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Hungary, facts and history in brief           Budapest, facts and history in brief

Brief history of Hungary and


Hungary (Republic of Hungary)
Brief History

The Roman Empire's provinces of Dacia and Pannonia fell to Germanic tribes in the late 2nd century.
The Germanic tribes were driven out by Attila the Hun later.
The Huns, a nomadic people, ranged over much of Europe until Attila's death.
and also the Franks took over the land.
In the late ninth century, the Hungarians (Magyar-ok) under the legendary Árpád re-conquered the rich alluvial plains (There used to be a huge inland lake many thousands of years ago) interspersed by some rolling hills and enclosed by the Carpathian Mountains, giving protection on the north, east and southeast.
The land was sparsely populated and suitable to their pastoral, agricultural lifestyle.
Under Árpád's leadership and after his death the Hungarians made regular incursions in parts of Europe, until their defeat in 955 by the Roman Emperor Otto I.
After this defeat Duke Géza converted himself and the Hungarian people to Christianity and Western culture.
His son Stephen I, the founder of the Árpád dynasty, and modern Hungary, was made King of Hungary in 1001 by Pope Sylvester II who also gave him the Holy Crown of Hungary (Which is revered by all Hungarians even to this day) and the 'Apostolic Majesty' title.
The Hungarian kings used the title for over nine centuries.
King Stephen was canonised in 1083.
He set the foundation of a modern Hungary.
Christianity and Western culture was firmly established.
After his death, there were invasions by Germans and by some barbarians.
His successor Ladislas I, enacted very enlightened laws, aligned himself with Pope Gregory VII. and Hungary became a powerful kingdom again.
He conquered Croatia, Bosnia, and part of Transylvania while one of his successors conquered part of Dalmatia.
In the 12th century the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus seized the Hungarian throne.
During this time, a feudal system was established, diminishing the King's power.
King Andrew II re-establish the King's power and issued the Golden Bull in 1222, (The Hungarian Magna Carta) giving the nobility some rights and some tax exemptions, for their acceptance of Royal power, with some success.
In 1241 while Béla IV was king, the Mongols invaded Hungary for a short while. The defence and occupation of the country weakened it and the royal power and after the death of Andrew III in 1301, the line of the House of Árpád died. In 1308, Charles Robert of Anjou became Charles I of Hungary, starting the Anjou dynasty in Hungary. He restored order, limited the large landowners power and re-established royal prerogative.
His son Louis I conquered Venice and was king of Poland as well. Hungary became one of the largest Kingdoms of Europe. He affirmed royal rule, developed commerce, science, and industry. The Ottoman Empire begins its advance on Hungary's southern parts, on the Balkan Peninsula in his later years.
In 1387 Sigismund became King and led a crusade against the Turks, but was defeated in 1396. He suffered another defeat to the Venetians. In 1411, he was made Holy Roman Emperor and for years battled against the Hussites, the religious reformers. After Sigismund's death his Habsburg son-in-law Albert II became Hungary's King. The Turks made a number of incursions into Hungary during these years, but the brilliant leadership of János Hunyadi and his victory in Belgrade in 1456 saved the country.
In 1458 Matthias Corvinus, Hunyadi's son was crowned King. He was one of the most able and enlightened rulers of his time. He established a standing army, and accelerated the commercial and cultural development of Hungary. He was also a brilliant military leader, and gained control of Austria, Moravia, Silesia, and Lusatia and moved to Vienna. During his reign, Hungary was the most formidable kingdom of central Europe.
After his death in 1490, the large landowners re-established their power and the country became embroiled in feudal wars and peasant rebellion.
In 1521, the Turks captured Belgrade. In 1526, they defeated the Hungarian army at Mohács. King Louis II the infant King and many thousands of the Hungarian army died, and Buda fell to Turkish hands.
In the following 150 years, Hungary was divided into three parts. The Turks ruled the central part. The Hungarians retreated mainly to Transylvania. The Austrian Habsburgs ruled the western parts. During this time, Reformation and counter-Reformation further divided the population. The Hungarians embraced the Protestant Reformation and so the Long Wars followed between the Protestant Hungarians and the Catholic Habsburgs. To settle the aggrieved Hungarians, Emperor Rudolf II granted large concessions such as political and religious independence and extra territory.
Soon the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) broke out, led at first by Gabriel Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania and King of Hungary and then George I Rákóczy, and continued the fight to regain western Hungary from the Habsburgs. With the Swedes and French, Rákóczy invaded Austria. In 1644, Emperor Ferdinand III granted many of the Hungarians demands. During George II Rákóczy's reign as Prince of Transylvania, the Turks conquered most of Transylvania. In the western (Habsburg) section of Hungary returned to the Roman Catholic Church. The Habsburgs used religious persecutions against Protestants. These provoked a uprising led by Count Imre Thököly, with major victories over Emperor Leopold I's armies, at times with the Turkish army's help. The Habsburg armies managed to expel the Turks from most of Hungary and beat Thököly's army too. There were severe reprisals against the Hungarians including the declaration that the Crown of Hungary be hereditary to the Habsburgs in eternity by the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699.
In 1703, Rákóczy II organised an uprising while the Austrians were involved with their Spanish War with the help of France but suffered a defeat at Trencín. The uprising continued until the 1711 peace treaty with general amnesty, religious freedom, and many political concessions. The peace lasted over a century.
Following the French Revolution in 1789, Hungarian nationalism gained enormous support. In 1815 the Liberal Party was formed and the movement was headed by many well-known Hungarian statesmen like Count István Széchenyi, József Eötvös, Ferenc Deák, Lajos Kossuth, and Lajos Batthyány. Many enlightened bills were passed, despite opposition by the government. Literature and arts flourished.
In March 1848 a Hungarian ministry, Batthyány as premier was established, cutting all ties with Austria. Hungarian was made the official language, causing rebellions with some of the non-Hungarian population, like the Romanians and Croats. In April 1849, the Hungarian Diet voted for the independence of Hungary and the dethronement of the Habsburgs.
In August 1849 the Austrian and Russian armies defeated the Hungarians. On October 6, 1849, (A day of national remembrance), Batthyány and 13 other leaders were executed.
In March 1867, after the Emperor was defeated in Italy and Prussia and the resurging Hungarian nationalism, a Hungarian Compromise was reached making Austria and Hungary a dual monarchy, granting Hungary full sovereignty. Soon Emperor Francis Joseph was crowned King of Hungary. The dual monarchy lasted until the end of the World War I.
Francis Joseph died on November 21, 1916, succeeded by Emperor Charles I. Under his reign many ties with the monarchy were broken, nationalism increased, and unrest increased.
On October 25, 1917, Count Mihály Károlyi formed the national council, established general suffrage, dissolved parliament, and started peace negotiations with the Allies.
On November 16, 1918, the Hungarian Democratic Republic was announced, Károlyi as president.
In March 1919, after further political and social unrest the Communists with Béla Kun as leader overthrew Károlyi's government. The Communists nationalised all banks, commerce and industry. In the meantime, the Czechs invaded Hungary in the north and the Romanians in the south.
Béla Kun fled to Austria on August 1, 1919, unable to cope with the internal unrest and occupations. On August 4, the Romanians occupied Budapest until November 14.
On November 25, 1919 with Allied supervision an interim government was formed led by Miklós Horthy, a former admiral. General elections were held, and all links with Austria were severed. Hungary became a monarchy and Horthy was regent.

Map of Hungary after the Trianon Peace Agreement (Click to enlarge)

On June 4, 1920, the government accepted the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Trianon, which deprived Hungary of Transylvania, Croatia, and Slovakia. Horthy was to rule the country for more than twenty years.
While Gyula von Gömbös was Premier, Hitler made some concessions and returned part of Slovakia and Ruthenia to Hungary.
Hungary declared neutrality at the start of World War II, but was indebted to the Germans and Italians for returning Transylvania in 1940.
In April 1941 the Hungarian troops followed the German attack on Yugoslavia, to the territory it lost by the Treaty of Trianon.
On June 27, 1941, Hungary declared war on the Soviet Union.
On December 13, 1941 it declared war on the United States. But by August 1943 the Hungarian government tried unsuccessfully to make peace with the Allied powers.
In March 1944 Germany occupied the country. A pro-German government was formed and began a terror against all dissidents and Jews.
The Russian armies invaded Hungary on October 7. Budapest fell on February 13. In March 1945, the new regime embarked on a major land reforms. Elections were held on November 4 and won by the Zoltán Tildy led Small Landholders' Party. Hungary was proclaimed a republic, Tildy as President. A coalition government including Ferenc Nagy as Premier, and Mátyás Rákosi, the leader of the Communist party, as Vice-Premier.
For a few months Hungary was on the verge of bankruptcy because of rampant inflation, food shortages, damaged transport system, and most of the Capital and the country in general lay in ruins following the war and occupation.
In January 1947 the Communists charged and arrested many of the other party leaders for conspiracy. The army and public offices were purged unless they were Communist Party members. In 1948, the Social Democratic Party was forced to join with the Communist Party, forming the Hungarian Workers' Party. In 1949, after further purges of the new party the elections were for the Communists candidates only.
In August 1949 the new constitution, established the Hungarian People's Republic.
So began Hungary's conversion to Communist policies in earnest. Economic, military co-operation with the Soviet Union and other Communist countries begins. Religious schools were nationalised; hundreds of priests and nuns were arrested unless they agreed with the actions.
Cardinal Mindszenty was arrested, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. All industry and commerce was nationalised, farms collectivised. All opposition had their lands confiscated and opponents sent to labour camps.

There were Soviet inspired show trials of the "enemies of the state". Including the head of the Hungarian Catholic Church,

József Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary
(Brief story, my tribute/confession and some of my photos of His Eminence's visit to Auckland, New Zealand in 1975.)

After the Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin's death in 1953 the government liberalised many of its policies. Imre Nagy replaced Mátyás Rákosi as Premier, but remained the Communist Party leader. A new economic programme was embarked on. Some amnesties were granted to political prisoners and labour camps were closed. However Hungary joined the Warsaw Pact and the COMECON (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance), with the other Communist countries of Eastern Europe.
In April 1955 Nagy was sacked as Premier and expelled from the party, signalling the end of his liberal policies.
András Hegedüs was made the new Premier with Rákosi Ernö Gerö as Party Secretary. The population's distrust and discontent with the old communist grew rapidly. Influenced by the Polish unrest the students organised demonstrations against the compulsory Russian language courses and other grievances on October 23rd 1956.

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution. (My Story)

A brief introduction and links to other articles and works.


Index - (Table of Contents)

Author's notes


Chapter 1 - 1956

Chapter 2 - The Revolution

Chapter 3 - We are free!

Chapter 4 - The Soviets return with a vengeance

Chapter 5 - Escape to freedom

Chapter 6 - On the way to New Zealand

Chapter 7 - New Zealand

Appendix 1 - Some statistics of the Revolution

Appendix 2 - Some statistics of the Emigration

Appendix 3 - Some of the Correspondences

Links - Recommended reading

Together with the Writers' Union and the general population, including the workers, demanding the reinstatement of Nagy as Premier. Hegedüs called in the occupying Soviet forces to regain control of the situation. After a few short hours, Imre Nagy was made Premier and János Kádár the Party Secretary. Nagy promised scraping the one-party system, free elections, economic reforms, freed Cardinal Mindszenty, demanded the withdrawal of Soviet forces and Hungary's withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact and declared Hungary a neutral state. The Soviet Union agreed to the concessions. While Nagy was confident and waiting for western support, on the 4th of November 1956 Soviet troops and tanks brutally suppressed the Revolution. Hundreds were executed, thousands were imprisoned, and nearly 200,000 fled to the west.
Under János Kádár as Premier and head of the renamed Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (HSWP), the Soviets gave US$250 million in aid and support of the new regime. Nagy and many of his associates were executed. Cardinal Mindszenty took refuge in the USA Embassy in Budapest, until 1971. The reign of terror, executions and deportations to the Soviet Union lasted throughout 1957 and 1958.
Kádár was the general secretary of the party and premier a few times for over thirty years. In 1967 came a general relaxation of the terror. Multi party elections were held, but he was still a Moscow puppet. In 1968, he helped the Russians invading Czechoslovakia. The same year the New Economic Mechanism (NEM) was announced, bringing less government control and more individual freedom. There was some economic and industrial growth in the following years as well as relaxed trade and cultural contacts with non-communist countries. In the following years he negotiated conventions and treaties with the U.S.A., West Germany and the Roman Catholic Church. In 1974, the Pope officially agreed to remove Cardinal Mindszenty as Archbishop of Esztergom.
Relations with the West continued to improve and trade to increase throughout the following years.
The early 1980s showed a rising inflation, forcing Kádár to impose an austerity programme.
Mass demonstration for freedom of speech, and civil reforms followed.
In May 1988, the Hungarians demanded Kádár's replacement as General Secretary.
Károly Grósz, who has been prime minister since June 1987 was made general secretary, He embarked on a tough economic programme that included levying new taxes, cutting subsidies, and encouraged the private sector, relaxed censorship laws, allowed opposition parties and groups, and legalised the right to strike and to demonstrate.
In 1989, a hero's burial was given to Imre Nagy, restrictions were eased on emigration, the constitution was revised allowing for democratic multi-party system, and the country's name was changed from the People's Republic of Hungary to the Republic of Hungary.
In early 1990 after the first free elections in 45 years, a coalition of centre-right parties won a parliamentary majority. After a failed referendum, due to low turnout the National Assembly voted Árpád Göncz, a writer as Head of State.
In 1990, Hungary became the first central European nation in the Soviet block to join the Council of Europe.
In 1991 and 1992 the government enacted treaties of co-operation with Poland, the Czech and Slovak republics, Russia, and Ukraine.
Relations with Romania and Slovakia were strained because of the treatment of Hungarian minorities in those countries, including some 1.7 million in Romania.
In April 1994 Hungary applied for membership of the EU. In the May elections the Hungarian Socialist Party (formerly the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party) won a majority of 72 per cent Gyula Horn was elected as Premier and some austerity measures were announced with budget cuts to reduce the US$28 billion foreign debt. In April 1995 Eastern Europe's first Gypsy National Autonomous Authority was set up. In June, the Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation with Slovakia was signed. In November the abolishment of exchange control was introduced for the first time in over 60 years. A large privatisation programme was started and foreign consortia took majority holdings in the telecommunications and gas distribution companies, and minority holdings in the electricity, oil and gas producing industries.
In early 1997 Hungary and Slovakia went to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to resolve the dispute between them concerning the Gabcickovo-Nagmaros hydroelectric project and diversion of the Danube, both countries were required to negotiate their compensation payments.
In a national referendum 85 per cent of votes cast were in favour of Hungary joining the NATO of the proposition. The two leading opposition parties announced an electoral pact. In March 1998 Hungary with ten other nations applied for membership. Hungary joined the EU in May 2004.

I would like to acknowledge the contributors to this page; Ms Encarta, Onko, and the others.
Many thanks. The Webmaster

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