After the conquest of Hungary, which ended in 900, it seemed for a time
that the Magyars would not be able to adapt themselves quickly enough to
settle in Europe. However their leaders, the princes of the House of Árpád, soon
recognized the danger these periods of plundering raids held for the
Prince Géza began the great task of linking his country with the
development of Europe, and his son, King Stephen (1000-1038) sealed the
process by having his people convert to Christianity. King Stephen
married a German princess, and he received the crown used at the
coronation (which is featured among the national emblems on the coat of
arms) from the Pope. (Rome
later canonized Stephen and several other members of the House of Árpád
too.) The Kingdom of Hungary adopted the social model and the system of
values, which had been developed in Western Europe, and the nation,
which at the time of the conquest had been semi-nomadic, moved from
animal breeding to agriculture.
In the 14th century Hungary was considered an important market in
European trade. At the same time it was one of the most stable countries
in Europe, because the rifts characteristic of a feudal society did not
lead the country to long-standing disintegration of its territory. The
Árpád kings (up till 1301), the Anjou dynasty (1308-1387), the
Luxembourg dynasty (1387-1437), the Habsburg dynasty (1437-1458), the
house of Hunyadi (1458-1490) and the Jagello dynasty (1490-1526) all
strove to preserve the primus inter pares situation.
The Mongolian invasion (1241-1242) - the Mongols swept through Europe in
the last wave of the Great Migrations - was the first serious disaster
for Hungary. The healthy development spurred by the rebuilding of the
country after the Mongol invasion was brought to an end by the advance
of the Ottoman Turks into Europe. From the 15th century they threatened
Hungarian territory, and for centuries Hungary fought battles with the
Turks. In 1526 at the Battle of Mohács the independent Hungarian State
was destroyed, and in 1541 the royal seat of Buda fell. The country was
split into three parts: the territory under Habsburg rule, the part
conquered by the Turks and the Princedom of Transylvania. The 150 years
of Turkish occupation drastically curtailed the country's development
and caused severe loss of both material goods and human life.
After the Turks were driven out (in 1686), Hungary came under Habsburg
rule. As a result, for several hundred years neither the royal court nor
the central administration operated on Hungarian soil. Foreign settlers
were moved into the country to swell the dwindling population and this
meant that the previous ethnic unity of the country was disrupted. The
uprising of Ferenc Rákóczi against Habsburg rule (1703-1711) was the
first attempt to win back the country's independence since the expulsion
of the Turks. In contrast to the trend in Western Europe in the 18th
century, here the privileges of the nobility and the second wave of
serfdom hindered modernization.
The 19th Century.
The revolution of March 15, 1848 was a milestone in the history of
revolutions in Europe. Bowing to pressure from the masses, the Hungarian
Diet accepted most of the revolutionaries' demands, including the
liberation of the serfs, equality before the law, freedom of the press
and an independent Hungarian government. In September 1848 the imperial
Austrian government launched an armed attack on Hungary in order to
crush the revolution and do away with its achievements which had earlier
been approved by the emperor. The independent Hungarian army succeeded
in holding off the attack, and only surrendered when the Austrians
sought help from the imperial Russian troops.
The years of oppression were followed in 1867 by a Compromise, as a
result of which the legislation and government of the Austro-Hungarian
Monarchy were separated, and only the ministries of foreign affairs,
defense and finance were run jointly. Although vestiges of feudalism
were still present, a capitalist economic structure developed and
significant foreign capital was invested in Hungary.
The World Wars.
In the wake of defeat in the First World War (1914-1918), the
Austro-Hungarian Monarchy came to an end. In Hungary a short-lived
communist council republic followed a bourgeois democratic revolution.
After its collapse, the new government was forced to sign the Trianon
Peace Treaty in 1920. Since the pens of the negotiators were guided by
military-strategic considerations when they drew the borders of the
successor states, two thirds of the Hungarian nation found itself
outside the borders of the country. With this loss of territory (Hungary
had a renounce 70 per cent of its former land) it was also deprived of
access to its raw materials. These historical facts had a commanding
influence on the policies of Regent Miklós Horthy. His authoritative,
conservative government misjudged the balance of power: though not
Fascist, the Hungarian government sided with Hitler in the hope of
regaining some of the territory lost after the First World War.
Between 1938 and 1941 this policy was partly successful, but Hungary
entered the Second World War on the side of the Axis powers. In 1944
German forces occupied the country and, after an unsuccessful attempt to
pull out of the war, in October 1944 the extreme right wing Arrow-Cross
Party came to power. Hungary had reached low ebb in its history.
In 1944 a new Hungarian government was formed in Debrecen, a town in the
Eastern part of the country which had by this time been liberated. In
February 1946 a republic was proclaimed and a year later in February
1947, representatives of the Hungarian government signed the Paris Peace
Treaty, which effectively restored the 1938 Trianon borders.
The first free elections were held immediately after the war, in 1945.
Six parties, which had the approval of the Allied Control Commission,
took part. the Independent Smallholders´ Party gained 245 seats, the
Communists 70. By 1947 there were only two parties left to oppose the
Communists who were enjoying support from Moscow, and these were
gradually broken down under the increasing political pressure from the
USSR. Under the leadership of Mátyás Rákosi (1949-1956) a Soviet-type
Constitution was passed by Parliament and a one-party system came into
being, which ignored national traditions and slavishly copied the Soviet
On October 23, 1956
a popular uprising, which gradually turned into a revolution, broke out
against the hated leadership and regime. It was crushed by Soviet
troops, and in 1958 the leader of the 1956 revolutionary government,
Imre Nagy, and several of his associates were executed. The dictatorship
was restored with Soviet support and hundreds fell victim to reprisals.
In the years of János Kádár´s leadership (1956-1988), after a period of
retaliation for the revolution, the regime was consolidated, but even
under these conditions of relative liberality and the so-called soft
dictatorship, it became clear that socialism was not reformable and the
country and its people were in need of change.
Demands for a multi-party system were gaining strength and the collapse
of the one-party state became inevitable. On June 16, 1989 a huge crowd
gathered to witness a fitting reburial for the martyrs of the 1956
revolution. On October 23, 1989 Hungary was renamed Republic of Hungary.
In the spring of 1990 free elections were held, the Hungarian Democratic
Forum winning by a large majority. József Antall, the party's chairman,
formed a government, which was sworn in on May 23. Following Jozsef
Antall´s death in December 1993, Péter Boross, also a member of the
Democratic Forum and up till then Minister for Home Affairs, became the
new Prime Minister. At the elections in 1994 the Hungarian Socialist
Party won a majority, and they formed a coalition government with the
Alliance of Free Democrats. After the 1998 elections the Alliance of
Young Democrats (FIDESZ - MPP) formed a coalition with the Independent
Smallholder's Party (FKgP) and the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF).
In 1999 Hungary
became the member of NATO.