ⓘ Hungarian Turanism


ⓘ Hungarian Turanism

Hungarian Turanism is a diverse phenomenon that revolves around an identification or association of Hungarian history and people with the histories and peoples of Central Asia, Inner Asia or the Ural region. It includes many different conceptions and served as a guiding principle for many political movements. It was most lively in the second half of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century. It is related to the concept of Turanism.


1. Background

Hungarian nobiliary historical tradition considered the Turkish peoples the closest relatives of Hungarians. This tradition was preserved in medieval chronicles as early as the 13th century. According to Chronica Hungarorum, the Hungarians are descendants of the Huns, and came from the Asian parts of Scythia, and Turks share this Scythian origin with them. This tradition served as starting point for the scientific research of the ethnogenesis of Hungarian people, which began in the 18th century, in Hungary and abroad. Sandor Korosi Csoma the writer of the first Tibetan-English dictionary traveled to Asia in the strong belief that he could find the kindred of Magyars in Turkestan, amongst the Uyghurs.

Before the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin, the Hungarians were semi-nomadic and their culture was similar to other steppe peoples. Most scientists presume a Uralic homeland for the ancient Hungarian conquerors mainly on genealogical linguistic grounds, and on the basis of genetic research carried out on a limited number of ancient skeletons found in graves from the age of the conquest. The proto-Hungarian tribes lived in the Eurasian forest steppe zone, and so these ancient ancestors of Hungarians and their relationship with other equestrian nomadic peoples has been and still is a topic for research.

As a scientific movement, Turanism was concerned with research into Asian cultures in the context of Hungarian history and culture. It was embodied and represented by many scholars who had shared premises i.e. the Asian origin of the Hungarians, and their kinship with Asian peoples, and who arrived at the same or very similar conclusions. Turanism was a driving force in the development of Hungarian social sciences, especially linguistics, archaeology and Orientalism.

Political Turanism was born in the 19th century, in response to the growing influence of Pan-Germanism and Pan-Slavism, seen by Hungarians as very dangerous to the nation, and the state of Hungary, because the country had large ethnic German and Slavic populations. This political ideology originated in the work of the Finnish nationalist and linguist Matthias Alexander Castren, who championed the ideology of Pan-Turanism - the belief in the racial unity and future greatness of the Ural-Altaic peoples. He concluded that the Finns originated in Central Asia and far from being a small, isolated people, they were part of a larger community that included such peoples as the Magyars, the Turks, and the Mongols etc. Political Turanism was a romantic nationalist movement, which stressed the importance of common ancestry and cultural affinity between Hungarians and the peoples of the Caucasus and Inner and Central Asia, such as the Turks, Mongols, Parsi etc. It called for closer collaboration and political alliance between them and Hungary, as a means of securing and furthering shared interests and to counter the threats posed by the policies of the great powers of Europe. The idea for a "Turanian brotherhood and collaboration" was borrowed from the Pan-Slavic concept of "Slavic brotherhood and collaboration".

After the First World War, political Turanism played a role in the formation of Hungarian far-right ideologies because of its ethnic nationalist nature. It began to carry anti-Jewish sentiments and tried to show the "existence and superiority of a unified Hungarian race". Nonetheless, Andrew C. Janos asserts that Turanisms role in the interwar development of far-right ideologies was negligible.

In the communist era after the Second World War, Turanism was portrayed and vilified as an exclusively fascist ideology. Since the fall of communism in 1989 there has been a renewal of interest in Turanism.


2.1. Its roots, origins, and development The beginnings

Friedrich Max Muller, the German Orientalist and philologist, published and proposed a new grouping of the non-Aryan and non-Semitic Asian languages in 1855. In his work "The languages of the seat of war in the East. With a survey of the three families of language, Semitic, Arian, and Turanian." he called these languages "Turanian". Muller divided this group into two subgroups, the Southern Division, and the Northern Division. Hungarian language was classed by him as a member of this Northern Division, in the Finnic Class, in the Ugric Branch, with the Voguls and Ugro-Ostiakes as closest relatives. His theory was well known and widely discussed in international scientific circles, and was known to Hungarian scientists as well. He was invited to Budapest, the Hungarian capital, by Armin Vambery, the Orientalist and Turkologist, in 1874, and become an associate member of the Hungarian Aceademy of Sciences. His public lectures received wide attention, and his terms "Turan" and "Turanian" become denizens in Hungarian language as "Turan" and "turani". The meaning of these terms was never defined officially. Vambery himself used "Turan" to denote the areas of Eastern Balkan, Central and Inner Asia inhabited by Turkic peoples, and used "Turanian" to denote those Turkic peoples and languages and he meant the Finno-Ugric peoples and languages as the members of this group, which lived in or originated from this "Turan" area. Hungarian scientists shared his definition. But in common parlance these terms were used in many and often different meanings and senses.

Hungarians have had a thousand year old, and still living tradition about the Asian origins of Magyars. This tradition was preserved in medieval chronicles such as Gesta Hungarorum and Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum as early as the 13th century. This tradition served as starting point for the scientific research of the ethnogenesis of Hungarian people, which began in the 18th century, in Hungary and abroad. Sandor Korosi Csoma the writer of the first Tibetan-English dictionary traveled to Asia in the strong belief that he could find the kindred of Magyars in Turkestan, amongst the Uyghurs.

".when Korosi set off for the search of the ancient homeland of Magyars and the left behind Magyars, he considered that he might find those somewhere in Central Asia, respectively amongst the Uighurs."

Vambery Armin had the same motivation for his travels to Asia and the Ottoman Empire.

".from this came my hope, that with the help of comparative linguistics I could find a ray of light in Central Asia, which dispels the gloom over the dark corners of Hungarian prehistory."

". kovetkezett tehat ebbol az a remenysegem, hogy Kozepazsiaban az osszehasonlito nyelvtudomany segitsegevel vilagossagot veto sugarat lelhetek, mely eloszlatja a homalyt a magyar ostortenelem sotet tajairol." in: Vambery Armin: Kuzdelmeim. Ch.IV. p. 62.

The linguistic theories of the Dutch philosopher Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn and the German thinker Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz gave the real basis of the modern scientific research of the origin of the Hungarian language and people. Boxhorn conjectured that the European and Indo-Iranian languages were all derived from a shared ancestor language, and he named this ancestor language "Scythian", after the equestrian, nomadic warriors of the Asian steppes. But linguists theorizing about ancestor languages had to deal with the common belief of the era, that, according to the Bible, Hebrew was the original language of all humans. Leibniz published material countering the Biblical theory, and supported Boxhorns notion of a Scythian ancestor language.

"Information about hither-to unknown peoples and languages of Asia and the Americas came into the hands of scholars such as Gottfried Leibniz, who recognized that there was no better method" for specifying the relationship and origin of the various peoples of the earth, than the comparison of their languages”. In order to classify as many languages as possible in genealogical groupings, Leibniz proposed that similar materials be collected from each newly described language. To this end he asked that explorers either obtain translations of well-known Christian prayers such as the Pater Noster, or, better yet," words for common things” vocabula rerum vulgarium, a sample list of which he appended to a letter to the Turkologist D. Podesta Leibniz 1768/1989b.The word list included numerals, kinship terms, body parts, necessitates, naturalia and a dozen verbs. Leibniz took a particular interest in the expansion of the Russian Empire southward and eastward, and lists based on his model were taken on expeditions sent by the tsars to study the territories recently brought under their control, as well as the peoples living on these and on nearby lands." Kevin Tuite: The rise and fall and revival of the Ibero-Caucasian hypothesis. 2008. in: Historiographia Linguistica, 35 #1; p. 23-82.

Leibniz recognized that the Semitic languages such as Hebrew and Arabic, and some European languages like Sami, Finnish, and Hungarian did not belong to the same language family as most of the languages of Europe. He recognized the connection between the Finnish languages and Hungarian. He placed the original homeland of the Hungarians to the Volga-Caspian Sea region.

These theories had a great impact on the research of the origins of the Hungarian language and the ethnogenesis of Hungarian nation. Both of the two main views/theories about the origin of the Hungarian people and language, the one about the Turkic origin, and the other about the Finno-Ugric origin had their scientific roots in them.

In fact, the Turkic theory matched the tradition the Gestas and historical sources like the works of Constantine VII and Leo VI the Wise better, but the accounts and works of travelers like Swedish Philip Johan von Strahlenberg published in his work:" An historico-geographical description of the north and east parts of Europe and Asia turned the attention to the "Finnish-Hungarian connection".

Johann Eberhard Fischer 1697-1771 was a German historian and language researcher, who participated in the Great Northern Expedition of 1733-1743. In his work" Qvaestiones Petropolitanae, De origine Ungrorum”, published in 1770, he put Hungarian into a group of kindred peoples and languages which he called Scythian. He considered the Ugric peoples he called them Jugors’, these are the Khanty and Mansi the closest relatives of Hungarians, actually as Magyars left behind’, and originated them from the Uyghurs, who live on the western frontiers of China.

The followers of the "Turkist" and "Ugrist" theories lived together peacefully, and the theories were refined as science developed. and Matthias Castren recognized the similarities and connection between Finn-Ugric and Altaic languages. The German linguist and Orientalist Schott was a proponent of Finn-Turk-Hungarian kinship, and considered the Hungarians a mixture of Turks and Hyperboreans / i.e. Saami, Samoyed etc) The discourse remained fully scientific up until the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 and the 1848-49 War of Independence but after the bitter experiences of the war and the defeat everything got political overtones.

". the Sun went down into a sea of blood. The night of immeasurable grief fell on Hungary; her noblest powers were broken. Even the gates of scientific institutions became closed."

". a Nap vertengerbe aldozott le. Magyarorszagra a merhetetlen gyasznak ejszakaja borult; legnemesebb eroi torve voltak. Meg a tudomanyos intezetek kapui is bezarultak." in: Herman Otto: Petenyi J. S. a magyar tudomanyos madartan megalapitoja. p. 39.


2.2. Its roots, origins, and development The role of the Habsburgs

Hungarys constitution and her territorial integrity were abolished, and her territory was partitioned into crown lands. This signalled the start of a long era of absolutist rule. The Habsburgs introduced dictatorial rule, and every aspect of Hungarian life was put under close scrutiny and governmental control. Press and theatrical/public performances were censored.

German became the official language of public administration. The edict issued on 1849.X.9. Grundsatze fur die provisorische Organisation des Unterrichtswesens in dem Kronlande Ungarn, placed education under state control, the curriculum was prescribed and controlled by the state, the education of national history was confined, and history was educated from a Habsburg viewpoint. Even the bastion of Hungarian culture, the Academy was kept under control: the institution was staffed with foreigners, mostly Germans and ethnic Germans, and the institution was practically defunct until the end of 1858. Hungarians responded with passive resistance. Questions of nation, language, national origin became politically sensitive matters. Anti-Habsburg and anti-German sentiments were strong. A large number of freedom fighters took refuge in the Ottoman Empire. This resulted in renewed cultural exchange, and mutual sympathy. Turks were seen by many as good allies of the Hungarian cause. Such was the atmosphere, when Vambery traveled to Constantinople in 1857 for the first time.

"It should happen and it will happen - I encouraged myself with this, and did not hurt me other problems, just this one: how could I get a passport from the strict and suspicious Austrian authorities, and exactly to Turkey, where the Hungarian emigration resided, and, was believed in Vienna, made rebellious plans tirelessly."

Mennie kell es menni fog, - ezzel biztattam magam es nem bantott mas gond, csak az egy: hogy mi uton-modon kaphatok utlevelet a szigoru es gyanakvo osztrak hatosagtol; hozza meg epen Torokorszagba, hol akkor a magyar emigraczio tartotta szeket es, mint Becsben hittek, partuto terveket szo faradhatatlanul. in: Vambery Armin: Kuzdelmeim. Ch. IV. p. 42.

And this atmosphere granted public interest for the then new theory of Max Muller. The Habsburg government saw this "Turkism" as dangerous to the empire, but had no means to suppress it) dreamed about Eastern land grabs)

As a consequence of the Franco-Austrian War and the Austro-Prussian War, the Habsburg Empire was on the verge of collapse in 1866, because these misfortunate military endeavours resulted in increased state spending, speeding inflation, towering state debts and financial crisis.

The Habsburgs were forced to reconcile with Hungary, to save their empire and dynasty. The Habsburgs and part of the Hungarian political elite arranged the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. The Compromise was arranged and legitimated by a very small part of the Hungarian society suffrage was very limited: less than 8 percent of the population had voting rights, and was seen by a very large part of the population as betrayal of the Hungarian cause and the heritage of the 1848-49 War of Independence. This caused deep and lasting cracks in Hungarian society. Academic science remained under state scrutiny and pressure, and press remained under albeit more permissive censorship. Matters of nation, language, national origin remained politically sensitive themes, and Turkism remained popular.

"However, to get the Compromise accepted within the society posed serious difficulties. Many counties rejected the Compromise and stood up for Kossuth, the opposition organized a network of Democratic circles, on the Great Hungarian Plain anti-government and anti-Compromise demonstrations of several thousand men took place, etc. The government, suspending its liberal principles, decided to take firm counter moves: imprisoned Laszlo Boszormenyi who published the Kossuth letters, banned the Democratic circles, sent a royal commissioner to the most resistant Heves County. The stabilization of the system and the admittance of new political institutions, however, still dragged on for years."

Viszont a kiegyezes elfogadtatasa a tarsadalommal, komoly nehezsegekbe utkozott. Tobb megye elutasitotta a kiegyezest es kiallt Kossuth mellett, az ellenzek megszervezte a demokrata korok halozatat, az Alfoldon tobbezres kormany- es kiegyezes-ellenes nepgyulesekre kerult sor stb. A kormany, felfuggesztve liberalis elveit, hatarozott ellenlepesekre szanta el magat: bebortonozte a Kossuth leveleit kozlo Boszormenyi Laszlot, betiltotta a demokrata koroket, a leginkabb ellenallo Heves megyebe pedig kiralyi biztost kuldott. A rendszer stabilizalasa es az uj politikai intezmenyek elfogadasa azonban meg igy is evekig elhuzodott. in: Cieger Andras: Kormany a merlegen - a mult szazadban.


2.3. Its roots, origins, and development Armin Vamberys work

Vambery started his second journey into Asia in July 1861 with the approval and monetary help of the Akademia and its president, Emil Dessewffy. After a long and perilous journey he arrived at Pest in May 1864. He went to London to arrange the English language publication of his book about the travels. "Travels in Central Asia" and its Hungarian counterpart "Kozep-azsiai utazas" were published in 1865. Thanks to his travels Vambery became an internationally renowned writer and celebrity. He became acquainted with members of British social elite. The Ambassador of Austria in London gave him a letter of recommendation to the Emperor, who received him in an audience and rewarded Vamberys international success by granting him professorship in the Royal University of Pest.

Vambery published his "Vambery Armin vazlatai Kozep-Azsiabol. Ujabb adalekok az oxusmelleki orszagok nepismereti, tarsadalmi es politikai viszonyaihoz." in 1868. Perhaps this was the first instance of the use of the word "turani" in a Hungarian language scientific text.

At the beginning of Hungarian Turanism, some of its notable promoters and researchers, like Armin Vambery, Vilmos Hevesy, Also known as Wilhelm von Hevesy1877-1945 He was the older brother of Gyorgy Hevesy, and an electrical engineer by profession, although he was kind of a Finno-Ugrist publishing books and other writings about the Finno-Ugric-Munda kinship, like "Munda-Magyar-Maori, an Indian link between the antipodes new tracks of Hungarian origins" and "Finnisch-Ugrisches aus Indien" in the 1920s and 30s) and Ignac Goldziher were Jewish or of Jewish descent.

Vambery was a key figure in the development of Turanism, and in the development of the "scientific consciousness" of the general public. He was a talented writer: he presented serious scientific matters in an interesting, readable manner. His enjoyable books and other writings, presenting customs, traditions and culture of far-flung peoples and faraway places were key in raising wide public interest in ethnography, ethnology and history. In fact, the power of his books, coupled with the widespread disillusionment about the political elite turned public attention to the lower classes and peasantry, as better heirs and keepers of real Hungarian legacy.

Vamberys later work, entitled "Magyar es torok-tatar szoegyezesek." and published in 1869-70, was the casus belli of the "Ugor-torok haboru" "Ugric-Turk War", which started as a scientific dispute, but quickly turned into a long-lasting it raged for two decades bitter feud. In this work Vambery tried to prove with the help of word comparisons, that as a result of intermingling of the early Hungarians with Turkic peoples, the Hungarian language got a distinct dual Ugric AND Turkic character, albeit it is basically Ugric in origin, so he presented a variant of linguistic contact theory.

".the Hungarian language is Ugric in its origin, but because the nations later contact and historical transformation it is equally Ugric and Turkic in character."

". a magyar nyelv eredeteben ugor, de a nemzet kesobbi erintkezese es torteneti atalakulasanal fogva egyforman ugor es torok jellemu." in: Vambery Armin: Magyar es torok-tatar szoegyezesek. p. 120.


2.4. Its roots, origins, and development The "Ugric-Turkic War"

"The fight, which my fanatical opponents, regrettably, brought over also to the field of personal remarks, lasted quite a long time, but the old Latin proverb was proven once again: Philologi certant, tamen sub judice lis."

A kuzdelem, melyet fanatikus ellenfeleim, sajnos, atvittek a szemelyeskedes terere is, eltartott jo sokaig, de ezuttal is bevalt a regi diak kozmondas: Philologi certant, tamen sub judice lis. in: Vambery Armin: Kuzdelmeim. Ch. IX. p. 130.

Vamberys work was criticized by Finno-Ugrist Jozsef Budenz in "Jelentes Vambery Armin magyar-torok szoegyezeserol.", published in 1871. Budenz criticised Vambery and his work in an aggressive, derogatory style, and questioned Vamberys scientific honesty and credibility.

The historian Henrik Marczali, linguist Karoly Pozder, linguist Jozsef Thury, anthropologist Aurel Torok, and others supported Vambery.

The Finn-Ugrist Pal Hunfalvy widened the front of the "Ugric-Turk War" with his book "Magyarorszag ethnographiaja.", published in 1876. In this book he stresses the very strong connection between language and nation p. 48., tries to prove that the Huns were Finn-Ugric p. 122., questions the credibility and origin of the Gestas p. 295., concludes that the Huns, Bulgars and Avars were Ugric p. 393., mentions, that the Jews are more prolific than other peoples, so the quickly growing number of them presents a real menace for the nation p. 420., and stresses what an important and eminent role the Germans played in the development of Hungarian culture and economy p. 424.

In his work titled "Vambery Armin: A magyarok eredete. Ethnologiai tanulmany.", and published in 1882, Vambery went a step further, and presented a newer version of his theory, in which he claimed that Hungarian nation and language are basically Turkic in origin, and the Finn-Ugric element in them is a result of later contact and intermingling.

".I see a compound people in Hungarians, in which not the Finn-Ugric, but the Turkic-Tatar component gives the true core."

". a magyarban vegyulek nepet latok, a melyben nem finn-ugor, hanem torok-tatar elem kepezi a tulajdonkepeni magvat." in: Vambery Armin: A magyarok eredete. Ethnologiai tanulmany. Preface. p. VI.

Vamberys work was criticized heavily by his Finno-Ugrist opponents. This critique gave rise to the ever-circling myth of the "fish-smelling kinship" and its variants. No one of the authors has ever given the written source/base of this accusation against the Turanist scientists. In fact, Turanist scientists did not write such things about the Finn-Ugric peoples, and Vambery and his followers mentioned these kin of Hungarians with due respect. In reality it was coined by the Finno-Ugrist Ferdinand Barna, in his work "Vambery Armin A magyarok eredete czimu muve nehany fobb allitasanak biralata." Critique of some main statements of Armin Vambery’s work, titled The origin of Hungarians’.” published in 1884. In this work Barna called the Finno-Ugric peoples "a petty, fish fat eating people spending their woeful lives with fish- and easel-catching", and tried to give this colorful description of his into Vambery’s mouth.

Vambery held to his scientific theory about the mixed origin of Hungarian language and people till his death. He considered Hungarian a contact language, more precisely a mixed language, having not just one but two Finno-Ugric AND Turkic genetic ancestors. His strongest evidences were the large corpus of ancient Turkish words in Hungarian word-stock 300-400 for a minimum, and even more with good alternative Turkic etymologies, and the strong typological similarity of Hungarian and Turkic languages. His Finno-Ugrist opponents strongly rejected not only the fact of such mixing and dual ancestry, but even the theoretical possibility of it. But, in the context of linguistics the use of a strictly binary family tree model proved unfruitful and problematic over the years. We have seen the Uralic tree disintegrate and flatten into a" comb”, and the place of Samoyedic languages and Yukaghir languages within/in relation to the other members is still very problematic. Some scientists questioned seriously even the existence of Uralic as valid language family, and attention turned towards the complex areal relations and interactions of Eurasian languages Uralic and Altaic languages included. In the light of these developments linguists have started to pay due credit to Vambery and his work.

In connection with Vamberys work and the ensuing Ugric-Turkic War it is worth recalling the thoughts of linguist Maarten Mous: "Mixed languages pose a challenge to historical linguistics because these languages defy classification. One attitude towards mixed languages has been that they simply do not exist, and that the claims for mixed languages are instances of a naive use of the term. The inhibition to accept the existence of mixed languages is linked to the fact that it was inconceivable how they could emerge, and moreover their mere existence posited a threat to the validity of the comparative method and to genetic linguistics.”

The "Ugric-Turkic War" was never closed properly. This forced scientists to try to harmonize and synthesize the differing theories somehow. This resulted in the development of a complex national mythology. This combined the Asian roots and origins of Magyars with their European present. Turanism got a new meaning: it became the given name of a variant of Orientalism, which researched Asia and its culture in context of Hungarian history and culture.

Turanism was a driving force in the development of Hungarian social sciences, especially linguistics, ethnography, history, archaeology, and Orientalism, and in the development of Hungarian arts, from architecture to applied and decorative arts. Turanist scientists greatly contributed to the development of Hungarian and international science and arts.

This is a short list of Turkist/Turanist scientists and artists, who have left a lasting legacy in Hungarian culture:

  • Jeno Zichy 1837-1906, traveler and explorer of Asia. He was a member of the MTA.
  • Jozsef Huszka 1854-1934, art teacher, ethnographer.
  • Vilmos Prohle 1871-1946, Orientalist, linguist, one of the first researchers of Chinese and Japanese language and literature in Hungary.
  • Alajos Paikert 1866-1948 Was the founding father of the "Magyar Mezogazdasagi Muzeum" Museum of Hungarian Agriculture, and one of the founders of the Turan Society.
  • Benedek Barathosi Balogh 1870-1945, Orientalist, ethnographer, traveler.
  • Odon Lechner 1845-1914, architect, who created a new national architectural style from the elements of Hungarian folk art, Persian, Sassanian and Indian art.
  • Henrik Marczali 1856-1940, historian. He was a member of the MTA.
  • Gyula Sebestyen 1864-1946, folklorist, ethnographer. He was a member of the MTA.
  • Aladar Korosfoi-Kriesch 1863-1920, painter, sculptor, artisan, art theorist, one of the founders of the Godollo artists colony, a leading figure of the Hungarian Arts & Crafts movement.
  • Armin Vambery 1832-1913 was the founding father of Hungarian Turkology. He founded Europe’s first Turcology department at the Royal University of Pest present day Eotvos Lorand University. He was a member of the MTA Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
  • Ferenc Zajti 1886-1961, Orientalist, painter. He was the warden/curator of the Oriental Collection of the Fovarosi Konyvtar" Library of the Capital” in English, the present day Fovarosi Szabo Ervin Konyvtar. He was the founder of the Magyar Indiai Tarsasag Hungarian India Society. He arranged Rabindranath Tagores visit to Hungary in 1926.
  • Ferenc Pulszky 1814-1897, archaeologist, art historian. He was a member of the MTA and the director of Magyar Nemzeti Muzeum Hungarian National Museum. He supported Vambery in the "Ugric-Turkic War".
  • Jeno Cholnoky 1870-1950, geographer. He was a member of the MTA.
  • Sandor Marki 1853-1925, historian. He was a member of the MTA.
  • Janos Arany 1817-1882, poet, writer of a large corpus of poems about Hungarian historical past. He supported Vambery in the "Ugric-Turkic War". He was a member and secretary general of the MTA.
  • Karoly Kos 1883-1977, architect, writer, graphic artist, a leading figure of the Hungarian Arts & Crafts movement.
  • Geza Nagy 1855-1915, archaeologist, ethnographer. He was a member of the MTA.
  • Bela Szechenyi 1837-1918, traveler and explorer of Asia. He was a member of the MTA.
  • Lajos Loczy 1849-1920, geologist, geographer. He was a member of the MTA.

The idea of a Hungarian Oriental Institute originated from Jeno Zichy. Unfortunately, this idea did not come true. Instead, a kind of lyceum was formed in 1910, called "Turani Tarsasag" The Hungarian Turan Society also called The Hungarian Asiatic Society). The Turan society concentrated on Turan as geographic location where the ancestors of Hungarians might have lived.

"The goal of Turanian Society is the cultural and economic progress, confederation, flourishment of all Turanians, i.e. the Hungarian nation and all kindred European and Asian nations, furthermore the geographical, ethnographical, economical etc. research of the Asian continent, past and present. Political and religious issues are excluded. It wishes to accomplish its objectives in agreement with non-Turanian nations."

Turani Tarsasag celja az egesz turansag, vagyis a magyar nemzet es a velunk rokon tobbi europai es azsiai nepek kulturalis es gazdasagi elorehaladasa, tomorulese, erosodese, ugymint az azsiai kontinens foldrajzi, neprajzi, gazdasagi stb. kutatasa multban es jelenben. Politikai es felekezeti kerdesek kizartak. Celjait a nem turani nepekkel egyetertve ohajtja elerni.

The scholars of the Turan society interpreted the ethnic and linguistic kinship and relations between Hungarians and the so-called Turanian peoples on the basis of the then prevailing Ural-Altaic linguistic theory. The Society arranged Turkish, Finnish and Japanese language courses. The Turan Society arranged and funded five expeditions into Asia till 1914. The Society held public lectures regularly. Lecturers included `Abdul-Baha and Shuho Chiba. After the outbreak of First World War politics ensnarled the work of the Society. In 1916, the Turan Society was redressed into the "Magyar Keleti Kulturkozpont" Hungarian Eastern Cultural Centre, and direct governmental influence over its operation grew. The defeat in the First World War, and the following revolutionary movements and Entente occupation of the country disrupted the operation of the Eastern Cultural Centre, so real work began only in 1920. But the organisation was split into three that year, because of pronounced internal ideological stresses. Those who wanted a more scincelike approach formed the "Korosi Csoma-Tarsasag" Korosi Csoma Society. The more radical political turanists left the Turan Society, and formed the "Magyarorszagi Turan Szovetseg" Turan Federation of Hungary.

In 1920, Archduke Joseph Francis of Austria Archduke Joseph Francis Habsburg became the first patron of the Hungarian Turan Society


3. Political Turanism

Hungarians and their ancestors lived amongst or in direct contact with Turanian/Turkic peoples from time immemorial to 1908. A common Hungarian-Turkish border ceased to exist after 1908, in the wake of the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the evacuation of the Sanjak of Novibazar. These peoples played an eminent role in the birth and formation of Hungarian people, language, culture, state and nation. During the ethnogenesis of Hungarian people Kabar, Jasz Alan, Avar, Bulgar, Besenyo Pecheneg, Kun Cuman tribes and population fragments merged and amalgamated into the Hungarian population.

Hungary warred with the Ottoman Empire for centuries. As a result of a discord of succession Hungary broke up into three parts in the 16th century: one was under Habsburg rule, one became part of the Ottoman Empire 1541.VIII.29., and the third formed the" keleti Magyar Kiralysag” Eastern Hungarian Kingdom/" Erdelyi Fejedelemseg” Principality of Transylvania. Erdely became an ally of the Ottomans 1528.II. 29. The intensive everyday contacts in the one and a half centuries that followed resulted in pronounced Ottoman Turkish influence on Hungarian art and culture from music to jewellery and clothing, from agriculture to warfare. In the last third of the 17th century strife intensified between the Ottomans and the Habsburgs. The main scene of these power struggles was the territory of Hungary. The Ottoman attempts at further territorial expansion failed in the end and the Habsburgs reconquered the Hungarian territories. But there was a conflict in the circles of Hungarian political elite: many members of it were unwilling to swap the Ottoman alliance for direct Habsburg rule. A large group aspired for full independence, but felt Turkish dependence more amenable than Habsburg reign. Thokolys liberation movement and Rakoczis War of Independence meant the climax of this Turkism. So, as one can see, Turkish orientation had a long tradition in Hungary.

Turkism was reborn in the wake of the 1848-49 War of Independence. During the war Hungary was attacked by the Habsburgs, and many of her ethnic minorities turned against the country. Serious clashes occurred between the Hungarians and the Vlachs of Eastern Hungary and the Serbs of the South. There were serious atrocities against ethnic Hungarians; these events are remembered as "olahjarasok" and "racjarasok" "Vlach rampages" and "Rascian rampages". Hungary was defeated with the help of Russian military intervention.

These painful events and experiences changed Hungarians attitudes profoundly: They began to feel themselves insecure and endangered in their own home. From this time on, Pan-Slavism and Pan-Germanism were seen as serious threats to the existence of Hungary and Hungarians. Hungarians looked for allies and friends to secure their position. They turned towards the rivals of the Habsburgs - to Turkey, to the Italians, even to the Prussians - for support and help. Hungarians were interested in a stable, strong and friendly Turkey, capable of preventing Russian and/or Habsburg expansion in the Balkans.

Hungarian political movements and attempts to regain independence proved unfruitful. At the same time, the Habsburgs were unable to acquire the leading position of the German union, and Germany became united under Prussian rule. The Habsburgs took their empire to the verge of collapse with a series of miscalculated political and military moves. This led to the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. The Hungarian supporters of the Compromise have argued that the already weakened Austria is no longer a threat to the Hungarians, but can help prevent Slavic expansion.

Despite the Compromise, the Hungarians were ambivalent towards these old-new Austrian allies.

"If the balance of opinion in Hungary were always determined by sober political calculation, this brave and independent people, isolated in the broad ocean of Slav populations, and comparatively insignificant in numbers, would remain constant to the conviction that its position can only be secured by the support of the German element in Austria and Germany. But the Kossuth episode, and the suppression in Hungary itself of the German elements that remained loyal to the Empire, with other symptoms showed that among Hungarian hussars and lawyers self confidence is apt in critical moments to get the better of political calculation and self-control. Even in quiet times many a Magyar will get the gypsies to play to him the song, Der Deutsche ist ein Hundsfott The German is a blackguard." Bismarck, Otto von: Bismarck, the man and the statesman: being the reflections and reminiscences of Otto, Prince von Bismarck. 1898. Vol. II. p. 255-256.

In the half-century prior to the First World War, some Hungarians encouraged Turanism as a means of uniting Turks and Hungarians against the perils posed by the Slavs and Pan-Slavism. However Pan-Turanism was never more than an outrider to the more prevalent Pan-Turkist movement. Turanism helped in the creation of the important Turkish-Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian-Austro-Hungarian military and strategic alliances.

The movement received impetus after Hungarys defeat in World War I. Under the terms of the Treaty of Trianon 1920.VI.4., the new Hungarian state constituted only 32.7 percent of the territory of historic, pre-treaty Hungary, and lost 58.4 percent of its total population. More than 3.2 million ethnic Hungarians, one-third of all Hungarians resided outside the new boundaries of Hungary, in the successor states, under oppressive conditions. Old Hungarian cities of great cultural importance like Pozsony, Kassa, Kolozsvar were lost. Under these circumstances no Hungarian government could survive without seeking justice for Magyars and Hungary. Reuniting the Magyars became a crucial point in public life and on the political agenda. Public sentiment became strongly anti-Western, anti-French, and anti-British. Outrage led many to reject Europe and turn towards the East in search of new friends and allies in a bid to revise the terms of the treaty and restore Hungarian power.

"Disappointment towards Europe caused by the betrayal of the West in Trianon, and the pessimistic feeling of loneliness, led different strata in society towards Turanism. They tried to look for friends, kindred peoples and allies in the East so that Hungary could break out of its isolation and regain its well deserved position among the nations. A more radical group of conservative, rightist people, sometimes even with an anti-Semitic hint propagated sharply anti-Western views and the superiority of Eastern culture, the necessity of a pro-Eastern policy, and development of the awareness of Turanic racialism among Hungarian people.” in: Uhalley, Stephen and Wu, Xiaoxin eds.: China and Christianity. Burdened Past, Hopeful Future. 2001. p. 219.

Turanism never became official, because it was out of accord with the Christian conservatist ideological background of the regime. But it was used by the government as an informal tool to break the country’s international isolation, and build alliances. Hungary signed treaties of friendship and collaboration with the Republic of Turkey in 1923, with the Republic of Estonia in 1937, with the Republic of Finland in 1937, with Japan in 1938, with Bulgaria in 1941.

In Transylvania, "Turanist ethnographers and folklorists privileged the peasants cultural uniqueness, locating a cultural essence of Magyarness in everything from fishing hooks and methods of animal husbandry to ritual folk songs, archaic, individualistic dances, spicy dishes and superstitions." According to the historian Krisztian Ungvary "With the awakening of Hungarian nationalism at the beginning of the 20th century, the question became topical again. The elite wanted to see itself as a military nation.The claims of certain linguistic researchers regarding the Finno-Ugric relationship were therefore strongly rejected, because many found the idea that their nation was related to a peaceful farming people the Finns as insulting.The extremist Turanians insisted on" ties of ancestry” with the Turkish peoples, Tibet, Japan and even the Sumerians, and held the view that Jesus was not a Jew but a Hungarian or a" noble of Parthia”."


4. Turanism and Hungarian fascism

According to Andrew C. Janos, while some Hungarian Turanists went as far as to argue they were racially healthier than and superior to other Europeans including Germans, who were already corrupted by Judaism, others felt more modestly, that as Turanians living in Europe, they might provide an important bridge between East and West and thus play a role in world politics out of proportion of their numbers or the size of their country. This geopolitical argument was taken to absurd extremes by Ferenc Szalasi, head of the Arrow Cross-Hungarist movement, who believed that, owing to their unique historical and geographical position, Hungarians might play a role equal to, or even more important than, Germany in building the new European order, while Szalasis own charisma might eventually help him supersede Hitler as leader of the international movement.

Ferenc Szalasi, the leader of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party believed in the existence of a genuine Turanian-Hungarian race to the extent that his followers went about making anthropological surveys, collecting skull measurements that was crucial for his ideology of "Hungarism". Szalasi was himself a practicing Catholic and wavered between a religious and a racial basis for Hungarism. The unique vocation of" Turanian” Turkic Hungary was its capacity for mediating and uniting both east and west, Europe and Asia, the Christian Balkans and the Muslim Middle East, and from this stemmed its ultimate vocation to lead the world order through culture and example, a task that neither Italy nor Germany was prepared to accomplish.


5. Turanism after 1945

After the Second World War the Soviet Red Army occupied Hungary. The Hungarian government was placed under the direct control of the administration of the occupying forces. All Turanist organisations were disbanded by the government, and the majority of Turanist publications was banned and confiscated. In 1948 Hungary was converted into a communist one-party state. Turanism was portrayed and vilified as an exclusively fascist ideology, although Turanisms role in the interwar development of far-right ideologies was negligible. The official prohibition lasted until the collapse of the socialist regime in 1989.


6.1. Turanism after 1989 Christian Turanists

A Hungarian non-commissioned officer Ferenc Jos Badiny wrote his book Jezus Kiraly, a partus herceg "King Jesus, the Parthian prince", where he invented the theory of Jesus the Parthian warrior prince. Many Christian Hungarian Turanists held the view that Jesus Christ was not a Jew but a proto-Hungarian or a" noble of Parthia”. The theory of" Jesus, the Parthian prince” are such, or the revivification of real or supposed elements of priest-magicians of ancient" magic” Middle-Eastern world, shamanism, and pagan ancient Hungarian religion. Also some Muslim Turkish Turanists held the view that Muhammad was not an Arab but a Sumerian, and Sumerians are Turanid according to Turanist theses. It is an opportunity for the Christian Turanists to link Jesus to the ancient Middle-Eastern mystery and the ancient pagan Hungarian beliefs. Both Catholic and Protestant religious leaders of Hungary acted against this theory and beliefs.

The Jobbik party and its former president Gabor Vona are uncompromising supporters of Turanism the ideology of Jobbik considers Hungarians as a Turanian nation.


7. Great Kurultaj

The Great Kurultaj is a tribal assembly based on the common heritage of the peoples of Central Asian nomadic origin. It is also a popular tourist attraction in Hungary from late 2000s and Central Asia. The first Kurultaj was in Kazakhstan in 2007 and the last one was organized in 2014 at Bugac, Hungary.

In the 1990s, a well developed souvenir and merchandise business has grown around Turanism, traditionalist and historical reenactment groups, which is quite similar to other well known international examples of business of this kind. According to the opinion of Hungarian researcher Igaz Levente this merchandise industry grown around modern Hungarian Turanism became a kind of business, which he called "Szittya biznisz" Scythian business, and it has not got much to do with ancient Hungarian traditions.


8. Pseudoscientific theories

Hungarian Turanism has been characterized by pseudoscientific theories. According to these theories, Hungarians share supposed Ural-Altaic origins with Bulgarians, Estonians, Mongols, Finns, Turkic peoples, and even Japanese people and Koreans. Origins of the Hungarian people with the Huns, Scythians or even Sumerians have been suggested by proponents of these theories. Such beliefs gained widespread support in Hungary in the interwar period. Though since widely discredited, these theories have regained support among certain Hungarian political parties, in particular among Jobbik and certain factions of Fidesz.

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