The city of Győr lies in one of Hungary’s most prosperous economic areas. It is situated not far from both the Austrian and Slovakian borders. The cities of Vienna and Bratislava are about an hour away and are a critical part of Győr’s economic hinterland.
The city is home to a large Audi factory which produces state of the art engines. Industrially, it is probably best known as the home of the Rába Engineering Works which manufactures rolling stock for railways and trucks.
The name Rába comes from the river which flows into a major tributary of the Danube, the Mosoni-Duna at Győr. The Habsburg name for Győr in the 17th and 18th centuries was Raab named for the Rába River.
Over the last couple of centuries the name Győr has stuck, since it is after all a Hungarian city both ethnically and historically. Strange as it may seem though, Győr is actually a word Hungarians adapted from a much older group of people who once settled in this same area. Győr comes from the word gyuru, which means circular fortress in Avar.
It seems that during the 8th and 9th centuries the Avars placed a round fortress in the area that is Győr. This comes about as close as you can get to any direct Avar influence in Hungary today. Who were the Avars?
In the simplest terms the Avars were a tribe of nomadic horsemen that occupied the Carpathian Basin in the period between the decline of the Huns and the arrival of the Magyars. They ruled the area from the mid-sixth century up until the beginning of the ninth.
This historic era is often referred to as the Dark Ages due to the decline of European civilization after the fall of the Roman Empire. Regarding the Carpathian Basin, the Avars occupy a historical netherworld that might best be described as the Dark, Dark Ages.
This was a time when written chronicles were few. Most of what is known about the Avars comes from archaeological evidence.
If historical knowledge of the Dark Ages is rather vague and mysterious in western Europe, than it is downright invisible in eastern Europe. Noticeable traces of the Avars have been all but erased from the landscape.
Whereas one can go visit the ancient Roman ruins of Aquincum in Obuda, there is no easily accessible Avar site that would even come close to being termed a ruin. Not at least in the permanent sense.
Furthermore, the Avars never produced a leader that captured the historical imagination such as the Hun warrior, Attila.
Even though the Huns rise and decline in Europe occurred in just a hundred years – a blink of an eye by historical standards – knowledge of their deeds vastly outweighs what is known about the Avars who occupied relatively the same area two and a half times longer. So what is the Avar legacy?
Perhaps they help us grasp just how incredible it is that the Magyars were able to make the Carpathian Basin their permanent home.
Consider that if you take the combined time the Avars, longer lasting Romans, and short lived Huns ruled the area it still does not match the 1,100 years and counting that the Magyars have ruled Hungary.
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