History of Hungary

 Trianon Treaty

895-896. After several hundred years of wandering from beyond the Ural Mountains the seven Hungarian tribes (Nyék, Megyer, Kürtgyarmat, Tarján, Jenő, Kér, Keszi) reached the Carpathian Basin. Under the leadership of the nomad chieftain Árpád, the Hungarian conquest took place. The ancient inhabitants of the area assimilated into the new tribes.

Árpád’s warriors often meddled in the internal power struggles of the Holy Roman Empire, and their pillaging took them as far as the Atlantic Ocean. With their quick and sturdy horses and wily, nomadic military tactics, Árpád’s armies won victory after victory until 955, when the knights of Holy Roman Emperor Otto I defeated them near Augsburg, thereby putting a permanent end to the wanderings of the Magyars.

The great-great grandson of Árpád, István (Stephen) was born in the castle of Esztergom, the seat of the Hungarian Church, 80 years after the arrival of the Magyars into the Carpathian Basin.

1000. István (Stephen) was crowned the King of Hungary. He was the first Hungarian King (1000-1038). He and the whole country converted to Christianity. King István founded abbeys, built churches, put down the heathen revolts while he established the institution of a  contemporary feudal state.

1077-1095. The Hungarian King László I (Ladislas I) was the grandson of István’s cousin, and son of a Polish princess. He came to the throne after family infighting. László restored order with an iron fist: he established draconian laws designed to protect private property.

1095-1116. King Kálmán (Koloman) was son of László I. He was called ’Könyves Kálmán” (Bookish Koloman). He was literate and Latin-speaking and was to become a wise and temperate ruler.

1172-1196. King Béla III was the great-grandson of King Kálmán’s blind brother. He was the most significant ruler of the century. His chancellery was the first to keep written records.  He recaptured Dalmatia and Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade); this formed the southern gateway to his kingdom.

1205-1235. King András II (Andrew II) was the son of Béla III and a profligate King. He gave away royal lands to the lords.

1235-1270. King Béla IV was the son of András II. Under his reign, in 1241, the Mongolian Tartars devastated the country. Their presence, which lasted only a year, halted development for several decades.

1458-1490. The rule of King Mátyás (Matthias) was the golden age of Hungary. In the royal palace which was built in Renaissance style and culture flourished. This was a time when the Hungarian people lived in peace, in security, and to a good standard compared to other European nations.

1526. At Mohács (the present southern frontier of the country), the Turks defeated the Hungarian army. 150 years of Turkish occupation followed.

1541. The Turks occupied  Buda, the Hungarian capital. Hungary was split into three parts. The Austrian Habsburgs governed the western part of the country, the central area was ruled by the Turks, and the south-eastern Transylvanian Principality (today part of Romania) was, for centuries, the citadel of Hungarian culture.

1686. Buda had been recaptured from the Turks. (The Turks – as the Tartars – could advance no further in Europe than the territory of Hungary. Here, continual fighting and battles prevented the Turks from marching further west). Eventually, the Turks were driven out of Hungary but the country did not regain its independence, instead it became a Habsburg vassal state.

1703-1711. There was a freedom war under the leadership of Ferenc Rákóczi II, Prince of Transylvania, against the Habsburgs. The rebels defeated the Imperial army in several battles, but did not receive the promised French support and in the end were defeated.

In the first half of the 19th century a national reform movement was launched for the political and economic transformation of the country, for the establishment of democracy, national independence and the acceptance of Hungarian as the official language (1844). The National Anthem was born and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was set up by Count István Széchenyi who became known as ’The Greatest Hungarian”.

1848-1849. A revolution that began in Pest  spread over the entire country. The Hungarian revolutionary army won significant battles against the Imperial soldiers. The Parliament dethroned the House of Habsburg.  Lajos Kossuth was elected Governor and the new republic implemented the policies of the reform movement; these were based on transformation into democracy and national sovereignity. The longest national revolution in Europe could only be suppressed by the Habsburg rulers with the military help of the Russian Tsar.

1867. The Hungarians agreed a compromise with the Habsburgs. A dual monarchy was set up with the administration split between Vienna and Pest-Buda. A period of peace had begun and was marked by rapid economic development.

Hungarian Parliament

1873. Pest, Buda and Óbuda were unified to become Budapest. It became a European metropolis. The buildings of that time – the Boulevard, the Opera House, Parliament, museums and banks, railway stations and hospitals still determine the skyline of the city. The first subsurface underground railway on continental Europe was also created.

1918. Germany and its allies, including the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, lost World War I. The Monarchy disintegrated. A civil revolution broke out and was followed by a brief period of communist rule.

1920. The Trianon Treaty (which was signed in Trianon near Paris) reduced Hungary’s area and population by two thirds.

1938-1943. Hungary was the ally of the Nazi Germany.  As a result of the so-called Vienna Awards agreed in 1938 and 1940 Southern Slovakia and Northern Transylvania were returned to Hungary. In 1941 the country entered World War II.  During the winter of 1942/1943 the Hungarian army suffered heavy losses at the river Don, in Russia. This ranked as the heaviest losses in Hungarian military history.

1944. The Nazis occupied Hungary, as they did not consider it a reliable ally. 600,000 Jews were deported, most of them never returned from the concentration camps. Near the end of the war, the Hungarian fascist party took control of the country.

1945. The Soviet Red Army liberated, then occupied Hungary. In spite of this all democratic institutions remained in operation, and a multi-party political system existed for a short time.

1949. The last, relatively free election (1947) was followed by communist dictatorship: show trials, imprisonment, forced re-settlement of hundreds of thousands of Hungarians, forced industrial development and a drop in living standards followed.

1956. The Hungarian Revolution and a freedom fight against Stalinism was defeated by Soviet troops. János Kádár, who acquired power with Soviet assistance, promised democratic socialism but repression lasted until 1962. János Kádár’s role and political career are similar to those of Emperor Francis Joseph who put down the revolution in 1849: at the beginning both were hated and detested. As conditions improved, a large majority of the population ’forgot’ the crimes of these men, and both were able to develop a jovial, even paternal role in Hungarian society.

1966. The new system became stabilized, and cautious economic reforms were launched. In the country of ’Goulash Communism’ a compromise was made: it brought a comparative (in Eastern European terms) rise in living standards, an abudance of consumer goods and  relatively free travel. In return Hungarian society was inclined to exhibit ’Political amnesia’.

1988-1989. A change of government began and democratic transition took place through negotiation and without blood.  The Communist Party and some opposition groups joined  roundtable talks and a multi-party system was established.

1990. Following the free election in Spring, six parties sent their representatives to the newly elected Hungarian Parliament.

1990-1994. The Centre-Right coalition inherited a grave economic and social situation. In 1991 the last of the Soviet troops were withdrawn from the country;  civil war broke out in the  former Yugoslavia; talks about joining the EU and NATO began and at the end of 1993 Prime Minister József Antall died. In May 1994 a new election was held.

2004. Hungary joined the European Union.

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