Ethnic and Religious Composition

000ethnicIn the Carpathian Basin various languages, religions, and denominations evolved and lived side-by-side in a state of natural co-existence. In Hungary alone, the three major branches of Christianity—Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox—converged and became inextricably intertwined, Judaism and Islam claim a regional presence reaching back more than a thousand years. Religious communities mostly coincided with ethnic boundaries.

The 150-year period of Ottoman Turkish occupation depopulated large part of the country in the sixteen and seventeen centuries. During the eighteenth century, entire communities of Germans, Serbians, Romanians, Slovakians, Croatians, and Ruthenes migrated to these territories, thus fundamentally changing the region’s overall ethnic makeup. The last and most significant wave of immigration of the Eastern European Jews and Hungary’s Roma population occurred during the nineteenth century. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, non-Hungarian nationalities constituted half of the total population. As a consequence of the border shifts (1920) and turmoils of the twentieth century, ethnic minorities today make up only six percent of Hungary’s population.

Roughly two-third of the Hungarians are Catholics, one-third Protestant. Christianity was adopted during the tenth and eleventh centuries. The Hungarian Reformed Church emerged in the middle of the sixteenth century. The Lutheran (Saxons) and Transylvanian Unitarian churches have each played a decisive role in Hungary’s religious history. While Western Europe was engaged in religious warfare for most of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Principality of Transylvania was regarded as a haven of religious tolerance. Moreover, the territory of historical Hungary formerly included significant Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic populations.

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