The Hungarian community in Austria – Burgenland
The eastern slopes of the Alpine foothills, the western stretches of the Little Hungarian Plain, and the vicinity of Lake Neusiedl [Fertő] were formerly inhabited by a large Hungarian community. The ancestors of the autochthonous Hungarians living here in the Modern Era were settled by the chieftains at the time of the Hungarian conquest around 900, to guard the western boundaries of the country.
Out of a total of 171 settlements in the region called Őrvidék in Hungarian and Burgenland in German and having Eisenstadt [Kismarton] as its centre, most, namely, 160 settlements have smaller or larger groups of Hungarians in them. Today, Hungarians form a sizeable community of several hundred people in only two of those settlements: Oberwart [Felsőőr], the southern Burgenland service centre, and the trading town and district seat Oberpullendorf [Felsőpulya]. Since 2000, bilingual place name signs have been put up in Unterwart [Alsóőr], Oberwart [Felsőőr], Oberpullendorf [Felsőpulya], and Siget in der Wart [Őrisziget]. In these settlements, Hungarian may also be used in official dealings – a provision in force since 2000.
Thanks to the ideal conditions that prevail in the region, the locals are mainly engaged in agriculture. High quality plants are grown; they supply grapes, wine, sugar beet and wheat to their compatriots – most of whom live in the high, cold mountains.
In addition to the autochthonous Hungarian population of almost 5,000 in Burgenland, the number of native speakers of Hungarian throughout Austria is estimated around 90,000; most of them settled here in recurring waves mainly in the wake of World Wars One and Two and the revolution in 1956.