Magyars

Magyars (mŏdˈyärz, măgˈyärz) [key], the dominant people of Hungary, but also living in Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, and Serbia. Although in the past it was thought a common origin existed among the Magyars, the Huns, the Mongols, and the Turks, modern research has disproved this claim. The only similarity between the Magyars and the peoples named above was their mode of life when they first appeared in Europe in the 9th cent. The Magyar or Hungarian language belongs to the Finno-Ugric family. A nomadic nation, the Magyars migrated (c.460) from the Urals to the Northern Caucasus region. They remained there for about 400 years; during a portion of that time they were allied with the Khazars. Contact with Turkic peoples seems to have been close, for many Magyar words of Turkish origin, relating to animal husbandry and political and military organization, were in use before the 9th cent. Late in the 9th cent. the advance of the Pechenegs forced the Magyars westward across S Russia and into present Romania. Under their leader Arpad they defeated the Bulgar czar Simeon I, but Simeon, with the help of the Pechenegs, forced them northward into Hungary, which they permanently settled c.895. They were described as ferocious warriors. They conquered Moravia and penetrated deep into Germany until they were checked (955) by Holy Roman Emperor Otto I at the Lechfeld. Under St. Stephen, Christianity was introduced early in the 11th cent., and the Magyars consolidated their state. They absorbed the other ethnic groups of Hungary proper. The Székely are presumably closely related to them. The terms Magyar and Hungarian are identical, but in non-Hungarian languages the word Magyar is frequently used to distinguish the Hungarian-speaking population of Hungary from the German, Slavic, and Romanian minorities, which were considerable until the end of World War I, when Hungary lost its border provinces. For Magyar literature, see Hungarian literature.

See I. M. Bobula, Origin of the Hungarian Nation (1966); C. A. Macartney, The Magyars in the Ninth Century (1930, repr. 1978).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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