Development of Class Structure in Eastern Europe: Poland and Her Southern Neighbors

By Aleksander Gella | Go to book overview

4
HUNGARY UNTIL WORLD WAR II

Ethnically and culturally, Hungarians have been more homogeneous than other nations in eastern Europe. One reason for this homogeneity is linguistic; the Hungarians are the only Finno-Ugric people in that part of the world. Their language does not belong to the Indo-European group, and their nearest linguistic cousins live in Estonia and Finland. The almost eleven-hundred-year- long history of the Hungarian people began in A.D. 896, when, as raiders from the East, they entered the plains over the beaches of the Danube River and proceeded to terrorize southern and western Europe for six decades, until their raids were finally halted by the Emperor Otto I in A.D. 955. The arrival of Hungarian tribes on the great Danubian plains was described with pathos and with overtones of nationalism by an outstanding Bohemian historian of the nineteenth century as "the greatest misfortune which the Slav world has suffered throughout the centuries." 1 The invading tribes conquered the neighboring Slavs; perhaps this was one of the reasons why the Slavs south of the Carpathian Mountains were unable to form a more durable political organism. But it is also true that the Hungarians blocked German expansion to the East. 2

The origin of the Hungarian state is a typical illustration of the "conquest theory of the origin of the state." 3 The conquest of the territories later known

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