The Kinship Between Huns and Hungarians

The outstanding writer and national educator of the twentieth century, Gyula Illyés, considered both Finno-Ugric peoples, as well as the Scythians, ancestors of present day Hungarians, and writes about the kinship between Huns and Hungarians in his essay entitled Who is Hungarian? published in 1939, excerpts of which follow here:

‘On the kinship between the Huns and the Hungarian
Oral tradition has preserved this historical fact in the legend of Hunor and Magyar. How do we know that it really happened the way the legend describes it? From simple evidence: the language we speak to this day. Words divulge everything, even history. They reveal how our ancestors lived in the forests of the North before the brave peoples from the East carried them away. From the fact that the Voguls, still living a very simple life, have basically the same words for house, bed and pot as the Hungarian language, we can conclude not only that the Hungarian words, but also the Hungarian version of the objects themselves were similar to those used by the Voguls. This shared lifestyle was very primitive indeed. Food names, also similar in both languages, (bream, bass, goose, millet, honey, strawberry, berry) attest to the fact that there were not many types to choose from. From words we are able to follow what new things our ancestors became familiar with, and how and through whom they learned about them. Our ancestors learned the most from their forefathers, a people roaming west from China, relatives of the Huns. These people were not only brave: they were extremely erudite for their time, for the most developed part of the world in those days was China, and a good warrior always familiarizes himself with the methods of his enemy.

We are Magyari!
It is certain that the ancient Hungarians spoke two languages for a very long time after arriving to the Carpathian Basin. After a while, however, the fusion of the two languages became complete with that of the silent forest-dwellers gaining the upper hand. This new peoples expressed this unity with the very name it gave itself: the name of the peaceful fishermen, Manyshi or Manysh, was supplemented by the word ‘eri’, which in the warriors’ language meant man, or someone’s man. This is how the name ‘Manysheri’ was created, meaning ‘men from the Manysh tribe’, which later took the form of Magyeri or Magyari. There are many areas of Hungary where even in the not so distant past, when asked, the inhabitants replied: We are Magyari.

Árpád, descendant of Attila
The Magyari’s, who had migrated south, belonged under the great Hun Empire. Did they take part in Attila’s European conquests? Had they been to the territory of Hungary then? In Hungarian folk tradition the Hungarians and the Huns are one and the same, because they were the ones who organized and lead the migrating torrent of peoples. According to most recent scientific research the only proven fact is that Árpád’s clan was of Hun origin. It is also probable that Árpád himself was directly descended from Attila, and was therefore a member of his family. After Attila’s death the Huns disappeared not only from Europe, but from Asia as well, as if the Earth had swallowed them. Is it possible for such a large nation to disappear so fast and without a trace?

The Huns change their name
It is not probable, nor it is possible. The Huns themselves did not disappear: only their name. The nation either took on or received a different name. It did not loose its power, either. After Attila’s death it was only the western part of the empire that had been lost, not the eastern. As a matter of fact the nation’s ranks increased: other Hun-related Altaic peoples compensated for losses the Huns suffered when pulling back. These many related peoples of the empire eventually merged and the ‘new’ country was not called the Hun Empire any longer, but the ‘land of the mixed’, or in ancient-Altaic the ‘Empire of the Bulgarians’.

Tradition has it that after a terrible fratricidal war Prince Csaba led a group of Hun warriors back to the ancient homeland over the Milky Way. According to historical data Prince Csaba was called Irnik and he led his troops along the Lower Danube to the region of the Volga, Don and Dnyester rivers.

Seventy-five years later a descendant of Irnik named Muger was ruler of the Huns and the ‘mixed’. Hungarian chronicles call the leader of the ancient Hungarians Moger, the same word used for his people.

Attila’s heritage
Chronicles and modern history are in accordance with each other on this point. Nothing confutes that Muger, mentioned by Greek chroniclers, is not one and the same as Moger, whom a chronicle in Latin obviously refers to as Hungarian. The events from this point on are more lucid: they were taking place before the eyes of Byzantine historians.

Attila’s heritage continued to haunt the Hungarians. Prince Kurt, a member of the Gyula clan who lived between 619-678, tried to reinstate the power his people once had in Europe. He went to Byzantium and made an agreement with the Emperor. He was even christened. His plans were to become leader of the Avars, a related peoples living in the territory of present day Hungary, and to lead his people to the region between the Danube and Tisza River.

The people create a country, the country creates a nation
No nation was able to settle the territory of Hungary for very long, before the Hungarians. It was a dangerous place to live: a crossroads. Masses of people streamed through it often clashing with each other, warring, and driving each other off the land. The speed with which the Hungarian people created a homeland in this dangerous territory is a rare phenomenon of history. What is the explanation for this?

It lies in the unparalleled variety of the Hungarian people’s ethnic compilation. The two nations which became one so long ago, kept their basic characteristics. Hun descendants fought the way no other people in Europe could by then, and conquered the region immediately. Descendents of the peaceful hunter-gatherers, in turn, conquered the land and made peace with its inhabitants. Árpád’s nation was both conqueror and colonizer. Relatives of the Hun people are not only brave and outstanding organizers: they are also characteristically patient with the people they have conquered. Neither the Huns nor the Avars interfered with the traditions, religion or occupation of the people they conquered, but the same could be said about the Turkish conquerors of a much later age. The same was true of Árpád’s warriors. They did not drive out the people they conquered, and did not strive to integrate them against their will, which is precisely why these people eventually did integrate out of their own accord.

The Hungarians increased in number and were greatly enriched by these assimilated people. At the same time groups of people, both near and distant relatives of Árpád’s people (Cumanians, Jazygians, Pechenegs) continued arriving from the east upon hearing about the good, permanent homeland. They were followed by settlers from the west, whose assimilation did not weaken, but rather enriched the Hungarian people. By this time Hungarians were a unified strong nation whose country was a secure state. It had accepted everyone who would accept its customs, and who became Hungarian in both heart and soul by making the Hungarian language and mentality his own.

The Hungarian type
Nowadays there is a lot of talk all over the world about race and type, and the words used give rise for confusion since they are often not used properly. The word race does not mean the same as what we mean by type.

A race is a group whose members can reproduce with each other. There are several ‘races’, or species, of plants and animals, but in Hungarian all humanity belongs to the same race: the human race. Within the human race there are various different types according to skin color: white, yellow, bronze, black, and innumerable colors in between. Each major type contains several sub-types, which become increasingly difficult to define. In Europe there are blonde, tall, long-faced Germans, brown-haired, shorter, rounder-faced Alpinic people, black-haired, short, long-faced Mediterranean peoples, like the Italians, tall, round-faced Dinaric people, and Armenian-like peoples of Asia-Minor. There are two types, however, which scientists are unsure of. One of them is a group whose characteristics are dirty-blonde hair, mid-range in height, and round-faced, which we could define as Eastern-Baltic, or Ugric. Peoples related to the Finnish ethnic group belong in this category. The other group has similar characteristics: mid-range in height and round-faced, but with brown hair, or to be more precise ‘neither blond nor brown’. This type is referred to as the Turanian type, and Hungarians belong to this type since this type can only be found in Hungary.

What are Hungarians like today?
According to scientists approximately every fourth Hungarian person is 166 cm tall, has a round head with a high and domed forehead, reddish-brown facial coloring, broad cheekbones, relatively small mouth and ears, and animated eyes which are just a bit slanted. Science calls this type the Turanian, or Great Plains type, and adds: ‘further characteristics are soft instead of hard features, which are at the same time determined and especially animated expressing a unique brightness and affability, a trait all foreign visitors acknowledge’.

Of course this type of Hungarian is not characteristic of only the Great Plains. Ferenc Deák, Dániel Berzsenyi, Mihály Vörösmarty, all from Transdanubia, were all examples of this Turanian, Great Plains type, as well as Ferenc Rákóczi, who was from Transylvania and perhaps the most typical example of the type.
And what about the others, the tall, blonde type? They are Hungarians too, let us not be worried.

Present day scientific knowledge estimates that in a representative group of one hundred Hungarians twenty-five would belong to the Turanian type, twenty would be reminiscent of the Finno-Ugric, or Eastern Baltic type, which our hunter-gatherer ancestors belonged to, another twenty, represented mainly by the Nagykun and Jász group, would show Dinaric features, fifteen would carry traits of the Eastern or Alpinic type, five would have Mongolian features, another five would have Armenian, or Taurid, features, and only four could be considered as belonging to the Germanic, Teuto-Nordic type. If Hungarians could be divided into groups according to type, these are the groups they would be divided into.

But this, of course, is impossible, for we all carry these types in our blood: they have mingled not only within the country but also within our very selves. The son of a brown-haired Turanian father could be blonde with more Ugric features, whose own son, in turn, could have Mongol features, displaying the characteristics of an ancient ancestor. While his facial features could be from one type, he might have borrowed his size from another. And borrowing is just what happens, for the following generation might be of the purest Turanian type. There is, therefore, enough to choose from, something we should be grateful for: we will never bore of it. This is the lesson to be learned from the examination of physical traits.

It is not the similar physique, but the similar soul
For the unity of a nation, its true characteristics lie not in external traits. There are and have always been Hungarians, the greatest among them, whose very name was not Hungarian. Imagine what Sándor Petőfi would have said had someone disputed his Hungarian-ness, or Hungarian origin, simply because his father’s last name was Petrovich. He was indeed Hungarian. It is not physical similarities, which unify a nation, but rather a shared past, shared problems and the air of a shared homeland, which distinguish it from another people with a different past and different characteristics. He whose tongue and mind reels in Hungarian, is Hungarian.’

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