Ármin Vámbéry (1832-1913) as a Historian of Early Hungarian Settlement in the Carpathian Basin

Nándor Dreisziger


In the English-speaking world Ármin Vámbéry is known as a traveler in Central Asia and a student of Turkic cultures and languages. In his native Hungary he is also known for his disagreement with linguists who believed that Hungarian belonged to the Ugric branch of the Finno-Ugric languages—a part of the Uralic linguistic family. Rather than accepting this theory, Vámbéry contended that Hungarian was largely a Turkic language that belonged more to the Altaic family. Few people know that Vámbéry also expressed strong opinions about the genesis of the Hungarian nation. The most important aspect of Vámbéry’s theory about Hungarian origins is the thesis that Hungarian ethnogenesis took place—beginning with late Roman times or even earlier—in the Carpathian Basin. A corollary of this proposition is that the nomadic tribes that conquered the Carpathian Basin at the end of the ninth century were Turkic peoples who were few in numbers and were assimilated by the region’s autochthonous—and by then Hungarian-speaking—population. This paper outlines Vámbéry’s arguments and describes to what extent research on this subject in the century since Vámbéry’s death has confirmed or contradicted his unconventional ideas.


Ármin Vámbéry; Hungarian ethnogenesis; Hungarian origins; Hungarian conquest; Hungarian historiography

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/ahea.2013.110

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