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Péter Esterházy
Total population
c. 13.2–14.5 million[note 1]
Regions with significant populations
Hungary Hungary[note 2] 8,504,492[1]
Neighbors of Hungary c. 2.2 million
 Romania 1,227,623  (2011)[2]
 Slovakia[note 3] 458,467  (2011)[3]
 Serbia 253,899   (2011)[4]
 Ukraine 156,566  (2001)[5]
 Austria 40,583  (2001)[6]
 Croatia 16,595  (2001)[7]
 Slovenia 6,243  (2002)[8]
Rest of Europe c. 0.3–0.5 million
 Germany 120,000  (2004)[9]
100,000 to 200,000  (2004)[9]
 United Kingdom 80,135  (2001)
 Sweden 40,000–70,000
 Czech Republic 14,672  (2001)[10]
 Ireland 8,034  (2011)[11]
 Turkey 6,800  (2001)[12]
 Russia 3,768  (2002)[13]
 Macedonia 2,003  (2002)[14]
North America c. 1.9 million
 United States 1,563,081  (2006)[12]
 Puerto Rico 1,050
 Canada 315,510  (2006)[15]
South America 0.15 – 0.2 million
 Brazil 80,000[16]
 Chile 50,000[17]
 Argentina 40,000–50,000[18]
Oceania  (AUS / NZL) 70,000[12]
 Australia 67,616[19]
 New Zealand 1,476
Asia c. 10,000
 Thailand 3,029
 Philippines 1,114

Roman Catholicism
Protestantism (Calvinism, Lutheranism and Unitarianism).
Greek Catholicism,

Judaism and irreligion.
Part of a series on the
History of Hungary
Coat of arms of Hungary
Prehistory and early history
Middle Ages
Principality 895–1000
Medieval kingdom 1000–1526
Ottoman Wars 1366–1526
Early modern history
Habsburg kingdom 1526–1867
Eastern kingdom 1526–1570
Ottoman Hungary 1541–1699
Principality of Transylvania 1570–1711
Late modern period
Rákóczi's War 1703–1711
Revolution of 1848 1848–1849
Austria-Hungary 1867–1918
Lands of the Crown 1867–1918
World War I 1914–1918
Interwar period 1918–1941
Kingdom of Hungary 1920–1946
World War II 1941–1945
Contemporary history
Republic of Hungary 1946–1949
People's Republic 1949–1989
Revolution of 1956  
Republic of Hungary since 1989
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Hungarians, also known as Magyars (Hungarian: magyar), are a nation and ethnic group who speak Hungarian and are primarily associated with Hungary. There are around 13.2–14.5 million Hungarians, of whom 9–9.5 million live in today's Hungary (as of 2011).[20] At least 2.2 million Hungarians live in areas that were part of the Kingdom of Hungary before the 1918–1920 dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and the Treaty of Trianon, and are now parts of Hungary's seven neighbouring countries, especially Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and Ukraine. Significant groups of people with Hungarian ancestry live in various other parts of the world, most of them in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Canada and Australia. Hungarians can be classified into several subgroups according to local linguistic and cultural characteristics; subgroups with distinct identities include the Székely, the Csángó, the Palóc, and the Jassic (Jász) people.


Further information: Name of Hungary

The exonym "Hungarian" is thought to be derived from the Bulgar-Turkic On-Ogur (meaning "ten" Ogurs),[21] which was the name of the Utigur Bulgar tribal confederacy that ruled the eastern parts of Hungary after the Avars, although written sources called Magyars "Hungarians" prior to the conquest of the Carpathian Basin when they still lived on the steppes of Eastern Europe (in 837 "Ungri" mentioned by Georgius Monachus, in 862 "Ungri" by Annales Bertiniani, in 881 "Ungari" by the Annales ex Annalibus Iuvavensibus). The Hungarians likely belonged to the Onogur tribal alliance, and it is possible that they became its ethnic majority.[21] In the Early Middle Ages the Hungarians had many different names, such as "Ungar" (in German) or "Hungarus".[22] The "H-" prefix is an addition in Medieval Latin.

Another possible explanation is come from the Old Russian word Yugra (Югра). It may refer to the Hungarians at a time when they dwelt east of the Ural Mountains along the natural borders of Europe and Asia before their settlement of Hungary.[23]

The Hungarian people refer to themselves by the demonym "Magyar" rather than the term "Hungarian".[21] Magyar is a Finno-Ugric word[24] from the Old Hungarian, mogyër. The term "Magyar" possibly comes from the name of the most prominent Hungarian tribe, called Megyer. The tribal name "Megyer" became "Magyar" referring to the Hungarian people as a whole.[25][26][27] The term Magyar may also come from the Hunnic term "Muageris" or Mugel.[28]

The historical Latin term Natio Hungarica ("Hungarian nation") had a wider meaning, as it once referred to all nobles of the Kingdom of Hungary, irrespective of their ethnicity.

Ethnic affiliations and genetic origins

Main article: Hungarian prehistory

The linguistic heritage of the Hungarians comes from Finno-Ugric peoples. A branch of Uralic speakers migrated from their earlier homeland near the Ural mountains and settled in various places in Eastern Europe, until they conquered the Carpathian Basin between the 9th and 10th centuries. Genetically, the present-day Hungarian population preserves much of an older European genetic makeup.[29][30] The vast majority of the Hungarian population in the 10th and 11th centuries, according to genetic and palaeoanthropological studies, showed features of European biological descent.[31][32]

Pre-4th century AD

During the 4th millennium BC, the Uralic-speaking peoples who were living in the central and southern regions of the Urals split up. Some dispersed towards the west and northwest and came into contact with Iranian speakers who were spreading northwards.[33] From at least 2000 BC onwards, the Ugrian speakers became distinguished from the rest of the Uralic community. Judging by evidence from burial mounds and settlement sites, they interacted with the Andronovo Culture,[34] furthermore, the type of Hungarians of the Conquest period shows related features to that of the Andronovo people.[35]

4th century to c. 830 AD

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.[36] 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 Khazar khaganate. 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[37] of the Khazars joined the Hungarians and moved to what the Hungarians call the Etelköz, the territory between the Carpathians and the Dnieper River, (today's Ukraine). The Hungarians faced their first attack by the Pechenegs around 854,[36] though other sources state that an attack by Pechenegs was the reason for their departure to Etelköz. The new neighbours of the Hungarians were the Varangians and the eastern Slavs. From 862 onwards, the Hungarians (already referred to as the Ungri) along with their allies, the Kabars, started a series of looting raids from the Etelköz into the Carpathian Basin, mostly against the Eastern Frankish Empire (Germany) and Great Moravia, but also against the Balaton principality and Bulgaria.[38]

Entering the Carpathian Basin (c. 895)

Main articles: Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin and Pannonian basin before Hungary

In 895/896, under the leadership of Árpád, some Hungarians crossed the Carpathians and entered the Carpathian Basin. The tribe called Magyar was the leading tribe of the Hungarian alliance that conquered the centre of the basin. At the same time (c. 895), due to their involvement in the 894–896 Bulgaro-Byzantine war, Hungarians in Etelköz were attacked by Bulgaria and then by their old enemies the Pechenegs. The Bulgarians won the decisive battle of Southern Buh. It is uncertain whether or not those conflicts were the cause of the Hungarian departure from Etelköz.

From the upper Tisza region of the Carpathian Basin, the Hungarians intensified their looting raids across continental Europe. In 900, they moved from the upper Tisza river to Transdanubia (Pannonia), which later became the core of the arising Hungarian state. At the time of the Hungarian migration, the land was inhabited only by a sparse population of Slavs, numbering about 200,000,[36] who were either assimilated or enslaved by the Hungarians.[36]

Archaeological findings (e.g. in the Polish city of Przemyśl) suggest that many Hungarians remained to the north of the Carpathians after 895/896.[39] There is also a consistent Hungarian population in Transylvania, the Székelys, who comprise 40% of the Hungarians in Romania.[40][41] 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 Hungarian leader Árpád is believed to have led the Hungarians into the Carpathian Basin in 896. In 907, the Hungarians destroyed a Bavarian army in the Battle of Pressburg and laid the territories of present-day Germany, France, and Italy open to Hungarian raids, which were fast and devastating. The Hungarians defeated the Imperial Army of Louis the Child, son of Arnulf of Carinthia and last legitimate descendent of the German branch of the house of Charlemagne, near Augsburg in 910. From 917 to 925, Hungarians raided through Basle, Alsace, Burgundy, Saxony, and Provence.[42] Hungarians expansion was checked at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955, ending their raids against Western Europe, but the raids on the Balkan Peninsula continued until 970.[43] 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 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 (modern Spain and Portugal).[44] After the acceptance of the country 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 around 400,000 people.[36] 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.[45][46][47][48][49] Non-Hungarians numbered hardly more than 20% to 25% of the total population.[45] The Hungarian population began to decrease only at the time of the Ottoman conquest,[45][46][49] 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.[45][46][49] 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.[45][49] In the 18th century their proportion declined further because of the influx of new settlers from Europe, especially Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, and Germans.[45][46][49][50] According to the immigrationist theory of the origins of the Romanian people,[51] it is suggested that Romanians entered Transylvania during the same period.[46][50][52] As a consequence of Turkish occupation and 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.[45][46][47][49]

Other historians, particularly Slovaks and Romanians, argue that the drastic change in the ethnic structure hypothesized by Hungarian historians in fact did not occur. They argue that the Hungarians accounted for only about 30–40% of the Kingdom's population since its establishment. In particular, there is a fierce debate among Hungarians and Romanian historians about the ethnic composition of Transylvania through these times.

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 number of ethnic Hungarians rose from 2.3 million to 10.2 million due to population explosion, generated by the resettlement of the Great Hungarian Plain and Voivodina by mainly Roman Catholic Hungarian settlers from the northern and western counties of the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1715 (after the Ottoman occupation) the Southern Great Plain was nearly uninhabited but now has 1.3 million inhabitants, homogeneous with ethnic Hungarians.

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.[53]

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.[54] 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)[55][56][57] 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.[58] The Hungarian population reached its maximum in 1980, then began to decline, which is expected to continue at least until 2050, at which time the population is projected to be between 8 and 9 million.[58]

Today, the Hungarians represent around 35% of the population of the Carpathian Basin; their number is around 12–13 million. For historical reasons (see Treaty of Trianon), significant Hungarian minority populations can be found in the surrounding countries, most of them in Romania (in Transylvania), Slovakia, and Serbia (in Vojvodina). Sizable minorities live also in Ukraine (in Transcarpathia), Croatia (primarily Slavonia), and Austria (in Burgenland). Slovenia is also host to a number of ethnic Hungarians, and Hungarian language has an official status in parts of the Prekmurje region. Today, more than two million ethnic Hungarians live in nearby countries.[59]

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 May 26, 2010, Hungary's Parliament passed a bill granting dual citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living outside of Hungary. The neighboring countries with sizable Hungarian minority expressed concerns over the legislation.[60]

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 Cumans, Pechenegs, Jazones, Germans, and other Western European settlers in the Middle Ages. Vlachs (Romanians) and Slavs have lived together and married with Hungarians since early medieval times. Ottomans, who occupied the central part of Hungary from c. 1526 until c. 1699, inevitably exerted an influence, as did the various nations (Germans, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, and others) that resettled depopulated territories after their departure. Similar to other European countries, Jewish, Armenians, and Roma (Gypsy) minorities have been living in Hungary since the Middle Ages.


Folklore and Landscape

See also





  • Korai Magyar Történeti Lexicon (9–14. század) (Encyclopedia of the Early Hungarian History (9th–14th Centuries)) Budapest, Akadémiai Kiadó; 753. ISBN 963-05-6722-9.

External links

  • Origins of the Hungarians from the Enciklopédia Humana (with many maps and pictures)
  • Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin
  • Hungary and the Council of Europe
  • Facts about Hungary
  • Hungarians outside Hungary – Map

Genetic studies

  • MtDNA and Y chromosome polymorphisms in Hungary: inferences from the Palaeolithic, Neolithic and Uralic influences on the modern Hungarian gene pool
  • Probable ancestors of Hungarian ethnic groups: an admixture analysis
  • Human Chromosomal Polymorphism in a Hungarian Sample
  • Hungarian genetics researches 2008–2009 (in Hungarian)

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