Hungary's history goes back to the Magyar
people, who immigrated in the 8th century. After
centuries as a powerful kingdom, Hungary was ruled by
the Turks and then by the Austrian empire. Through the
First World War Hungary lost large areas, in the Second
World War the country first received a Nazi regime and
then occupied by Soviet troops. After the war, the
Communists took power under Moscow's control.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Hungary, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The area around the Danube's middle course was
inhabited several thousand years before the beginning of
our time count. During the first decade before Christ,
it became a Roman province. Three hundred years later
Germanic peoples and Asian nomads fought to settle in
the fertile Danube basin. The name Hungary comes from
one of the Magyaric nomadic people, Onogur, who settled
there in the 8th century. The Magyars originally came
from the Ural Mountains.
In the 9th century, Christianity began to spread in
the area, and under King Stefan (István) the Kingdom of
Hungary was founded in 1001. From living as nomadic and
equestrian people, the Magyars now began to use the
land. In parallel, attempts to conquer new territories
continued and, until the 1100s, the kingdom was expanded
with territories that today belong to Slovakia, Romania
and Croatia, among others. In 1241 the country was
devastated by invading Mongols, but when a few years
later they withdrew, the country was able to recover.
A prosperous period followed until the 16th century
when Hungary suffered a bitter defeat against the
Ottoman Empire (Turkish state formation) in the Battle
of Mohács in 1526. The loss led to the country being
divided: central and southern Hungary came under Ottoman
occupation, the western and northern fell the rule of
the Austrian Habsburgs while Transylvania in the east
became its own principality. Since the Austrians
defeated the Ottomans at the end of the 17th century,
all of Hungary ended up under the Habsburg Empire.
After a series of revolts against the Austrians, a
national movement emerged at the beginning of the 19th
century. The greatest uprising, the revolution of
1848-1849 led by the hero of freedom Lajos Kossuth, was
able to defeat the emperor's troops with Russian help.
But in 1867, Austria, weakened by the defeat of the war
against France and Prussia and by several Hungarian
insurgency attempts, forced Hungary to become an equal
part of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The
Emperor of Austria, Frans Josef, was king over the whole
empire and foreign, defense and fiscal politics were
common, but Hungary got its own government and
Losses in the World War
During World War I, Austria-Hungary stood on
Germany's side and belonged to the losers. With the
defeat, the double monarchy was dissolved. In the
Trianon Treaty in 1920, Hungary lost two-thirds of its
territory, and more than three million Hungarians ended
up outside the country. Transylvania was incorporated
with Romania and the Highlands to the north with
Czechoslovakia, while the present Croatia and the
Vojvodina area of Serbia went to Yugoslavia.
For a few months, March-August, 1919, Hungary was a
communist republic under Béla Kun. In 1920, however,
Army Chief Miklós Horthy reestablished the monarchy with
himself as "Head of State". Under his authoritarian
rule, the country was ravaged by economic crises. In the
1930s, Hungary approached fascist Italy and Nazi Germany
in the hope of regaining lost land.
During World War II, Hungary fought against the
Soviet Union from 1941 and participated in the Germans'
attack on Yugoslavia. When the adversity came, the
Hungarians tried to withdraw from the war, and then
Germany occupied Hungary in March 1944. Horthy was
imprisoned after secretly negotiating with the Allies on
a ceasefire. He was succeeded by the Hungarian Nazi
leader Ferenc Szálasi. In the fall of 1944, Soviet
troops invaded Hungary, and in April of the following
year the last German soldiers were expelled.
Many of the bitter memories of World War II are
linked to the Szálasis Arrow Cross movement. The Arrow
Crosses, which drove nationalist and anti-Semitic
politics, cooperated with the Nazis. In Budapest, on a
quay on the Danube, there is a poignant memorial of Jews
murdered by arrow crossers: lots of shoes that are
reminiscent of people shot and thrown into the river.
Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg was one of those who
during the last years of the war tried to save Hungarian
Jews from the Holocaust (see Population and language.)
Court criticism against media law
The Constitutional Court says that parts of the disputed new media law (see
December 2010) entail major interference with freedom of the
press. The Court rejects the requirement for so-called balanced surveillance as
well as the law's ability to force journalists to disclose their sources. At the
same time, two journalists are dismissed from state TV after they hunger strike
in protest of the media law.
Protests against central bankers
The opposition boycotts the vote when Parliament decides on increased
political influence over Hungary's central bank. The EU and the IMF are
suspending talks on new support loans in protest of the law. The opposition is
also critical of a number of other laws passed by the Fidesz government during
the year and which increase the government's power over, among other things, the
judiciary. Criticism also comes from the EU and the US.
Parliament is reduced
Decides to reduce the number of Members of the House from 386 to 199 from the
next election and to redo the electoral districts; Hungarian citizens living
abroad are entitled to vote.
Religious communities are not recognized
On the day before New Year's Eve, Parliament decides that over 300 religious
communities will no longer be recognized by the state.
An ever weaker Hungarian currency
In the shadow of the euro crisis, the Hungarian currency forint is falling
sharply, which means that Hungary's national debt grows to over 80 percent of
GDP. The country's credit rating is deteriorating and the government decides to
re-negotiate with the EU and the IMF on support loans. In July 2010, Hungary
left the loan negotiations with the IMF after disagreement over the terms.
The Socialist Party is shattered
Former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and nine party mates leave the
Socialist Party and form a new party group in the parliament called the
Democratic Coalition (Demokratikus Koalíció, DK).
Fines for poison disaster
Aluminum manufacturer MAL is set to fine EUR 473 million for poisonous
emissions in western Hungary (see October 2010).
97-year-old is released from war crimes
97-year-old suspected war criminal Sándor Kápiró is acquitted by a Budapest
court. He is charged with murder of over 30 Jews and Serbs in 1942 but denies
the charges. Many of the audience cheer and applaud the verdict. Between 1,200
and 4,000 Jews, Serbs and Roma were murdered for three days by Hungarian forces
in a notorious massacre in the city of Novi Sad in January 1942.
Fundamental changes are being pushed through
The Socialists and the Green Party boycott the vote in Parliament, when the
ruling party Fidesz votes through disputed constitutional amendments. According
to the new constitution, the country is held together by God and Christianity,
the state must protect life from conception, the national debt is not allowed to
exceed 50 percent of GDP and the country changes its name from the Republic of
Hungary to only Hungary. The President is entitled to dissolve Parliament
annually if no budget is adopted before 31 March. The opposition criticizes that
the country's politically composed fiscal councils can veto the budget.
The Meborg Garden is a concern for Romans
The right-wing extreme citizenry is causing concern among the Roma in eastern
and northern Hungary. Hundreds of Roma women and children leave the village of
Gyöngyöspata, when a citizen's guard stations nearby to conduct "training"
during the Easter weekend. Some members of the guard are arrested by police.