After finding out today that the whole story about the new M4 superhighway was bogus, that the European Union hadn’t charged the bid-winning construction companies with price-fixing, I decided to move away from the muck of current Hungarian politics, at least for a day. I find the Hungarian government’s constant lying hard to take.
Instead, today I’m going to re-explore some Hungarian pseudo-science, prompted by Viktor Orbán’s visit to Kazakhstan. The trip was obviously a big deal for the prime minister. For instance, he took his wife along, which rarely happens. And the Hungarian government chartered a Boeing 767-300ER plane from Austria that seats 200.
What captured the imagination of the Hungarian media was a short Russian-language quotation from one of Orbán’s speeches while in Kazakhstan in which he said: “We believe that we are equal partners within the European Union but originally we were strangers there. When we go to Brussels, we have no relatives there. But when we come to you in Kazakhstan we are at home. This is a strange feeling, that people have to go to the East in order to feel at home. Therefore, it is always with great pleasure that the Hungarian delegation comes here.” I used the original Russian when translating the above passage; it can be found on the website of the Kazakh Information Service.
Interestingly enough, MTI decided that Viktor Orbán’s gushing might not go over too well with the Hungarian public who, thank you very much, feel quite at home in Europe. It left these sentences out of its report.
Let’s look into this so-called genetic relationship between the Kazakhs and the Hungarians. Since I already wrote a post on the genetic markers in the Hungarian population both at the time of the conquest and now, I will just briefly summarize the latest findings on the subject. A group of geneticists at the University of Szeged did research on the DNA composition of human remains from graves dating from the early tenth century. On the basis of their findings they came to the conclusion that the number of invaders was most likely very small because even in these early graves only 36% of the people had markers indicating Asiatic origin. Fifty percent of them were of purely European origin. Their DNA indicated that their ancestors had lived in Europe for at least 40,000-50,000 years. By now 84% of the Hungarian-speaking inhabitants of the Carpathian basin are of purely European origin, and only 16% carry any Asiatic markers at all.
In 2009, A. Z. Bíró, A. Zalán, A. Völgyi, and H. Pamjav published a study in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology titled “A Y-chromosomal comparison of the Madjars (Kazakhstan) and the Magyars (Hungary).” They compared the Madjars with 37 other populations and showed that they were closer to the Hungarian population than to their geographical neighbors. They added that “although this finding could result from chance, it is striking and suggests that there could have been genetic contact between the ancestors of the Madjars and Magyars.” Critics of the study, including Csanád Bálint, director of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology, complained about the authors’ qualifications when it comes to history, linguistics or ethnography. But qualified or not, A[ndrás] Z[s] Bíró is a favorite of those people of extreme right political views who are searching for the original homeland of the Hungarians somewhere in Kazakhstan. I wrote about them in an August 2010 post titled “Turanian tribal meeting in Hungary.”
Nándor Dreisziger, a Canadian-Hungarian historian, wrote an article on “Genetic Research and Hungarian ‘Deep Ancestry'” in which he described the Bíró-Zalán-Völgyi-Pamjav study’s conclusion as most likely untenable. As he said: “Crudely put, the argument used by Bíró and company sounds like this: the Madijars [whom the authors misleadingly called Madjars] are genetically extremely distant from all other populations, and they are very distant from Hungarians: therefore they must be the closest relatives of Hungarians.”
Those who believe in the Kazakh-Hungarian relationship are ideologically extreme, but one mustn’t think that this group includes only people attracted to Jobbik. Far from it. One year László Kövér, president of the Hungarian parliament, was the chief sponsor of the tribal meeting. Sándor Lezsák, who between 2006 and 2014 was the Fidesz deputy president of parliament, was one of the original organizers of the yearly gathering of men and women who play tribal games imitating life as they imagine it to have been in the tenth century or earlier somewhere on the steppes of Eurasia. Naturally, during these gatherings they are also treated to lectures about all aspects of their pseudo-history. Among the lecturers one often finds András Zs. Bíró. Most of the people involved in studying ancient Hungarian history are amateurs, and their research is bogus. But Viktor Orbán must have fallen for their stories about Hungary’s central Asian history.
Of course, propagating a false account of the origin of Hungarians is bad enough, but going so far as to to show a preference for a country where there is a brutal dictatorship takes one’s breath away. I know, I promised that I wouldn’t write about politics today, so I’ll stop on that “breath-less” note.