German and other settlers in Hungary

Because there was considerable interest in the ethnic composition of Greater Hungary I thought I would spend a little more time on the subject. You may recall that I included the famous ethnic map of pre-World War I Hungary (minus Croatia-Slavonia) based on the 1910 census. You also may recall that in English one could read the following caption underneath: “Ethnographic Map of Historical Hungary based on the 1910 census, showing the effects of the centuries of foreign colonization of Hungary which altered the ethnic composition of the previously homogenous Hungarian population of the Carpathian Basin.” I don’t know who attached this text to this particular map. I have an original copy published by the Magyar Földrajzi Intézet Rt. with no caption whatsoever. In any case, the caption is a bald-faced lie.

Most likely the Carpathian Basin never had a homogenous population. The ancestors of Slovaks were in the area before the Hungarians arrived. Most likely there were still some Avars, a Turkic people, who had survived the vicissitudes of centuries. A few years later we hear of böszörmények in Pest who were a Bulgarian Turkic group of Muslim faith. Apparently the Hungarian böszörmény comes from bisirman, the Turkish name for Muslim. Soon enough German settlers arrived at the invitation of Endre II, even before the Tartar invasion of 1241. Just to give one example of the ethnic mix, Pest (part of Budapest today) most likely received its name from the Bulgarian-Turkic group who might have been the original settlers of the town on the left bank of the Danube. “Pest” means “oven”; when the Germans arrived they translated the name of the town into German as “Ofen.” Throughout the Middle Ages both Buda and Pest were predominantly German towns. It was only in the 15th century that in Buda some Hungarians managed to get elected to the town council.

The three cities Óbuda, Buda, and Pest were completely ruined several times during the 16th and 17th centuries either by the Turks or by the liberating western armies (in 1686). Hardly any house remained intact in Buda and practically no one was left alive. The central areas that had been under Turkish rule for almost 150 years suffered the most, and that was the area inhabited mainly by Hungarians. As the Turkish troops were approaching a lot of the inhabitants escaped northward crossing the Danube, an area never under Turkish occupation, or toward the West where the population was mostly German. Those areas prospered infinitely better than the Turkish occupied center.

A new wave of settlers had to be brought in, mostly Germans from Bavaria, Swabia, Austria. The recruiters found ready takers because of the privileges offered to the settlers. Hungarian historians, even Domokos Kosáry, a moderate and not a nationalistic historian, called this settlement policy by the Habsburg kings “colonization” with an anti-Hungarian edge. I don’t believe this explanation because it is hard to imagine what else the kings could have done with a huge area that was practically barren of life. I assume perhaps one could have enticed people from the north to move southward and I really don’t know whether such an offer was ever made to them, but it is very possible that in the north called Royal Hungary people were comfortable enough to stay put. On the other hand, in the German provinces there were serious economic pressures that resulted in large migrations. For example, to the American colonies and even as far east as Russia.

Just south of Szeged that today is called Voivodina and or in Hungarian Bácska-Bánát that belongs today to Serbia, in addition to the German settlers there came a huge wave of escapees from Turkish occupied Serbia. The Serbian patriarch, Arsenije III Carnojevic, after taking the Austrian side against the Turks, feared the revenge of the Ottoman Empire and moved north to today’s Voivodina in the last decade of the 17th century with as many as 36,000 families. Carnojevic received nobility from the Habsburg king and became the patriarch of Szentendre, a Serb settlement just north of Budapest. Meanwhile Romanians began to migrate into the area from Transylvania. Thus, the Voivodina became a veritable patchwork of nationalities.

The German character of the Transdanubian countryside disappeared only after the German population was forcibly removed following World War II. It was a shameful move by the Hungarian government. These people were hard working village folks. As a child I remember seeing them with their horses and buggies going in long lines through the main thoroughfare of Pécs on their way to Germany. Joschka Fischer, the former foreign minister of Germany, was the child of a couple who had to leave Hungary after the war. Why Joschka? Because Jóska is a nickname for the Hungarian József. Into the houses of the evicted Germans moved some Hungarians the Czechoslovak government had forced across the border and some Hungarian refugees from Romania and Serbia.

In brief, ethnic relocation (both by choice and by force) has been an ongoing phenomenon in this area. Now with the European Union, without real borders, there is every reason to assume that we will continue to see shifting ethnic demographics.

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Paul Hellyer
Guest

There is an intriguing article in the latest Hungarian Quarterly outlining some findings in genomic research into the origins of Hungarians. (Only part of the article is available online at http://hungarianquarterly.com/no196/8.shtml. Mind you, any English reader serious about understanding Hungary should subscribe to this journal anyway.) One of the findings supports the theory that the size of the population that arrived in the Carpathian Basin at the end of the 9th century was only a “small fraction” of the land’s total population. Also their findings do not support the view that those who arrived assimilated the local population and thereby established genetic stock of the future Hungarian nation. Intriguingly their research also suggests, accordingly to the article, that those that arrived in and around 895 are genetically unrelated to Hungarians – either those that may have already been in the Carpathian Basin or those that arrived later. I think we have a long way to go before we have a full picture of who Hungarians really are.

M.J.
Guest
Eva, In your article Today’s Hungary and Trianon, you’re writing : One of the topics of the current electoral campaign in Hungary is the government’s obligations towards Hungarians living outside the borders. To understand where that at first sight surprising topic comes from, one has to get to know that old Trianon story. It’s a complex issue. Unfortunately, though it’s an issue high on the political agenda of nowadays’ Hungary, Hungarians actually still know little about Trianon themselves. Yeah, for years, it was considered taboo because of communist internationalist ideology. So, Hungarians for instance know very little about the ethnic makeup of Greater Hungary. Here are the results of the 1910 census. “As one can see from this map the borders could have been drawn much more “justly,” meaning more closely along ethnic lines, especially in the north and to some extent on the east.“ By the way, the same kind of ignorance of the ethnic makeup must have greatly contributed to Hungary turning revisionist at the time. The idea was to get back everything. Irrealistic! „The Hungarian people, surely terribly hurt and disappointed, should have been told that only certain territories might be regained and even then only under… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest
MJ, you’re so off that it hurts. Reasonable Hungarians think that the problem is going to be solved by the very existence of the European Union. I guess you can say that Hungary lost the war and therefore it really didn’t matter what kind of borders the victors drew but it is not that simple. A too harsh peace will not bring peace and dialogue. And one more thing. The Hungarians were not upset because they didn’t know the actual ethnic makeup of the country but because over half a million Hungarians remained in Czechoslovakia and over 2 millions in Romania. I don’t think that it is an unreasonable thing to be upset over such event especially when they were told that the peace would be based on the self-determination of nations. As for the “assimilation,” well, the assimilation of Hungarian minority to the major ethnic group of the country is as natural today as it was the other way around a hundred years ago. Put it that way, M. I don’t think that you will find a more reasonable Hungarian assessment of the ethnic past of the Carpathian Basin than mine. But you have to give too. You cannot… Read more »
M.J.
Guest
Eva: “I don’t think that you will find a more reasonable Hungarian assessment of the ethnic past of the Carpathian Basin than mine.” I know (though you could check with Oszkar Jaszi, just to be sure). Basically that’s what I wrote and that’s why I wrote to you with such insistence. “But you have to give too.” I am. But you don’t see what. “You cannot have absolutely no empathy for the other side.” I have little empathy for what I consider to be, as a friend puts it: “phantom pains.” But I believe that real friends should be honest, and not pretend to agree when they don’t, just for the sake of empathy. “I do have empathy for the Slovaks who worry about the large compact Hungarian settlements along the border although I think that such a fear is unfounded.” Nice. But there is no political impact, in real terms, from that empathy of yours. There’s much more from the worries. Unfortunately, fears use to have more political impact than empathy. “As I said, the lack of borders will heal all that hurt on both sides unless politicians manage to ruin it all. But both sides must be reasonable.”… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

MJ: “I know (though you could check with Oszkar Jaszi, just to be sure).”
You’re wrong. Jaszi until the very end didn’t want to give any territorical autonomy to any of the minorities.
As for empathy. What on earth do you want from me? What can I do politically? I’m not even sure what you want anyone to do? There are only two possibilities. Either the Hungarian minority remains or disappears.
As for the Hungarian government’s interference both Mark and I declared that they should get rid of the passage in the constitution about the Hungarian minorities and they should scrap of the stupid body of Hungarian members of parliament in the neighboring countries. I cannot do more than that! I can write about it but I’m in no position to change the existing situation.
Moreover, I tell you what. I think that for example that stupid body is useless. That is what Hungarians call “gittegylet” (puddy club). It was in Ferenc Molnár’s famous novel about the Boys of Pál Street that the puddy club members’ duty was chewing puddy and keeping it moist. I.e. it is a useless organization and, let me add, an irritant.

Mark
Guest
Éva: “As for the Hungarian government’s interference both Mark and I declared that they should get rid of the passage in the constitution about the Hungarian minorities and they should scrap of the stupid body of Hungarian members of parliament in the neighboring countries.” Indeed, I did, but my reason for doing so is that one of the things the history of twentieth century Europe shows us is that it is a mistake, a grave mistake for a country to believe it is doing itself, its brothers over the border, and peace any good whatsoever by claiming extra-territorial responsibility for “kin” minorities beyond its borders. I see exactly what M.J. is arguing and I largely agree with him. A census of language, especially when the state conducting the census promotes the use of particular language and equates that us with political loyalty, is not a purely objective reflecton of language use. A census is a source, which must be considered critical, as a product of the relations of power and knowledge through which it was shaped, or created. In a state like early twentieth century Hungary, where language use, patterns of linguistic, ethnic, and political identity on the everyday level… Read more »
P.I.Hidas
Guest

Not all German were deported from Hungary after the Second World War. During the last Hungarian census those who declared themselves citizens of the Third Reich were moved to Germany with the approval of the Allies.

Mark
Guest
P.I.Hidas: “Not all German were deported from Hungary after the Second World War. During the last Hungarian census those who declared themselves citizens of the Third Reich were moved to Germany with the approval of the Allies.” It isn’t true that only German citizens were placed on the deportation lists, though it is absolutely correct to say that not all Germans were deported – far from it! I’ve been looking at this issue in detail for the west of the country (and I will publish my findings). I can’t wholly prove this, but it is fairly clear that those organizing deportations did not have the raw materials – the questionnaires – from which the 1941 census statistics were collected to organize deportations on these grounds. They did have some of the lists of those who volunteered for SS service in 1942; they did have some of the Volksbund membership lists (though only some, as village notaries in some places were asked to say who they thought had been in the Volksbund). Often village authorities actively sought to defend their populations. In one case in western Hungary, one village changed its name – from Németzsidány to Magyarzsidány – to demonstrate that… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

P.I. Hidas: “Not all German were deported from Hungary after the Second World War. During the last Hungarian census those who declared themselves citizens of the Third Reich were moved to Germany with the approval of the Allies.”
As far as I remember the question was not whether they were the citizens of the Third Right but whether their mother tongue was German or not. Those who said yes were deported.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mark: “it is absolutely correct to say that not all Germans were deported – far from it!”
Well, not exactly “far from it!” Almost 200,000 out of about 300,000. See http://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_magyarorsz%C3%A1gi_n%C3%A9metek_kitelep%C3%ADt%C3%A9se
But many families actually ran away and hid in cities. I can think of two such cases. Mr. Wagner and his wife who had a pub in one of the German villages. He escaped and worked for a Hungarian pub owner in Pecs. Eventually he opened his own.
The other family’s name I don’t even remember but they had an about 10 year old daughter who to my utter surprise didn’t speak a word of Hungarian. Our family gave them shelter for a few months in our weekend place. I don’t know what happened to them later.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mark: “The ethnographic map is deeply problematic in establishing claims.”
No one said otherwise. But to say that the 1910 census was the figment of Hungarian nationalists’ imagination is equally fallacious. Otherwise it would have been impossible to have still a heck of a lot of Hungarians in Czechoslovakia or even today in Slovakia.
As for Austria. The Sopron plebiscite was a fraud. Apparently they cheated on both sides.
And finally, my position is and I stick to it that even under the most tolerant circumstances assimilation goes on from the minority toward the majority and all that crying over X number of Hungarians or Slovaks lost is just outright nationalistic stuff.

Erik the Reader
Guest

“Throughout the Middle Ages both Buda and Pest were predominantly German towns. It was only in the 15th century that in Buda some Hungarians managed to get elected to the town council.”
This is not quite true. Example of Buda: by 1433 half of the population was Hungarian.
Since 1439 Hungarians and Germans were represented equally in town court.
The case of Pest was even more favourable for Hungarians, example all the offical of law court were only Hungarians. In Pest Hungarians were in total majority.
With the new settlers Germans represented the majority only after the recapture of Buda and Pest. After the departure of the turks a great number of germans, serbs settled down.

Erik the Reader
Guest

Határszéli városaink zöme német anyanyelvű volt, magyar, szlovák stb. kisebbséggel. A középkor végén Budán már a magyarok voltak többségben, a város irányításában azonban paritásos alapon vettek részt a németekkel. Szeged, Székesfehérvár, Esztergom, Kolozsvár és nem utolsósorban Pest viszont már magyar város volt.
http://www.tankonyvtar.hu/konyvek/osztrak-magyar/osztrak-magyar-081204-549
http://www.tankonyvtar.hu/historia-1982-06/historia-1982-06

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