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Who were the Hun people who made several appearances in Eurasian history?

Were they Finno-Ugric, Paleo-Siberean, Mongolic or Turkic?

Were the Hun who attacked Roman Empire extensions of the Xiongu, the first nomadic sovereign state in Central Asia?

Were the Hun a confederation of different tribes speaking different languages, or was there one specific ethnically distinct tribe who were the Hun?

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These are good set of questions (although I suspect lifted from Wikipedia to seed the site)... might be better split up though? –  Noldorin Oct 11 '11 at 21:31
    
@Noldorin I read quite few sources about the issue, not just Wikipedia. It is still an open issue and can raise constructive comments. –  Dagvadorj Oct 11 '11 at 21:35
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Oh definitely... I like your question. My main suggestion was really that the question might have enough parts to be split up into separate bits. –  Noldorin Oct 11 '11 at 21:37
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Thanks to Travis and @Noldorin as well as the lesser known friend called crowd-sourcing, the question is all better now :P –  Dagvadorj Oct 11 '11 at 22:33
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While I also have a book claiming that Huns were one of the Xiongnu tribes, it seems that this is an older and now abandoned assumption - with good reason because there aren't many reliable historical sources for that period outside of China and tracing the way of Xiongnu from China to Europe that supposedly took several centuries is pretty impossible. Fact is, there don't seem to be any reliable facts about Huns before they entered the European arena and nobody really knows where they came from. –  Wladimir Palant Oct 12 '11 at 11:03

2 Answers 2

This source on the "Xiongnu Empire" seems to suggest a Turkic origin of the Xiongnu. I believe this is the most widely accepted theory among modern academics. The extent of mixture between Mongolic and Turkic peoples in the 3rd/4th centuries BC is debatable, but certainly much less than it was at the zenith of the Mongols in the 13th century AD.

The Xiongnu (Hongnu in Old Chinese, Xwn in Soghdian, probably Old Turkic Qun), also known as the Asiatic Huns, were one of the nomadic peoples of Ancient Central Asia. They're thought to have descended from various Turkic peoples known as Xianyun, Xunyu and Hongyu, yet all the knowledge we have come from Chinese sources written centuries later. However, as time passed, the name Xiongnu was applied to the Xiongnu’s subjects too, including Turkics, Mongolics, Tokharians, Iranics, etc.

The connection with the later European Huns is also a very tempting one, given the gap of a few centuries from their disappearance in Ancient Chinese's sources and appearance in late Roman histories.

The remnants of both Xiongnu empires lived as scattered throughout Western Turkestan for a long time, until they began migrating westwards around 350 AD. Under the leadership of their leader, Balamïr, they entered the territories of the Ostrogothic Kingdom in Ukraine in 375, and they founded the European Hunnic Empire (there are some scholars who doubt that the European Huns descended from the Xiongnu). Even though the majority of Xiongnu went to Western Turkestan, some Xiongnu stayed in Northern China where they set up small kingdoms after the fall of the Han Dynasty (Second Zhao, Xia, Northern Liang and Loulan were the Xiongnu kingdoms in Northern China).

The significant amount of detail provided by this source may suggest accurate information, but I personally would like to see citations, it being a secondary source. Nonetheless, several of the views reflected here are fairly widely accepted by modern historians (although with notable contention) from what I have read.

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My understanding is that the Huns were generally considered to be speakers of a Turkic language. (Wikipedia seems to agree at the moment). There do appear to be theories that they were roughly the same folk the Chineese referred to as Xiongnu.

However, that's just the most popular theory. Apparently only about 3 words of the language survive, along with some names. That really isn't enough to say anything definitive about it.

Of course one of the first things they did in Europe was conquer the germanic Ostragoth and Alan tribes. So on their further incursions into Europe there were a lot of Germanic speakers riding in their army with them. The Ostragoths were pretty badass mounted lancers, so it became rather tough to stop all of them together.

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