In my home history lessons and books it is stated that Bulgarians and Hungarians were, in earlier times, pure Turks but they lost their Turkish features over time when they met Christendom.

Really, once upon a time the Bulgarians and Hungarians were Turks?

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    A quick search in Wikipedia shows that your home history lessons and books are just lying. – Alex Dec 20 '15 at 20:46
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    For example, this article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulgarians#Ethnogenesis explains the modern views on the origin of Bulgarians. – Alex Dec 20 '15 at 20:50
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    @MarkC.Wallace: Actually the Wiki article linked to above does state: "In the late 7th century, some Bulgar tribes, led by Asparukh, and others, led by Kouber, permanently settled in the Balkans. The Bulgars are not thought to have been numerous and became a ruling elite in the areas they controlled." ... – Pieter Geerkens Dec 21 '15 at 3:08
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    @MarkC.Wallace: "... The large scale population transfers and territorial expansions during the 8th and 9th century, additionally increased the number of the Slavs and Byzantine Christians within the state, making the Bulgars quite obviously a minority. The establishment of a new state molded the various Slav, Bulgar and Late Roman/ Early Byzantine provincial populations into the "Bulgarian people" of the First Bulgarian Empire speaking a South Slav language." – Pieter Geerkens Dec 21 '15 at 3:11
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    A complicated topic that has been well covered by wikipedia is still trivia. I would ask the OP to examine the article Alex linked in the second comment. If you have any doubts as to its contents, or if it failed to fully answer your query, please edit this post and explain what you find missing, and I will vote to reopen. – Semaphore Dec 21 '15 at 4:36

Bulgarians and Hungarians actually have very different histories. Neither one of them really could be said to have ever been Turks, although they may have borrowed some things from Medieval Turkic-speakers.

Bulgarians: The current Wikipedia entry diplomatically lists 3 cultural ancestral components for Bulgarians:

  1. Thracian citizens left over from the time that area was under the control of the Byzantine empire.
  2. The Bulgars, a semi-nomadic Turkish people who started to move into the area in the mid-7th century.
  3. Early Slavs, who moved into the cultivatable land that the nomadic Turks depopulated in the Balkans around this time.

However, its pretty easy to see which culture was the dominant one, and which two just had some stuff borrowed from them, by the language. The first Bulgarian Empire in the late 7th Century, used the local Turkish Bulgar as its official language (along with Greek), but by the late 9th switched to the Slavic Old Bulgarian, the direct ancestor to modern Bulgarian. So clearly here the Slavic cultural component won out.


The history here is slightly similar, but with different sets of people and perhaps a bit more interesting. During most of the Medieval period, people speaking Finno-ugaric languages and practicing low-density pastoral techniques like reindeer herding likely ranged everywhere in northern Europe that was too cold for traditional agricultural activity or for the Altaic's horse-based pastoralisim.

Here's a map of the modern distribution of this language family: enter image description here

The green outlying area in the Balkans is of course the Hungarians.

What appears to have happened was that this one group of Finno-Ugric speakers sometime around the first Century picked up pastoralisim from their neighbors*. This is a very large cultural package, but for some reason they kept enough of their identity to keep their language. They first became known to history as the Magyars, the furthest west of the eurasian pastoralists in the mid 9th century.

There happens to be one good large area of pasture in eastern Europe, the Alföld in modern Hungary. This made this area a very tempting target for pastoralists throughout the Middle Ages. The Magyars just happened to be the last Eurasian pastoralists to conquer it and hang onto it long enough to put down roots. Magyar today is known as an alternate name for the Hungarian language, as well as the ethnic group that primarily speaks it.

* - Yes, these unnamed example people could well have been Turkic speakers. However, given the geography and timing, Indo-Europeans like the Iranians or perhaps even the Germanic Ostrogoths are much more likely. Another remote possibility is the Huns (whoever they were).

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  • Great answer! If the post wasn't closed I would answer it myself, but since it is if you want add this recent information to your answer: "DNA Analysis Reveals Pamir Origin of Bulgarians". Here are some links: novinite.com/articles/117903/… – Ziezi Jan 27 '16 at 21:12
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    @simplicisveritatis - I did look over the DNA studies available for both peoples when writing this. However, I'm of the opinion that for most questions about a "people", what we care about is their cultural lineage, not genetic, and for that information language is our best fingerprint. The classic example here is modern Americans, whose genetics will be shown to be all over the globe, but whose language clearly identifies their culture as derived from the English (and ultimately Indo-European), with only borrowings from elsewhere. – T.E.D. Jan 27 '16 at 21:58
  • Language and culture are indeed great criteria. In that case, your answer seems to be complete. :) – Ziezi Jan 27 '16 at 22:09

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