The Republic of Hungary is a landlocked country in central Europe. The land is mostly low-lying and drained by the Danube (Duna) and its tributary, the Tisza. Most of the land E of the Danube belongs to a region called the Great Plain (Nagyalföld), which covers about half of Hungary.
To the W of the Danube is a hilly region, with some low mountains, called Transdanubia. This region contains the country's largest lake, Balaton. In the NW is a small, fertile and mostly flat region called the Little Plain (Kisalföld). Much of Hungary's original vegetation has been cleared. Large forests remain in the scenic NE highlands.
Hungary lies far from the moderating influence of the sea. As a result, summers are warmer and sunnier, and the winters colder than in W Europe.
Magyars first arrived in the 9th century. In the 11th century Hungary's first king, Saint Stephen, made Roman Catholicism the official religion. In 1222 a parliament was established. In the 14th century, the Angevins extended the Empire. In the Battle of Mohács (1526), the Turks defeated the Hungarians and the country became part of the Ottoman Empire. In 1699, Leopold I expelled the Turks and established Habsburg control.
Lajos Kossuth declared independence in 1848, but Franz Joseph reasserted control in 1849. Austrian defeat in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) led to the compromise of the 'dual monachy' or Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1914, a Bosnian student killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. This led to World War 1, in which Austria-Hungary fought alongside Germany. As defeat loomed nationalist demands intensified and, in 1918, Hungary declared independence. The treaty of Versaiiles saw the loss of all non-Magyar territory (60-70% of Hungarian land) to Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania. In 1919 communists, led by Béla Kun, briefly held power. In 1920, Miklós Horthy became regent.
In 1941 Hungary allied with Nazi Germany to regain much of its lost territory. Virulent anti-Semitism saw the extermination of many Hungarian Jews. Hungary's withdrawal from the war led to German occupation in March 1944. The Soviet expulsion of German troops (October 1944-May 1945) devastated much of Hungary. In 1946 Hungary became a republic, headed by Imre Nagy. Despite failing to win a majority in the 1947 elections, the Communist Party took control in 1948 and forced Nagy's resignation.
Hungary became a Communist state in 1949, with a constitution based on that of the Soviet Union. The first leader of the Communist government was Mathias Rákosi, who was replaced in 1953 by Imre Nagy. Nagy sought to relax Communist policies and was forced from office in 1955. He was replaced by Rákosi in 1956 and this led to a major uprising in which many Hungarians were killed or imprisoned. Nagy and his co-workers were executed for treason in 1958.
Janos Kádár came to power in the wake of the suppression, but his was a relatively progressive leadership, including elements of political reform economic liberalism. In the late 1970s, the economic situation worsened.
Kádár resigned in 1989 and the central Committee of the Socialist Workers' Party (the Communist Party) agreed to sweeping reforms, including the introduction of a pluralist system and a democratic parliament, which had formally been little more than a rubber-stamp assembly. The trial of Imre Nagy and his co-workers was declared unlawful and their bodies were reburied with honour in June 1989.
In 1990, Hungarians voted into office a centre-right coalition headed by the Democratic Forum. In 1994, the Hungarian Socialist Party (made up of ex-Communists) won a majority and governed in coalition. In 1998 elections Victor Orbán and the right-wing Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Party took power. In 2002, the Socialists and the Free Democrat coalition, led by Peter Medgyessy, won a majority in parliament. Hungary became a member of NATO and the EU in 2004. In 2006 Socialist PM Ferenc Gyurcsany's frank admissions of government failings and lies led to massive protests, but he refused to resign.
Under communism the economy was transformed from agrarian to industrial. The new factories were owned by the government, as was most of the land. From the late 1980s, the government worked to increase private ownership. This change of policy caused many problems, including inflation and high rates of unemployment.
Manufacturing is the most valuable activity. The major products include aluminium made from local bauxite, chemicals, electrical and electronic goods, processed food, iron, steel and vehicles. Agriculture remains important, major crops include grapes, maize, potatoes, sugar beet and wheat.
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