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Hungary is a landlocked nation in the heart of Europe and home to the Magyar people. It spans the plains between the Carpathian Mountains and the Alps and is known for its bloody history and unique culture. Hungary is an EU member and historically Catholic. Its official name has no kingdom or republic of before it; it is simply Hungary.

File:Hungary in Europe (-rivers -mini map).svg - Wikimedia ...That name comes from the Huns, who lived there in the 400s. Being the westernmost stretch of the Eurasian steppe, Hungary was often settled by nomads from the east. The last of these were the Magyars, who give Hungary its language and native name, Magyarország.

The Magyars (pronounced Madh-yar) were a coalition of tribes from the Ural Mountains who settled the Pannonian Basin in 895 under their leader Arpad. Over the following century, Magyar raiders terrorised Central Europe while the Vikings pillaged the west.

Saint Stephen I of Hungary Statue | Saint Stephen I ...St Stephen was crowned and baptised by Pope Sylvester II in the year 1000. The Magyars converted and settled down as a feudal kingdom far larger than the modern state.  Hungarians still celebrate their patron saint’s feast day as a public holiday. The crown of Saint Stephen’s characteristic bent comes from when it was dropped on the frozen Danube in the 1600s.

The Curse of Turan explains the tragedies of Hungarian history. According to legend, the Magyar shamans cursed St Stephen and his people for abandoning the old gods. The curse explains:

  • Hungary’s fall to the Mongols in 1241
  • Hungary’s fall to the Ottomans in 1526
  • The failure of the 1848 revolution against the Habsburgs
  • The 1917 Treaty of Trianon, which stripped 72% of Hungary’s territory
  • Hungary’s disastrous alliance with Germany in WW2
  • The failure of the 1956 revolution against Stalin

Budapest lies on the banks of the Danube. Hungary’s capital, it was once three towns – Buda, Pest and Obuda, which converged in 1873. The city houses notable landmarks and monuments, including:

  • St Stephen’s Basilica, built 1905.
  • Buda Castle (below), built 1265, expanded 1765. A UNESCO world heritage site.
  • Dohány Street Synagogue, built 1859. Europe’s largest.
  • Fisherman’s Bastion, built 1902

Buda Castle Pictures: View Photos & Images of Buda CastleHungarian is Europe’s most unique language. Belonging to the Finno-Ugric family, its nearest European relatives are Finnish and Estonian though even they are distant: German is closer to Hindi than Hungarian is to Finnish. Its bewildering phonology makes Hungarian one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn.

Roma form Hungary’s largest ethnic minority and have lived there since the Middle Ages. Official censuses count them as 3% of Hungary’s 10 million, though the actual number is likely far higher.

Crown of Saint Stephen – Budapest | Sygic TravelAfter King Louis II fell at the Battle of Mohács in 1526, the Hungarian crown passed to the Habsburgs of Austria. From 1867-1918 they ruled Austria-Hungary as a ‘Dual Monarchy’ on equal footing. Hungary became a parliamentary democracy in 1989. Since 2010, strongman Viktor Orban has ruled on an authoritarian and anti-immigrant platform.

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Turanism asserts a common Inner Asian identity with racial overtones. Born in the 1800s, it was Hungary and Turkey’s answer to pan-Slavic and German nationalism. Turanism assigns racial identity to the (now debunked) Ural-Altaic language family, as Aryanism did Indo-European. At best it promotes exploring cultural and linguistic ties between varied peoples, at worst genocide and hate. Though long fallen from grace, Turanist thought still lives in the far-right corners of Turkish and Hungarian politics.

Turanism was born in Europe’s nationalist zeitgeist. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, old empires and principalities were redrawn along ethnic and linguistic lines. Prussia and Russia emphasised pan-Germanic and Slavic heritage respectively and the discovery of the Indo-European language family led to a supposed ‘Aryan race’. Hungarian, however, is not an Indo-European tongue; its speakers descend from the Eurasian Magyars. Slavic nationalism threatened Hungary’s hold on Eastern Europe and promoted worrying ties with rival Russia. As ethnic kinship came to supersede religious ties, Hungary needed new friends.

Herman Vambarry, Hungarian orientalist and the Ottoman Sultan’s former advisor, drew on the work of Finnish linguists to propose Hungarians and Turks shared a ‘Turanian’ origin – a master race heritage of their own – and therefore Hungary should look east, not west, in its alliances. The notion gained steam after 1918 when the western powers stripped Hungary of 72% of its territory and far-right thought took hold. Turanians comprise of not only Magyars and Turks, but all others supposedly descended from Central Asian conquerors. These include:

  • Turks (both Turkish and Central Asian)
  • Hungarians301 Moved Permanently
  • Bulgarians (considered ‘Slavicised Turanians’)
  • Finns
  • Estonians
  • Japanese
  • Koreans
  • Mongols
  • Tatars
  • Manchus
  • Sami
  • Indigenous Siberians

Turkey had its national awakening in the end days of the Ottoman Empire. Reformers stressed ethnic identity over religious: Turks were distinct from, even superior to, the Arabs, Kurds, Greeks and Armenians which they ruled. PART I: A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO PAN-TURANIANISM

Though pan-Turkism promoted solidarity with the Tartars and Central Asian Turks under Russian rule, Turanism went further. For Hungarian and Turkish nationalists, it provided a uniting ideology to counter the European powers, particularly Russia.

Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire fought on the same side in WW1, as did Hungary, Bulgaria, Finland and Japan in WW2. Both the Young Turks, who took over in 1908 and perpetrated the Armenian genocide, and Hungary’s Arrow Cross, who murdered 10,000 Jews and Roma in WW2, were committed Turanists.

Japanese Turanists advocated cooperation with Hungary and the takeover of Manchuria and eastern Russia.  The High Command disbanded Turanist societies after 1941 however, to pursue a pan-Asian stance instead.

Turanists believe their race is superior. Like the Nazis, they twist science and history to suit their needs. 20th century Turanists claimed:

  • Ancient Rome, Egypt, Greece and Sumeria were Turanian
  • Prophet Muhammad was a Turk, not an Arab
  • Native Americans are Turkic descended
  • A Turanian Empire once stretched across Inner Asia and should be recreated

The Beginning of the War Between Iran and Turan (Shahnameh ...‘Turan’ is the old Persian term for Central Asia. In Iranian literature, the Turanians were fearsome warriors and the nemeses of Persian heroes. They were likely Iranic Scythians, however, not the Turks who migrated later.

After WW2, Turanism died out in Finland and Communist Hungary. Modern Turanism, however, is an ideological staple of the Grey Wolves, a Turkish ultranationalist group, and far-right Jobbik, Hungary’s second-largest party.

Sources: American Political Science Review, Armenian, The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies, Hurriyet Daily News,

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Attila the Hun

Meaning, origin and history of the name Attila - Behind ...

Attila the Hun (400 – 453) is the most famous of the barbarian conquerors who destroyed the Roman Empire. He was the last and greatest leader of the Huns and built an empire covering Germany and most of Eastern Europe. Known as the ‘Scourge of God’, the name of Attila stirs fear to this day.

The Huns arrived in Ukraine in AD 370. Steppe nomads from the Eurasian interior, Huns practised cranial deformation and scarred the cheeks of their boys so they could not grow beards. Masters of mounted archery and psychological warfare, they terrified the peoples of Europe.

Rome, at the time, was still rich but split between east and west, ruled by weak men and overly reliant on barbarians to fight its wars. In the early 400s Germanic peoples like the Goths and Vandals, whose very names were bywords for terror and destruction, flooded the empire’s borders by force. The migrations shook Rome to its core. The Huns were behind it all.

5 greatest empires in ancient, medieval period, modern ...

The Hunnic Empire in AD 450

Attila was born in modern-day Hungary in 406. He shared the Hunnic crown with his brother Bleda until he murdered him and took over. Attila threw his armies against the Eastern Empire until they paid him off. His army included not only Huns but Skirians, Gepids, Sarmatians, Lombards and Ostrogoths – any peoples willing to join. By AD 450 he ruled Rome’s barbarian frontier.

Priscus was the only writer to have met Attila in person. He describes him as short but fierce, humble but ambitious, kind to his friends but ruthless to his foes. While his commanders lavished in Roman silver, Attila ate with wooden plates and utensils and dressed in a humble nomad’s robes. Like Dracula, he impaled his enemies on wooden stakes.

In 451, Attila went west.  Honoria, a Roman princess cloistered to an older man wrote to the king, offering herself as his bride, and all Gaul as her dowry.  Attila’s army crossed the Rhine. As he marched on Orleans, Aetius, a Roman commander who had spent his boyhood a hostage amongst the Huns, forged an unlikely alliance with Rome’s old enemies the Visigoths. They defeated Attila’s army at the Catalaunian Plains, near modern-day Chalons.  Attila withdrew to Germany and licked his wounds.

Next, he invaded Italy. Attila razed the city of Aquileia and marched on Rome. Pope Leo met Attila and persuaded him not to go further. Legend has it he reminded him of Alaric the Goth, who died shortly after sacking the eternal city in 410. God would punish Attila with the same fate were he to follow in Alaric’s footsteps. Attila did retreat, though it was less likely Leo’s words and more an outbreak of malaria in the ranks.

Attila the Hun’s mistake was never building a legacy. Centuries later Genghis Khan recognised that for steppe conquerors to survive, they had to adapt. He named an heir and adopted the customs of the conquered. Attila did not. He was content to remain a marauder for life, moving from place to place, burning cities and taking loot. When he died, the vassal tribes broke away and his sons and generals destroyed the empire fighting over the scraps. The last of the Huns were defeated by the Ostrogoths in 466. The rest joined other tribes or vanished eastward.

Attila the Hun bears a mixed legacy. He is loved in Germany and Hungary but hated in Italy and France. The Hungarians, despite arriving 800 years later, see him as an ancestral spirit.

The Western Roman Empire outlived Attila but fell in 476 when the Germanic general Odoacer deposed Emperor Romulus Augustulus. Both their fathers had ridden with Attila the Hun.

Sources: John Man – Attila, the Barbarian King who Challenged Rome

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