Upper Hungary


Upper Hungary


Upper Hungary (Hungarian: Felső-Magyarország or Felvidék, Slovak: Horné Uhorsko) is the usual English translation for the area that was historically the northern part of the Kingdom of Hungary, now mostly present-day Slovakia.[2][3][4][5] The population of Upper Hungary was mixed and mainly consisted of Slovaks, Hungarians, Germans and Ruthenians. In fact the first complex demographic data are from the 18th century. In the 18th - 20th centuries Slovaks were majority population of Upper Hungary.[6] Slovaks called this territory "Slovensko" (Slovakia), which term appears in written documents from the 15th century, but it was not precisely defined and the region inhabited by Slovaks held no distinct legal, constitutional, or political status within Upper Hungary.[7]

The Upper Hungary included the counties of Posoniensis, Nitriensis, Barsiensis, Honthum, Trentsiniensis, Thurociensis, Arvensis, Liptovium, Zoliensis, Geomoriensis et Kishonthensis, Scepusium, Abaujvariensis et Tornensis, Sarossiensis and Zemplinum.[6] In the last and also controversial census 1910 in the Kingom of Hungary, the Slovak language users were majority in the mostly of these counties.[8]


Historical usage

Historically there are different meanings:

1. The older Hungarian term Felső-Magyarország (literally: "Upper Hungary"; Slovak: Horné Uhorsko; German: Oberungarn) formally referred to what is today Slovakia in the 16th-18th centuries and informally to all the northern parts of the Kingdom of Hungary in the 19th century.

2. There are some 16th century sources which refer to the Slovak inhabited territory of the Kingdom of Hungary as "Sclavonia" or "Slováky", names that distinguish the region ethnically as well as geographically.[9]

3. The Hungarian Felvidék (literally: "Upper Country", "Upland", "Highland"; Slovak: Horná zem; German: Oberland; Yiddish: אױבערלאַנד) has had several informal meanings:

  • In the 19th century and part of the 18th, it was usually used:
    • to denote the mountainous northern part of the Kingdom of Hungary as opposed to the southern lowlands
    • more generally, to denote regions or territories situated at a higher altitude than the settlement of the speaker
    • as a synonym for the then-meaning of Felső-Magyarország
  • After World War I, the meaning in the Hungarian language was restricted to Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia, and after World War II to Slovakia only. At the same time, the word felvidék remains a common Hungarian noun applied to areas at higher elevations, e.g., Balaton-felvidék,[10] a hilly region and national park[11] adjacent to Lake Balaton.

Modern usage

After World War I, the meaning of Felvidék in the Hungarian language (Felső-Magyarország was not used anymore) was restricted to Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia. Today the term Felvidék is sometimes used in Hungary when speaking about Slovakia, and it is exclusively (and anachronistically) used in Hungarian historical literature when speaking about the Middle Ages, i.e., before the name actually came into existence. The three counties of the region that remained in Hungary after World War I, however, are never called Upper Hungary today, only Northern Hungary (Észak-Magyarország). Any use of the word Felvidék to denote all of modern Slovakia is considered offensive by Slovaks,[12] and inappropriate by some Hungarians,[13] but it is now commonly used by the sizeable Hungarian minority in the southern border-zone of Slovakia[14] to identify the Hungarian-majority areas where they live.[15] Some of them call themselves felvidéki magyarok, i.e. the "Upland Hungarians." The word felvidék also functions as an ordinary noun used to denote areas at higher elevations in present-day Hungary.[16]

History of Upper Hungary

Middle Ages

The term Upper Hungary often occurs in publications on history as a somewhat anachronistic translation of other, earlier (at that time Latin) designations denoting approximately the same territory. These other terms were, for example, Partes Danubii septentrionales (Territories to the north of the Danube) or Partes regni superiores (Upper parts of the Kingdom). The actual name "Upper Hungary" arose later from the latter phrase. In the 15th century, the "Somorja, Nagyszombat, Galgóc, Nyitra, Léva, Losonc, Rimaszombat, Rozsnyó, Jászó, Kassa, Gálszécs, Nagymihály" line was the northern "boundary" of the Hungarian ethnic area.[17]

Affiliation to Hungary

The Principality of Nitra emerged in the 8th century and developed into an independent Slavic state; although the polity may have lost its independence when it was still at the stage of development.[18][19] In the early 9th century, the polity was situated on the north-western territories of present-day Slovakia.[20]

Toponyms may prove that the nomadic Magyars occupied the Western Pannonian Plain in the Upper Hungary, while the hills were inhabited by a mixed (Slav and Hungarian) population and people living in the valleys of the mountains spoke Slavic language.[21]

16th - 18th centuries

The term emerged approximately after the conquest of today's Hungary by the Ottomans in the 16th century when Felső-Magyarország (German: Oberungarn; Slovak: Horné Uhorsko) referred to present-day whole Slovakia and the adjacent territories of today's Hungary and Ukraine that were not occupied by the Ottoman Empire. That territory formed a separate military district (the "Captaincy of Upper Hungary" (1564–1686) headquartered in Kaschau/Kassa/Košice) within Royal Hungary. At that time, present-day western Slovakia, and sometimes also the remaining territories of Royal Hungary to the south of it, were called Lower Hungary (Hungarian: Alsó-Magyarország; German: Niederungarn; Slovak: Dolné Uhorsko).

It was briefly a separate vassal state of the Ottoman Empire under Imre Thököly in the 1680s.

This usage occurs in many texts up to around 1800 – for example, the renowned mining school of Schemnitz/Selmecbánya/Banská Štiavnica in present-day central Slovakia was founded in "Lower" Hungary (not in "Upper" Hungary) in the 18th century and Pozsony (today Bratislava) was also referred to as being in "Lower" Hungary in the late 18th century.

17th century - early 20th century

From the end of the 17th century (in many texts however only after around 1800) until 1918, the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary north of the Tisza and the Danube, which comprised present-day Slovakia, Carpathian Ruthenia, and approximately the Hungarian counties of Nógrád, Heves, and Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, was informally called either "Upper Hungary" or "Upland" (Felső-Magyarország or Felvidék). Although not strictly defined, the name Felvidék became commonplace to the point that at least one publication concerning the area used it as its title.[22] Other nations used the terms "Upper Hungary" (for the northern part of the Kingdom), "Slovakia" (only for the territory predominantly inhabited by the Slovaks), and "Ruthenia" (the territory predominantly inhabited by the Ruthenians) in parallel. The Slovaks themselves called the territories of the Kingdom of Hungary to the south of Slovakia Dolná zem ("Lower Land").

In the course of the creation of Czechoslovakia at the end of World War I, Czechoslovakia originally demanded that all of the so-called Upper Hungary be added to Czechoslovak territory (i.e. including the territory between the Tisza River and present-day Slovakia). The claim for its acquisition, however, was not based on the whole area having a single common name, "Upper Hungary", but on the presence of a Slovak minority in the region.

Population in the 18th century

In 1720 of the 63 largest town on the territory of present-day Slovakia with at least 100 taxpaying households 40 had Slovak majority, 14 German and 9 Hungarian majority.[17]

Population in the 19th century

The first ethnic data of whole Hungarian Kingdom by county was published in 1842. According to this survey the total population of the counties in Upper Hungary exceeded 2.4 million, with the following ethnic distribution: 59.5% Slovaks, 22% Magyars, 8.3% Ruthenians, 6.7% Germans and 3.6% Jews.[17]

Captaincy of Upper Hungary in 1572 Principality of Upper Hungary in 1683




The Zips, Slovak Spis, Hungarian Szepes, is the best known German settlement area in Slovakia.  The first German settlers arrived in the 12th century.  Known as the Zipser Saxons, these early immigrants were apparently from the Lower Rhine region, Flanders, Saxony, an Silesia.



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