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Hungary Ethnic Groups

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Hungary is a major nation of Eastern Europe. In this lesson, we'll look at the various ethnic groups of Hungary, and see what this means to the nation today.

Hungary

Who's Hungary? No, seriously I'm asking - who are these people? I guess technically I should be asking 'who's Hungarian?', shouldn't I? The nation of Hungary is located in Eastern Europe, in that region of the world where Europe and Asia begin to blend together. This makes Hungary very interesting, and much of Hungarian history a little bit of a mystery. Overall, understanding Hungary and the Hungarian people provides some very interesting research questions, and that makes us Hungary for more.

Hungary
Hungary

The Hungarian Ethnicity

Like most parts of Eastern Europe, the nation of Hungary exists primarily as the home of a single ethnic group. In this case, that would be the Hungarians. Roughly 86% of people in Hungary identify as ethnically Hungarian, although in general they prefer the term Magyar. With this we arrive at our first mystery of Hungarian identity. Multiple sources have provided evidence as to the origins of the terms Magyar and Hungarian, and both appear throughout ancient texts. However, we're not sure exactly where each term originated or how they differentiated over time. Regardless, most Hungarians today consider themselves Magyar.

Most people in Hungary are ethnically Hungarian (Magyar)
Hungarian dolls

One way we can look at this question is through linguistics. The Magyar, or Hungarian, language belongs to the Uralic language family. This group of languages, which today include some 38 varieties, are mostly centered around northern Eurasia in places like Finland, Estonia, and of course, Hungary. These languages are distinct from the Indo-European languages that dominate most of Europe, which suggests that the Hungarian people had different ancestral origins, likely from northwestern Asia more than Europe. Today, Hungarian is the most widely spoken of the non-Indo-European languages in Europe.

The Hungarian language is still widely spoken today
Hungarian

Regardless of their ancestral history, modern day Hungarian (Magyar) people are genetically much more connected to Central and Northern Europe than their ancestors. In 1000 CE Hungary was formally organized as a Christian kingdom, bringing it culturally within European borders. Hungary became something of the gateway to Europe and buffer between Ottoman Turkish imperial designs and the other European kingdoms. This meant a lot of Europeans traveling to Hungary over the years, contributing to the gene pool, while fewer people of Western Asia were welcomed into the kingdom.

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