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.