Sorry that I'm going back so far but the other day I heard the mayor of Komárno, Tibor Bastrnák, talk about Slovak and Hungarian historical consciousness. When the interviewer mentioned that according to Robert Fico the Slovaks' great king is not St. Stephen but Svatopluk, the mayor's reaction was rather peculiar: they don't care what the Slovaks think. St. Stephen was the king of the whole Carpathian Basin. It's that simple. Thus according to him there can be only one interpretation of the history of the region: the Hungarian one. As we know, the city council of Komárno refused to invite the Slovak president although the city fathers claim that St. Stephen is also the king of the Slovaks. Komárno's city council has twenty-five members and, judging by their given and family names, I found four or five ethnic Slovaks among them. The reason that I cannot decide whether their number is four or five is because the ethnic origin of one is questionable. His last name is Hungarian but his given name is Gabriel instead of Gábor. Sixty percent of the town's population is Hungarian and thirty-five percent is Slovak. Thus, if my linguistic reading is correct, the Hungarians are overrepresented in the city council. This is the same city council that refused to allow the erection of a statue of Cyrill and Method.
To get some perspective on this whole question, let's rewind to the conquest that in Hungarian is called "honfoglalás" (taking of the fatherland). This occupation, to the best of our knowledge, occurred between 896 and 899, but one must keep in mind that written sources are scarce for the period. There is no reliable mention of the Hungarians before 830 and therefore historians must piece together the earliest history of the Hungarians with the help of language–the original Finno-Ugric vocabulary and the loan words the marauding Hungarians picked up on their way to the Carpathian Basin. But linguists often disagree about the origins of certain words, starting with the word "magyar."
Even after 830 there are few references to Hungarians or even to the political map of the Carpathian Basin in the ninth century. The Svatopluk Fico was talking about was the "king" of Greater Moravia, but even the geographic position of Moravia is not at all certain. Apparently there were two Moravias–and, no, not just a greater and a lesser. However, the best guess is that the Carpathian Basin was divided among three "powers" in the ninth century: the Franks, the Moravians, and the Bulgarians. The centers of all three "empires" were outside of the Carpathian Basin. They came into possession of these territories by conquest. This area was basically a frontier zone, which might explain why the invading Hungarians had a relatively easy time.
The population of the Carpathian Basin at the time of the conquest was mostly Slavic. The evidence is that most of the geographic names of the area in Hungarian are either directly of Slavic origin or if earlier inhabitants (Dacians, Goths, Celts, and others) referred to the larger rivers, for example, in their own language, these names got into Hungarian through a Slavic filter. This is also true about names of towns or cities: Veszprém, Esztergom, Komárom, Pécs, and Nyitra. The language of these people varied greatly and the Slavic groups were even called by different names in the ninth century: Timociani, Abodriti, Praedenecenti, Sclavi, Marahenses, Sclavi Margenses, etc. In addition to the Slavic groups there was a larger but ever decreasing Avar population. The Avars spoke a Turkic language; until recently historians believed that the Avars disappeared in the sea of Slavic tribes prior to the arrival of the Hungarians. Lately, they changed their minds mostly as a result of recent archaeological finds. Anyone who's interested in the Avars should read András Róna-Tas's book available on the Internet, Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages. There are even a few place names today that have the word "várkony" as part of them. In Byzantine sources these villages were called "uarhon(itai)" because "várkonys" (Avars) lived in them. In addition to the Avars another Turkic-speaking people lived in the area: the Onogurs or Wangars. By the time the Hungarians arrived on the scene these people were most likely Slavic speaking.
Thus, according to our current knowledge, on the eve of the conquest the Carpathian Basin was not an uninhabited or sparsely inhabited region. It is also likely that the Hungarian tribes were familiar with the area even before the famous conquest of 896. We have written sources that mention them fighting in an area which today comprises eastern parts of Austria. They were waging battles there, most likely at the request of Svatopluk, "king" of Greater Moravia in the early 880s, against Arnulf of Carinthia. However a few years later, in 892, the Hungarians are found in an alliance against Svatopluk. The alliance consisted of the "prince" of Poland, Wratislaw, the "king" of the Hungarians, Cusalan, and Arnulf of Carinthia. They attacked Svatopluk's Moravia from three sides. According to the source the Franks and Bavarians of Arnulf did terrible damage to Moravia, burning villages and killing young and old alike; apparently the Hungarians were even worse. According to the same source the Hungarians already took possession of large territories south of the Rivers Garam (Hron) and Danube. The attack and conquest of these territories didn't mean that Hungarian tribes actually settled in the area. That came a few years later. Soon enough the Hungarian fighting troops abandoned Arnulf and joined Svatopluk to fight the Franks. There is a highly suspect story, almost a legend, concocted by a chronicler of the early thirteenth century: Svatopluk was duped by the Hungarians who in return for some favor asked Svatopluk simply for some water from the Danube and for a handful of grass grown on the land in order to test the quality of the water and the grass. When he acceded to their modest request, the Hungarians put their own spin on the act; they claimed that Svatopluk had gave his land to the Hungarians.
There might be a kernel of truth in this story in the sense that the Hungarians might have demanded certain territories in compensation for the help given to Svatopluk against the Franks. Svatopluk died in 894, most likely fighting alongside the Hungarians against the Franks. His younger son, Svatopluk II, was the prince of Nitra. He died in 906, most likely fighting against the Hungarians who by that time had more or less settled in the the middle of the Carpathian Basin.
So, as we can see, the histories of both the Slovaks and the Hungarians are not so simple as some politicians today imagine. There is a lot of guesswork involved in piecing together a more or less coherent narrative. There are hypotheses that might be contradicted at any time by some new archaeological find. Written sources are unlikely to crop up. Historians have studied every bit of "evidence" that is often no more than a sentence here or there in a source written hundreds of years after the events. To imagine Greater Moravia as some Slovak or Czecho-Slovak empire, an ethnically and religiously homogenous country in the modern sense, is most likely a figment of the imagination. It is also unlikely that if the Hungarians hadn't arrived in the Carpathian Basin there would be a huge Slavic empire with a common language today. After all, the Poles and the Slovaks lived next to each other for centuries and yet there is a Polish language and a Slovak language. The same can be said about the Poles and the Ukrainians. Or the Croats and the Slovenes. And one could continue.
As for Svatopluk and the Hungarians chieftains, sometimes they were comrades in arms, at other times enemies. And the history after 896? Perhaps if the Hungarians hadn't arrived Arnulf and his successors, the Franks or the Bavarians, would have gobbled up the territory. It is quite obvious that these territories changed hands often. A very volatile situation existed. The upshot: it is highly unlikely that Robert Fico's "Ur-Slovaks" ever existed. These early Slovaks, according to the prime minister, had already settled in today's Slovakia when in other countries only animals were roaming! Well, well. Some mad Hungarians think that even Christ was Hungarian. Or that writing was invented by Hungarians who had lived in the Carpathian Basin for more than ten thousand years!