Friday, September 7, 2007

Magyars

When you look at the fat history books on the shelf, it is easy to think that historians have figured everything out. But then you come up against something like the Magyars and where they came from, and you realize that there are some blank regions on the maps of history. Historians generally agree that around 890, the Magyars came from the Crimean region to the Hungarian Plain, founding Hungary. The interesting part is figuring out where the Magyars came from before that.

When they first appear in history, the Magyars were in Asia Minor, but their language is closer to Finnish, so many historians think they may have originated in the central Russia, then migrated south to the Crimean around 460 CE. According to Infoplease, "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."

But Magyars have many Asiatic features, and at least a few people think that they originated in the vast grassland of central Asia, an an area known as the Turanian Plain, and somehow transferred their language to the Finnish people. "It is possible that Finns and Ugors received strong linguistic strains from a Magyar branch which had broken away from the main body on the Turanian Plain [ancient Scythia], and migrated to West Siberia." This would fit in with Magyar folklore, which holds that the Magyars were related to the Scythians.

So based on language, the Magyars came from central Russia; based on lifestyle and physical characteristics, they came from the plains of central Asia. As far as I can tell, there is no evolving consensus yet - so when I wrote about the Magyars and their attacks on Europe around 900 CE, I simply ignored their pre-ninth century origins.

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