In Diplomacy & Trade’s Witty Leaks series, diplomats give their personal account of the experiences of their “excursions” to Hungarian culture, art, gastronomy and landscape. This time, it is about similarities between Hungarians and Kazakhs in the past and in the present.
In October 2019, arriving as my country's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary in Budapest after my work in the United States, it felt like I had arrived in my native land. I think that this feeling is connected with the historical and genetic roots of the Magyars, who migrated from Asia to Europe and continue to preserve their identity.
The origin of the Kuns
Archaeological, linguistic, ethnographic and anthropological studies have proved that the anthropological features and traditions of the Magyars still retain features that have Hunnic roots and are characteristic of all the Turkic peoples of Central Asia.
In the 13th century, ten Kipchak tribes under the leadership of Khan Kotyan came from the territory of Kazakhstan to Hungary and settled in the center of Europe, making a significant contribution to the development of the region and to the fight against external enemies. They were adopted by the Hungarian King Béla IV and formed the elite of his horse army. For several centuries, the Kipchak-Kuns preserved their identity and language. The memory of that stored in the historical regions of Hungary Nagykunság and the Kiskunság (Big and Small Kipchaks).
Today, more than a hundred thousand inhabitants of Hungary consider themselves descendants of the Kipchaks, many of them live in the town of Karcag (meaning ‘steppe fox’ in the Kazakh language). In that town, there is a monument to Kipchak Khan Kotyan. By the way, this city was the first after Budapest, which I visited upon arrival to Hungary.
Then, I met with the hereditary Kipchaks: Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance of Hungary Mr. Mihály Varga, deputies of the Parliament of Hungary like the Honorary Chairman of the ‘Union of the Kipchaks’, Sándor Fazekas or the current President of the Union of the Kipchaks, Sándor Kovács who are natives of the town of Karcag, as well as with the since deceased mayor of the town of Karcag, László Dobos. Also, I visited the museum named after local ethnographer István Györffy, which presents exhibits of the Kipchak heritage.
Generally, there are 300 sites in Hungary with traditional Kipchak burials, in which objects of various origins were found, including the steppes of Eastern Europe. Of the things of Western European origin, the belts of warriors that were given to them by the crusaders are often marked. The crosses on the burials, which were used by the Kipchaks as amulets, testified to the Christianity and baptism of the Kipchaks. Weapons and jewelry were placed in the graves.
Despite the loss of their native language at the end of the 16th century and presently belonging to the Hungarian nation, many of them culturally and ethnically feel kinship with the Kipchaks – an ancient Kazakh family.
Studying the common historical roots
In addition, the Kazakh delegations regularly participate in the Kurultai of the Turkic Peoples, which is held annually in Hungary, and we know how Hungary actively supports this initiative. We hope that in this year the next Kurultai will be held in August, organized by the Magyar-Turan Foundation headed by András Bíró.
Today, scientists and public figures of the two countries are actively studying the common historical roots, and we, from our part, provide them with full support.
One of the great contributions to the development of cultural relations between the two countries was made by the meeting of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev with representatives of the ‘Union of Kipchaks of Hungary’, which elected him as their Honorary Leader.
Cherishing kinship ties
Today, the relations between Kazakhstan and Hungary are characterized by full mutual understanding and focus on strengthening cooperation, and our positions on the most pressing international issues coincide. I would like to emphasize that next year, we will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Hungary, which are strategic.
As a deputy Chairman of the State Assembly of Hungary, Sándor Lezsák told me at the meeting: "the greatest value in bilateral relations is the kinship ties between the peoples of Kazakhstan and Hungary".
This year, Kazakhstan is celebrating the 30th Anniversary of its Independence. Today, Kazakhstan is undergoing political reforms initiated by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in terms of protecting human rights, building a democratic society and implementing the concept of a ‘Hearing State’. Among the current achievements, I would like to mention the adoption of a new law on peaceful meetings, the decriminalization of libel, the humanization of certain articles of the criminal code, the introduction of a 30% electoral quota for women and young people, as well as Kazakhstan's accession to the Second Optional Protocol on the Abolition of the death penalty.
In general, the historical closeness of the two peoples and their desire to revive their national culture and traditions contribute to the active development of cultural and humanitarian relations. As the Kazakh writer Abish Kekilbayev noted: "Hungarians are the westernmost Kazakhs, and Kazakhs are the easternmost Hungarians".
In conclusion, I would like to quote the dictum of Count István Széchenyi (1791-1860), a Hungarian reformer and writer who made a significant contribution to the rise of the national spirit in Hungary:
«Tiszteld a múltat, hogy érthesd a jelent, és munkálkodhass a jövőn»
«To understand the present and secure the future – need to respect the past».
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