The residents of Budapest are predominantly Hungarians, or Magyars as they prefer to call themselves, making up about 90% of the population demographic. Magyars originate from around 4000BC and were thought to inhabit the forests and the Ural Mountains in western Siberia. Over the next thousands of years they moved into an area in Central Asia where they formed a tribal alliance called onogur or ‘10 peoples’ – this is thought to be where the name ‘Hungary’ comes from in English. Eventually, the Magyars would reach the Carpathian Basin in the mid-19th century AD with seven tribes crossing the basin to, what is now known as, Ukraine, making their home in the Budapest area. The Magyars were a force to be reckoned with but they were defeated by 970AD and left their tribes with little choice but to align themselves with their powerful neighbours. Eventually the descendents of the great chiefs who had originally settled in Budapest, asked the Holy Roman Emperor Otto II to send Catholic missionaries to Hungary. This would lead to their baptism, with the great-great grandson of the original chief being recognised as King Stephen I; Hungary the kingdom and nation was born there and then.
After the Magyars (Hungarians), the next biggest demographic is the Roma minority – the largest in Central Europe. Roma organisations and population experts’ estimate between 450,000 to 1 million Roma reside in Hungary; it is expected this population will double by 2050. The Roma population is a cause of much debate in Budapest over issues of poverty, health and education (the life expectancy of a Roma individual is 10 years less than a non-Roma).
Indeed, Budapesters have serious training when it comes to the art of complaining – the economy hasn’t recovered much since the Global Financial Crisis and the dragging on of the construction of the Metro 4 line is starting to grate. In 2006 only 36% of the population said that they were happy with their quality of life. But despite their sirva vigadni (‘taking pleasure sadly’), Budapesters still take life with vigor.