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Hungarian Turanism

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Hungarian Turanism

Hungarian Turanism (Hungarian: Turánizmus or Turanizmus) is a loosely defined and diverse phenomenon among the history of Hungarian ideas. It includes many different conceptions and served as a guiding principle for many political and scientific movements. It was most lively in the second half of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century. Hungarian Turanism is based on the idea the Hungarians' ancestral homeland was in Asia.[1] It became an extremist political ideology after World War One.

"Géza, the faithful king of Tourkia (i.e. Hungary)" on the Holy Crown of Hungary, from the 11th century.

Before the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin, the Hungarians were (semi-)nomads[2] and their culture was similar to other steppe peoples. Most scientists presume a Uralic homeland for the ancient Hungarian conquerors (mainly on linguistic grounds, and on the basis of limited genetic research carried out on a very limited number of ancient skeletons found in graves from the age of the conquest[3][4]). The proto-Hungarian tribes lived in the Eurasian forest steppe zone,[5] and so these ancient ancestors of Hungarians and their relationship with other equestrian nomadic peoples has been and still is a topic for research.[6]

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 state and nation of Hungary, because the country had large ethnic German and Slavic populations.[1] This political ideology originated in the work of the Finnish nationalist and linguist Matthias Alexander Castrén, 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.[7] 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".[8]

After the First World War, political Turanism played a role in the formation of Hungarian far-right ideologies because of its ethnic nationalist nature.[9][10] It began to carry anti-Jewish sentiments and tried to show the "existence and superiority of a unified Hungarian race".[10] Nonetheless, Andrew C. Janos asserts that Turanism's role in the interwar development of far-right ideologies was negligible.[11]

In the communist era after the Second World War, Turanism was portrayed and vilified as an exclusively fascist ideology.[12] Since the fall of communism in 1989 there has been a renewal of interest in Turanism.

Its roots, origins, and development

The beginnings

Friedrich Max Müller's Northern Division of Turanian Languages

Friedrich Max Müller, 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". Müller 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.[14] (In the long run, his theory proved unsound, but his Northern Division was renamed and re-classed as the Ural-Altaic languages.) 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 Ármin Vámbéry, 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 (originally borrowed by him from Persian texts like the Shahnameh which used the term "Turan" to denote the territories of Turkestan, north of Amu Darya river, inhabited by nomadic warriors) "Turan" and "Turanian" become denizens in Hungarian language as "Turán" and "turáni". The meaning of these terms was never defined officially. Vámbéry 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[15] and Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum[16]) 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. Sándor Kőrösi 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.[17]

"...when Kőrösi 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..."[18]

Vámbéry Ármin 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..."

"...következett tehát ebből az a reménységem, hogy Középázsiában az összehasonlító nyelvtudomány segítségével világosságot vető sugarat lelhetek, mely eloszlatja a homályt a magyar őstörténelem sötét tájairól...." in: Vámbéry Ármin: Küzdelmeim. Ch.IV. p. 62.[19]

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 Boxhorn's 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 (food, drink, weapons,domestic animals), naturalia (God, celestial and weather phenomena, topographic features, wild animals) and a dozen verbs (eat, drink, speak, see …). 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".[20]

Philipp Johann von Strahlenberg about the kinship of Finnish and Hungarian language, in his book "An historico-geographical description of the north and east parts of Europe and Asia" 1738. London.

The followers of the "Turkist" and "Ugrist" theories lived together peacefully, and the theories were refined as science developed. (In fact the two theories converged, as linguists, like Rasmus Christian Rask, Wilhelm Schott (1802-1889) and Matthias Castrén 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. /.[21]) 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 vértengerbe áldozott le. Magyarországra a mérhetetlen gyásznak éjszakája borult; legnemesebb erői törve voltak. Még a tudományos intézetek kapui is bezárultak..." in: Herman Ottó: Petényi J. S. a magyar tudományos madártan megalapítója. p. 39.[22]

The role of the Habsburgs

Hungary's 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.[23][24]

German became the official language of public administration. The edict issued on 1849.X.9. (Grundsätze für 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.[25] 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.[26][27][28] 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 Vámbéry traveled to Constantinople in 1857 for the first time.[17]

"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, as was believed in Vienna, made rebellious plans tirelessly."

"Mennie kell és menni fog, - ezzel biztattam magam és nem bántott más gond, csak az az egy: hogy mi úton-módon kaphatok útlevelet a szigorú és gyanakvó osztrák hatóságtól; hozzá még épen Törökországba, hol akkor a magyar emigráczió tartotta székét és, mint Bécsben hitték, pártütő terveket sző fáradhatatlanúl." in: Vámbéry Ármin: Küzdelmeim. Ch. IV. p. 42.[19]

And this atmosphere granted public interest for the then new theory of Max Müller. The Habsburg government saw this "Turkism" as dangerous to the empire, but had no means to suppress it. (The Habsburg Empire lost large territories in the early 19th century /Flanders and Luxembourg/, and lost most of its Italian holdings a little later, so many members of the Austrian political elite (Franz Joseph I of Austria himself, Archduke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen, major general Ferdinand Franz Xaver Johann Freiherr Mayerhofer von Grünbühel for example)[29]) dreamed about Eastern land grabs.[30][31])

Vámbéry Ármin about Turanian peoples in his "Vámbéry Ármin vázlatai Közép-Ázsiából. Ujabb adalékok az oxusmelléki országok népismereti, társadalmi és politikai viszonyaihoz." 1868. Pest

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.[32]

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 (for example Heves, Pest, Szatmár) 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 László Böszörményi 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 kiegyezés elfogadtatása a társadalommal, komoly nehézségekbe ütközött. Több megye (például Heves, Pest, Szatmár) elutasította a kiegyezést és kiállt Kossuth mellett, az ellenzék megszervezte a demokrata körök hálózatát, az Alföldön többezres kormány- és kiegyezés-ellenes népgyűlésekre került sor stb. A kormány, felfüggesztve liberális elveit, határozott ellenlépésekre szánta el magát: bebörtönözte a Kossuth leveleit közlő Böszörményi Lászlót, betiltotta a demokrata köröket, a leginkább ellenálló Heves megyébe pedig királyi biztost küldött. A rendszer stabilizálása és az új politikai intézmények elfogadása azonban még így is évekig elhúzódott." in: Cieger András: Kormány a mérlegen - a múlt században.[33]

Ármin Vámbéry's work

Vámbéry started his second journey into Asia in July 1861 with the approval and monetary help of the Akadémia 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 "Közép-ázsiai utazás" were published in 1865. Thanks to his travels Vámbéry 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 Vámbéry's international success by granting him professorship in the Royal University of Pest.[19]

Vámbéry published his "Vámbéry Ármin vázlatai Közép-Ázsiából. Ujabb adalékok az oxusmelléki országok népismereti, társadalmi és politikai viszonyaihoz." in 1868. Perhaps this was the first instance of the use of the word "turáni" in a Hungarian language scientific text.

At the beginning of Hungarian Turanism, some of its notable promoters and researchers, like György 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 30's.[36]) and Ignác Goldziher[37][38] were Jewish or of Jewish descent (Vámbéry was neither proud nor ashamed of his Jewish ancestry, he became a member of the Reformed Church, and considered himself Hungarian).

Vámbéry 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.(The neologists of the first half of the 19th century had turned towards folklore, myths, ballads and tales in their search of a new national literary style, but had not had interest in other aspects of rural peasant life.)

Vámbéry's later work, entitled "Magyar és török-tatár szóegyezések."[39] and published in 1869-70, was the casus belli of the "Ugor-török háború" ("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 Vámbéry 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 eredetében ugor, de a nemzet későbbi érintkezése és történeti átalakulásánál fogva egyformán ugor és török jellemű..." in: Vámbéry Ármin: Magyar és török-tatár szóegyezések. p. 120.

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 küzdelem, melyet fanatikus ellenfeleim, sajnos, átvittek a személyeskedés terére is, eltartott jó sokáig, de ezúttal is bevált a régi diák közmondás: Philologi certant, tamen sub judice lis." in: Vámbéry Ármin: Küzdelmeim. Ch. IX. p. 130.[19]

Vámbéry's work was criticized by Finno-Ugrist József Budenz in "Jelentés Vámbéry Ármin magyar-török szóegyezéséről.", published in 1871. Budenz criticised Vámbéry and his work in an aggressive, derogatory style, and questioned Vámbéry's (scientific) honesty and credibility. (Budenz's work was investigated and analysed by a group of modern linguists, and they found it neither as scientific nor as conclusive in the question of the affiliation of Hungarian language, as the author stated.)[40]

The historian Henrik Marczali, linguist Károly Pozder, linguist József Thúry, anthropologist Aurél Török, and others supported Vámbéry.[1][41][42][43]

The Finn-Ugrist Pál Hunfalvy widened the front of the "Ugric-Turk War" with his book "Magyarország ethnographiája.",[44] 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 "Vámbéry Ármin: A magyarok eredete. Ethnologiai tanulmány.",[45] and published in 1882, Vámbéry 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 vegyülék népet látok, a melyben nem finn-ugor, hanem török-tatár elem képezi a tulajdonképeni magvat..." in: Vámbéry Ármin: A magyarok eredete. Ethnologiai tanulmány. Preface. p. VI.

Vámbéry's 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. It should be noted, that no one of the authors has ever given the written source/base of this accusation against the Turanist scientists. In fact no Turanist scientist wrote such things about the Finn-Ugric peoples. In reality it was coined by the Finno-Ugrist Ferdinánd Barna, in his work "Vámbéry Ármin A magyarok eredete czímű műve néhány főbb állításának bírálata." published in 1884. In this work Barna called the Finn-Ugric peoples "a petty, fish fat eating people spending their woeful lives with fish- and easel-catching". Perhaps this was a Freudian slip.

The origin of 'fish fat smelling kinship' in the work of the Finn-Ugrist Barna Ferdinánd, titled "Vámbéry Ármin A magyarok eredete czímű műve néhány főbb állításának bírálata." published in 1884.

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:

  • Ármin Vámbéry (1832-1913) was the founding father of Hungarian Turkology. He founded Europe’s first Turcology department at the Royal University of Pest (present day Eötvös Loránd University). He was a member of the MTA (Hungarian Academy of Sciences).
  • János Arany (1817-1882), poet, writer of a large corpus of poems about Hungarian historical past. He supported Vámbéry in the "Ugric-Turkic War". He was a member and secretary general of the MTA.
  • Ferenc Pulszky (1814-1897), archaeologist, art historian. He was a member of the MTA and the director of Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum (Hungarian National Museum).[46] He supported Vámbéry in the "Ugric-Turkic War".
  • Alajos Paikert (1866-1948) Was the founding father of the "Magyar Mezőgazdasági Múzeum" (Museum of Hungarian Agriculture), and one of the founders of the Turan Society.
  • Béla Széchenyi (1837-1918), traveler and explorer of Asia.[47] He was a member of the MTA.
  • Jenő Zichy (1837-1906), traveler and explorer of Asia.[48] He was a member of the MTA.
  • Géza Nagy (1855-1915), archaeologist, ethnographer.[17][49] He was a member of the MTA.
  • Henrik Marczali (1856-1940), historian.[17] He was a member of the MTA.
  • Sándor Márki (1853-1925), historian.[17] He was a member of the MTA.
  • Lajos Lóczy (1849-1920), geologist, geographer.[17] He was a member of the MTA.
  • Jenő Cholnoky (1870-1950), geographer.[17] He was a member of the MTA.
  • Vilmos Pröhle (1871-1946), Orientalist, linguist, one of the first researchers of Chinese and Japanese language and literature in Hungary.[17][50]
  • Benedek Baráthosi Balogh (1870-1945), Orientalist, ethnographer, traveler.[51]
  • Gyula Sebestyén (1864-1946), folklorist, ethnographer.[17] He was a member of the MTA.
  • Ferenc Zajti (1886-1961), Orientalist, painter. He was the warden/curator of the Oriental Collection of the Fővárosi Könyvtár (“Library of the Capital” in English, the present day Fővárosi Szabó Ervin Könyvtár). He was the founder of the Magyar Indiai Társaság ( Hungarian India Society). He arranged Rabindranáth Tagore's visit to Hungary in 1926.[52][53]
  • József Huszka (1854-1934), art teacher, ethnographer.[17]
  • Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch (1863-1920), painter, sculptor, artisan, art theorist, one of the founders of the Gödöllő artists' colony, a leading figure of the Hungarian Arts & Crafts movement.[17]
  • Ödön Lechner (1845-1914), architect, who created a new national architectural style from the elements of Hungarian folk art, Persian, Sassanian and Indian art.[17]
  • Károly Kós (1883-1977), architect, writer, graphic artist, a leading figure of the Hungarian Arts & Crafts movement.[17]
Aladár Körösfői-Kriesch: "Circle Dance of Shamans" 1911. Marosvásárhely, Kulturpalota

The idea of a Hungarian Oriental Institute originated from Jenő Zichy.[54] Unfortunately, this idea did not come true. Instead, a kind of lyceum was formed in 1910, called "Turáni Társaság" (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 had 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."

"Turáni Társaság célja az egész turánság, vagyis a magyar nemzet és a velünk rokon többi európai és ázsiai népek kulturális és gazdasági előrehaladása, tömörülése, erősödése, úgymint az ázsiai kontinens földrajzi, néprajzi, gazdasági stb. kutatása múltban és jelenben. Politikai és felekezeti kérdések kizártak. Céljait a nem turáni népekkel egyetértve óhajtja elérni."[55]

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 Mészáros-Milleker expedition, the Timkó expedition, the Milleker expedition, the Kovács-Holzwarth expedition, and the Sebők-Schutz expedition.) The Society held public lectures regularly. Lecturers included

Archduke Joseph Francis Habsburg, the first patron of the Hungarian Turan Society

In 1920, Archduke Joseph Francis of Austria (Archduke Joseph Francis Habsburg) became the first patron of the Hungarian Turan Society[59]

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, Jász (Alan), Avar, Bulgar, Besenyő (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 Királyság” (Eastern Hungarian Kingdom)/ “Erdélyi Fejedelemség” (Principality of Transylvania). Erdély became an ally of the Ottomans (1528.II. 29.).[61] 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. Thököly's liberation movement and Rákóczi's 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 "oláhjárások" and "rácjárások" ("Vlach rampages" and "Rascian rampages").[62] 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 selfconfidence 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.[63]

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.[64] Turanism helped in the creation of the important Turkish-Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian-Austro-Hungarian military and strategic alliances.

The movement received impetus after Hungary's 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, Kolozsvár 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.[65]

Turanism never became official, because it was out of accord with the 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,[66] with the Republic of Estonia in 1937,[67] with the Republic of Finland in 1937,[68] with Japan in 1938,[69] with Bulgaria in 1941.[70]

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."[71] According to the historian Krisztián Ungváry "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”."[72]

Turanism and Hungarian fascism

The leader of the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross Party, Ferenc Szálasi, believed in the existence of a distinct Turanid Hungarian race (which included Jesus Christ). The idea was a key part of his ideology of "Hungarism".[73]

In Hungary some fascists (and non-fascists) tried to link the ancestors of the Hungarians to Timur, the Ottomans and Japan, which some Hungarians of the 1930s described as the 'other sword of Turan' (the first sword being Hungary).

Turanist belief-systems after 1989

Christian Turanists

Jesus Christ as Parthian-Hungarian warrior prince

A Hungarian non-commissioned officer Ferenc Jós Badiny wrote his book ( Jézus Király, a pártus 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”.[72] 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 Christ 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.[75]

The right-wing Jobbik party and its president Gábor Vona are uncompromising supporters of Turanism and Pan-Turkism (The ideology of Jobbik considers Hungarians as a Turkic nation.)[76]

The Habsburg conspiracy theory

The Habsburg conspiracy theory is very popular amongst political Turanists, which was invented only in the 1970s.[77] According to the myth, the Habsburgs envied the glorius Turanian past and "ancestry" of the Hungarian nation, therefore Habsburgs created a plan to hide it from the Hungarian and European public opinion. In the reality, it was Emperor Francis Joseph who used his political prestige to give a university cathedra (as professor) for Ármin Vámbéry, the leaders of Hungarian turanists.[78][79]


The Kurultáj is a tribal assembly based on the common heritage of the peoples of Bugac, Hungary.[80][81]

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.[82]

See also


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Further reading

  • Emel Akcah and Umut Korkut: Geographical Metanarratives in East-­Central Europe: Neo-­Turanism in Hungary,(2012 Central European University)|[1]
  • Joseph Kessler Turanism and Pan-Turanism in Hungary: 1890-1945 (University of California, Berkeley, PhD thesis, 1967)
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