Hungary is an old country, even in European terms.Way back in 895 A.D. well before the founding of France and Germany, centuries before the Anglos and the Saxons met in an online chat room and united to form England, the Magyars settled in the Carpathian Basin and established Hungary. Over time Hungary’s rulers became part of the Catholic Church and integrated into Christian Western Europe. In 1241-1242 the Mongols (Tatars) invaded, decimating about half of Hungary’s population, but the country survived and became an enlightened center of Renaissance art and philosophy. All was well, in an enlightened sort of way, until the Turks invaded in 1541, dividing the nation into three parts; says Wikipedia, “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 Prinicpality of Transylvania, under Ottoman (and later Habsburg) suzerainty. The remaining central area, including the capital Buda, was known as the Pashalik of Buda.” The Turks kept Buda for about 140 years, until a diverse “Holy League” army ran them out.
Because of this conquering and reconquering, due to this a tug of war between the Hungarians and the Turks, the ethnic makeup of the nation became a jumble. Beside the Turks and descendants of Mongols there were Serbs and other Slavs in the Austrian-Hapsburg-dominated part of the land, Vlach (Romanian) immigrants in Transylvania and
many Germans sprinkled among them.
Hungary’s period of reform began in the 1820s when a prominent Count convened a Parliament and journalist Lajos Kossuth emerged as a leader of the gentry, pressing against the ruling Hapsburg kingdom for human, civil and political rights for all. By the late 1840s this push for civil rights had become a popular movement. In 1848 the Hungarian Revolution dethroned the House of Hapsburg and claimed power for the people…sort of. The Hapsburgs stayed around, and in 1867 negotiated a treaty with Austria to jointly rule the Austria-Hungarian empire. In World War I Austria-Hungary sided with Germany, Bulgaria and Turkey and lost. The Austria-Hapsburg union fell apart in 1918. Soon thereafter the Communist government asserted control in a series of actions known as the Red Terror, which played a substantial role in Hungarian popular resentment of Soviet rule.
The Communists went on to dominate Hungary for the next seventy years, though not without having to fight. In 1956 the Hungarian people rebelled and threatened to leave the Warsaw Pact. After much internal debate and after sending several terribly mixed messages, the Kremlin sent in tanks to crush the rebellion, literally parading its harsh response as an example of what could happen to a nation in its sphere of influence that wants to separate.
Fortunately for Hungary, after the fall of the Berlin Wall the Soviet Union withdrew without the Hungarian people needing to violently force them out. Hungarians had been preparing for a transition to multi-party democracy for years, and with the Communists effectively powerless in 1990 the nation had its first truly contested national election. Since then there have been periods of economic growth and decline and political power has shifted from ruling coalition to ruling coalition, but in general Hungary has been able to move forward, emerging from–but not forgetting–its very difficult Eastern Bloc past.
Wikipedia on Hungary | the BBC’s Hungary overview | Overview of the 1956 Revolution | Wikipedia tells the fascinating story of the 1956 Revolution with it many geopolotical twists and turns…. | The beauty of Lake Balaton | Hungarian names are backwards…or are ours