History of Hungary

From Academic Kids

This is the history of Hungary. See also the history of Europe and the history of present-day nations and states, Hungary: Pre-History and Early History, and Hungary


Origins of the Hungarian state

See also: Hungary: Pre-History and Early History, Sources of early Hungarian history

The Magyars (known as Hungarians in most western languages) were a nomadic people, with indeterminate and disputed origin from the Eurasian plains until the 10th century, when they settled in present-day Hungary. They were a confederacy of seven Magyar and three allied Khabar tribes; the name Hungary is most probably derived from the Turkish term Onogur meaning 'Ten Arrows', signifying united military strength in Nomad symbolism. In 896 A.D. they settled temporarily around the upper Tisza River, in 901 they settled around the Balaton. Subsequently they also partly occupied eastern Austria and southern parts of modern Slovakia, and after their defeat at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955 they definitively settled in the Carpathian basin.

Árpád was the Magyar leader whom later legends written by order of the Arpads made the single leader who led the Hungarian tribes conquering the territory in the ninth century. Grand prince (fejedelem) Géza of the House of Árpád, who was the tribal ruler of basically what is today western Hungary but also nominal overlord of the seven Magyar tribes, intended to integrate Hungary into Christian (Western) Europe, rebuilding the state according to the Western model. He established a dynasty by naming his son Vajk (later called Stephen) as his successor. This was contrary to the then dominant tradition of the succession of the eldest surviving member of the ruling family.

The Kingdom of Hungary

High and Late Middle Ages (1000 - 1526)

See also: Arpads

Hungary was established as a Christian kingdom under Stephen I of Hungary, who was crowned in December 1000 AD or January 1001 AD. He was a son of Géza and thus a descendant of Árpád. By 1006, Stephen solidified his power, beating all rivals to power who either wanted to follow the old pagan traditions or wanted alliance with the orthodox Christian Byzantine Empire. Then he started sweeping reforms to convert Hungary into a feudal state, complete with forced Christianisation.

What emerged was a strong kingdom that withstood attacks from German kings and Emperors, passing armies of Crusaders, as well as later nomadic tribes following the Magyars from the East, integrating some of the latter into the population (along with Germans invited to Transylvania and what is now Slovakia, especially after 1242), but also subjugating smaller Slavic kingdoms to the South, among them newly formed Croatia, and Slavic territories in present-day central and eastern Slovakia.

In 1241/1242, this kingdom received one major blow in the form of the Mongol invasion of Europe: after the destruction of the Hungarian army in the Battle of Muhi, King Béla IV fled, and one third of the population died (leading later to the invitation of settlers from neighbors in the West and South) in the ensuing destruction (Tatárjárás). Only strongly fortified cities and abbeys could withstand the assault. As a consequence, after the Mongols retreated, King Béla began the construction of a line of major border castles (végvár) that proved fateful. On one hand, they proved to be the most important in the long struggle with the Ottoman Empire in the following centuries (since the late 14th century). On the other hand, their cost so indebted the King to the major feudal landlords that central rule was critically weakened, although the central rule was already weakened in the early 13th century, when the Aranybulla (Hungary's version of the Magna Carta, 1222) was issued (see also: Comitatus (Kingdom of Hungary)).

Árpád's descendants ruled the country until 1301. After that, most Hungarian kings were from abroad. Under some of these rulers, the Kingdom of Hungary reached its greatest extent, yet the influence of the major landlords was at most kept in check - while the Ottoman Turks, confronted ever more often, increased their strength.

The second Hungarian king in the Anjou line of French origin, Louis I the Great (I./Nagy Lajos, king 1342-1382) extended his rule over territories from the Black Sea to the Adriatic Sea, and temporarily occupied the Two Sicilies (after his brother was murdered there by his wife, who was also his cousin). From 1370, the death of Casimir III the Great he was also king of Poland - the alliance of Casimir and Louis's father was the start of a long Polish-Hungarian friendship.

Sigismund, a prince from the Luxembourg line who first married, then succeeded at the throne, then divorced Louis's daughter, Queen Mary, in 1433 even became Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor - but his rule was marked by territorial losses in the South (for example to growing Serbia), the 1396 defeat in a late crusade against the Ottoman Turks at Nicopolis, the open dissent of feudal landlords, the Hussite rebellion in the Czech kingdom (which was also under his rule) and partly in Slovakia, and a major peasant rebellion in Transylvania.

The last strong king was the renaissance king Matthias Corvinus. He was the son of the feudal landlord and warlord John Hunyadi, who led the Hungarian troops in the 1456 Siege of Nándorfehérvár. Building on his fathers' vision, the aim of taking on the Ottoman Empire with a strong enough background, Matthias set out to build a great empire, expanding southward and northeast, while he also implemented internal reforms.

But after Matthias's death, the weak king Ladislaus II of the Polish/Lithuanian Jagiellon line nominally ruled the areas he conquered except Austria, but real power was in the hand of the nobles. In 1514, two years before Ladislaus' death, there was even a major peasant rebellion in the Pannonian lowlands and parts of Transylvania (called the Dózsa Insurrection [after its Transylvanian leader] or Hungarian Peasant's War), crushed with barbaric methods by the nobles. As central rule degenerated, the stage was set for a defeat at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. In 1521, Nándorfehérvár fell, and in 1526, the Hungarian army was destroyed in the Battle at Mohács).

Through the centuries the Kingdom of Hungary has kept its old "constitution", based on freedom of nobles and free royal towns (e.g. Buda, Košice/Kassa, Bratislava/Pozsony, Cluj-Napoca/Kolozsvár).

Early modern times (1526 - 1718)

Based on previous agreements, the Habsburgs ruled as kings of Hungary from 1526 to 1918.

In 1526, after some 150 years of war with Turks in the south, the Turks finally conquered parts of Hungary, and continued their expansion until 1556. With the conquest of Buda in 1541 by the Turks, Hungary fell into three parts. Present-day Slovakia, Burgenland, western Croatia and parts of north-eastern present-day Hungary went to the Habsburgs, became a province of their empire under the name Royal Hungary. The Austrian Emperors were formally crowned as Kings of Hungary. Transylvania, in turn, became independent and a Turkish vassal state. The remaining central area (mostly present-day Hungary), including the dual capital of Buda and Pest (joined to become the city of Budapest in 1873), became a province of the Ottoman Empire. In 1686, Austria-led Christian forces reconquered Buda, and in the next few years, all of the country except areas near Temesvár. In the 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz these changes were officially recognized, and in 1718 the last Hungarian territory became conquered.

Bratislava/Pozsony became the new capital (1536-1784), coronation town (1563-1830) and seat of the Diet (1536 - 1848) of Hungary. Trnava/Nagyszombat, in turn, became the religious center in 1541.

Parallelly, between 1604 and 1711, there was a series of anti-Habsburg (i.e. anti-Austrian) and anti-Catholic uprisings, which -with the exception of the last one - took place in Royal Hungary, more exactly on the territory of present-day Slovakia. The uprisings were usually organized from Transylvania. The last one was an uprising led by Francis Rákóczi (Ferenc Rákóczi), who was chosen to be the future king. When Austrians crushed the rebellion in 1711, Rákóczi was in Poland. He later fled to France, finally Turkey, and lived to the end of his life (1735) in nearby Rodosto. Afterwards, to make further armed resistance impossible, the Austrians blew up some castles, and let peasants to remove stones from most others (the végvárs among them).

See also: Moldavian Magnate Wars, Stephen Bathory, King of Poland, Battle of Vienna

18th century (1718 - 1780)

This period was characterized by a reconstruction of the country. The Habsburg rulers pursued a re-settlement of ravaged areas with new immigrants from Austria and Germany, Slovakia, Romania (Wallachia and Moldavia at the time) and Serbia.

Enlightenment (1780 - 1848)

Influenced by the French revolution, and in response to attempts at Germanisation by Joseph II (ruled 1780-1790), there emerged a national revival movement in Hungary of the Magyars, but also of all the other non-Magyar nationalities living in the Kingdom of Hungary.

First - not very thorough - measurements of the population on the area of the Kingdom of Hungary (incl. Croatia and Transylvania) were performed in the late 18th century and they can be used to estimate the ratios of various ethnic groups. Different estimates put the Magyars (ethnic Hungarians) at only 29% to 35% towards the end of the 18th century, while this ratio was even lower (in some areas near 0%) in most larger areas outside present-day Hungary, and smaller areas even inside. A first thorough research in 1836-40 put the percentage of Magyars at 36-37% and a census in 1850-51 at 45.4% in all the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary. The official percentages of the other nationalities according to the 1850-51 census (although it was criticised for bias towards the percentage of Hungarians and Germans already at that time) were:

  • Slovaks (18.6%)
  • Germans (11.8%)
  • Romanians (10.1%)
  • Serbs and Croats (5.6%)
  • Ukrainians and Ruthenians (4.8%)
  • Others (3.7%)

The Habsburg Emperors and particularly the chancellor Metternich refused to implement reforms and this led to a national revolution.

The 1848 Revolution (1848 - 1849)

See also: The Revolutions of 1848 in the Habsburg areas.

The revolution started on March 15th, 1848, with a bloodless revolution in Pest and Buda (mass demonstrations force the imperial governor to accept all demands) followed by various insurrections throughout the kingdom, which enabled Hungarian reformists to declare Hungary's autonomy within the Habsburg Empire, under the governor Lajos Kossuth and the first Prime minister Lajos Batthyány. During the subsequent civil war, the Magyars, and with them foreign revolutionaries that came to fight after their own revolutions were crushed, had to fight against the Austrian Army, but also against the Serbs, Croats, Slovaks, Romanians and Transylvanian Germans living on the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary, who had their own ethnic-national movements and resented attempts at Hungarisation. (Though, ethnic allegiances weren't that clear at the time: the majority of revolution-starting Buda and Pest was German-speaking at the time, while revolutionary poet and national icon Sándor Petőfi was of Serbian and Slovak descent.)

Faced with revolution at home in Vienna too, Austria first accepted Hungary's autonomy. However, after the Austrian revolution was beaten down, and Franz Joseph replaced his mentally retarded brother Ferdinand I as Emperor, Austria again refused to accept Hungarian autonomy. Initially, the Hungarian forces (Honvédség) defeated Austrian armies (at Pakozd in September 1848 and at Isaszeg in April 1849), during which they even declared Hungary's total independence of Austria in April 1849. Because of the success of revolutional resistance, Franz Joseph had to ask for help from "The Gendarme of Europe", Czar Nicholas I, and Russian armies invaded Hungary, that was an act that caused antagonism between the Hungarians and the Russians. Julius Freiherr von Haynau, the leader of the Austrian army who them became governor of Hungary for a few months of retribution, ordered the execution of 13 leaders of the Hungarian army (only a minority of which spoke Hungarian) in Arad and the Prime minister Batthyány in Pest.

Lajos Kossuth went into exile, with stations in the USA (where a county in Iowa was named for him), in Istanbul and in the Italian city of Turin. Learning from the biggest political error of the Revolution and himself, the confrontation with Hungary's minorities, he advanced the idea of a multi-ethnic confederation of republics along the Danube - something that would have prevented the ethnic cleansings and mutual hates that erupted after the Habsburg Empire fell apart in the aftermath of World War I. Many of Kossuth's revolutionary comrades in exile, including the sons of one of his sisters, stayed in the USA, staying on to fight on the Union side in the US Civil War.

After the revolution (1850 - 1867)

Following those events, the whole country was in "passive resistance". The Austrian baron Alexander von Bach was appointed as the governor of the Kingdom of Hungary, and this time was remembered for Germanization pursued with the help of Czech officers.

Austria - Hungary (1867 - 1918)

Following the rise of resistance throughout the Hungarian kingdom, the rise of romantic nationalism among the various ethnicities, and foreign aggression from Prussia (1866), the Austrian leadership under Franz Joseph was desperate to calm the domestic political situation. The Compromise of 1867 with Austria was signed. Franz Joseph was then crowned as King of Hungary. The old Constitution, canceled in 1849 by the Austrian Emperor, was re-established. The Ausgleich established the Austro-Hungarian Empire under a dual monarchy. Austria and Hungary maintained essentially separate governments under the same monarch. Foreign policy, Military and Economy remained common cases but the Hungarian government became an equal partner in the governance of the Empire.

There was also a Hungarian-Croatian Compromise of 1868, as Croatia, an old autonomous part of the Kingdom, restored its constitutional freedom. The Hungarian government was able to influence the policy of the Austrian Empire, and successfully prevented the other ethnic minorities of the Empire, such as Slovaks, Czechs, Romanians and Poles, from gaining power. Count Gyula Andrássy was the first premier of Hungary after the Ausgleich.

Minority problems were rising, however, and there was no Hungarian policy (e.g. federalization) against the threat of the collapse of the old Kingdom. Although the proportion of Magyars rose considerably since the 18th century (from about 29-35% in 1780 to 51% in 1900), there were still 49% non-Magyars in the Kingdom: Romanians (16.6%), Slovaks (11.9%), Germans (11.9%), Croatians and Serbs (3.7%), Ruthenians and Ukrainians (2.5%). A great number of Jews (officially not recorded since 1850) and Gypsies, however, had a Hungarian (or German) culture or mother tongue throughout the Kingdom.

Reds and Whites (1918-1919)

In 1918, as a result of defeat in World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy collapsed. On October 31 1918, the success of the Aster Revolution in Budapest brought the liberal count Mihály Károlyi to power as Prime-Minister. The new government officially declared Hungary an independent republic in November, after the end of the war. After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the countries of Romania, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, supported by the USA and the Entente Powers, made claims on the historical lands of the Hungarian Monarchy. All three countries sent armies into Hungary. Despite its appeals to the Entente, the Karolyi government could not resist the armies of its neighbors and large parts of Hungary were occupied.

By February 1919 the government had lost all popular support, having failed on the domestic and military fronts. On March 21, after the Entente military representative demanded more territorial concessions from Hungary, Károlyi resigned. The Communist Party of Hungary came to power, led by Béla Kun, and proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet Republic.

The Communists – "The Reds" – came to power largely thanks to being the only group with an organized fighting force, and they promised that Hungary would regain the lands it had lost (possibly with the help of the Soviet Red Army). The Communists also promised equality and social justice, but instead of that, a Red Terror began by half-regular and half-militarist detachments, called "The boys of Lenin", and many democrats, anti-communists and other people were executed without trial, so the Communists quickly lost whatever initial support they had. Initially, Kun's regime achieved some impressive military successes by the leading of the genius strategist, Colonel Aurél Stromfeld. It halted the Romanian advance in the East and ousted Czechoslovak troops from disputed lands and proclaimed an ephemeral Slovak Soviet Republic. In terms of domestic policy, the Communist government nationalized industrial and commercial enterprises, and socialized housing, transport, banking, medicine, cultural institutions, and all landholdings of more than 400,000 square metres.

However, that popular support proved to be short lived. In the aftermath of a coup attempt, the government took a series of reprisals that alienated much of the population. Land reform took land from the nobles but did not effectively distribute it amongst peasants. The Soviet Red Army was never able to aid the new Hungarian republic. Although it did not lose any battles, the Hungarian Red Army gave up land, under pressure from the Entente. In the face of domestic backlash and an advancing Romanian force, Bela Kun and most of his comrades fled to Austria, while Budapest was occupied on August 6. All these events, and in particular the final military defeat, led to a deep feeling of antipathy among the general population against the Soviet Union (who had not kept its promise to offer military assistance) and Jews (since many members of Kun's government were Jewish, thus making it easy to blame Jews for all the government's mistakes).

Now, the new fighting force in Hungary were the Conservative counter-revolutionaries - the "Whites". These, who had been organizing in Vienna and established a counter-government in Szeged, assumed power, led by István Bethlen, a Transylvanian aristocrat, and Miklós Horthy, the former commander in chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Starting in Western Hungary and spreading throughout the country, a White Terror began by half-regular and half-militarist detachments (as the police power crashed, there were no serious national regular forces and authorities), and many Communists and other leftists were executed without trial. Where the Whites could not eliminate elements of the soviet republic, the Romanian forces did, with similar methods. Radical Whites launched pogroms against the Jews, displayed as source for all of Hungary's difficulties. The Romanian army robbed the country. (The estimated property damage of their activity was so much that the international peace conference in 1919 refused Hungary to pay war redemption to Romania.) As foreign forces left, and Horthy and his government rose into power, they set up authorities, restored security and stopped terror, but radical dictatorial movements, like communism, and later fascism and Nazism, were suppressed, leading to the imprisonment of thousands of political sympathizers of the Karolyi and Kun regimes. On November 16, with the consent of Romanian forces, Horthy's army marched into Budapest.

The Regency (1920 - 1944)

In January 1920, Hungarian men and women cast the first secret ballots in the country's political history. The votings were not totally free, because the entire left-wing either boycotted or was excluded from the voting. A large right-wing majority was elected to a unicameral assembly. In March, the parliament annulled the Compromise of 1867, and it restored the Hungarian monarchy but postponed electing a king until civil disorder had subsided. Instead, Miklos Horthy was elected regent and was empowered, among other things, to appoint Hungary's prime minister, veto legislation, convene or dissolve the parliament, and command the armed forces.

Hungary's signing of the Treaty of Trianon on June 4, 1920, ratified the country's dismemberment. The territorial provisions of the treaty, which ensured continued discord between Hungary and its neighbors, required the Hungarians to surrender more than two-thirds of their pre-war lands. Nearly one-third of the 10 million ethnic Hungarians found themselves outside the diminished homeland. The country's ethnic composition was left almost homogeneous, Hungarians constituting about 90% of the population, Germans made up about 6%, and Slovaks, Croats, Romanians, Jews and Gypsies accounted for the remainder.

New international borders separated Hungary's industrial base from its sources of raw materials and its former markets for agricultural and industrial products. Hungary lost 84% of its timber resources, 43% of its arable land, and 83% of its iron ore. Because most of the country's pre-war industry was concentrated near Budapest, Hungary retained about 51% of its industrial population, 56% of its industry, 82% of its heavy industry, and 70% of its banks.

Horthy appointed Count Pál Teleki prime minister in July 1920. His right-wing government issued a numerus clausus law, limiting admission of "political insecure elements" (these were often Jews) to universities and, in order to quiet rural discontent, took initial steps toward fulfilling a promise of major land reform by dividing about 3,850 km² from the largest estates into smallholdings. Teleki's government resigned, however, after the former emperor, Charles IV, unsuccessfully attempted to retake Hungary's throne in March 1921. King Charles's return produced split parties between conservatives who favored a Habsburg restoration and nationalist right-wing radicals who supported election of a Hungarian king. Count István Bethlen, a non-affiliated right-wing member of the parliament, took advantage of this rift forming a new Party of Unity under his leadership. Horthy then appointed Bethlen prime minister. Charles IV died, soon after he failed a second time to reclaim the throne in October 1921.

As prime minister, Bethlen dominated Hungarian politics between 1921 and 1931. He fashioned a political machine by amending the electoral law, providing jobs in the expanding bureaucracy to his supporters, and manipulating elections in rural areas. Bethlen restored order to the country by giving the radical counterrevolutionaries payoffs and government jobs in exchange for ceasing their campaign of terror against Jews and leftists. In 1921, he made a deal with the Social Democrats and trade unions (called Bethlen-Peyer-pact), agreeing, among other things, to legalize their activities and free political prisoners in return for their pledge to refrain from spreading anti-Hungarian propaganda, calling political strikes, and organizing the peasantry. Bethlen brought Hungary into the League of Nations in 1922 and out of international isolation by signing a treaty of friendship with Italy in 1927. The revision of the Treaty of Trianon rose to the top of Hungary's political agenda and the strategy employed by Bethlen consisted by strengthening the economy and building relations with stronger nations. Revision of the treaty had such a broad backing in Hungary that Bethlen used it, at least in part, to deflect criticism of his economic, social, and political policies.

The Great Depression induced a drop in the standard of living and the political mood of the country shifted further toward the right. In 1932 Horthy appointed a new prime-minister, Gyula Gömbös, that changed the course of Hungarian policy towards closer cooperation with Germany and started an effort to magyarize the few remaining ethnic minorities in Hungary. Gömbös signed a trade agreement with Germany that drew Hungary's economy out of depression but made Hungary dependent on the German economy for both raw materials and markets.

Hitler used promises of returning territories, economic pressure, and threats of military intervention to compel the Hungarians into supporting his policies, including those related to Jews, which encouraged Hungary's anti-Semites. In 1935 Hungary's the most important fascist party, the Ferenc Szálasi's Arrow Cross, was founded. Gömbös successor, Kálmán Darányi attempted to appease the anti-Semites and the Nazis by proposing and passing the First Jewish Law, which set quotas limiting Jews to 20% of the positions in a number of businesses and professions. The law failed to satisfy Hungary's anti-Semitic radicals, and the regent then appointed the anti-Nazi Béla Imrédy, who banned all Hungarian fascist parties and drafted a harsher Second Jewish Law, before Horthy forced his resignation in February 1939. The new government of Pál Teleki approved the Second Jewish Law, which greatly restricted the Jewish employment and defined Jews by blood, disregarding conversion.

The first Vienna Award of 1938 returned parts of Czechoslovakia (Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia) with predominantly Hungarian population. In March 1939 however, Hungary occupied the rest of Sub-Carpathia with no Hungarian population and also tried to occupy the rest of (in the meantime independent) Slovakia, but after a war with Slovakia it only gained easternmost Slovakia. The second Vienna Award returned the northern part of Transylvania in September 1940. Romanians in Transylvanian territories were victims of discrimination, merely because they were Romanians. There were massacres in Transylvania, the most traumatic in Szilágy (Sălaj) county. Dividing Transylvania between Romania and Hungary, Hitler was able to manipulate and control both of his future allies. On November 20 1940, fearing of the Nazi, Teleki affiliated Hungary on the Tripartite Pact. In December, he also signed an ephemeral "Treaty of Eternal Friendship" with Yugoslavia. Few months later, when Hitler asked Hungary to join and support invasion of Yugoslavia, promising territory in exchange of cooperation, unable to prevent Hungary's participation at war alongside Germany, Teleki committed suicide. The right-wing radical László Bárdossy succeeded and in April 1941, after German attack, Horthy dispatched the military forces to occupy former Hungarian lands in Yugoslavia, and Hungary eventually annexed sections of Vojvodina, Croatia and Slovenia.

Hungary was unaware and it didn't join the invasion of the Soviet Union from the day of June 22 1941. Hitler did not directly ask for Hungarian aid, but many Hungarian officials argued if Hungary did not quickly join, it would be surpassed by Romania in the competition for border revisions in Transylvania. Hungary, allied with Germany against the Soviet Union, entered the war at the end of June, after the questionable Soviet bombing of Kosice (Kassa) city in Slovak area. By December 1941, the hopes of a quick victory over the Soviet Union had faded and Hungary's troop contingent increased at 150,000 in 1942. Worried about Hungary's increasing reliance on Germany, Horthy removed Bárdossy and replaced him with Miklós Kállay, a veteran conservative of Bethlen's government. He continued Bardossy's policy of support Germany against the Red Army, but he also began negotiations with the Western Allies. Hungarian Army suffered great human loss after a heavy Soviet breakthrough at the River Don, shortly after the fall of Stalingrad in January 1943. There were several secret negotiations with the British and the American government, but there was no connection with the Soviets, as the Western Allies requested. Aware of Kállay's deceit and fearing that Hungary might conclude a separate peace, on March 1944, Hitler ordered Nazi troops to occupy Hungary and Döme Sztójay, a supporter of the Nazis, became the new prime minister. He governed with the aid of a Nazi military governor, Edmund Vessenmeyer. Horthy was confined to a castle, in essence placed under house arrest.

In July 1941, Bárdossy government deported 40,000 Jews from Hungary, and six months later Hungarian troops, in reprisal for resistance activities, murdered 3,000 Serbian and Jewish hostages, near Novi Sad in Vojvodina. Hoping to win Germany favor by persecuting Jews, Bardossy pass the "Third Jewish Law" in August 1941, which prohibited marriage and sexual intercourse with Jews. While Kallay was prime minister, the Jews endured economic and political repression, but the government protected them from the "final solution." But when the Nazis occupied Hungary in March 1944, the deportation of the Jews to the German death camps located in Poland began. The infamous SS Colonel Adolf Eichmann came to Hungary and directed the destruction of at least 400,000 Jews.

In August 1944, Horthy replaced Sztójay with General Géza Lakatos. In September, Soviet forces crossed the border, and on October 15 Horthy announced that Hungary had signed an armistice with the Soviet Union. The army ignored his orders and the Germans forced him to abrogate the armistice, depose Lakatos government, and name the leader of the Arrow Cross Party, Ferenc Szálasi, as prime minister. Horthy abdicated, and soon Hungary became a battlefield. Szálasi promised greatness for Hungary and a prosperity for the peasants, but in reality Hungary was crumbling and its armies slowly surrendered, one by one. In cooperation with the Nazis, Szálasi restarted the deportations of Jews, now focusing on Budapest. A fascist reign of terror resulted in random massacres of Jews and other "suspicious" people. The retreating German army demolished the rail, road, and communications systems and the advancing Red Army found the country in a state of political chaos. Germans held off the Soviet troops near Budapest for seven weeks before the defenses collapsed, and on April 4 1945, the last German troops were driven out of Hungary, controlled now by the Soviet Red Army.

Hungary's second communist government (1944-1956)

The Soviet Army occupied Hungary from September 1944 until April 1945. It took almost 2 months to conquer Budapest and almost the whole city was destroyed.

By signing the Peace Treaty of Paris, Hungary again lost all the territories that it gained between 1938 and 1941. Neither Western Allies nor the Soviet Union supported any change in Hungary's pre-1938 borders.

The Soviet Union itself annexed Sub-Carpathia, that is now part of Ukraine.

The Treaty of Peace with Hungary (http://www.law.fsu.edu/library/collection/LimitsinSeas/IBS076.pdf) signed on 10 February 1947 declared that "The decisions of the Vienna Award of 2 November 1938, are declared null and void." and Hungarian's boundaries were fixed along the former frontiers as they existed on 1 January 1938.

The Soviets set up an alternative government in Debrecen on December 21, 1944 but did not capture Budapest until January 18 1945. Soon afterwards, Zoltán Tildy became the provisional prime minister.

In elections held in November 1945, the Independent Smallholders' Party won 57% of the vote. The Hungarian Communist Party, now under the leadership of Mátyás Rákosi and Ernő Gerő, received support from only 17% of the population. The Soviet commander in Hungary, Marshal Voroshilov, refused to allow the Smallholders Party to form a government. Instead Voroshilov established a coalition government with the communists holding some of the key posts. The leader of the Smallholders, Zoltán Tildy, was named president and Ferenc Nagy prime minister. Mátyás Rákosi became deputy prime minister.

László Rajk became minister of the interior and in this post established the security police (ÁVH). In February 1947 the police began arresting leaders of the Smallholders Party and the National Peasant Party. Several prominent figures in both parties escaped abroad. Later Mátyás Rákosi boasted that he had dealt with his partners in the government, one by one, "cutting them off like slices of salami."

The Hungarian Workers Party (formed by a merger of the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party) became the largest single party in the elections in 1947 and served in the coalition People's Independence Front government. The communists gradually gained control of the government and by 1948 the Social Democratic Party ceased to exist as an independent organization. Its leader, Béla Kovács was arrested and sent to Siberia. Other opposition leaders such as Anna Kéthly, Ferenc Nagy and István Szabó were imprisoned or sent into exile.

Mátyás Rákosi also demanded complete obedience from fellow members of the Hungarian Communist Party. His main rival for power was László Rajk, who was now foreign secretary. Rajk was arrested and at his trial in September 1949 he made the forced confession to be an agent of Miklós Horthy, Leon Trotsky, Josip Broz Tito and Western imperialism and admitted that he had taken part in a murder plot against Mátyás Rákosi and Ernő Gerő. László Rajk was found guilty and executed. Despite their help to Rákosi to liquidate Rajk, János Kádár and other dissidents were also purged from the party during this period.

Mátyás Rákosi now attempted to impose authoritarian rule on Hungary. An estimated 2,000 people were executed and over 100,000 were imprisoned. These policies were opposed by some members of the Hungarian Workers Party and around 200,000 were expelled by Rákosi from the organization.

Rákosi rapidly expanded the education system in Hungary. This was an attempt to replace the educated class of the past by what Rákosi called a new "working intelligentsia". In addition to effects such as better education for the poor, more opportunities for working class children and increased literacy in general, this measure also included the dissemination of communist ideology in schools and universities. Also, as part of an effort to separate the Church from the State, religious instruction was denounced as propaganda and was gradually eliminated from schools.

Ironically, Cardinal József Mindszenty, who had bravely opposed the German Nazis and the Hungarian Fascists during the Second World War, was arrested in December, 1948, and accused of treason. After five weeks under arrest (which may have included torture), he confessed to the charges made against him and he was condemned to life imprisonment. The Protest churches were also purged and their leaders were replaced by those willing to remain loyal to Rákosi's government.

Rákosi had difficulty managing the economy and the people of Hungary saw living standards fall. His government became increasingly unpopular, and when Joseph Stalin died in 1953, Mátyás Rákosi was replaced as prime minister by Imre Nagy. However, he retained his position as general secretary of the Hungarian Workers Party and over the next three years the two men became involved in a bitter struggle for power.

As Hungary's new leader, Imre Nagy removed state control of the mass media and encouraged public discussion on political and economic reform. This included a promise to increase the production and distribution of consumer goods. Nagy also released anti-communists from prison and talked about holding free elections and withdrawing Hungary from the Warsaw Pact.

Mátyás Rákosi led the attacks on Nagy. On 9 March 1955, the Central Committee of the Hungarian Workers Party condemned Nagy for "rightist deviation". Hungarian newspapers joined the attacks and Nagy was accused of being responsible for the country's economic problems and on 18 April he was dismissed from his post by a unanimous vote of the National Assembly. Rákosi once again became the leader of Hungary.

Rákosi's power was undermined by a speech made by Nikita Khrushchev in February 1956. He denounced the policies of Joseph Stalin and his followers in Eastern Europe. He also claimed that the trial of László Rajk had been a "miscarriage of justice". On 18 July 1956, Rákosi was forced from power as a result of orders from the Soviet Union. However, he did manage to secure the appointment of his close friend, Ernő Gerő, as his successor.

On 3rd October 1956, the Central Committee of the reorganized Hungarian Socialist Workers Party announced that it had decided that László Rajk, György Pálffy, Tibor Szőnyi and András Szalai had wrongly been convicted of treason in 1949. At the same time it was announced that Imre Nagy had been reinstated as a member of the party.

1956 Revolution

Main article: 1956 Hungarian Revolution

The Hungarian Uprising began on October 23 by a peaceful manifestation of students in Budapest. The students demanded an end to Soviet occupation and the implementation of "true socialism". The police made some arrests and tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas. When the students attempted to free those people who had been arrested, the police opened fire on the crowd.

The following day commissioned officers and soldiers joined the students on the streets of Budapest. Stalin's statue was brought down and the protesters chanted "Russians go home", "Away with Gerő" and "Long Live Nagy". The Central Committee of the Hungarian Communist Party respond to these developments by deciding that Imre Nagy should become head of a new government.

On October 25 Soviet tanks opened fire on protesters in Parliament Square. One journalist at the scene saw 12 dead bodies and estimated that 170 had been wounded. Shocked by these events the Central Committee of the Communist Party forced Ernő Gerő to resign from office and replaced him with János Kádár.

Imre Nagy now went on Radio Kossuth and announced he had taken over the leadership of the Government as Chairman of the Council of Ministers." He also promised "the far-reaching democratization of Hungarian public life, the realisation of a Hungarian road to socialism in accord with our own national characteristics, and the realisation of our lofty national aim: the radical improvement of the workers' living conditions."

On October 28, Nagy and a group of his supporters, including János Kádár, Géza Losonczy, Antal Apró, Károly Kiss, Ferenc Münnich and Zoltán Szabó, manage to take control of the Hungarian Communist Party. At the same time revolutionary workers' councils and local national committees are formed all over Hungary.

The new leadership of the party is reflected in the comments made in its newspaper, Szabad Nép (i.e. A Free People). On October 29 the newspaper defends the change in the government and openly criticises Soviet attempts to influence the political situation in Hungary. This view is supported by Radio Miskolc and it calls for the immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops from the country.

On October 30, Imre Nagy announced that he was freeing Cardinal József Mindszenty and other political prisoners. He also informs the people that his government intends to abolish the one-party state. This is followed by statements by Zoltán Tildy, Anna Kéthly and Ferenc Farkas concerning the reconstitution of the Smallholders Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Petőfi Peasants Party.

Nagy's most controversial decision took place on 1 November when he announced that Hungary intended to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact. as well as proclaiming Hungarian neutrality he asked the United Nations to become involved in the country's dispute with the Soviet Union.

On 3rd November, Nagy announced details of his coalition government. It included communists (János Kádár, Georg Lukács, Géza Losonczy), three members of the Smallholders Party (Zoltán Tildy, Béla Kovács and István Szabó), three Social Democrats (Anna Kéthly, Gyula Keleman, Joseph Fischer), and two Petőfi Peasants (István Bibó and Ferenc Farkas). Pál Maléter was appointed minister of defence.

Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, became increasingly concerned about these developments and on November 4 1956 he sent the Red Army into Hungary. Soviet tanks immediately captured Hungary's airfields, highway junctions and bridges. Fighting took place all over the country but the Hungarian forces were quickly defeated.

During the Hungarian Uprising an estimated 20,000 people were killed, nearly all during the Soviet intervention. Imre Nagy was arrested and replaced by the Soviet loyalist, János Kádár. Nagy was imprisoned until being executed in 1958. Other government ministers or supporters who were either executed or died in captivity included Pál Maléter, Géza Losonczy, Attila Szigethy and Miklós Gimes.

Changes under Kádár

First Kádár led a wild terror against revolutioners. 21 600 mavericks (democrats, liberals, communists alike) have been imprisoned, 13 000 been interned, and 400 killed. But in the early 1960s, Kádár announced a new policy under the motto of "He who is not against us is with us." (he changed Rákosi's quote 'He who is not with us is against us'). He declared a general amnesty, gradually curbed some of the excesses of the secret police, and introduced a relatively liberal cultural and economic course aimed at overcoming the post-1956 hostility toward him and his regime. In 1966, the Central Committee approved the "New Economic Mechanism," through which it sought to rehaul the economy, increase productivity, make Hungary more competitive in world markets, and create prosperity to ensure political stability. Over the next two decades of relative domestic quiet, Kádár's government responded to pressure for political and economic reform and to counter pressures from reform opponents, By the early 1980s, it had achieved some lasting economic reforms and limited political liberalization and pursued a foreign policy which encouraged more trade with the West. Nevertheless, the New Economic Mechanism led to mounting foreign debt incurred to shore up unprofitable industries.

Transition to democracy

Hungary's transition to a Western-style democracy was the first and the smoothest among the former Soviet bloc. By 1987, activists within the party and bureaucracy and Budapest-based intellectuals were increasing pressure for change. Some of these became reform socialists, while others began movements which were to develop into parties. Young liberals formed the Federation of Young Democrats (Fidesz); a core from the so-called Democratic Opposition formed the Association of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), and the national opposition established the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF). Civic activism intensified to a level not seen since the 1956 revolution.

In 1988, Kádár was replaced as General Secretary of the Communist Party, and reform communist leader Imre Pozsgay was admitted to the Politburo. That same year, the Parliament adopted a "democracy package," which included trade union pluralism; freedom of association, assembly, and the press; a new electoral law; and a radical revision of the constitution, among others. Since then, Hungary has tried to reform its economy and increase its connections with western Europe, hoping to become a member of the European Union as soon as possible. A Central Committee plenum in February 1989 endorsed in principle the multiparty political system and the characterization of the October 1956 revolution as a "popular uprising," in the words of Pozsgay, whose reform movement had been gathering strength as Communist Party membership declined dramatically. Kádár's major political rivals then cooperated to move the country gradually to democracy. The Soviet Union reduced its involvement by signing an agreement in April 1989 to withdraw Soviet forces by June 1991.

National unity culminated in June 1989 as the country reburied Imre Nagy, his associates, and, symbolically, all other victims of the 1956 revolution. A national round table, comprising representatives of the new parties and some recreated old parties -- such as the Smallholders and Social Democrats -- the Communist Party, and different social groups, met in the late summer of 1989 to discuss major changes to the Hungarian constitution in preparation for free elections and the transition to a fully free and democratic political system.

In October 1989, the communist party convened its last congress and re-established itself as the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP). In a historic session on October 16 - October 20, 1989, the Parliament adopted legislation providing for multiparty parliamentary elections and a direct presidential election. The legislation transformed Hungary from a People's Republic into the Republic of Hungary, guaranteed human and civil rights, and created an institutional structure that ensures separation of powers among the judicial, executive, and legislative branches of government. On the day of the 1956 Revolution, October 23, the Hungarian Republic was officially declared (by the provisional President of the Republic Mátyás Szűrös), replacing the Hungarian People's Republic. The revised constitution also championed the "values of bourgeois democracy and democratic socialism" and gave equal status to public and private property.

Free Elections and a Democratic Hungary

The first free parliamentary election, held in May 1990, was a plebiscite of sorts on the communist past. The revitalized and reformed communists performed poorly despite having more than the usual advantages of an "incumbent" party. Populist, center-right, and liberal parties fared best, with the Democratic Forum (MDF) winning 43% of the vote and the Free Democrats (SZDSZ) capturing 24%. Under Prime Minister József Antall, the MDF formed a center-right coalition government with the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) and the Christian Democratic People's Party (KDNP) to command a 60% majority in the parliament. Parliamentary opposition parties included SZDSZ, the Socialists (MSZP), and the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fidesz). Péter Boross succeeded as Prime Minister after Antall died in December 1993. The Antall/Boross coalition governments achieved a reasonably well-functioning parliamentary democracy and laid the foundation for a free-market economy, and the massive worsening of living standards because of the free-market reforms led to a massive loss of support.

In May 1994, the socialists came back to win a plurality of votes and 54% of the seats after an election campaign focused largely on economic issues and the substantial decline in living standards since 1990. A heavy turnout of voters swept away the right-of-center coalition but soundly rejected extremists on both right and left. The MSZP, whose politics was as much determined by the socialism of PM Gyula Horn and a large part of the base, as by the economic focus of its technocrats (educated with a Western orientation in seventies-eighties) and ex-cadre entrepreneur supporters, and its liberal coalition partner SzDSz continued economic reforms and privatization, adopting a painful policy of fiscal austerity (the "Bokros plan") in 1995. The government pursued a foreign policy of integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions and reconciliation with neighboring countries. But neither an invitation to join NATO nor improving economic indicators guaranteed the governing parties' re-election; dissatisfaction with the pace and style of economic recovery, rising crime, the attempt to re-start the unpopular program of building a dam in the Danube, and cases of government corruption convinced voters to propel center-right parties into power following national elections in May 1998. The Federation of Young Democrats (renamed Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Party (MPP) in 1995) captured a plurality of parliamentary seats and forged a coalition with the Smallholders and the Democratic Forum. The new government, headed by 35-year-old Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, promised to stimulate faster growth, curb inflation, and lower taxes. Although the Orbán administration also pledged continuity in foreign policy, and has continued to pursue Euro-Atlantic integration as its first priority, it has been a more vocal advocate of minority rights for ethnic Hungarians abroad than the previous government. In 2002 it was decided that Hungary, together with 9 other countries was to join the European Union on 1 January, 2004.

However, the Fidesz lost the next election in April 2002, in which the MSZP and its liberal ally SzDSz 51% won over FIDESZ and its ally MDF 48% in a very fierce fight showing the loss of trust in Fidesz due to professed corruption problems, a style seen as arrogant by parts of the population, and lack of communication between the government and the other parties (and some strategically very bad connections to extreme right-wing parties while electional fights), while also showing the doubt and memories of already mentioned problems with the socialist party's last government.

On April 12 2003 Hungary voted for joining the European Union, where 83% of the votes said "Yes" to EU (45% of the population voted). Since the EU already accepted Hungary as a possible member, the 4 leading political parties (MSZP, FIDESZ, SZDSZ and MDF) agreed to establish the required prerequisites and policies and to work together to prepare the country for the accession with the least possible harm to the economy and people while maximising the positive effects on the country. On May 1, 2004 Hungary became a member of the EU.

See also

External links

Encyclopaedia Humana Hungarica (1–5)

cs:Dějiny Maďarska de:Geschichte Ungarns eo:Historio de Hungario ko:헝가리의 역사 he:היסטוריה של הונגריה hu:Magyar történelem nl:Geschiedenis van Hongarije pl:Historia Węgier fi:Unkarin historia


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