A Word on Hungarian Ancient History

The origins and distant past of the Hungarians has always been an exciting question. Originally a topic which held the interest of rulers , the aristocracy, court historians and priests, a long line of scholars have scientifically examined it over the past few centuries. By examining the facts from different angles linguists, archeologists, anthropologists, biologists, ethnographers and historians have reached different conclusions. However, the result of these debates has been the crystallization of two main theories: one supports a nomadic equestrian Scythian-Hun-Avar-Turkic origin, while the other suggests a hunter-gatherer people of lakes and forests of Finno-Ugric origin. Only fragments remain of a written account of Hungary’s ancient history, the Gesta Hungarorum, stolen or destroyed during the Mongol invasion of 1241. Contemporary foreign sources (Greek, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Byzantine, Chinese, Latin, German, Slavic etc.), which could provide more information on the question, are either equally fragmentary or still lie uncovered. Many of Hungary’s outstanding scholars have devoted their lives to the research of the ancient homeland and the origins of the Hungarian people. A Dominican monk, Friar Julianus, brought news of a group of Hungarians who had remained in the ancient homeland, the Volga region, called Magna Hungaria, and the impending Mongol invasion endangering all of Europe, back with him after his travel to the area, in 1235. Almost six hundred year later Sándor Csoma Kőrösi, a son of the Székely land in Transylvania, set out for the Middle East through Persia, India and Tibet, amidst extraordinary circumstances, to find the ancient Asian homeland of the Hungarians.

Antal Reguly went to Czarist Russia and, living under extenuating circumstances, researched the Ugric people living in the Ural region. Even greater trials and tribulations awaited Ármin Vámbéry, who traveled the mysterious regions of Central Asia, Kyiv and Samarqand cities, like a wandering Turkish dervish, in 1860. Aurél Stein made sensational discoveries in the unknown regions of Central Asia while serving in the British armed forces, from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th. Several other outstanding Hungarian scholars have also gone on expeditions in search of the ancient homeland: to the Caucasian Mountains, the Turanian plains, the Azov Ocean region and other regions of Asia. The most recent expedition went to the land of the Uigors and to Nepal, to do research among tribes who still use a runic alphabet.

The struggle of scholars to provide an answer has had a generative effect, but also raises many questions still to be clarified. The task of further research into Hungarian ancient history now lies in the hands of future generations.

(I. B.)

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