100-page research work entitled "Keleten Kél a Nap" (The Sun rises in the East), for which the author consulted over 500 bibliographical sources from among the most authoritative experts in the fields of ancient history, archeology, and linguistics. In his wide-ranging study, László Götz examined the development of the Sumerian civilization, the determining cultural and ethno-linguistic influence of the Near-Eastern Neolithic, Copper and Bronze Age civilizations upon the cultural development of Western Eurasia, and the linguistic parallels between the Indo-European, Semitic and Sumerian languages indicating that the Sumerian language had a considerable impact on the development of the Indo-European and Semitic languages which have numerous words of Sumerian origin. László Götz also examined the fundamental methodological shortcomings of Indo-European and Finno-Ugrian ethno-linguistic research. His conclusion is that most Eurasian ethno-linguistic groups are related to one another in varying degrees, and that these groups, such as the Indo-European, Uralic and Altaic groups, were formed in a complex process of multiple ethno-linguistic hybridization in which Sumerian-related peoples (Subareans, Hurrians, Kassites, Elamites, Chaldeans, Medes, Parthians) played a fundamental role. Other researchers seem to have come to similar conclusions:
Thus, it appears that the ancient pre-Indo-European peoples which settled in Europe were, for the most part, of Sumerian-related Near Eastern origins, and were later designated as the pre-Hellenic Aegean peoples, the Thracians, the Dacians, the Illyrians, the Etruscans, the Iberians, the Cimmerians and the Sarmatians. These peoples laid the foundations of European civilization and later intermingled with various other peoples to form the ethnic groups which are currently referred to as "Indo-European". There are, however, certain ethno-linguistic groups which have withstood this process of "Indo-Europeanization", and which have therefore preserved their non-Indo-European identity, such as the Basques, the Finnic peoples, and the Carpathian basin's indigenous population (the Neolithic, Copper and Bronze Age settlers) (41). The archeological and anthropological finds of the Carpathian Basin indicate that this indigenous population was related to, and at least in part originated from the ancient pre-Semitic Near-Eastern cultures (42). The same seems to apply to the Scythian, Hun, Avar, Magyar, Khazar (Sabir), Bulgar, Cuman and Petcheneg peoples of Eastern Europe and Central Asia which settled in Central Europe, including the Carpathian Basin.(Back)
The different views of the facts relating to the Magyar conquest and settlement of the Carpathian Basin and to the foundation of the Hungarian state are highly polarized between non-Hungarians and Hungarians, as well as among Hungarians themselves. The opposing views manifest themselves around the questions of the cultural level of the Magyar tribes, the circumstances of their arrival in the Carpathian Basin, the ethnic identity of the previously settled inhabitants of that region, and the role of Western political and religious influence in the formation of the Hungarian state.
Whereas the mainstream claims that the Magyar tribes were "primitive Asiatic barbarians" swept Westward by a great migratory wave and which were forced to settle in the Carpathian Basin as their "plundering raids" against the West were halted by "superior force", following which their cultural level was "somewhat raised" by the "beneficial influence" of "European civilization", the opposing traditionalist view holds that the Magyars had in fact a highly developed material and spiritual culture, and a well organized society, that their settlement of the Carpathian Basin was a skillfully planned and executed military and political undertaking, that their military campaigns against the West had a well defined strategic objective, and that the West did not have the political-ideological cohesion necessary to destroy the Hungarians.
Another contentious issue is that of the ethnic identity of the populations which inhabited the Carpathian Basin at the time of the Magyar Conquest. One side claims that this region was already inhabited by Slavic, "Daco-Roman", Germanic and other non-Hungarian peoples which were oppressed by the "invading" Magyars. The opposing view argues that the majority of the population already established in the Carpathian Basin was in fact ethnically related to the Magyars, and that today's Hungarians are an amalgamation of these peoples whose settlement of the Carpathian Basin preceded that of the non-Hungarian ethnic groups currently settled there.
An increasingly divisive issue among Hungarians is that of the role of Western political and religious influence in the formation of the Hungarian state. One side claims that the adoption of the European feudal political system and of Western Christianism resulting in Hungary's integration to the West was of "great cultural benefit" and represented a "higher level of civilization" compared to the previous tribal federation of the "pagan" Magyars. The opposing view holds that the forced integration to the West had highly detrimental consequences for Hungary, and that the imposition of Christianism and of the feudal system served foreign interests hostile to Hungary. This view also holds that Árpád was the founder of the Hungarian state, and not king István who is seen as the instrument of a foreign-backed coup which led to a radical change in the political and ideological orientation of Hungary.
The conflicting interpretations of the events leading up to and following the Magyar settlement of the Carpathian Basin in 895-896 AD indicate the necessity of re-examining the established official version. The generally propagated version of the events surrounding the Magyar settlement states that after having been subjects of the Khazar empire, the Magyar tribes were forced to flee Westward due to their defeat by the advancing Petchenegs (43), thus arriving in the Carpathian Basin where they subjugated the already established populations which were supposedly Indo-European (44). After the conquest, the Magyar tribes conducted raids against Western Europe which were stopped as a result of their defeat by the Germans in 955, following which the Magyars remained in Hungary and were converted to Western Christianism.
This version of events has been propagated by the official Hungarian historiography under foreign regimes - Habsburg and communist - as well as by the anti-Hungarian propaganda of the late 19th and early 20th c. disseminated by Hungary's neighbours. The resulting highly distorted image of the Hungarians is the product of the traditional Eurocentric bias which considers everything of Asiatic origin to be primitive and barbarian in comparison to what is referred to as "Western Civilization", and of the retro-projection of the current ethnic composition of the Carpathian Basin and of Hungary's current political status as a relatively small and weak country back to the period of the Hungarian settlement.
In his book entitled "Dentumagyaria", Viktor Padányi expertly exposed these prejudices and biases inherent in Western historiography which seem to have had a dominant influence on modern Hungarian historiography as well. An unbiased re-evaluation of the historical evidence seems to suggest quite a different picture. In the centuries preceeding their settlement of the Carpathian Basin, the Magyars inhabited the regions North of the Caucasus and of the Black Sea, but they were not subjects of the Khazar empire which collapsed as a result of internal religious strife (9th c. AD), following which some rebel tribes joined the Magyars (45). At that time the Petchenegs moved Westward and raided some Eastern Magyar outposts in Etelköz, the region between the Carpathians and the Don river, but this was not the reason for the Magyars' move Westward (46). Based on the known evidence, it seems that the Magyars had been planning to occupy the Carpathian Basin independently of the Petcheneg raids which had no significant impact on the subsequent events.
In Etelköz, the Magyars and other Hunnic tribes formed a tribal federation under the leadership of the Magyar tribe. This was sealed by the Covenant of Blood which declared that:
- the rulers of the tribal federation will be chosen from the leading clan of the Magyar tribe;
- all goods acquired by common effort will be shared;
- all clan leaders have the right to freely elect the ruler and to be included in the ruler's council;
- those who transgress their loyalty to the ruler or who create discord within the ruling clan will be punished by death;
- the ruler which breaks this covenant will be forever banished (47).
This covenant created the Magyar nation and it was in effect a constitution which provided for a democratic order and for the safeguarding of the nation's interests from internal and external threats (48).
It was also from Etelköz that the Magyar tribal federation successfully executed the conquest of the Carpathian Basin in a series of carefully planned diplomatic and military maneuvres. The objective of these maneuvres was to expel the powers which had occupied the Carpathian Basin following the collapse of the Avar empire (ca. 800 AD) - namely the Bulgars from the Southeast, and the Frankish empire from the West - and to secure the region from further external threats (49). With the successful completion of the settlement of the Carpathian Basin, Árpád and the other Magyar leaders held their first assembly at Pusztaszer, thus effectively establishing the Hungarian state on a firm constitutional basis (50).
It is important to realize the great significance and strong link between these successive events: the Covenant of Blood of Etelköz, the Conquest and Settlement of the Carpathian Basin, the First Constitutional Assembly of Pusztaszer, and the military campaigns in Europe following the settlement. These acts laid the foundation for a Hungary which was internally stable and externally secure in its status as a major power. These events should also be considered in the context of the Hun-Magyar identity and continuity: in such a perspective the Magyars, who were geographically, politically, and culturally a constituent element of the Hun and Avar Empires of the 4th-8th centuries, effectively re-established these state-formations within the Carpathian Basin. Thus the origins of the Hungarian state reach back over 1500 years to the Hun Empire which established its centre of power in the Carpathian Basin in the 5th c. and which thereby realized the first political unification of that region. The concept of this Hun legacy was an integral part of the foundation of the Hungarian state by the Magyar Conquest of 895-896.
At the time of the Magyar settlement, the bulk of the Carpathian Basin's population was made up by the remaining Avars, Huns, and other previously settled non-Indo-European peoples (51). The archeological and anthropological data shows that beneath the apparent constant discontinuity due to foreign invasions, there seems to be a fundamental similarity and continuity of non-Indo-European peoples in the Carpathian Basin going back to the Neolithic period (52). Gyula László also pointed out the Avar-Magyar ethnic continuity in his book "Kettös honfoglalás", in which he referred to the anthropological evidence indicating that there was a considerable Avar population in the Carpathian Basin at the time of the Magyar settlement, and that the Avars and the Magyars were anthropologically identical. Taking this into consideration with the accounts of contemporary Byzantine documents according to which the Avars spoke the same language as the Huns (53), the Hun-Avar-Magyar ethno-linguistic identity seems highly probable.
Having secured the Carpathian Basin, the Magyars had to face two major powers which represented a threat: the Germans, and to a lesser extent, Byzantium. The Magyars concentrated mainly on preventing the formation of a united and powerful German empire by supporting those smaller powers which were opposed to the centralizing German imperial ambitions and by retaliating against those which yielded to it, thus creating a balance of power in Europe (54). A secondary objective of these military operations was the recovery of the Avar treasures which had been taken by Charlemagne's armies during their campaigns against the Avars (55). Most of these military operations were successful until the serious setback in 955 in Bavaria, a setback where the Magyars were not defeated in battle but were slaughtered by the Germans after having laid down their weapons believing in the German peace offer (56). Although Western and official Hungarian historiography generally tend to attach great importance to this event, its significance seems to have been exaggerated, as it did not destroy Hungary's major power status, nor did it stop the Hungarian military strikes (this is closely paralleled by the assertion that Atilla was defeated at the Catalaunic fields in 451, even though the following year he was able to reach Rome with his armies). The Hungarian military strikes did stop eventually, but for other reasons. It seems that the Germans gave up the idea of conquering Hungary by direct military means as Hungary was too strong for this at the time, and it appears that other means were used.
The political and ideological orientation of the Hungarian leader at that time, Géza (late 10th c.), seems to have been decisively influenced by interdynastic marriages, as a result of which Géza and his son Vajk (later István) took or were given foreign wives who then used their position to promote foreign political and ideological interests in Hungary (57). Contemporary accounts state that Géza effectively relinquished his authority to his foreign wife and allowed his son Vajk to be brought up in the Western Christian faith (58).
When 10 000 German soldiers were sent to Hungary with the aim of installing István as the new ruler of Hungary, it wasn't surprising that this did not meet with everyone's approval. István needed foreign backing for his takeover bid as he lacked sufficient domestic support for his claim to power. The traditional Hungarian custom granted the right of succession to the most senior able-bodied member of the ruling dynasty, and in this case, Koppány, Istvan's cousin, was the designated rightful heir (59). The traditionalist Hungarian forces led by Koppány were opposed to István's accession to power and to his plans to Christianize the country, as they justifiably saw in him the manipulative work of foreign interests which sought to disguise their objective of political takeover of Hungary with the propagation of their Western Christian faith (it was standard practice at the time to use religion as a hegemonistic political instrument). The subsequent events largely confirmed this, as foreign influence was able to create and exploit a rift within the ruling Hungarian dynasty. As a result, the Hungarian court became replete with foreign advisors who wielded considerable power and represented foreign interests (60). Thus, István's breaking of ancient Hungarian tradition and of the Covenant of Blood with foreign collaboration seems to have been a fundamental cause of the deep and long-lasting internal divisions and strife among Hungarians and of their subjugation to foreign interests which have lasted to the present day (61).
The issue of the conversion of Hungary to the Western Christian faith is a highly controversial one as it was accom-plished by force against the will of the people and with the destruction of ancient Hungarian culture, including the Hungarian religion and runic scripts - thus causing incalculable and irre-parable cultural losses (62). It has often been argued that the Christianization of Hungary and its integration to the West were not only of great cultural benefit to the Hungarians, but that they could not have survived otherwise (63). These ideologically moti-vated claims seem unfounded when confronted with the known facts. It is not without reason that the European Middle Ages are referred to as the dark ages. This term refers to the general cultural state of Europe after the fall of the Roman empire: decaying infrastruc-ture and economy, political and legal anarchy, poor living standard of the general population (lack of adequate shelter, food, clothing, health, hygene, education and personal security). It was in this context that the Church of Rome became a powerful factor with its own ambitions of absolute spiritual, cultural and political control and supremacy over the then known world.
In contrast to the general cultural state of Europe at the time of the Hungarian settlement, the archeological data and written historical sources indicate that the Hungarians had a considerably more developed culture (64): they were quite familiar with agriculture even before settling in the Carpathian Basin where they were capable of establishing a state 1100 years ago. The Hungarians had their own writing system, the runic script, and a rich cultural life with their own religion which wasn't some form of primitive shamanism, but the Magian religion in which all the forces of nature, the various elements, and the heavenly bodies were worshipped as manifestations of a single creative force (65) -in essence monotheism, but without the intolerant, exclusive, dogmatic and irrational character of the other Near-Eastern religions. At that time, Hungarian society was more tolerant and free than its feudal Christian European counterpart (66). This tolerance was manifested towards other religions and by the lack of any form of racial, linguistic, or cultural discrimination as the concept of Hungarian nationality was not exclusive but open to individuals and tribes regardless of ethnic origin, and there was no forced assimilation. All members of the Hungarian nation enjoyed equal rights under a tribal system which was more democratic than the feudal system of Western Europe (67). Hungarian craftsmanship in all types of materials was remarkably more advanced from a technical and artistic point of view, just as Hungarian horsemanship, weaponry and military tactics were more than a match for the Europeans (68). Hungarian medical knowledge and personal hygene were also more developed than those of Medieval Europe (69), and the social behaviour and moral standards (code of honor) were also considerably different (70).
It is difficult to imagine what benefit Hungary could have possibly derived at that time from the conversion to Western Christianity and from the adoption of the European feudal system. An unbiased consideration of the facts leads to the conclusion that the drastic changes imposed upon Hungary by external coercion nearly 1000 years ago had a detrimental effect on Hungary's cultural, social, economic, political and demographic development, as a foreign feudal political and religious elite sought to subjugate and exploit the Hungarians, relegating them to the slave-like conditions of feudal serfdom, with Western Christianism as the legitimizing ideology. The nearly ten centuries of Christian feudal regime saw the continuous decline of the power and wealth of Hungary, a trend which was interrupted only by a few relatively brief periods of internal peace and prosperity which proved to be the exception to the general political instability, social fragmentation, impoverishment and decimation of the population, erosion of the Hungarian language and culture, and subordination of Hungarian policy-making to foreign interests which have characterized Hungarian history since the imposition of that regime. The assertion that the Hungarians had to integrate to the West because otherwise the West would have annihilated them, and that therefore the Hungarians owe their survival over the past 1000 years to their adhesion to the West seems to be a misrepresentation of the facts. Even after the imposition of Western Christianism, which was far from having been unopposed, rapid and complete, the Hungarians were repeatedly forced to repel armed aggression from the West - and they were successful in doing so (71). The fact that Hungary was able to remain a major power for several centuries was less due to its Christianization and feudalization and more to the factors which had made it a major power before its Westernization -and the same would seem to apply to Hungary's cultural achievements for which undue credit has been given to Western cultural influence (72).(Back)
It appears therefore that a fundamental revision of early Hungarian history is necessary in order to arrive at a more accurate picture, and much research work remains to be done in this field. Based on the available information, it seems most probable that the Hungarians are a synthesis of the peoples which have settled in the Carpathian Basin since the Neolithic period up to the Middle Ages: the Sumerian-related peoples of Near-Eastern origin (Neolithic, Copper and Bronze Ages), followed by the Scythians (6th c. BC), the Huns (5th c. AD), the Avars (6th c.), the Magyars (9th c.), the Petchenegs (11th c.), and the Cumans (13th c.). This Hungarian synthesis is characterized by a remarkable ethno-linguistic homogeneity and has remained highly differentiated from the considerably more numerous surrounding Indo-European peoples. The conclusion which can be drawn from this is that the Hungarians were able to preserve their ethno-linguistic identity and to maintain a demographic majority or critical mass within the Carpathian Basin as a result of the periodical inflow of ethno-linguistically related peoples. These peoples were designated in the 19th c. as Turanians, and the Sumerians, Scythians, Huns, Avars and Magyars were all considered to belong to this ethno-linguistic group.
Presently there are still many misconceptions concerning the Turanian peoples: it is still widely believed, erroneously, that the Scythians were an Indo-European people, that the Huns and Avars were Turkic-speaking peoples of Mongolian race or origin, and that the Magyars were a mixture of Finnic and Turkic elements. These misconceptions originate from an inaccurate historical perspective which failed to recognize the existence of a distinct Turanian entity amidst the multi-ethnic conglomerates of the Scythians, Huns, Avars, and Magyars, whose empires consisted of tribal federations which included various other ethnic groups: Indo-Europeans, as well as Uralic and Altaic peoples besides the dominant Turanian elements. It now seems that this Turanian ethno-linguistic group to which the Hungarians belong was a distinct group from which the Uralic and Altaic ethno-linguistic groups later evolved through a process of ethno-linguistic diffusion and hybridization. This explanation of the existing ethno-linguistic affinities between the Hungarians and the Uralic and Altaic groups would be more in line with the latest findings on this subject. In light of these findings, it would seem appropriate to re-examine this question objectively, avoiding the officially imposed ideological biases which have clouded the issue since the middle of the 19th c. and still continue to do so today.(Back)
(1) Endrey Antal, A Magyarság eredete, Magyar Intézet, Melbourne, 1982, p. 14.
(2) Endrey, op. cit., p. 10.
(3) Endrey, op. cit., p. 26.
(4) Endrey, op. cit., p. 32.
(5) Biró József, A Szabirok Östörténete, Buenos Aires, 1986, p.12.
Götz László, Keleten Kél a Nap, Püski, Budapest, 1994, pp. 234, 291.
(6) Érdy Miklós, A Sumír, Ural-Altaji, Magyar rokonság kutatásának története, Gilgamesh, New York, 1974, p. 36.
Götz, op. cit., p. 700.
(7) Blaskovics József, A Magyarok története, II. Nagy Szittya Történelmi Világkongresszus, Cleveland, 1988, p. 13.
(8) Endrey, op. cit., p. 41.
(9) Endrey, op. cit., p. 41.
(10) Nagy Sándor, A Magyar nép kialakulásának története, Hidfö, San Francisco, 1987, p. 154.
(11) Götz, op. cit., pp. 56, 246.
(12) Endrey, op. cit., p. 44; Götz, op. cit., pp. 212-213.
(13) Baráth Tibor, The Early Hungarians, Barath Publications, Montreal, 1983, p. 2.
Nagy Sándor, The Forgotten Cradle of the Hungarian Culture, Patria, Toronto, 1973, p. 168.
Érdy, op. cit., p. 118.
Bobula Ida, Origin of the Hungarian Nation, Danubian Press, Astor, Fla., 1982, p. 7.
Endrey Antal, The Origin of Hungarians, Hawthorn Press, Melbourne, 1975, p. 30.
(14) Bobula, op. cit., p. 10.
(15) Baráth Tibor, Tajékoztató az újabb magyar östörténeti kutatásokról, Montreal, 1973, p. 27.
(16) Götz, op. cit., p. 268.
(17) Götz, op. cit., pp. 379, 398.
(18) Götz, op. cit., pp. 398-399.
(19) Götz, op. cit., p. 407.
(20) Götz, op. cit., pp. 311-312, 385.
(21) Götz, op. cit., pp. 222-223, 370-372.
(22) Götz, op. cit., pp. 406, 452.
(23) Endrey Antal, A Magyarság eredete, Magyar Intézet, Melbourne, 1982, p. 50.
Götz, op. cit., p. 398.
(24) Götz, op. cit., p. 450.
(25) Endrey, op. cit., p. 60.
(26) Götz, op. cit., p. 545.
(27) Érdy, op. cit., pp. 28, 60, 78.
Kramer, S. N., The Sumerians, University of Chicago Press, 1963, p. 306.
(28) Érdy, op. cit., p. 28.
(29) Érdy, op. cit., p. 118.
(30) Érdy, op. cit., p. 170.
(31) Götz, op. cit., p. 379.
(32) Götz, op. cit., pp. 375-379.
(33) Érdy, op. cit., pp. 64-68.
(34) Endrey, op. cit., pp. 78, 84.
(35) Endrey, op. cit., p. 92.
(36) Badiny, F. J., ed., The Sumerian Wonder, School of Oriental Studies, University of Salvador, Buenos Aires, 1974, pp. 114- 115.
(37) Oláh Béla, Édes magyar nyelvünk szumér eredete, Ösi Gyökér, Buenos Aires, 1980, p. 12.
(38) Götz, op. cit., p. 19.
(39) Götz, op. cit., p. 158.
(40) Paliga, S., "Thracian terms for 'township' and 'fortress', and related place-names", in: World Archeology, Vol. 19, No. 1, 1986, pp. 26-29.
(41) Haraszti, E., The Ethnic History of Transylvania, Danubian Press, Astor, Fla., 1971, p. 8.
Baráth Tibor, The Early Hungarians, Barath Publications, Montreal, 1983, p. 127.
(42) Childe, G. V., The Danube in Prehistory, Oxford University Press, London, 1929, p. 205.
(43) Ligeti Lajos, ed., A Magyarság östörténete, Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1986, p. 105.
Hóman Bálint, Magyar történet, Maecenas, Budapest, 1990, Vol. 1, pp. 115-117.
(44) Ligeti, op. cit., p. 126.
(45) Padányi Viktor, Dentumagyaria, Editorial Transsylvania, Buenos Aires, 1963, pp. 323-324, 360-361.
(46) Padányi, op. cit., pp. 372-374.
(47) Vágó Pál, A Vérszerzödés ereje, Ösi Gyökér, Buenos Aires, 1976, p. 31.
(48) Pesti József, Két rádió-beszéde, Ösi Gyökér, Buenos Aires, 1980, p. 6.
Vágó, op. cit., p. 31.
(49) Padányi, op. cit., pp. 385-388.
(50) Badiny, F. J., Az Istenes Honfoglalók, Ösi Gyökér, Buenos Aires, 1986, p. 13.
Pesti József, Mit akartok az östörténettel?, Ösi Gyökér, Buenos Aires, 1982, p. 55.
(51) Götz, op. cit., p. 257.
(52) Childe, op. cit., pp. 109, 205.
Baráth, op. cit., pp. 131, 210.
(53) Nagy Sándor, A Magyar nép kialakulásának története, Hidfö, San Francisco, 1987, p. 98.
(54) Dienes István, A Honfoglaló Magyarok, Corvina, Budapest, 1978, pp. 68-72.
(55) Vágó, op. cit., p. 43.
(56) Padányi Viktor, Vérbulcsu, 1955, pp. 25-26.
(57) Vágó, op. cit., p. 40.
(58) Vágó, op. cit., pp. 56-57.
(59) Vágó, op. cit., p. 39.
(60) Vágó, op. cit., p. 66.
(61) Vágó, op. cit., p. 83.
(62) Országh József, Magyar Hit vagy szellemi nyomor, Ösi Gyökér, Buenos Aires, 1977, p. 22.
(63) Országh, op. cit., p. 12.
(64) Dienes, op. cit., p. 1.
(65) Badiny, op. cit., p. 24.
(66) Badiny, op. cit., p. 8.
(67) Badiny, op. cit., p. 8.
(68) Padányi Viktor, Dentumagyaria, Editorial Transsylvania, Buenos Aires, 1963, p. 54.
Badiny, op. cit., p. 11.
Nagy, op. cit., p. 230.
(69) (70) Götz, op. cit., pp. 216-217.
(71) Nagy, op. cit., p. 235.
(72) Országh, op. cit., p. 9.(Back)
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