A little Hungarian history and linguistics

Because we had a commentator a while back who had fanciful ideas about early Hungarian history, I thought it might be appropriate to say a few words about Hungarian roots and what is happening nowadays in extreme right-wing circles in trying to "reinterpret" the nation’s origin.

Without going into great detail, most of today’s western Russia, that is the area west of the Ural Mountains, was inhabited by Finno-Ugric people prior to the arrival of the Slavs. And then a "fanning out" of ethnic groups took place. The Slavs began spreading eastward while the Finno-Ugric people started moving westward. The Finns northwest, the Hungarians southwest. The Finns and the Hungarians most likely lived together about 3000 B.C. Each picked up a lot of loan words from cultures they encountered in their wanderings. So lexically speaking the two languages are very different. However, as far as grammar is concerned there are significant similarities.

The Hungarians’ westward movement can be pretty well illustrated by the words they borrowed from the different cultures they encountered. The earliest loan words were from various Persian languages, which point to some trading activity and perhaps animal husbandry. Hungarian words for "gold," "cow," and "milk," for example, have Persian roots. After leaving the central Asian region came a period when Hungarian tribes lived close to Turkic groups, and again Hungarians picked up Turkic loan words, once again especially in connection with livestock breeding: bull, ox, calf, ram, goat, pig, etc. Also certain words connected to agriculture: wheat, barley, peas, hemp, hop, apple, pear, nut, fruit, and one could continue. And, of course, once the Hungarian tribes (also containing some Turkic elements) arrived in the Carpathian basin, they picked up an incredible number of Slavic words, from both Western and Southern Slav languages. I’m not going to go into the hundreds and hundreds of borrowings from these languages. Enough to say that the word "to speak" in Hungarian is of Slavic origin.

How many Hungarians arrived in their present location at the end of the ninth century? Of course, we can only guess, and most likely we would be wrong. But the invaders had to be numerous enough not to disappear in the sea of Slavic people inhabiting the area. For example, the Huns who vanished from the face of the earth actually moved from today’s Hungary to territories that now belong to Bulgaria, but their numbers in comparison to the local Slavic population were so insignificant that assimilation to the majority language became inevitable. Obviously that was not so in the Hungarian case.

Accustomed to a nomadic existence based mostly on fishing and hunting, Hungarians kept to their old ways. There was a loose federation among the different tribes, but actually each warlord pretty well conducted his own "foreign policy." Very much in quotation marks. It meant that each of them, on his own, decided to attack the neighbors, rob them, and return home with some slaves as well. Apparently their success depended on their fast horses and their excellent horsemanship. These raids, which are somewhat glorified in Hungarian history and euphemistically called "adventures" (kalandozások), eventually came to an end by the middle of the tenth century when at Augsburg, Otto I showed the Hungarians that the Bavarians were strong enough to defeat the marauding Hungarians. From there on the Hungarian tribal leaders, including the most important of the tribes, later called the House of Árpád, realized that they had to give up their old ways and become more like their western neighbors. They had to renounce paganism and become Christians. They had to become Europeans! It was Géza who began the process that led to the eventual coronation of his son, Stephen (born originally as Vajk,) with a crown received from the pope. Stephen married a Bavarian princess, Gisella, and with not very gentle methods, converted the pagan Hungarians to the faith of Rome, earning him sainthood.

This is this period the extreme right would like to reinterpret. But they often expand their heritage. The Finno-Ugric fishing and hunting ancestors are not elegant enough. They go back to the Sumerians or even to fanciful ideas that the Hungarians didn’t arrive in the Carpathian basin at the end of the ninth century but have been there for tens of thousands of years. Some of them idolize the pagan existence, blame St. Stephen for forcefully converting the Hungarians to Christianity who, according to them, therefore lost their "distinctiveness." They use all sorts of runic writings, allegedly the writing of the pagan Hungarians before they learned the Latin alphabet. Among the lunatic fringe one often sees characters dressed in what they think was the dress of the pagan Hungarians. (Mind you, these outfits are usually copied from romantic nineteenth-century paintings.)

How big is this group? Hard to say, but they sure like to talk about "history." Or at least what they think history is. 

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Dr. Minorka
Guest

“most of today’s western Russia, that is the area west of the Ural Mountains, ”
which is Eastern Russia!

Hotpaprika
Guest

Finno Ugric theory is old Hat, There is the Avar HUN Scythian theory with the Szekely the ROVAS writting which History is more convincing.
There is eveidence that the Magyars were Eastern Christians, until Otto with his clergy infiltrated Hungary threw Politics. Holy Roman Empire destroyed the History of Hungary.

Hotpaprika
Guest

I have attached a weblink that has an alternative History, it’s too much for a Blog comment, however it is an interesting read.
http://www.magtudin.org/Homeland%202.htm

Hotpaprika
Guest

@ Eva
and you claim to be a Historian with an Academic background? there are many anomolies in history, and this theory to me is convincing the website I attached. If you look at the evidence Botos Laszlo has unearthed along with Sechenyi who rejected academy in the 1900’s because of it’s fraud, why wouldn’t you appreciate another theory instead of you! living in La La land.. You are very closed minded sorry to say..

Dr. Minorka
Guest

“Minorka:””most of today’s western Russia, that is the area west of the Ural Mountains, ” which is Eastern Russia!”
And what happened to Siberia? Disappeared in the ocean”
Siberia is a distinct geographical entity. The area west of the Ural is West Siberia and not Middle Russia. Have you ever seen any references to Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, Chelyabinsk, Magnitogorsk as cities in Middle Russia?

Dr. Minorka
Guest

“Accustomed to a nomadic existence based mostly on fishing and hunting, Hungarians kept to their old ways.”
They were PASTORAL nomadic tribes.
By the way the wikipedia entry is a useless lunatic trash:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungarian_prehistory
For a sound minded, good academic summary see:
Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: An Introduction to Early Hungarian History
by Andras Rona-Tas
http://www.amazon.com/Hungarians-Europe-Early-Middle-Ages/dp/9639116483/

Dr. Minorka
Guest

“I don’t think that I ever used the word “middle.”
Of course. This was the argument against your usage!

Hotpaprika
Guest
147 years have passed since Count István Széchenyi came to this painful and difficult decision. One can only imagine what terrible disappointment he must have felt – as the founder of this scientific institution – when he committed these thoughts to paper. With the passing of time, our people and the nation have had occasion to become convinced, many times over, that what Széchenyi feared actually occurred; the Academy did not follow its original goals. Our academicians, even after such a long period of time, still fumble around in uncertainties. Scholars research the Finno-Ugric theories, which have no foundation, try to explain them and make them acceptable. At the same time, they are unable to answer the many emerging questions that would either validate their theories or refute them. It is for this reason that we Hungarians are the only people in the world who lack national-consciousness, knowledge of the religion of their ancestors, the origin of their language and who live in complete uncertainty concerning these matters, at home and abroad. Many of the theories about the origins of the Hungarians found their way to the learned institutions of the world but, to this day, a completely finished, acceptable,… Read more »
Hotpaprika
Guest
Where my person and my rights as founder are concerned, if I am ordered to accept the amended charter – which I found unacceptable from the beginning – if there is no escape, with bleeding heart but invincible spirit, I shall comply, without the slightest comment. At the same time, I give a solemn warning that, according to the noble ideal of “Justum ac tenacem propositi virum”, I shall immediately stop paying interest on the gift I bestowed and sacrificed on the altar of my homeland, as soon as I am forced to notice that my gift is de facto, for I do not attach any importance to nice words and promises and, as soon as the Academy is forced to proceed on a path that does not totally comply with its original goals, which were agreed upon and sanctioned as law between the nation and the ruler. I know that my plans will be followed by my heirs, honestly and faithfully but, should this tragic case come about, in spite of all trust and good hope, I and my heirs shall withdraw our financial support from the poisoned Academy, as stated in the foundation letter. We shall invest this… Read more »
Dr. Minorka
Guest

Re: Letter of Széchenyi
By God! The letter was written against using German as the official language of the Hungarian Academy. 🙂

Hotpaprika
Guest

We know from the testimony of the chronicles that the Székely people hold themselves out to be the descendants of Atilla, but historians do not accept these authentic data. At the same time, they have no solution to their own riddle: where did the people learn their Magyar language? It is almost impossible that they learned it from Árpád’s Magyars. The only proven fact is that they were living in the Carpathian Basin before the arrival of Árpád. The historian Lajos Bartucz and archaeologist/historian Gyula László described the Avars as Magyars. So a Magyar speaking indigenous population had to teach the newcomers and the earlier arrivals (Avars) the Magyar language. The only exception here may be the Magyar group.
King István I. (St. István) is introduced by our historians as,a missionary apostle, who leads the people away from paganism, whose every deed can be traced to this and this was the first goal and central purpose of his reign.”

Hotpaprika
Guest
This is totally fabricated propaganda. It was not King István I. who broke down paganism, but the organizations of the people and the strength of the Greek Orthodox Church. He introduced the Judeo-Christian religion to the region. It is important for the historians, who give lip service to the missionary zeal and the representation of István I. as an apostolic King, to accept the theory that the Magyars were pagans, and constantly reinforce this because, if István merely replaced one Christian religion with another, he would not have become an apostolic missionary King. We also have to know that, in István’s time, the two Christian Churches were not yet separated. The official date of the schism was July 16, 1054. According to our historians, King István I. or St. István was the founder of the nation. This is partly true. His goal was to secure the central power of the House of Árpád. All his other instructions and deeds were parts of this goal. Antal Duli writes: „The Blood Covenant was enough to lay down the foundation of the homeland for a few more centuries, but it could not forge the two strata of Magyars into one. The tension between… Read more »
Dr.Keresztes
Guest

Interesting theory Mr Paprika, very hot topic it seems!
I remember my father mentioning when he was a pupil about his school days, he mentioned the time he had removed several text books during the book burning during WW2. The Germans were occupying the city of Bečkerek, He claims there were many interesting historical writtings about the Magyar history which was along the similar lines you are discussing and while at school he debated with the teacher about his knowledge of what he had read, he actually was asked by his teacher to bring the books to school so thew may review the information, the teacher asked if he may borrow the books and unfortunately that was the last time he saw them. So we must all keep an open mind about the history of Magyars, their one of the most fascinating races on our planet, and what if the propaganda is against the Magyars?

Hotpaprika
Guest
The ancient Magyar runic script[10] would not have been destroyed. Bishops Method and Cyril did not force their people to accept the Roman letters. Instead, they created for their people the new Cyrillic script, based upon the Magyar runic script. We can safely assume that the Magyar script would also have been left untouched. To them– since they were adversaries of Rome – the only important factor was that the Roman writing system should not take hold. If the Hungarians had kept their ancient runic script, the nation would have benefited greatly. Through the act of destroying the runic script, the Roman priests caused Hungary to sink to the level of Western Civilization. Western historians spread rumors – which continue to this day – that the Magyars were uncivilized barbarians. To boost the self-image of the West, they claim that the missionaries taught the „barbarians” to write and kept silent about the fact that they destroyed the already existing writing system. They forced upon the Hungarian language the inadequate Roman alphabet. It is inadequate because it does not have a character for each Magyar sound. It is for this reason that Magyar words are found scattered throughout the Latin texts,… Read more »
Adrian
Guest

Hotpaprika,
English has 44 phonemes, and a 26 letter alphabet. Following the Norman conquest distinctive anglo-saxon letters were removed from the alphabet. How come English literature wasn’t set back a thousand years?

Hotpaprika
Guest

Hungarian Spectrum were discussing! go google for yourself, English themsleves are in comparison a new language in comparison to the Magyars, Huns, Avars, Scythians..

Adrian
Guest

Hotpaprika,
So why is an old language like Hungarian more adversely effected by a non-phonetic alphabet than a young language like English?

Hotpaprika
Guest
The famous English archeologist, Sir Leonard Woolley, states: “the most convenient and easily recognizable criterion of civilization is the knowledge of the art of writing.” At a time when none of the European peoples, not even the Greeks or Romans, had a writing system that they could call their own, the early Magyars had their own alphabet and numerical system. The Greeks took their letters from the Phoenicians, and the Romans developed their alphabet from the Greeks and the Etruscans. Adorján Magyar, a Hungarian linguist and ethnographer, points out the similarity between the Magyar and Etruscan writing but discounts the theory that the Magyars copied the Latin alphabet that the Romans took from the Etruscans. He states that the Magyar runic numerals show a greater similarity to the Etruscan than to the Roman numerals. How is this possible if the Magyars appeared in Western history only a thousand years ago, as is commonly believed? According to Adorján Magyar, the only explanation is that the Etruscans and the Magyars had the same primeval origin, or that the Magyars were living in Europe at the time of the Etruscans. “Either the Hungarians received their numerical figures from the Etruscans or the Etruscans… Read more »
Adrian
Guest

Hotpaprika,
was that an answer to my question?
I’m not arguing about the history or significance of Hungarian runes, or the impact of the Latin alphabet on them.
I just want to know why messing around with the alphabet had such a bad effect on Hungarian literature.
The same process Latin church / Latin alphabet happened to English at roughly the same time, but nobody I have read writes that this process damaged English Literature.
Or how about this: what effects do you expect the recent spelling reform in German will have on its literature?
or
Was Turkish literature damaged or enhanced by the switch from Arab to Latin script?
or
Who will produce the better literature, Croats or Serbs; and how is that related to the differences between Cyrillic and Latin scripts?
Can your ideas about script and literature answer any of these questions?

R.
Guest

@ Adrian, Hotpaprika
I was wondering something along the same lines. The other day I picked up a Géza Csáth book. According to the CIP information, it was originally published in the early 1900s.
Because the stories were written using the latin alphabet, and “Hotpaprika” said that the Latin alphabet set Hungarian literature back 1,000 years . . . well, I naturally assumed that Csáth’s stories would read as though they had been written way back in the 900s.
But they don’t. So now I’m starting to think I was taking the wrong approach, and maybe it’s the other way around. If the runic alphabet had not been replaced by the latin alphabet, would Csáth’s stories actually be 1,000 years AHEAD of their time?

Vándorló
Guest

@Hotpaprika
Civilisation is not just built on words alone, what about numbers? The runic script was pretty much the same as Roman in its approach to dealing with numbers. In particular it lacked a representation of zero, was hopeless for multiplication and long division etc… Which wasn’t so important since mathematics wasn’t one of the ancient Magyar/Hun strong points.
So wasn’t the introduction/popularization of the Arabic numerals in ‘De numero indorum’ by Hisab al-jabr w’al-muqabala (from whose name is ultimately derived the name for ‘Algebra’) a blessing rather than a curse?
Are you seriously arguing that a modern economy could have flourished on runic numeracy?

Hotpaprika
Guest
The Hungarian language goes far back. It developed in a very peculiar manner and its structure reaches back to times when most of the now spoken European languages did not even exist. It is a language which developed steadily and firmly in itself, and in which there are logic and mathematics with the adaptability and malleability of strength and chords. The Englishman should be proud that his language indicates an epic of human history. One can show forth its origin; and all layers can be distinguished in it, which gathered together during contacts with different nations. Whereas the Hungarian language is like a rubble-stone, consisting of only one piece, on which the storms of time left not a scratch. It’s not a calendar that adjusts to the changes of the ages. It needs no one, it doesn’t borrow, does no huckstering, and doesn’t give or take from anyone. This language is the oldest and most glorious monument of national sovereignty and mental independence. What scholars cannot solve, they ignore. In philology it’s the same way as in archeology. The floors of the old Egyptian temples, which were made out of only one rock, can’t be explained. No one knows where… Read more »
Hotpaprika
Guest

@Adrien
It is not accidental that the linear script, developed from the pictographs, remained in the Hungarian script as runic script and has survived to the present, in spite of the fact that, in the course of a thousand years, from the 34 runic letters, the Hungarians had to adapt to the 24 Latin letters, which made it very difficult to express the double consonants.