History of Hungary

Brief history of Hungary summarized

A brief overview of the history of Hungary, whose capital is Budapest.

Ancient hungary

During the last ice age, humans in Hungary lived by hunting mammoths and reindeer with stone weapons. When the ice age ended, they hunted smaller animals.

However, around 5,000 BC they were introduced to Hungary, although stone tools were still used by farmers. Then around 2,000 BC they learned to use bronze. Around 800 BC in Hungary they learned to make iron tools and weapons. After 500 BC they traded with the Greeks. They also learned to use the potter’s wheel.

So, around the time of Christ, the Romans conquered what is now Hungary. They reached the Danube in 11 BC and in 9 AD they crushed a rebellion by a native people called the Pannons. The Romans then created a province that they called Pannonia.

Over time Pannonia became fully integrated into the Roman Empire and the Romans founded a number of cities. Among them were Pecs, Szombathely, Sopron and Buda.

In the early 2nd century the Romans also conquered eastern Hungary, which they named Dacia. However, in the third century the Roman Empire declined. Dacia was abandoned in 271 AD At the end of the 4th century the Romans withdrew from Pannonia and it was invaded by the Germanic peoples.

In the 6th century an Asian people called the Avars conquered Hungary. They ruled the region until the end of the 8th century. At this time Charlemagne, the leader of the Franks in what is now France, conquered central Europe, including Hungary. He forced the Avars to accept Christianity.

However, in the year 843 the French Empire was divided into three. Hungary became part of the eastern third.

The Magyars in Hungary

The Magyars descend from the Finno-Ugric peoples, who were also the ancestors of the Finns and the Estonians. They originally lived in what is now Russia. Around 1000 BC they parted ways. The ancestors of the Magyars moved west and south.

By the end of the 9th century they had already begun raiding the eastern part of the French Empire. In 896, under their leader Arpad, they conquered eastern Hungary. In the year 900 they captured the western part. Hungary became the Magyar homeland. However, for decades they continued to attack other parts of Central Europe.

However, at the beginning of the 10th century the Magyars suffered defeats. Finally in 955 the Germans under Otto I crushed them at the Battle of Augsburg. Afterwards, the Magyars gradually settled down and became civilised.

At the end of the 10th century, Prince Geza invited German missionaries to come and preach Christianity to the people. Geza himself was baptized, but he too continued to worship pagan gods.

Geza also wielded all the Magyars into a single united people. Until then they were divided into tribes, but Geza became a powerful ruler. His son Stephen (1000-1038) continued the work of his father.

He confiscated much of the land in Hungary and built a network of castles or vars across Hungary. Stephen was the first truly Christian ruler of Hungary and founded several monasteries. He was canonized (declared a saint) in 1083.

Middle Ages

After Stephen’s death there was a series of succession crises in Hungary. Order was restored by Laszlo I (1077-1095).

In the 11th and 12th centuries, Hungary became firmly a part of Western civilization. Bela III (1172-1196) reformed the administration, drawing inspiration from that of the Byzantine Empire.

Settlers from Germany and Romania came to Hungary and in the 12th century foreign visitors described it as a prosperous country. Also, in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, trade flourished and new towns were created in Hungary.

However, at the beginning of the 13th century, Hungary was ruled by Andreas II (1205-1235). He proved incompetent and sparked a rebellion. In 1222 he was forced to issue the Golden Bull.

This document safeguarded the rights of all free men in Hungary and has been compared to England ‘s Magna Carta. One clause gave the lords the right to resist the king if he broke the Bull’s terms.

Disaster struck Hungary in 1241 when the Mongols invaded the country. The Hungarian army was defeated at the Battle of Muhi in 1241. The Mongols only occupied Hungary for a year, but caused devastation.

Crops were burned or left unharvested and a terrible famine followed. The Mongols also plundered the Hungarian settlements. As a result, the population of Hungary was substantially reduced. Then there was a slow process of reconstruction.

The last king of the Arpad dynasty in Hungary was Andreas III (1290-1301). He died childless. Charles Robert of Anjou was crowned King of Hungary, but until 1310 other men also claimed the throne. However, Charles Robert was eventually recognized by all Hungarians.

During his reign, Hungary prospered. In the 1320s gold was discovered in Hungary and large quantities of gold and silver were soon being exported. The money raised helped the treasury a lot.

Hungary also escaped the Black Death of 1348 because it was sparsely populated and the epidemic did not spread. (In 1308 a Frenchman described Hungary as “an empty land.”) However, at the end of the 14th century the population increased.

Louis I (the Great) ruled Hungary from 1342. In 1345 his brother was assassinated in Naples. In 1347 Louis led an army into Italy and in 1348 they captured Naples. Louis then called himself King of Naples, but was forced to withdraw before the Black Death and the native ruler returned. The Hungarians tried to recapture Naples in 1349 and 1350-52, but without success.

In 1370 Louis’s uncle, Casimir, King of Poland, died, and for a short time the two countries were united under Louis’ rule. However, Louis died in 1382 without an heir. Poland became a separate kingdom in 1386.

Meanwhile Sigismund of Luxembourg became ruler of Hungary. During his reign, the Ottoman Turks became a growing threat. In 1354 they took Gallipoli. After the battle of Kosovo in 1389 they advanced towards the Balkans. Sigismund fought a series of campaigns against the Turks in the years 1390-1396, but without success. Sigismund died in 1437.

In 1453 all of Europe was shaken when the Turks captured Constantinople and ended the Byzantine Empire. There was no one to stop them.

However, in 1458 Matthias became King of Hungary. He was known as Matthias the Just because of his impartiality. Matthias was a Renaissance ruler. He was a patron of the arts and of learning. He also formed a mercenary army called the Black Army. With his help, Hungary grew stronger.

However, when Matthias died in 1490, Hungary declined. A diet (national assembly) met to elect a successor. The diet wanted a king “whose tresses they could hold in his hands.” (In other words, they wanted a weak king that they could control.) So the crown was given to Ulaszlo II. Under him, the Hungarian monarchy weakened. The Black Army was disbanded in 1492.

Furthermore, the situation of the peasants in Hungary deteriorated. They lost the right to move from one village to another and the landlords imposed more forced labor on them.

Finally, the peasants rebelled. It began in 1514 when the Pope called for a crusade against the Turks. Many Hungarian peasants joined. However, the nobility were not happy to lose so much manpower and some tried to prevent their peasants from leaving.

The peasants who had already joined refused to disband and under their leader, Gyorgy Dozsa, revolted. Peasants attacked castles and burned stately homes. However, the nobles crushed the revolt. Dozsa was captured and executed.

As a result of the rebellion there was a reaction against the peasants in Hungary. The Diet of October 1514 passed a law condemning the peasants to eternal servitude. (The serfs were halfway between the slaves and the free men).

Years 1500-1800

In 1526 the Turkish ruler Suleiman the Magnificent led an army north. The Hungarians met them at the Battle of Mohacs on August 29, 1526. The Hungarians were defeated and their king was killed. In September the Turks burned Buda.

Most of the Turks withdrew with their loot. However, they left the soldiers behind to take over the key strongholds. Although they did not attempt to conquer Hungary all at once, they intended to do so in stages.

There were now two claimants to the Hungarian throne, Ferdinand of Habsburg, the Archduke of Austria, and Janos Szapolyai. Ferdinand seized western Hungary and was crowned Ferdinand I. However, the Hungarian nobles also crowned King Janos. Hungary was divided between them.

When Janos died in 1541, the Turkish sultan took central Hungary. He made Zapolyai’s son rule Transylvania (the easternmost part of Hungary). It became the Principality of Transylvania, but was only semi-independent from Turkey. The Turks directly ruled central Hungary. Hungary was divided into three parts until the end of the 17th century.

Meanwhile, like the rest of Europe, Hungary was shaken by the Reformation. In the 1540s Protestant doctrines swept Hungary and won many supporters. However, in the early 17th century, the Catholic Counter-Reformation won many converts, especially in western Hungary.

At the end of the 17th century the Turkish power diminished. In 1683 they unsuccessfully besieged Vienna. Austria and her allies turned against the Turks. In August 1687 they crushed the Turks at the Battle of Mount Harsany. Finally, in 1697, the Turks were defeated at Senta. In 1699 they made peace. The Habsburgs (rulers of Austria) gained almost all of Hungary.

However, the Hungarians resented Habsburg rule almost as much as the Turks. (They were especially resentful of taxes.) In 1703 the Hungarians took up arms. The War of Independence lasted until 1711.

However, the superior Habsburg forces ultimately won the day. The Hungarians were defeated at the Battle of Trencsen on August 3, 1708, and their hopes were dashed. In 1711 the Habsburg army was victorious and the Hungarians accepted the Peace of Szatmar in April. The Austrian emperor agreed to respect the rights of the Hungarian nation and rule with the diet.

During the 18th century, Hungary remained a predominantly agricultural country. There was little industry. A 1787 census showed that Hungary had a population of 8.7 million.

XIX century

Starting in the late 18th century, Hungarian nationalism grew steadily, as did interest in the Magyars, language, culture, and history.

Meanwhile, the period 1825-1848 was a time of reform and the diet carried out a series of fiscal and economic reforms. In addition, the Hungarian industry began to develop.

However, in 1848, demands for further reforms erupted in the Hungarian Revolution. It started when the French king was deposed. This triggered demonstrations and demands for reform across Europe.

In Hungary, the Diet drew up a list of demands in March, and in April the Austrian Emperor relented and accepted 31 new laws passed by the Diet, known as the April Laws. Serfdom was abolished and more people voted. Hungary was to be a constitutional monarchy sharing a king with Austria.

However, problems arose with the large Hungarian minorities, who demanded autonomy from the Magyars. Meanwhile, the Austrians regained control of other parts of their empire (Northern Italy and Czechoslovakia). The emperor was determined to restore the old order in Hungary. In August 1848 he declared the April laws null and void.

In September an Austrian army entered Hungary but was defeated in a battle at Bakozd. They defeated again in April 1849. In April 1849 the Hungarians, led by Lajos Kossuth, declared independence from Hungary.

The Austrians were forced to rely on the Russians for help. The Tsar sent an army and the Russians defeated the Hungarians at Temesvar on August 9, 1849. The Hungarian army surrendered on August 13, 1849. A period of repression and reprisals followed.

However, in 1866 Austria suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Prussia. With their weakness exposed, the Austrians decided that reform was necessary. In 1867 the Dual Monarchy was formed. Austria and Hungary became separate states united by a shared monarchy. They also shared foreign policy. However, other minorities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were not given autonomy.

At the end of the 19th century, Hungary developed economically. The industry grew rapidly (although Hungary was still a mainly agricultural country in 1914). Meanwhile, the marshes were drained for agriculture, and agriculture increased its output.

In addition, the population of Hungary amounted to 18 million inhabitants in 1910 and the percentage of people who lived in the cities increased considerably. Meanwhile, in 1868, compulsory education for children aged 6 to 12 was introduced in Hungary.

Twentieth century

In 1906 a Hungarian named Ferenc Szisz won the first Grand Prix race.

Unfortunately in 1914 Hungary, as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire got involved in the First World War on the side of the Germans. By the fall of 1918, Austria – Hungary was exhausted and it was obvious that the war had been lost.

In October, Mihaly Karolyi led a movement demanding Hungarian independence. The people demanded that Karolyi be appointed Prime Minister. On October 30, 1918 they demonstrated with asters. So it became known as the Aster revolution. Karolyi became Prime Minister of Hungary on October 31, 1918.

However, with the end of the war, the Slovaks and Romanians from Hungary broke away and joined their compatriots. As a result, Hungary lost more than half of her territory.

Meanwhile, on November 24, 1918, Bela Kun formed the Hungarian Communist Party. On March 21, 1919, the Hungarian Social Democrats formed a government with the Communists. They began to nationalize industry and land. However, the nationalization policy was unpopular. So were the attacks on religion.

Admiral Miklos Horthy (former Admiral of the Austro-Hungarian Navy) formed a national army opposed to the government.

Meanwhile, Hungary was still arguing with its neighbors Czechoslovakia and Romania. The communist regime lost all its support when the Romanian army entered Hungary and occupied Budapest. Kun fled abroad and his regime collapsed. A period of reprisals then followed in which many communists were executed.

However, even after the fall of the communists, Horthy refused to disband his ‘army’. In October 1919 the Romanians left Budapest. On November 16, 1919 Horthy entered the capital.

In January 1920 elections were held in Hungary. Parliament decreed that the Hungarian throne was ’empty’. On March 1, 1920, Horthy was elected ‘regent’ or head of state.

On July 4, 1920, Hungary was forced to sign the Treaty of Trianon with the victorious powers of the First World War. Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory and about 60% of its population.

Horthy introduced an authoritarian regime during the 1920s and 1930s. Furthermore, Hungary remained a relatively primitive country. Many people were very poor. Electricity and running water remained luxuries.

Also, in the 1930s, Hungary came under the influence of Nazi Germany. In 1937 the Hungarian Socialist Party (known as the Arrow Cross Party after its symbol) was founded. In the late 1930s, Hungary re-armed itself and also took anti-Semitic measures.

When Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, Hungary regained some of the territory lost after World War I.

Then in November 1940 Hungary joined the Tripartite Pact (originally made by Germany, Italy and Japan). When the Germans invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941, Hungary regained even more territory. Then in June 1941 Hungary joined the attack on Russia. In December 1941 Great Britain declared war on Hungary.

However, after the German defeats at Stalingrad and Kursk in 1943, the Hungarian government attempted to abandon the war. However, from September 1943 he planned Operation Margarethe, the military occupation of Hungary. The German army entered Hungary on March 19, 1944, and a right-wing government was installed. Hungarian Jews were deported and most died in concentration camps.

Beginning in April 1944, the Allies began bombing Budapest and other Hungarian cities. In the fall of 1944, with the Germans facing certain defeat, Horthy negotiated an armistice with the Russians. The armistice was announced by radio on October 15, 1944.

However, the Germans removed Horthy from power and replaced him with Szalasi Ferenc of the Arrow Cross. However, the Russians captured Budapest on February 13, 1945. The fighting in Hungary ended on April 12, 1945.

Before the war ended, a provisional government was formed in Hungary. In March 1945 he passed an agrarian reform law. Wealthy landowners lost most of their property and land was redistributed.

Elections were held in November 1945. Zoltan Tildy became president of the new republic. Ferenc Nagy became prime minister.

However, the communists were determined to take power in Hungary gradually. They adopted “salami tactics”, dividing up their opponents and taking them out one by one. (Crucially, the interior minister, in charge of the police, was a communist named Rajk. He purged the administration of “rightists.”

More than 60,000 civil servants were sacked between May and November 1946. Then, in July 1946, the communists dissolved what they called “reactionary associations.” Among them was the Catholic Youth Association.

The ‘salami tactic’ continued in 1947 aided by the presence of Russian soldiers. Some Hungarian politicians went into exile abroad at that time. Meanwhile, the communists nationalized industries one by one and agriculture was collectivized.

In August 1947 further elections were held in Hungary. However, the communists rigged the elections. However, they only obtained 22% of the votes.

However, the communists continued their “salami tactics” and their remaining opponents were removed from power. Finally, in 1948, the communists took complete control of Hungary. The president was forced to resign and the Social Democratic Party was forced to join the communists as a single Workers’ Party.

The communists introduced a tyrannical regime in Hungary. The nationalization of industry was completed and the church schools were taken over by the state. Many Hungarians were executed or imprisoned.

Stalinist executions in Hungary continued into the early 1950s. With all opposition outside the party eliminated, the communists turned on themselves. Former Interior Minister Laszlo Rajk was executed in October 1949.

Many other people were executed or imprisoned after show trials. Many communists were accused of “Titoism”, that is, of wanting to be autonomous from the Soviet Union like Tito, the Yugoslav leader.

However, when Stalin died in 1953, Rakoski, the Hungarian communist leader fell from power. He was replaced by Imre Nagy. He introduced what he called a “new course.” Stalinist policies were moderated. The government reduced investment in heavy industry and invested more in the manufacture of consumer goods.

The forced collectivization of farms ended. The Hungarian people were allowed a little more freedom and the reign of terror ended. However, in 1955 Nagy fell from power and Stalinist policies returned.

The Hungarian uprising of 1956

In July 1956 Rakoi fell from power and the party began to regress. People who had previously been executed were rehabilitated. Imre Nagy, who had been expelled from the party, was reinstated. On October 6, Rajk was reburied and many Hungarians came to his funeral, as a protest against the Stalinist policy.

Soon popular discontent began to boil over in Hungary. Starting on October 20, meetings were held at the universities. They demanded independence from Moscow and free elections.

On October 23, a demonstration was held in Budapest. Some demonstrators tried to occupy the radio station headquarters to express their demands. The secret police shot at them, sparking further riots. Erno Gero, the communist leader, asked for Soviet help. Fighting soon broke out between Soviet tanks and ordinary people armed with Molotov cocktails and whatever weapons they could find.

Nagy was reinstated as Prime Minister of Hungary, but unrest continued and spread to other cities. Nagy attempted to cooperate with the protesters, and on October 29 the Russians began to withdraw from Budapest. However, they simply regrouped in the field and waited for reinforcements.

Meanwhile, on November 1, Nagy announced that Hungary was leaving the Warsaw Pact and becoming a neutral country.

On November 4, the Russians attacked Budapest and other cities. The Hungarian people fought heroically, but the Russians were much stronger and after a few days they crushed the uprising.

However, the workers continued to resist and strikes continued until January 1957 despite mass arrests. Meanwhile, some 200,000 Hungarians fled to the west.

The communists cracked down and began to retaliate. Hundreds of people were executed and thousands imprisoned. Nagy himself was executed in 1958.

However, in the 1960s Janos Kadar began a process of gradual and limited reform. In 1962 he introduced the phrase “he who is not against us if he is with us.” Kadar also made some very cautious economic reforms.

As a result of the Kadar reforms, Hungary became a relatively prosperous country. In general, Hungarians had a higher standard of living than people in other communist countries.

However, in the 1980s things turned sour. Hungary began to suffer from inflation, which particularly affected people with fixed incomes. In addition, Hungary had a huge external debt. Poverty became widespread. When conditions deteriorated, Kadar fell from power in 1988.

In the late 1980s, a wave of discontent and demands for reform grew in Hungary. This time there were many reformers inside and outside the communist party.

In July 1989, Nagy was reburied and rehabilitated. Hungary then dismantled its border with Austria. East Germans flocked to Hungary to make their way to West Germany.

In October 1989, the Hungarian Communist Party renamed itself the Hungarian Socialist Party and changed its policy. They also allowed the formation of other political parties. In addition, a communist paramilitary organization called the Workers’ Guard was dissolved. Then, on October 23, the Constitution was amended to allow for an orderly transition to democracy and capitalism.

Surprisingly, the Hungarians made the transition to freedom peacefully. In 1990 the first free elections were held and Jozsef Antall became prime minister, but he died in 1993. However, the Socialists (former communists) returned to power in 1994.

Inevitably there was an economic crisis in the 1990s and the transition to capitalism was painful. However, Hungary is now a prosperous and free country. In 1999 Hungary joined NATO.

XXI century

In the early years of the 21st century, the Hungarian economy continued to grow strongly, although it slowed down dramatically from 2007. In 2004, Hungary joined the EU.

Hungary suffered during the recession of 2009. However, Hungary soon recovered and today its economy is growing steadily. Today Hungary is a prosperous country. The population of Hungary today is 9.8 million.

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