FROM THE URALS TO HUNGARY
The theory of Finno-Ugric origin was represented mainly by linguists after the Compromise of 1867. Though the concept of kinship with the Huns was also definitive until the end of the 18th century, the famous psalm translator, Albert Szenczi Molnár’s opinion of 1610, according to which Hungarian is a “language with no relatives” in all of Europe, also held strong.
Latin, which had been the language of education, written literature, ecclesiastic and official life, was being used less and less in favor of the languages of the ethnic groups in all areas towards the end of the 18th century. In preparing grammar books and dictionaries more and more research was made into the origins of the languages and related languages. János Sajnovics, a Jesuit monk, published a work in which he compares and relates Hungarian and Lapp words in 1770. Sámuel Gyarmathi published his findings on mutual characteristics of Finno-Ugric languages (Finnish, Estonian, Lapp, Komi/Zuryen, Mari/Cheremis, Khanti/Ostyak, Manyshi/Vogul etc.) thirty years later.
According to scholars in agreement about the theory of Finno-Ugric origin, ancient Finno-Ugric people of the Ural region, including the ancestors of the Hungarians, were a peaceful hunter-gatherer people inhabiting the forested woodlands of the Volga and Kama rivers for thousands of years. They were occasionally driven farther away and forced to migrate by more aggressive nomadic tribes wandering from the steppes of the east and south, like the Huns and the Avars. They eventually forged lasting relationships with neighboring Bulgarian-Turkish, Turkic, Alan and other people of the steppes. Centuries of contact and mixing between the peaceful hunter-gatherers and the nomadic shepherds resulted in the formation of a Hungarian tribal community who spoke a mutual language, first by separation from the Finnish-Permic groups and later from related Ugric groups, between the years 500 BC – 300 AD. This group created Magna Hungaria, or “Greater Hungary” in what is Bashkiria today.
Magna Hungaria was a part of the Khazar Empire. Under the authority of the Khazars Ancient Hungarians learned many trades and how to till the earth from the Khazars themselves as well as several other neighboring peoples. Eventually the ancient Hungarian tribes grew increasingly strong and independent, and a large number of them separated from the empire, along with rebelling Kabars, in the early 9th century, and headed west with its people and herds. In the region of the Azov Sea, in Levédia, along the banks of the Don River, the seven chiefs of the seven major clans, which up to that point had formed but a loose alliance, made a blood treaty with each other according to nomadic custom, to consecrate a more formal alliance with each other, thereby forming a principality. They chose Álmos as their leader, or Kende, who originated himself from a Turul bird, and cutting their arms they let their blood into a dish vowing to:
- always choose their leader from Álmos’s clan as long as it has living members;
- always divide collectively acquired possessions fairly;
- have the two leaders, the kende and the gyula, who was in charge of military operations, ask for the opinion of tribal leaders and their sons before making decisions;
- disloyal clan leaders and their relatives shall pay with their blood, for disobedience and treason;
- the leader who breaks his vows, and his descendents, will be under an eternal curse.
At the push of the migration of nomadic peoples towards Europe from Asia the officially allied Hungarian tribes continued to wander, eventually settling down in the grassy region between the Dnyeper and Dnyester rivers called Etelköz. The area was rich in good pastures, forests, fish and game, but was at the same time unprotected from equestrian nomads attacking from the east. Hungarian horsemen themselves were by no means weak: they had often been to battle at the invitation of various West and South-European rulers and were paid well or rewarded with the spoils for it. According to contemporary literature they were able to muster an army of twenty thousand soldiers. They knew their environment well, having made forays into many lands, in all probability including the Danube and Tisza region lying within the protective circle of the Carpathian Mountains. When Etelköz was attacked by Bulgarian troops from the south and Uz and Pecheneg horsemen from the east, Hungarians looked for a new home in the sparsely inhabited pasture and water-rich environs of the Carpathian Basin.