Hungary /ˈhʌŋɡəri/ (Hungarian: Magyarország [ˈmɒɟɒrorsaːɡ] ( listen)) is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine, and Romania to the east, Serbia, and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The country's capital, and largest city, is Budapest. Hungary is a member of the European Union, NATO, the OECD, the Visegrád Group, and is a Schengen state. The official language is Hungarian, also known as Magyar, which is part of the Finno-Ugric group and is the most widely spoken non-Indo-European language in the European Union.
Following a Celt (after c. 450 BC) and a Roman (AD 9 - c. 430) period, the foundation of Hungary was laid in the late 9th century by the Hungarian prince Árpád, whose great-grandson Saint Stephen I was crowned with a crown sent by the pope from Rome in 1000 AD. The Kingdom of Hungary existed for 946 years, and at various points was regarded as one of the cultural centres of the Western world. After about 150 years of partial Ottoman occupation (1541–1699), Hungary was integrated into the Habsburg Monarchy, and later constituted half of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy (1867–1918).
A great power until the end of World War I, Hungary has lost about 70 percent of its territory, along with one third of its ethnically Hungarian population, and all its sea ports under the Treaty of Trianon, the terms of which have been considered excessively harsh by many in Hungary. The kingdom was succeeded by an authoritarian regime, and then a Communist era (1947–1989) during which Hungary gained widespread international attention during the Revolution of 1956 and the seminal opening of its border with Austria in 1989, thus accelerating the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. The present form of government is a parliamentary republic, which was established in 1989. Today, Hungary is a high-income economy.
Hungary is one of the thirty most popular tourist destinations in the world, attracting 10.2 million tourists a year (2011). The country is home to the largest thermal water cave system and the second largest thermal lake in the world (Lake Hévíz), the largest lake in Central Europe (Lake Balaton), and the largest natural grasslands in Europe (Hortobágy).
The Roman Empire conquered territory west of the Danube between 35 and 9 BCE. From 9 BCE to the end of the 4th century Pannonia was part of the Roman Empire, located within part of later Hungary's territory. Later came the Huns, who built a powerful empire. After Hunnish rule, the Germanic Ostrogoths, Lombards, and Gepids, and the polyethnic Avars, had a presence in the Carpathian Basin. In the late 9th century the land was inhabited by Slavic peoples and Avars. On the eve of the arrival of the Hungarians, East Francia, the First Bulgarian Empire and Great Moravia ruled the territory of the Carpathian Basin. Additionally, the Avars formed a significant part of the population of the Carpathian Basin at the end of the 9th century; both contemporary sources and a growing number of archaeological evidence suggest that groups of the Avars survived the disintegration of their empire.
The freshly unified Magyars (Hungarians) led by Árpád settled in the Carpathian Basin starting in 895. According to linguists, they originated from an ancient Uralic-speaking population that formerly inhabited the forested area between the Volga River and the Ural Mountains.
Medieval Hungary 895–1526
As a federation of united tribes, Hungary was established in 895, some 50 years after the division of the Carolingian Empire at the Treaty of Verdun in 843, before the unification of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Initially, the rising Principality of Hungary ("Western Tourkia" in medieval Greek sources) was a state consisting of a semi-nomadic people. However, it accomplished an enormous transformation into a Christian realm during the 10th century. This state was well-functioning and the nation's military power allowed the Hungarians to conduct successful fierce campaigns and raids from Constantinople to as far as today's Spain. The Hungarians defeated no fewer than three major East Frankish Imperial Armies between 907 and 910. A later defeat at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955 signaled a provisory end to most campaigns on foreign territories, at least towards the West.
Age of Árpádian kings
The year 972 marked the date when the ruling prince (Hungarian: fejedelem) Géza of the Árpád dynasty officially started to integrate Hungary into the Christian Western Europe. His first-born son, Saint Stephen I became the first King of Hungary after defeating his pagan uncle Koppány, who also claimed the throne. Under Stephen, Hungary was recognized as a Catholic Apostolic Kingdom. Applying to Pope Sylvester II, Stephen received the insignia of royalty (including probably a part of the Holy Crown of Hungary, currently kept in the Hungarian Parliament) from the papacy.
By 1006, Stephen had consolidated his power, and started sweeping reforms to convert Hungary into a Western feudal state. The country switched to using the Latin language, and until as late as 1844, Latin remained the official language of Hungary. Hungary became a powerful kingdom.Ladislaus I extended Hungary's frontier in Transylvania and invaded Croatia in 1091. The Croatian campaign culminated in the Battle of Gvozd Mountain in 1097 and a personal union of Croatia and Hungary in 1102, ruled by Coloman.
The most powerful and wealthiest king of the Árpád dynasty was Béla III, who disposed of the equivalent of 23 tonnes of pure silver a year. This exceeded the income of the French king (estimated at 17 tonnes) and was double the receipts of the English Crown.
Andrew II issued the Diploma Andreanum which secured the special privileges of the Transylvanian Saxons and is considered the first Autonomy law in the world. He led the Fifth Crusade to the Holy Land in 1217, setting up the largest royal army in the history of Crusades. His Golden Bull of 1222 was the first constitution in Continental Europe. The lesser nobles also began to present Andrew with grievances, a practice that evolved into the institution of the parliament (parlamentum publicum).
In 1241–1242, the kingdom received a major blow with the Mongol (Tatar) Invasion. Up to one fifth of Hungary's then population of 2,000,000 were victims of the invasion. King Béla IV let Cumans and Jassic people into the country, who were fleeing the Mongols. Over the centuries they were fully assimilated into the Hungarian population.
As a consequence, after the Mongols retreated, King Béla ordered the construction of hundreds of stone castles and fortifications, to defend against a possible second Mongol invasion. The Mongols returned to Hungary in 1285, but the newly built stone-castle systems and new tactics (using a higher proportion of heavily armed knights) stopped them. The invading Mongol force was defeated near Pest by the royal army of Ladislaus IV of Hungary. As with later invasions, it was repelled handily, the Mongols losing much of their invading force.
Age of elected kings
The Kingdom of Hungary reached one of its greatest extent during the Árpádian kings, yet royal power was weakened at the end of their rule in 1301. After a destructive period of interregnum (1301–1308), the first Angevin king, Charles I of Hungary – a bilineal descendant of the Árpád dynasty – successfully restored royal power, and defeated oligarch rivals, the so called "little kings". The second Angevin Hungarian king, Louis the Great (1342–1382), led many successful military campaigns from Lithuania to Southern Italy (Kingdom of Naples), and was also King of Poland from 1370. After King Louis died without a male heir, the country was stabilized only when Sigismund of Luxembourg (1387–1437) succeeded to the throne, who in 1433 also became Holy Roman Emperor. Sigismund was also (in several ways) a bilineal descendant of the Árpád dynasty.
The first Hungarian Bible translation was completed in 1439. For half a year in 1437, there was an antifeudal and anticlerical peasant revolt in Transylvania, the Budai Nagy Antal Revolt, which was strongly influenced by Hussite ideas.
From a small noble family in Transylvania, John Hunyadi grew to become one of the country's most powerful lords, thanks to his outstanding capabilities as a mercenary commander. He was elected governor then regent. He was a successful crusader against the Ottoman Turks, one of his greatest victories being the Siege of Belgrade in 1456.
The last strong king of medieval Hungary was the Renaissance king Matthias Corvinus (1458–1490), son of John Hunyadi. His election was the first time that a member of the nobility mounted to the Hungarian royal throne without dynastic background. He was a successful military leader and an enlightened patron of the arts and learning. His library, the Bibliotheca Corviniana, was Europe's greatest collection of historical chronicles, philosophic and scientific works in the 15th century, and second only in size to the Vatican Library. The library is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The serfs and common people considered him a just ruler because he protected them from excessive demands from and other abuses by the magnates. Under his rule, in 1479, the Hungarian army destroyed the Ottoman and Wallachian troops at the Battle of Breadfield. Abroad he defeated the Polish and German imperial armies of Frederick at Breslau (Wrocław). Matthias' mercenary standing army, the Black Army of Hungary, was an unusually large army for its time, and it conquered parts of Austria, Vienna (1485) and parts of Bohemia.
Decline of Hungary (1490–1526)
King Matthias died without lawful sons, and the Hungarian magnates procured the accession of the Pole Vladislaus II (1490–1516), supposedly because of his weak influence on Hungarian aristocracy. Hungary's international role declined, its political stability shaken, and social progress was deadlocked. In 1514, the weakened old King Vladislaus II faced a major peasant rebellion led by György Dózsa, which was ruthlessly crushed by the nobles, led by John Zápolya. The resulting degradation of order paved the way for Ottoman pre-eminence. In 1521, the strongest Hungarian fortress in the South, Nándorfehérvár (the Hungarian name of Belgrade, Serbia), fell to the Turks. The early appearance of Protestantism further worsened internal relations in the anarchical country.
Ottoman wars 1526–1699
After some 150 years of wars with the Hungarians and other states, the Ottomans gained a decisive victory over the Hungarian army at the Battle of Mohács in 1526, where King Louis II died while fleeing. Amid political chaos, the divided Hungarian nobility elected two kings simultaneously, John Zápolya and Ferdinand I of the Habsburg dynasty.
With the conquest of Buda by the Turks in 1541, Hungary was divided into three parts and remained so until the end of the 17th century. The north-western part, termed as Royal Hungary, was annexed by the Habsburgs who ruled as Kings of Hungary. The eastern part of the kingdom became independent as the Principality of Transylvania, under Ottoman (and later Habsburg) suzerainty. The remaining central area, including the capital Buda, was known as the Pashalik of Buda.
In 1686, the Holy League's army, containing over 74,000 men from various nations, reconquered Buda from the Turks. After some more crushing defeats of the Ottomans in the next few years, the entire Kingdom of Hungary was removed from Ottoman rule by 1718. The last raid into Hungary by the Ottoman vassals Tatars from Crimea took place in 1717. The constrained Habsburg Counter-Reformation efforts in the 17th century reconverted the majority of the kingdom to Catholicism.
The ethnic composition of Hungary was fundamentally changed as a consequence of the prolonged warfare with the Turks. A large part of the country became devastated, population growth was stunted, and many smaller settlements perished. The Austrian-Habsburg government settled large groups of Serbs and other Slavs in the depopulated south and settled Germans in various areas, but Hungarians were not allowed to settle or re-settle in the south of the Great Plain.
From the 18th century to World War I
Between 1703 and 1711, there was a large-scale uprising led by Francis II Rákóczi, who after the dethronement of the Habsburgs in 1707 at the Diet of Ónod, took power provisionally as the Ruling Prince of Hungary for the wartime period, but refused the Hungarian Crown and the title "King". The uprisings lasted for years. After 8 years of war with the Habsburg Empire, the Hungarian Kuruc army lost the last main battle at Trencsén (1708).
The Period of Reforms
During the Napoleonic Wars and afterwards, the Hungarian Diet had not convened for decades. In the 1820s, the Emperor was forced to convene the Diet, which marked the beginning of a Reform Period (1825–1848, Hungarian: reformkor).
Count István Széchenyi, one of the most prominent statesmen of the country, recognized the urgent need of modernization and his message got through. The Hungarian Parliament was reconvened in 1825 to handle financial needs. A liberal party emerged and focused on providing for the peasantry. Lajos Kossuth – a famous journalist at that time – emerged as leader of the lower gentry in the Parliament. A remarkable upswing started as the nation concentrated its forces on modernization even though the Habsburg monarchs obstructed all important liberal laws relating to human civil and political rights and economic reforms. Many reformers (Lajos Kossuth, Mihály Táncsics) were imprisoned by the authorities.
Revolution and War of Independence
On 15 March 1848, mass demonstrations in Pest and Buda enabled Hungarian reformists to push through a list of 12 demands. Under governor and president Lajos Kossuth and the first Prime Minister, Lajos Batthyány, the House of Habsburg was dethroned.
The Habsburg Ruler and his advisors skillfully manipulated the Croatian, Serbian and Romanian peasantry, led by priests and officers firmly loyal to the Habsburgs, and induced them to rebel against the Hungarian government, though the Hungarians were supported by the vast majority of the Slovak, German and Rusyn nationalities and by all the Jews of the kingdom, as well as by a large number of Polish, Austrian and Italian volunteers. In July 1849 the Hungarian Parliament proclaimed and enacted the first laws of ethnic and minority rights in the world. Many members of the nationalities gained the coveted highest positions within the Hungarian Army, like General János Damjanich, an ethnic Serb who became a Hungarian national hero through his command of the 3rd Hungarian Army Corps.
Initially, the Hungarian forces (Honvédség) defeated Austrian armies. To counter the successes of the Hungarian revolutionary army, Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph I asked for help from the "Gendarme of Europe", Czar Nicholas I, whose Russian armies invaded Hungary. This made Artúr Görgey surrender in August 1849. The leader of the Austrian army, Julius Jacob von Haynau, became governor of Hungary for a few months, and ordered the execution of the 13 Martyrs of Arad, leaders of the Hungarian army, and Prime Minister Batthyány in October 1849. Lajos Kossuth escaped into exile.
Following the war of 1848 – 1849, the whole country was in "passive resistance".
Because of external and internal problems, reforms seemed inevitable and major military defeats of Austria forced the Habsburgs to negotiate the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, by which the dual Monarchy of Austria–Hungary was formed. This Empire had the second largest area in Europe (after the Russian Empire), and it was the third most populous (after Russia and the German Empire). The two realms were governed separately by two parliaments from two capital cities, with a common monarch and common external and military policies. Economically, the empire was a customs union. The old Hungarian Constitution was restored, and Franz Joseph I was crowned as King of Hungary.
The country was mixed with regard to both mother tongue and religion.
Religions (1910 census, Croatia-Slavonia excluded):
- Roman Catholic 49.3% (Hungarians, Germans, Slovaks)
- Calvinist 14.3% (Hungarians)
- Greek Orthodox 12.8% (Romanians, Serbs)
- Greek Catholic 11.0% (Ruthenians, Romanians)
- Lutheran 7.1% (Germans, Slovaks, Hungarians)
- Jewish 5.0%
- Unitarian 0.4% (Hungarians)
First language (1910 census, Croatia-Slavonia excluded):
- Hungarian 54.5%
- Romanian 16.1%
- Slovak 10.7%
- German 10.4%
- Serbian 2.5%
- Ruthenian 2.5%
- Croatian 1.1%
The era witnessed impressive economic development. The formerly backward Hungarian economy became relatively modern and industrialized by the turn of the 20th century, although agriculture remained dominant until 1890. In 1873, the old capital Buda and Óbuda were officially united with Pest, thus creating the new metropolis of Budapest.
Technological change accelerated industrialization and urbanization. The GNP per capita grew roughly 1.45% per year from 1870 to 1913. The growth was even higher, by a substantial amount, in the Hungarian-language area of the country. That level of growth compared very favorably to that of other European nations such as Britain (1.00%), France (1.06%), and Germany (1.51%). Many of the state institutions and the modern administrative system of Hungary were established during this period.
World War I 1914–1918
After the Assassination in Sarajevo, the Hungarian prime minister István Tisza and his cabinet, tried to avoid the outbreak and escalating of a war in Europe, but their diplomatic efforts were unsuccessful.
Austria–Hungary drafted 9 million (fighting forces: 7.8 million) soldiers in World War I (over 4 million from the Kingdom of Hungary) on the side of Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey. The Central Powers conquered Serbia. Romania declared war. The Central Powers conquered Southern Romania and the Romanian capital Bucharest. In 1916 Emperor Franz Joseph died, and the new monarch Charles IV sympathized with the pacifists. With great difficulty, the Central powers stopped and repelled the attacks of the Russian Empire.
The Eastern front of the Allied (Entente) Powers completely collapsed. The Austro-Hungarian Empire then withdrew from all defeated countries. On the Italian front, the Austro-Hungarian army made no progress against Italy after January 1918. Despite great Eastern successes, Germany suffered complete defeat on the more important Western front.
By 1918, the economic situation had deteriorated (strikes in factories were organized by leftist and pacifist movements) and uprisings in the army had become commonplace. In the capital cities, the Austrian and Hungarian leftist liberal movements (the maverick parties) and their leaders supported the separatism of ethnic minorities. Austria-Hungary signed a general armistice in Padua on 3 November 1918. In October 1918, Hungary's union with Austria was dissolved.
Between the World Wars 1918–1941
The success of the 1918 Aster Revolution in Budapest brought Mihály Károlyi to power as prime minister and later as president of the first republic of Hungary. a devotee of Entente. Károlyi ordered the full disarmament of the Hungarian Army, leaving Hungary without any national defence.
Romania took control of Transylvania and other parts of eastern Hungary, Czechoslovakia took control of the northern parts (also known as Upper Hungary), and a joint Serbian and French army took control of the southern parts. These territories had majority populations of the respective occupying nations, but territories were occupied further than the ethnic boundaries, and so each had a significant Hungarian population as well. The post-War Entente backed the subsequent annexations of these territories.
In March 1919, the Communists took power in Hungary. In April, Béla Kun proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet Republic. Kun's government, like its immediate predecessor, proved to be short-lived. Despite some initial military successes against the Czechoslovakian Army, the Romanian Army defeated Kun's troops and took Budapest, ousting his regime.
On 4 June 1920, the Treaty of Trianon was signed, which established new borders for Hungary. Hungary lost 71% of its territory and 66% of its population. About one-third of the ethnic Hungarian population (3.4 of 10 million Hungarians) became minorities in neighboring countries. The new borders separated Hungary's industrial base from its sources of raw materials, and Hungary also lost its only sea port at Fiume (today Rijeka). The revision of the Treaty of Trianon rose to the top of Hungary's political agenda. Some wanted to restore the full pre-Trianon area, others only the ethnic Hungarian majority territories.
Rightist Hungarian military forces, led by the former Austro-Hungarian Admiral Miklós Horthy, entered Budapest in the wake of the Romanian Army's departure and filled the vacuum of state power. In January 1920, elections were held for a unicameral assembly. Admiral Horthy was elected Regent, thereby formally restoring the monarchy to Hungary. However, there would be no more kings of Hungary despite attempts by the former Habsburg ruler Charles IV to return to his former seat of power. Horthy ruled as Regent until 16 October 1944. Hungary remained a parliamentary democracy, but after 1932, autocratic tendencies gradually returned as a result of Nazi influence and the Great Depression.
World War II 1941–1945
The Germans and Italians granted Hungary a part of southern Czechoslovakia and Subcarpathia in the First Vienna Award of 1938, and then northern Transylvania in the Second Vienna Award of 1940. In 1941, the Hungarian army took part in the invasion of Yugoslavia, regaining some more territories. On 22 June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union under Operation Barbarossa; Hungary joined the German effort and declared war on the Soviet Union, and formally entered World War II on the side of the Axis Powers. In late 1941, the Hungarian troops on the Eastern Front experienced success at the Battle of Uman. By 1943, after the Hungarian Second Army suffered extremely heavy losses at the River Don, the Hungarian government sought to negotiate a surrender with the Allies. In 1944, as a result of this duplicity, German troops occupied Hungary in what was known as Operation Margarethe. Miklós Horthy made a token effort to disengage Hungary from the war, but he was replaced by a puppet government under the pro-German Prime Minister Ferenc Szálasi of the Arrow Cross Party.
In late 1944, Hungarian troops on the Eastern Front again experienced success at the Battle of Debrecen, but this was followed immediately by the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the Battle of Budapest. During the German occupation in May–June 1944, the Arrow Cross Party and Hungarian police deported nearly 440,000 Jews, mostly to Auschwitz. The Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg managed to save a considerable number of Hungarian Jews by giving them Swedish passports, but when the Soviets arrived, he was arrested as a spy and disappeared.Rudolf Kastner (original spelling Kasztner), one of the leaders of the Hungarian Aid and Rescue Committee, negotiated with senior SS officers such as Adolf Eichmann to allow a number of Jews to escape in exchange for money, gold, and diamonds. Other diplomats also organized false papers and safe houses for Jews in Budapest and hundreds of Hungarian people were executed by the Arrow Cross Party for sheltering Jews.
The war left Hungary devastated, destroying over 60% of the economy and causing huge loss of life. Many Hungarian men, women, and children were raped, murdered and executed or deported for slave labour by Czechoslovaks, Soviet Red Army troops, and Yugoslavs (mostly Serbian partisans and regular units)— by the end of the war approximately 500,000–650,000 people.
On 13 February 1945, the Hungarian capital city surrendered unconditionally. By the agreement between the Czechoslovakian president Edvard Beneš and Joseph Stalin, expulsions of Hungarians from Czechoslovakia and Slovaks from Hungary started. 250,000 ethnic Germans were also transferred to Germany pursuant to article XIII of the Potsdam Protocol of 2 August 1945.
The territories regained with the Vienna Awards and during World War II were again lost by Hungary with the Paris Peace Treaty in 1947.
Communist era 1947–1989
Following the fall of Nazi Germany, Soviet troops occupied all of the country, and Hungary gradually became a communist satellite state of the Soviet Union.
An estimated 2,000 people were executed and over 100,000 were imprisoned. Approximately 350,000 officials and intellectuals were purged from 1948 to 1956. Many freethinkers and democrats were secretly arrested and taken to inland or foreign concentration camps without any judicial sentence. Some 600,000 Hungarians were deported to Soviet labour camps after the Second World War and at least 200,000 died in captivity.
Rákosi adhered to a militarist, industrialising, and war compensation economic policy, and the standard of living fell. The rule of the Rákosi government led to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and Hungary's temporary withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. The multi-party system was restored by Prime Minister Imre Nagy. Many people were shot and killed by Soviet and Hungarian political police (ÁVH) at peaceful demonstrations throughout the country, creating a nationwide uprising.
Spontaneous revolutionary militias fought against the Soviet Army and the ÁVH in Budapest. The roughly 3,000-strong Hungarian resistance fought Soviet tanks using Molotov cocktails and machine pistols. Though the preponderance of the Soviets was immense, they suffered heavy losses, and by 30 October most Soviet troops had withdrawn from Budapest to garrisons in the Hungarian countryside.
On 4 November 1956, the Soviets retaliated, sending in over 150,000 troops and 2,500 tanks. During the Hungarian uprising an estimated 20,000 people were killed, nearly all during the Soviet intervention. Nearly a quarter of a million people left the country during the brief time that the borders were open in 1956.
Kádár Era 1956–1988
In the first days of November, the Soviet leadership was still undecided about the developments in Hungary, but soon the position prevailed that an intervention was necessary to prevent Hungary from breaking away from the Soviet bloc. János Kádár (Minister of State in the Imre Nagy cabinet) was chosen by the Soviet party leadership to act as the head of the new government intended to replace Imre Nagy's coalition cabinet. In the reprisals following the crushing of the uprising by the Soviet troops, 21,600 mavericks (democrats, liberals, and reformist communists) were imprisoned, 13,000 interned, and 230 brought to trial and executed.Imre Nagy, the legal Prime Minister of the country, was condemned to death and executed in 1958.
Following the invasion, Hungary was under Soviet military administration for a couple of months, but Kadar was capable of stabilizing the political situation in a remarkably short time. In 1963, general amnesty was granted and the majority of those imprisoned for their active participation in the uprising were released. Kadar proclaimed a new policy line according to which the people were no longer compelled to profess loyalty to the party if they tacitly accepted the Socialist regime as a fact of life, in other words "Those who are not against us are with us," as Kadar put it in one of his political speeches. Kádár introduced new planning priorities in the economy. Consumer goods and food were produced in greater volumes and military production was reduced to one-tenth of the pre-revolutionary level. This was followed in 1968 by the New Economic Mechanism (NEM), which introduced free market elements into Socialist command economy. From the 1960s through the late 1980s, Hungary was often referred to as "the happiest barrack" within the Eastern bloc. As a result of the relatively high standard of living, a more liberalised economy, a less oppressed press, and less restricted travel rights than elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc, Hungary was generally considered one of the more liberal countries in which to live in Eastern Europe during the Cold War.
The third Hungarian Republic 1989–present
In June 1988, 80,000 demonstrated against Romania's communist regime's plans to demolish Transylvanian villages. In March 1989, for the first time in decades, the government declared the anniversary of the 1848 Revolution a national holiday. Opposition demonstrations filled the streets of Budapest with more than 75,000 marchers. Premier Károly Grósz met Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, who accepted Hungary's moves toward a multi-party system and promised that the USSR would not interfere in Hungary's internal affairs. The Opposition Round Table Consultations with the representatives of the government, which was founded for the stated goal of introducing multi-party democracy, market economy and change of power, and defining its characteristics, started its sessions. In May, Hungary began taking down its barbed wire fence along the Austrian border – the first tear in the Iron Curtain.
June brought the reburial of former Prime Minister Imre Nagy, executed after the 1956 Revolution, drawing a crowd of 250,000 at the Heroes' Square. The last speaker, 26-year-old Viktor Orbán, publicly called for Soviet troops to leave Hungary. In September, Foreign Minister Gyula Horn announced that East German refugees in Hungary would not be repatriated but would instead be allowed to go to the West. The resulting exodus shook East Germany and hastened the fall of the Berlin Wall. On 23 October, Mátyás Szűrös declared Hungary a republic.
The majorities in the decisive bodies of the state party agreed to give up their monopoly on power, paving the way for free elections in March 1990. The party's name was changed from the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party to simply the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP] and a new programme advocating social democracy and a free-market economy was adopted. This was not enough to shake off the stigma of four decades of autocratic rule, however, and the 1990 election was won by the centre-right Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), which advocated a gradual transition towards capitalism. The liberal Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), which had called for much faster change, came second and the Socialist Party trailed far behind. As Gorbachev looked on, Hungary changed political systems with scarcely a murmur and the last Soviet troops left Hungary in June 1991. In coalition with two smaller parties, the MDF provided Hungary with sound government during its hard transition to a full market economy.
The economic changes of the early 1990s resulted in declining living standards for most people in Hungary. In 1991 most state subsidies were removed, leading to a severe recession exacerbated by the fiscal austerity necessary to reduce inflation and stimulate investment. This made life difficult for many Hungarians, and in the May 1994 elections the Hungarian Socialist Party led by former Communists won an absolute majority in parliament.
All three main political parties advocated economic liberalisation and closer ties with the West. In 1998, the European Union began negotiations with Hungary on full membership. In a 2003 national referendum, 85% voted in favour of Hungary joining the European Union, which followed on 1 May 2004.
Hungary lies between latitudes 45° and 49° N, and longitudes 16° and 23° E.
Slightly more than one half of Hungary's landscape consists of flat to rolling plains of the Pannonian Basin: the most important plain regions include the Little Hungarian Plain in the west, and the Great Hungarian Plain in the southeast. The highest elevation above sea level on the latter is only 183 metres (600 ft).
Transdanubia is a primarily hilly region with a terrain varied by low mountains. These include the very eastern stretch of the Alps, Alpokalja, in the west of the country, the Transdanubian Mountains, in the central region of Transdanubia, and the Mecsek Mountains and Villány Mountains in the south. The highest point of the area is the Írott-kő in the Alps, at 882 metres (2,894 ft).
The highest mountains of the country are located in the Carpathians: these lie in the North Hungarian Mountains, in a wide band along the Slovakian border (highest point: the Kékes at 1,014 m/3,327 ft).
Hungary is divided in two by its main waterway, the Danube (Duna); other large rivers include the Tisza and Dráva, while Transdanubia contains Lake Balaton, a major body of water. The largest thermal lake in the world, Lake Hévíz (Hévíz Spa), is located in Hungary. The second largest lake in the Carpathian Basin is the artificial Lake Tisza (Tisza-tó).
Phytogeographically, Hungary belongs to the Central European province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Hungary belongs to the ecoregion of Pannonian mixed forests.
Hungary has 10 national parks, 145 minor nature reserves and 35 landscape protection areas.
Hungary has a continental climate, with hot summers with low overall humidity levels but frequent rainshowers and mildly cold snowy winters. Average annual temperature is 9.7 °C (49.5 °F). Temperature extremes are about 41.9 °C (107.4 °F) on 20 July 2007 at Kiskunhalas in the summer and −35 °C (−31.0 °F) on 16 February 1940 Miskolc-Görömbölytapolca in the winter. Average high temperature in the summer is 23 °C (73.4 °F) to 28 °C (82 °F) and average low temperature in the winter is −3 °C (27 °F) to −7 °C (19 °F). The average yearly rainfall is approximately 600 mm (23.6 in). A small, southern region of the country near Pécs enjoys a reputation for a Mediterranean climate, but in reality it is only slightly warmer than the rest of the country and still receives snow during the winter.
Hungary is ranked sixth in an environmental protection index by GW/CAN.
The members of the National Assembly elect the President of the Republic every five years. The President has a largely ceremonial role, but is nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The President's powers include the nomination of the Prime Minister who is elected by a majority of the votes of the Members of Parliament based on his recommendations.
The Prime Minister has a leading role in the executive branch in accordance with the Hungarian Constitution, which is based on the post-WWII Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany. Further, the Prime Minister selects Cabinet ministers and has the exclusive right to dismiss them as is the case with the Chancellor of Germany. Cabinet nominees appear before one or more parliamentary committees in consultative open hearings. They must then survive a vote by Parliament and be formally approved by the President.
A constitutional change in force from 1 January 2012 repealed the words "Republic of" from the country's official name.
The unicameral, 386-member National Assembly (Országgyűlés) is the highest organ of state authority and initiates and approves legislation sponsored by the Prime Minister. Its members are elected for a four-year term. 176 members are elected in single-seat constituencies, 152 by proportional representation in multi-seat constituencies, and 58 so-called compensation seats are distributed based on the number of votes "lost" (i.e., the votes that did not produce a seat) in either the single-seat or the multi-seat constituencies. The election threshold is 5%, but it only applies to the multi-seat constituencies and the compensation seats, not the single-seat constituencies.
A 15-member Constitutional Court has power to challenge legislation on grounds of unconstitutionality.
The Military of Hungary, or "Hungarian Armed Forces" currently has two branches, the "Hungarian Ground Force" and the "Hungarian Air Force". The Hungarian Ground Force (or Army) is known as the "Corps of Homeland Defenders" (Honvédség). This term was originally used to refer to the revolutionary army established by Lajos Kossuth and the National Defence Committee of the Revolutionary Hungarian Diet in September 1848 during the Hungarian Revolution.
Hussar: A type of irregular light horsemen was already well established by the 15th century in medieval Hungary. Hussar refers to a number of types of light cavalry created in Hungary in the 15th century and used throughout Europe and even in America since the 18th century. Some modern military units retain the title 'hussar' for reasons of tradition.
Administratively, Hungary is divided into 19 counties. In addition, the capital (főváros), Budapest, is independent of any county government. The counties and the capital are the 20 NUTS third-level units of Hungary.
The counties are further subdivided into 174 (1 January 2011.) subregions (kistérségek), and Budapest is its own subregion. Since 1996, the counties and City of Budapest have been grouped into 7 regions for statistical and development purposes. These seven regions constitute NUTS' second-level units of Hungary.
There are also 23 towns with county rights (singular megyei jogú város), sometimes known as "urban counties" in English (although there is no such term in Hungarian). The local authorities of these towns have extended powers, but these towns belong to the territory of the respective county instead of being independent territorial units.
- Northern Hungary
- Northern Great Plain
- Central Hungary
- Central Transdanubia
- Western Transdanubia
- Southern Transdanubia
- Southern Great Plain
- Counties (county seats)
Hungary held its first multi-party elections in 1990, following four decades of Communist rule, and has succeeded in transforming its centrally planned economy into a market economy. Both foreign ownership of and foreign investment in Hungarian firms are widespread. Hungary has a requirement to reduce government spending and further reform its economy in order to meet the 2020 target date for accession to the euro zone.
The private sector accounts for over 80% of GDP. Hungary gets nearly one third of all foreign direct investment flowing into Central Europe, with cumulative foreign direct investment totaling more than US$185 billion since 1989. It enjoys strong trade, fiscal, monetary, investment, business, and labor freedoms. The top income tax rate is fairly high, but corporate taxes are low. Inflation is low: it was on the rise in the past few years[when?], but it is now[when?] starting to abate. Investment in Hungary is reported to be "easy", although it is subject to government licensing in security-sensitive areas. Foreign capital enjoys virtually the same protections and privileges as domestic capital.
The Hungarian economy is a medium-sized, structurally, politically, and institutionally open economy in Central Europe and is part of the EU single market. Like most Eastern European economies, it experienced market liberalisation in the early 1990s as part of a transition away from communism.
Today, Hungary is a full member of OECD and the World Trade Organization.
OECD was the first international organization to accept Hungary as a full member in 1996, after six years of successful cooperation.
Hungarian economy today
Hungary, as a member state of the European Union may seek to adopt the common European currency, the Euro. To achieve this, Hungary would need to fulfill the Maastricht criteria.
In foreign investments, Hungary has seen a shift from lower-value textile and food industry to investment in luxury vehicle production, renewable energy systems, high-end tourism, information technology.
The austerity measures introduced by the government are in part an attempt to fulfill the Maastricht criteria.
The austerity measures include a 2% rise in social security contributions, half of which is paid by employees, and a large increase in the minimum rate of sales tax (levied on food and basic services) from 15 to 20%.
Hungary, which joined the European Union in 2004, has been hit hard by the late-2000s recession because of its heavy dependence on foreign capital to finance its economy and has one of the biggest public deficits in the EU.
Total government spending is high. Many state-owned enterprises have not been privatized. Business licensing is a problem[by whom?], as regulations are not applied consistently. According to the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, Hungary's economy was 67.2% "free" in 2008, which makes it the world's 43rd-freest economy. Its overall score is 1% lower than last year, partially reflecting new methodological detail. Hungary is ranked 25th out of 41 countries in the European region, and its overall score is slightly lower than the regional average.
In 2011 the Hungarian economy showed signs of recovery with decreasing tax rates and a moderate 1.7 percent GDP growth from the previous financial crisis, however, in November 2011 Moody’s has downgraded Hungary's sovereign credit rating to Ba1, just below investment grade, because of mounting financial-sector funding pressures and the general government debt which is of 81% of GDP (2010). Economic reform measures such as health care reform, tax reform, and local government financing are being addressed by the present government.
In the year 1276 the university of Veszprém was destroyed by the troops of Péter Csák and it was never rebuilt. A university was established in Pécs 1367. Sigismund established a university at Óbuda in 1395. Another, Universitas Istropolitana, was established 1465 in Pozsony by Mattias Corvinus. Nagyszombat University was founded in 1635 and moved 1777 to Buda and is today called Eötvös Loránd University. The world's first institute of technology was founded in Selmecbánya, Kingdom of Hungary (since 1920 Banská Štiavnica, now Slovakia) in 1735. Its legal successor is University of Miskolc in Hungary. The Budapest University of Technology and Economics (BME) is considered the oldest institute of technology in the world with university rank and structure. Its legal predecessor was founded in 1782 by Emperor Joseph II.
The first steam engine of continental Europe was built in Újbánya - Köngisberg, Kingdom of Hungary (Today Nová Baňa Slovakia) in 1722. It was a Newcomen type engine, it served on pumping water from mines.
Science and technology
Hungary is famous for its excellent mathematics education which has trained numerous outstanding scientists. Famous Hungarian mathematicians include father Farkas Bólyai and son János Bólyai, designer of modern geometry (non-Euclidian geometry) 1820–1823; Paul Erdős, famed for publishing in over forty languages and whose Erdős numbers are still tracked; and John von Neumann, a key contributor in the fields of Quantum mechanics and Game theory, a pioneer of digital computing, and the chief mathematician in the Manhattan Project. Many Hungarian scientists, including Erdős, von Neumann, Leó Szilárd, Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller emigrated to the US. Thirteen Hungarian or Hungarian-born scientists received the Nobel Prize, all of whom emigrated, mostly because of persecution of communist and/or fascist regimes. Contemporary, internationally well-known Hungarian scientists include: mathematician László Lovász, physicist Albert-László Barabási, physicist Ferenc Krausz, and biochemist Árpád Pusztai.
- The English word "coach" came from the Hungarian kocsi ("wagon from Kocs" referring to the village in Hungary where coaches were first made).
- Wolfgang von Kempelen invented a manually operated speaking machine in 1769.
- János Irinyi invented the noiseless match.
- In 1827 Ányos Jedlik invented the electric motor. He created the first device to contain the three main components of practical direct current motors: the stator, rotor and commutator.
- Donát Bánki and János Csonka invented the Carburetor for the stationary engine.
- Ottó Bláthy, Miksa Déri and Károly Zipernowsky invented the modern transformer in 1885.
- Kálmán Kandó invented the Three-phase Alternating Current Electric locomotive, and was a pioneer in the development of electric railway traction.
- Tivadar Puskás invented the Telephone Exchange.
- Loránd Eötvös: weak equivalence principle and surface tension
- Albert Szent-Györgyi discovered Vitamin C and created the first artificial vitamin.(Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937)
- Kálmán Tihanyi (co-)invented the modern cathode ray tube (1928)
- Kálmán Tihanyi invented the Thermographic camera (1929) and The Plasma television (1936)
- Theodore Kármán - Mathematical tools to study fluid flow and mathematical background of supersonic flight and inventor of swept-back wings, "father of Supersonic Flight"
- Leó Szilárd: hypothesized the nuclear chain reaction (therefore he was the first who realized the feasibility of an atomic bomb), patented the Nuclear reactor, invented the Electron microscope
- Dennis Gabor invented the Holography (Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971)
- László Bíró invented ballpoint pen
- Edward Teller hypothesized the thermonuclear fusion and the theory of the hydrogen bomb
- Ernő Rubik invented the Rubik's Cube
Hungary has a highly developed road, railway, air and water transport system. Budapest, the capital of the state, serves as an important node in the public transport network.
The Hungarian railway system is centralized around Budapest, where the three main railway stations are the Eastern (Keleti), the Western (Nyugati) and the Southern (Déli). Déli is the most modern but Keleti and Nyugati are more decorative and architecturally impressive. Other important railway stations countrywide include Szolnok (the most important railway junction outside Budapest), Tiszai Railway Station in Miskolc and the stations of Pécs, Győr, Szeged and Székesfehérvár.
Four Hungarian cities have tram networks, and the four cities are Budapest, Debrecen, Miskolc and Szeged . The Budapest Metro is the second-oldest underground metro system in the world, and its iconic Line 1 (dating from 1896) was declared a World Heritage Site in 2002. The system consists of three lines (the fourth being under construction). Budapest also has a suburban railway service in and around the city (HÉV).
Hungary has a total length of approximately 1,314 km (816.48 mi) motorways (Hungarian: autópálya). Motorway sections are being added to the existing network, which already connects many major economically important cities to the capital.
The most important port is Budapest. Other important ones include Dunaújváros and Baja.
There are five international airports in Hungary. Budapest Liszt Ferenc, Debrecen, Sármellék (also called FlyBalaton for its proximity to Lake Balaton, Hungary's number one tourist attraction), Győr-Pér and Pécs-Pogány. The national carrier, Malév Hungarian Airlines operated flights to over 60, mostly European cities, but ceased operations on 3 February 2012.
Due to migrations and significant territorial changes, the demographics of Hungary have significantly fluctuated over time. In modern times, Hungary has become an ethnically homogeneous state. According to the 2001 Hungarian Census, Hungarians constituted 92%, whilst the largest minority are the Roma people (2%).
93.6% of the population speak Hungarian, a Uralic language unrelated to any neighboring language and distantly related to Finnish and Estonian. The main minority group are the Roma. Other groups include: Germans, Slovaks, Croats and Bunjevcis, Romanians, Ukrainians, Serbs and Slovenes. A fringe theory that is well known by linguists is that the Hungarian language is a descendant of Sumerian. Some linguists and historians (like Ida Bobula, Ferenc Badiny Jós, dr Tibor Baráth and others) have published this theory. There are some artifacts which they claim support this view (like the Tartaria tablets). Mainstream linguists reject the Sumerian theory as pseudoscience. Hungarian has often been claimed to be related to Hunnish, since Hungarian legends and histories show close ties between the two peoples; also, the name Hunor is preserved in legends and (along with a few Hunnic-origin names, such as Attila) is still used as a given name in Hungary. Many people[who?] share the belief that the Székelys, a Hungarian ethnic group living in Romania, are descended from the Huns.
In the Eurostat – Eurobarometer poll of 2005, 44% of Hungarians answered that they believed there is a God, 31% answered they believed there is some sort of spirit or life force, and 19% that they do not believe there is a God, spirit, nor life force.
The majority of Hungarians became Christian in the 11th century. Hungary's first king, Saint Stephen I, took up Western Christianity, although his mother, Sarolt, was baptized in the Eastern Rite. Hungary remained predominantly Catholic until the 16th century, when the Reformation took place and, as a result, first Lutheranism, then soon afterwards Calvinism, became the religion of almost the entire population.
In the second half of the 16th century, however, Jesuits led a successful campaign of counterreformation among the Hungarians. The Jesuits founded educational institutions, including Péter Pázmány Catholic University, the oldest university that still exists in Hungary, but organized so-called missions too in order to promote popular piety. By the 17th century, Hungary had once again become predominantly Catholic.
Some of the eastern parts of the country, however, especially around Debrecen ("the Calvinist Rome"), still have significant Protestant communities. Orthodox Christianity in Hungary has been the religion mainly of some national minorities in the country, notably, Romanians, Rusyns, Ukrainians, and Serbs.
Hungary has been the home of a sizable Armenian Catholic community as well. They worship according to the Armenian Rite, but they have united with the Catholic Church under the primacy of the Pope.
Faith Church is one of the Pentecostal churches, accepts the results and spiritual, moral values of both early Christianity and the Reformation, as well as other revival movements serving the progress of the Christian faith. Based on the number of 1% tax designations to churches, Faith Church is the fourth most supported church in Hungary. The weekly Sunday service of the Church is regularly broadcast in live television.
Historically, Hungary was home to a significant Jewish community, especially when many Jews, persecuted in Russia, found refuge in the Kingdom of Hungary during the 19th century. The census of January 1941 found that 6.2% of the population, i.e., 846,000 people, were considered Jewish according to the racial laws of that time. Of this number, 725,000 were considered religiously Jewish as well. Some Hungarian Jews were able to escape the Holocaust during World War II, but most (perhaps 550,000) either were deported to concentration camps, from which the majority did not return, or were murdered by the Hungarian Arrow Cross fascists. Most Jewish people who remain in Hungary live in the centre of Budapest, especially in district VI. The largest synagogue in Europe is located in Budapest.
Legislation at the end of 2011 vested in Parliament instead of the judiciary the power to grant the officially recognized status of a church. The number of registered churches fell from over 300 under previous legislation to 32. Among those dropped was the socially active Hungarian Evangelical Fellowship. The legislation was criticized as discriminatory in an invited Opinion by the Venice Commission.
2012 census data
Hungary is home to the largest synagogue in Europe (Great Synagogue), the largest medicinal bath in Europe (Széchenyi Medicinal Bath), one of the largest basilicas in Europe (Esztergom Basilica), the second largest territorial abbey in the world (Pannonhalma Archabbey), and the largest Early Christian Necropolis outside Italy (Pécs).
Notable architectural styles in Hungary include Historicism and Art Nouveau, or rather several variants of Art Nouveau. In contrast to Historicism, Hungarian Art Nouveau is based on the national architectural characteristics. Taking the eastern origins of the Hungarians into account, Ödön Lechner (1845–1914), the most important figure in Hungarian Art Nouveau, was initially inspired by Indian and Syrian architecture, and later by traditional Hungarian decorative designs. In this way, he created an original synthesis of architectural styles. By applying them to three-dimensional architectural elements, he produced a version of Art Nouveau that was specific to Hungary.
Turning away from the style of Lechner, yet taking inspiration from his approach, the group of "Young People" (Fiatalok), which included Károly Kós and Dezsö Zrumeczky, were to use the characteristic structures and forms of traditional Hungarian architecture to achieve the same end.
Besides the two principal styles, Budapest also displays local versions of trends originating from other European countries. The Sezession from Vienna, the German Jugendstil, Art Nouveau from Belgium and France, and the influence of English and Finnish architecture are all reflected in the buildings constructed at the turn of the 20th century. Béla Lajta initially adopted Lechner's style, subsequently drawing his inspiration from English and Finnish trends; after developing an interest in the Egyptian style, he finally arrived at modern architecture. Aladár Árkay took almost the same route. István Medgyaszay developed his own style, which differed from Lechner's, using stylised traditional motifs to create decorative designs in concrete. In the sphere of applied arts, those chiefly responsible for promoting the spread of Art Nouveau were the School and Museum of Decorative Arts, which opened in 1896.
Foreigners have unexpectedly "discovered" that a significantly large portion of the citizens live in old and architecturally valuable buildings. In the Budapest downtown area almost all the buildings are about hundred years old, with thick walls, high ceiling and motifs on the front wall.
The music of Hungary consists mainly of traditional Hungarian folk music and music by prominent composers such as Liszt and Bartók, considered as the greatest Hungarian composers. Other composers of international renown are Dohnányi, Franz Schmidt, Zoltán Kodály, Gabriel von Wayditch, Rudolf Wagner-Régeny, László Lajtha, Franz Lehár, Imre Kálmán, Sándor Veress and Rózsa. Hungarian traditional music tends to have a strong dactylic rhythm, as the language is invariably stressed on the first syllable of each word. Hungary also has a number of internationally renowned composers of contemporary classical music, György Ligeti, György Kurtág, Péter Eötvös, Zoltán Kodály and Zoltán Jeney among them. One of the greatest Hungarian composers, Béla Bartók was also among the most significant musicians of the 20th century. His music was invigorated by the themes, modes, and rhythmic patterns of the Hungarian and neighboring folk music traditions he studied, which he synthesized with influences from his contemporaries into his own distinctive style.
Hungary has made many contributions to the fields of folk, popular and classical music. Hungarian folk music is a prominent part of the national identity and continues to play a major part in Hungarian music. Hungarian folk music has been significant in former country parts that belong – since the 1920 Treaty of Trianon – to neighboring countries such as Romania, Slovakia, southern Poland and especially in southern Slovakia and the Transylvania: both regions have significant numbers of Hungarians. After the establishment of a music academy led by Ferenc Erkel and Franz Liszt Hungary produced an important number of art musicians:
- Pianists: Ernő von Dohnányi, Ervin Nyíregyházi, Andor Földes, Tamás Vásáry, György Sándor, Géza Anda, Annie Fischer, György Cziffra, Edward Kilényi, Bálint Vázsonyi, András Schiff, Zoltán Kocsis, Dezső Ránki, Jenő Jandó and others.
- Violists: Joseph Joachim, Leopold Auer, Jenő Hubay, Jelly d'Arányi, Joseph Szigeti, Sándor Végh, Emil Telmanyi, Ede Zathurecky, Zsigmondy, Franz von Vecsey, Zoltán Székely, Tibor Varga and newcomers Antal Szalai, Vilmos Szabadi, Kristóf Baráti (b. 79) and others.
- Opera singers: Astrid Varnay, József Simándy, Júlia Várady, Júlia Hamari, Kolos Kováts (Bluebeard in Bartok's Bluebeard)
- Conductors: Eugene Ormandy, George Szell, Antal Doráti, János Ferencsik, Fritz Reiner, sir Georg Solti, István Kertész, Ferenc Fricsay, Zoltán Rozsnyai, Sándor Végh, Árpád Joó, Ádám Fischer, Iván Fischer, Péter Eötvös, Zoltán Kocsis, Tamás Vásáry, Gilbert Varga and others
- String Quartets: Budapest Quartet, Hungarian Quartet, Végh Quartet, Takács Quartet, Kodály Quartet, Éder Quartet, Festetics Quartet,
Broughton claims that Hungary's "infectious sound has been surprisingly influential on neighboring countries (thanks perhaps to the common Austro-Hungarian history) and it's not uncommon to hear Hungarian-sounding tunes in Romania, Slovakia and southern Poland". It is also strong in the Szabolcs-Szatmár area and in the southwest part of Transdanubia, near the border with Croatia. The Busójárás carnival in Mohács is a major Hungarian folk music event, formerly featuring the long-established and well-regarded Bogyiszló orchestra.
Hungarian classical music has long been an "experiment, made from Hungarian antedecents and on Hungarian soil, to create a conscious musical culture [using the] musical world of the folk song". Although the Hungarian upper class has long had cultural and political connections with the rest of Europe, leading to an influx of European musical ideas, the rural peasants maintained their own traditions such that by the end of the 19th century Hungarian composers could draw on rural peasant music to (re)create a Hungarian classical style. For example, Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, two of Hungary's best known composers, used folk themes in their music. Bartók collected folk songs from across Eastern Europe, including Romania and Slovakia, whilst Kodály was more interested in creating a distinctively Hungarian musical style.
During the era of Communist rule in Hungary (1944–1989) a Song Committee scoured and censored popular music for traces of subversion and ideological impurity. Since then, however, the Hungarian music industry has begun to recover, producing successful performers in the fields of jazz such as trumpeter Rudolf Tomsits, pianist-composer Károly Binder and, in a modernized form of Hungarian folk, Ferenc Sebő and Márta Sebestyén. The three giants of Hungarian rock, Illés, Metró and Omega, remain very popular, especially Omega, which has followings in Germany and beyond as well as in Hungary. Older veteran underground bands such as Beatrice from the 1980s also remain popular.
In the earliest times Hungarian language was written in a runic-like script (although it was not used for literature purposes in the modern interpretation). The country switched to the Latin alphabet after being Christianized under the reign of Stephen I of Hungary (1000–1038).
The oldest remained written record in Hungarian language is a fragment in the founding document of the Abbey of Tihany (1055) which contains several Hungarian terms, among them the words feheruuaru rea meneh hodu utu rea, "up the military road to Fehérvár" The rest of the document was written in Latin.
The oldest remained complete text in Hungarian language is the Funeral Sermon and Prayer (Halotti beszéd és könyörgés) (1192–1195), a translation of a Latin sermon.
The oldest remained poem in Hungarian is the Old Hungarian Laments of Mary (Ómagyar Mária-siralom), also a (not very strict) translation from Latin, from the 13th century. It is also the oldest surviving Uralic poem.
Among the first chronicles about Hungarian history were Gesta Hungarorum ("Deeds of the Hungarians") by the unknown author usually called Anonymus, and Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum ("Deeds of the Huns and the Hungarians") by Simon Kézai. Both are in Latin. These chronicles mix history with legends, so historically they are not always authentic. Another chronicle is the Képes krónika (Illustrated Chronicle), which was written for Louis the Great.
Renaissance literature flourished under the reign of King Matthias (1458–1490). Janus Pannonius, although he wrote in Latin, counts as one of the most important persons in Hungarian literature, being the only significant Hungarian Humanist poet of the period. The first printing house was also founded during Matthias' reign, by András Hess, in Buda. The first book printed in Hungary was the Chronica Hungarorum. The most important poets of the period was Bálint Balassi (1554–1594) and Miklós Zrínyi (1620–1664). Balassi's poetry shows Mediaeval influences, his poems can be divided into three sections: love poems, war poems and religious poems. Zrínyi's most significant work, the epic Szigeti veszedelem ("Peril of Sziget", written in 1648/49) is written in a fashion similar to the Iliad, and recounts the heroic Battle of Szigetvár, where his great-grandfather died while defending the castle of Szigetvár. Among the religious literary works the most important is the Bible translation by Gáspár Károli (The second Hungarian Bible translation in the history), the Protestant pastor of Gönc, in 1590. The translation is called the Bible of Vizsoly, after the town where it was first published. (See Hungarian Bible translations for more details.)
The Hungarian enlightenment took place about fifty years after the French enlightenment. The first enlightened writers were Maria Theresia's bodyguards (György Bessenyei, János Batsányi and others). The greatest poets of the time were Mihály Csokonai Vitéz and Dániel Berzsenyi. The greatest figure of the language reform was Ferenc Kazinczy.
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