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State

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Hungary

Budapest

Magyarorzsag

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Forint

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History

The Magyars invaded western Europe from Xinjiang (where a related people still live) in the 9th century. They are related to the Finns and Estonians and also to the Turks. From the 5th to the 9th centuries they lived around the mouth of the Don, among Turkic peoples. They called themselves the On Ogur (= ten arrows or tribes).

In the early 9th century they were vassals of the Khazars, the Jewish Turks believed to be the ancestors of most of the Jews of eastern Europe. They were then pressed by the Pechenegs to the east to move westward in seven tribes of Magyars and three tribes of dissident Khazars. In 889 they reached the mouth of the Danube. There some of them entered the service of the Byzantines against the Turkish Bulgars and Pechenegs. In 896 the whole nation moved westward into the Middle Danube area across the Carpathians. At this time there were about 25,000 of them. They defeated the forces of Moravia in 900 and the Germans in 907. They spent the rest of the century settling in the area of modern Hungary (the land they settled on had been Roman Pannonia) and Romania and raiding their neighbors for slaves and portable property. They were defeated by the German Emperor in 955 outside Augsburg. This caused them to become settled and to begin to lose the character of Central Asian nomads. The king was baptized into the Roman church in 975.

His son, with the help of German soldiers, forced the Hungarians to adopt western ways and give up enslaving their neighbors.

At the battle of Mohacs 1526, the Magyars were defeated by Suleiman the Magnificent. From 1547 the Turks occupied all of eastern and central Hungary, except for a thin strip of land in western Hungary which became part of the Habsburg domains. During this period Transylvania was an autonomous principality within the Ottoman Empire. The Hungarians there were able to rule themselves to some extent. This is why, until the Ceausescu period, Transylvania was said to be the region with the purest language and customs. The Habsburgs gradually reconquered Hungary from the Ottomans. The central part of the kingdom under the direct rule of the Ottomans was destroyed and Serb and Vlach (Romanian) shepherds occupied the ruined agricultural land while the surviving Magyars lived in large villages and tried to defend themselves from the enslaving Turks. Gradually the Turks were driven out of central Europe. They were defeated at the walls of Vienna in 1683. They lost Buda in 1686. By 1699 the Habsburgs held Transylvania and all Hungary except the south eastern corner.

In the 19th century the Hungarians struggled for their own identity and from 1867 achieved their own kingdom within the empire which from that time became known as the Dual Monarchy or Austria-Hungary. There was an agreement to make Hungary an autonomous part of the empire with freedom for every nationality to use its own language in education and public life. However, the Magyars tried to make Magyar the main language throughout their area of the Empire, alienating the Croats, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenians and Romanians who were ruled by the Hungarian state. This led to the opposition of these peoples at the end of the first world war and the vindictiveness by which the Hungarian state was dismembered in the post war arrangements.

At the end of the first world war the Habsburg empire collapsed and Hungary became independent but lost many of the territories which had been ruled from Budapest, especially: those parts of Romania which included Transylvania; Slovakia; and parts of what became northern Yugoslavia (Vojvodina). The result was that there are communities of minority Hungarians in the neighboring states. After a brief communist revolution (Bela Kun) Hungary was ruled by the former Admiral Horthy of the Austrian Navy (Hungary now had no sea coast) who called himself Regent for the absent king and maintained one of the authoritarian, more or less totalitarian, regimes common in Eastern Europe between the world wars. There was hyperinflation. In 1939 Hungary was allied with Nazi Germany, hoping for a restoration of Transylvania and the minorities in Yugoslavia and Slovakia. The Germans arranged for these to be incorporated in an enlarged Hungary. Horthy led a collaborationist regime.

Hungary was invaded by Soviet forces in the process of driving out the Germans. The Russians installed a Communist regime and took away the territories gained during the war. Hungarians rose against the Communist rule in 1956 led by the communist but nationalist leader Imre Nagy (pr. Nodge) but the revolution was suppressed with military brutality, led by Brezhnev. Nagy was executed. Some of the KGB men responsible later took part in the August 1991 Soviet Coup. However, following the 1956 revolution the communist government of Janos Kadar was allowed to experiment with relatively liberal economic policies allowing some autonomy to state enterprises.

Only in 1989 did the Communist rule dissolve along with the rest of eastern Europe. Hungary played an important role in undermining East Germany, when Germans on holiday were permitted to exit the country to Austria and West Germany in the summer of 1989. Multi-party elections were held in 1990 and a Center Right government elected which began privatizing the economy. It expressed the wish to join the European Union.

Hungary was the first east European country to join the Council of Europe. The present government is concerned about the fate of Magyars in Romania and the Vojvodina of Yugoslavia but has denied any intention of using military force. There are also Magyars in Slovakia who may become affected by the rise of nationalism in this state as their rights to cultural autonomy are being curtailed.

In March 1999 Hungary became a full member of NATO. Hungary joined the EU in 2004.

Languages

Magyar - a non- Indo-European language, related to Finnish andother Ura;ic languages

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Politics

Multi-party elections have been held several times. Like most of the east European states Hungary had no previous experience of liberal democracy, even before the Communist regime.

The first post-Communist government had optimistic expectations of quick privatization, which seem unrealistic. Nationalism may be rising as Magyars living in Romania are badly treaty by the majority, and others in Serbia (the Vojvodina) and Slovakia are in danger of being discriminated against. The right wing government was said to be behaving in an authoritarian manner. Possibly association with Europe may moderate these tendencies.

At the May 1994 elections the reformed Communists won a majority and formed a coalition government. They deny the desire to restore a dictatorship but claim to support a social democratic policy.

In 1998 elections the Fidesz Party (Civic Party) gained a majority.

The post-Communists (Socialist Party) won again but in September 2006 are facing protests in the streets after the Prime Minister admitted on a leaked tape that he had lied about the economic problems.

March 2010 new right wing Fidesz government was elected. It has received criticism for its policies. See this article.

And this Hungary's new constitution

Interesting reading

Ursula le Guin - Malafrena
a novel about a similar fictional central European country




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Economics

Hungary was used by the Soviet Union as a test bed for liberal economic policies within the communist system. Companies were supposed to show a profit and were allowed a degree of autonomy. On the dissolution of the communist government it was clear that these reforms had not been radical enough as the businesses were much more inefficient than their western counterparts. The Communist government had not allowed complete market forces to operate. Subsidies continued to be available for loss making industries which as a result had no incentive to become truly competitive. Moreover, much of the output was sold to the Soviet Union, a very undiscriminating customer.

Hungary was the main supplier of buses to the communist area. However, the bus manufacturer finds it hard to sell its products to the Soviet Union which had no foreign currency and has difficulties in entering the western market which has overcapacity in its own industries.

Hungary experienced a sudden rise in oil prices when the Soviet Union demanded payment in dollars at the world price.

The government has adopted a policy of non-interference in the economic sphere, but some observers believe much state intervention is still needed to avoid the complete disappearance of Hungary's industry.

It is now (2002) said that Hungary has the fastest growing economy in the former east but in 2006 there are serious economic problems, partly from the increased of energy (gas from Russia).

The financial catastrophe of 2008-9 has hit the country hard. An IMF loan has been necessary.

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Green/Ecology

Heavy industry produces uncontrolled pollution over wide areas.

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Human Rights

Much improved since the end of communism. However, there was also a spirit of revenge against former communists and some signs of a desire to control the freedom of the press. It is hard for a country which has never had a democratic system before to maintain a western standard. People elected are not necessarily tolerant of opposition.

See new constitution

The new very rightwing government encourages (or does not discourage) neo-fascist attacks on minorities such as the Roma.

Roma (gypsies) are treated badly.

Climate effects

Last revised 28/01/12


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