Logo der Universität Wien

Gastvortrag Dr. Klára Sándor (Szeged): Linguistic relatedness and the Hun tradition

am 29.11.2011, 16:00 bis 17:30 Uhr, HS 1

As is well known, the origins of Hungarian language have been clarified already long ago. No mainstream linguists or other academic researchers will question the basic idea that Hungarian belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family. Although this theory has been taught in schools for about a century, many Hungarians are still convinced that they are “descendants of the Huns, rather than of some hunter-gatherer people”. 

The origins of the Hungarians are now polarising opinions in Hungary (and also in expatriate Hungarian circles). In the first decades of the 20th century, denying the Finno-Ugric relatedness of the Hungarian language became an essential feature of extreme right-wing thinking, and while in the Communist period these ideas were mostly dormant (or mainly cultivated in emigrant circles), they are now experiencing a renaissance. On the other hand, those Hungarians who openly reject extreme right-wing ideologies often also openly ridicule their compatriots' enthusiasm for certain alleged expressions of strong national feeling. These include, for instance, the use of the Szekler ("Old Hungarian") Runic script – and also the conviction that the Hungarians descend from the Huns.

This polarization seems to be deepening, still there is more to it, under the surface. There are surprisingly many decent, educated people in Hungary who neither belong to extreme right groups nor deny the Finno-Ugric origin of the Hungarian language but nevertheless show a remarkable interest in early Hungarian history, and express a nostalgic hope that even if the language is definitely of Finno-Ugric origin, there might still be a little truth in the historical connections with the Huns... or at least, these people love the Hun legends.

What are the reasons for this uncertainty? Is it simply an irrational desire for a glamorous past? A failure of the Hungarian education system? The popularity of right wing ideas? Surely all these things. Still, a closer look on the Hungarian culture reveals that this behaviour is in a way natural since the Hun tradition is an important part of the Hungarian cultural heritage embedded in literature, art, and textbooks. The question is whether linguistic knowledge and cultural tradition can be reconciled or political polarization will rule out common sense entirely.


Dr. Klára Sándor ist Turkologin und Dozentin der Universität Szeged, eine vielseitige Sprachwissenschaftlerin, die sich mit verschiedenen Fragen der Sprache in Beziehung zur Geschichte und Gesellschaft (auch der Genderlinguistik) beschäftigt hat. Neben ihrer wissenschaftlichen Tätigkeit ist sie auch eine aktive Politikerin – eine Zeitlang war sie Parlamentsabgeordnete in den Reihen der "Freien Demokraten" (SZDSZ), aus welcher Partei sie später austrat. 2009 wurde sie zur Vorsitzenden des neuen "Liberalen Bürgervereins" (Szabadelvű Polgári Egyesület, SZPE) gewählt. 

Sie schreibt regelmäßig auf der Internet-Plattform www.galamus.hu. Die Thematik dieser Gastvorlesung – Geschichte der nationalen Identität und Identitätsbildung – wurde dort in ihrer 26teiligen Artikelreihe behandelt, die jetzt auch als Buch erscheint.

Alle Interessierte sind herzlich willkommen!

Abteilung Finno-Ugristik
Universität Wien
Campus AAKH Hof 7,
Spitalgasse 2-4
1090 Wien
T: +43-1-4277-43010
F: +43-1-4277-843010
Universität Wien | Universitätsring 1 | 1010 Wien | T +43-1-4277-0