Hungary - Encyclopedia Information
Official name Republic of Hungary
Formation 1918 / 1947
Population 10 million / 280 people per sq mile (108 people per sq km)
Total area 35,919 sq. miles (93,030 sq. km)
Languages Hungarian (Magyar)*
Religions Roman Catholic 52%, Calvinist 16%, Other 15%, Nonreligious 14%, Lutheran 3%
Ethnic mix Magyar 90%, Roma 4%, German 3%, Serb 2%, Other 1%
Government Parliamentary system
Currency Forint = 100 fillér
Literacy rate 99%
Calorie consumption 3438 kilocalories
Throughout its history Hungary has been a great survivor. It survived the onslaughts of the Tartars and Turks, the Habsburgs and Russians in the Carpathian Basin, and the enormous devastation of two world wars. The difficulties faced by the Hungarians have even been integrated into their national anthem, which describes Hungarians as “people torn by fate.” At the time of the Roman Empire Hungary was known as the province of Pannonia. After the fall of Rome, it was invaded by a number of tribes around 375 C.E. Prominent among them were the Huns (a Mongolian-Turkish nomadic tribe) who expanded into Eastern Europe. This marked the beginning of the Great Migration Era (migration of Germanic, Turkish, and Slavic tribes from Eurasia and their settlement in Europe). The Huns founded their empire in the region of Hungary in the fifth century. For a time it was led by Attila, who was considered the greatest king of the Huns. It is likely that the name Hungary is derived from the name of the Huns.
Apparently contemporaries mistakenly referred to the peoples living in the Carpathian Basin as Hungari, believing that they were descendants of the Huns.
After the empire of the Huns disintegrated Germanic tribes ruled Hungary for about 100 years; they were followed by the Avars, a nomadic Eurasian tribe. During the 200-year supremacy of the Avars, various tribes, including the Slavonic tribes, Moravians, Bulgars, Croato-Serbians, and Poles, tried to establish control in the region, but none of them could stand up to the might of the Avars. Near the end of the ninth century, a confederation of seven nomadic tribes, calling themselves Magyars (ethnic Hungarians), migrated to Hungary from the Eurasian plains and, finding the basin ideal for their pastoral-agrarian way of living, began establishing settlements.
Unlike other tribes migrating into Europe at the time, they did not speak an Indo-European language such as Germanic or Slavonic. The Magyars arrived speaking a language that incorporated traces of Turkish and Iranian influences that linguists have classified as Finno-Ugric.
The Magyars fought many battles with the Avars and ultimately defeated them, gaining power over the region. Бrpбd (c. 850–907), the elected leader of the Magyars and the six other tribes, led his army to victory against the ferocious Avars. His successors founded the kingdom of Hungary. Stephen I (997–1038), a descendant of Бrpбd, became chieftain when his father, Geza (c.
940–97), died, and consolidated his power by ousting rival clan chiefs and taking their lands. Pope Sylvester II (c.950–1003) agreed to recognize Stephen as king, and he was crowned the first king of Hungary on Christmas Day in 1000.
Бrpбd’s descendants continued to rule the country until 1301, after which a series of weak rulers and uprisings among the peasants in the Pannonian lowlands and parts of Transylvania resulted in the disintegration of central rule. The resulting chaos set the stage for the next empire to rule Hungary, the Habsburgs, who reigned as kings of Hungary from 1526 to 1918, and pursued a resettlement of ravaged areas with new immigrants from Austria and Germany, Slovakia, Romania (Wallachia and Moldavia at the time), and Serbia. The Habsburgs also ruled numerous hereditary lands in central Europe, collectively named the Austrian Empire in 1804, and the Hungarians constantly struggled against absorption into the homogenized Habsburg Empire.
The Revolution of 1848 began on March 15 with mass demonstrations against Habsburg rule throughout the kingdom. Taking advantage of the uprisings, Hungarian reformers declared Hungary’s autonomy within the Habsburg Empire. Following this Austria came to power in Hungary. Amid rising resistance to Austrian rule within the Hungarian kingdom, the Compromise of 1867 was signed, and a dual monarchy came into existence in the Austro- Hungarian Empire. The compromise provided that Austria and Hungary would maintain essentially separate governments under the same monarch. Foreign policy, the military, and the economy remained unified, but the Hungarian government became an equal partner in the administration of the empire.
In June 1914 seven conspirators armed by the Black Hand (a secret society of Serbian officers) assassinated Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Bosnia, the spark that ignited the Great War, now known as World War I. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand brought into play the tangled alliances of Europe. Although Hungary and the Archduke shared a mutual dislike of each other, the Austro-Hungarian military dragged Hungary into the punitive war against Serbia.
Russia, which had long had designs on Hungary, came to the aid of Serbia, Germany allied with Austro- Hungary against Russia, and France and England allied with Germany against Russia. The result was disastrous for Austro-Hungary.
In 1918 as a result of its defeat in World War I, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy collapsed. An interim government foolishly disbanded the weary army. The Romanians, Czechs, and Serbs seized the opportunity and quickly occupied huge areas of Hungary. In March 1919 Leninist Bolsheviks joined the government, and in April Bela Kun (1886–?1939), a leading Hungarian Communist, proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet Republic and took over the remaining unoccupied areas. This government proved to be short-lived because the Romanian army invaded Hungary. The Communist forces were defeated, and the Soviet Republic was brought down on August 6, 1919. For the first time in its history the Carpathian Mountains no longer protected Hungary, and the winners of World War I awarded more than two-thirds of Hungary, along with millions of Hungarian speakers, to Serbia, Romania, and the new country of Czechoslovakia.
Led by the former Austro-Hungarian Admiral Miklos Horthy (1868–1957), rightist military forces entered Budapest in the wake of the defeat by Romania and filled the power vacuum. Horthy made an alliance with Nazi Germany in the 1930s, in the hope of reversing the territorial losses that had followed World War I. Hungary was rewarded by Germany with the return of historically Hungarian territories that had been absorbed by Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Romania. Hungary took an active part in World War II. Following the fall of Nazi Germany Hungary fell under the Soviet sphere of influence and was converted into a Communist state following a short period of democracy in 1946–47.
After 1948 Communist leader Matyas Rakosi (1892–1971) established a Stalinist regime in the war-ravaged country. On October 23, 1956, hundreds of thousands of Hungarians rose up against the government in what came to be known as the Hungarian Uprising, and within days millions of Hungarians had come out to support it. The Stalinist regime was deposed and reform-minded Communists took control of the country. When the rebels announced their intention to withdraw from the Warsaw Pact (a treaty in which eight Eastern European Communist states pledged to defend one another if any one was attacked), the Soviet Union intervened with overpowering military force.
Reform-minded Communist Prime Minister Imre Nagy (1896–1958) was arrested and executed. In the end 50,000 Hungarian rebels and 7,000 Soviet troops were killed. Thousands more were wounded in the fighting.
In the late 1980s Hungary led the movement to dissolve the Warsaw Pact and shifted toward a multiparty democracy and a market-oriented economy.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Hungary developed closer ties with Western Europe, joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999, and the European Union (EU) on May 1, 2004.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
East of the Alps, the Carpathian Mountains form a crescent of snow-capped peaks, enclosing an alluvial plain where, tens of thousands of years ago, a huge inland lake had existed. The mountains, interspersed with rolling hills, protect the open spaces on its north, east, and southeast sides. Shaped like a kidney, Hungary lies in the center of Europe, sharing borders with seven other countries: Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia.
Although Hungary is predominantly flat, the landscape ranges from the low-lying regions of a great plain in the east, called the Great Hungarian Plain, to mountain ranges and hilly regions in the west and southwest. The country is divided into three large regions by the Danube (Duna) and Tisza Rivers. The highest peak in Hungary is Mount Kekes at 3,330 feet in the Matra Mountains along the country’s northern border.
Hungary has over 1,000 lakes. The largest among them is Lake Balaton, the major attraction of Hungary’s resort area, and the largest freshwater lake in western and central Europe. There are also a number of thermal lakes, among which Lake Hevнz (Hevнz Spa) is said to be the largest in the world; it is also reputed to have curative effects.
The climate of Hungary is continental (a climate typical of the interiors of the large continents of the northern hemisphere): The winters are cold, cloudy, and humid, and the summers are warm to hot. The coldest month in the country is January and the hottest, July. The average annual temperature is 50°F, with temperature extremes of approximately 81°F in the summer and 22°F in the winter.
The country enjoys an average yearly rainfall of approximately 24 inches.
From the beginning agriculture has played a significant role in Hungary’s economic system, but the history of the nation has often led to drastic changes.
The Habsburgs enjoyed a feudal system in which the peasants toiled to increase the wealth of the nobility.
Under Soviet domination the forced collectivization of farms impoverished the nation, and the final decades of the 20th century were economically tumultuous. Following World War II the peasants were given land rights, but between 1949 and 1963 the farms were forcefully collectivized. However the system, based on centralized instructions without productive incentives, meant that agricultural production in the 1960s was unable to match the levels recorded in 1938. Since 1975 the Hungarian agricultural and food industries have managed some recovery, especially in some sectors of production and attained internationally recognized high standards.
A member of the European Union (EU) since 2004, Hungary has steadily made the transition from a centrally planned economy to a demand-driven market economy. It has made tremendous strides and now boasts a per capita income close to one-half that of the Big Four European nations (Germany, Italy, France, and Great Britain). But the citizens of Hungary have paid a price for these economic successes: a high level of inflation (still in the high- to mid-teens), an unemployment rate that continues at well above 10 percent (more in eastern areas of Hungary), and a painful decrease in the real earnings of workers, especially those in the public sector— teachers, medical personnel, and civil servants—as well as those living on fixed incomes, the elderly in particular.
The major industries in Hungary include mining, metallurgy, agriculture, construction materials, processed foods, textiles, chemicals (especially pharmaceuticals), and motor vehicles. Most of the country’s trade is conducted with Germany, Austria, Italy, and Russia. The principal import items include fuels, raw materials, and semifinished products, agricultural and forestry products, and light industrial goods. The main exports are agricultural products, pharmaceuticals, bauxite, machine tools, and lighting equipment.
Although the ongoing privatization process has caused a drop in agricultural production, the disrupted balance is being restored to a realistic level of supply and demand since its realignment based on actual market conditions. Since 1997 Hungary has enjoyed steady economic progress, with growth rates around 4 percent a year. Despite the worldwide economic slowdown, Hungary’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth—at a little over 5 percent in 2000—was the highest in the world, mainly pushed by increased exports. The nation has made progress dealing with inflation and unemployment, both of which have substantially declined since 2001. In the midst of technological advances and restructuring, Hungary is taking great care to make sure that its natural resources are not depleted or destroyed.
CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE
The culture of Hungary is rich and colorful, a reflection of the country’s history, which has brought together a variety of traditions: Magyar, Roman, German, Slovak, Croatian, Serbian, and Romanian.
Home to great folk art traditions, producing beautiful items of embroidery, pottery, and carving, Hungary is also known for great architecture, music, and literature. Violinists and pianists from Hungary are celebrated worldwide, and the country has given the world great composers such as Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok, Zoltan Kodaly, and Ferenc Erkel, who composed the Hungarian national anthem and the first Hungarian opera. Literature has been inspired by the monumental events of the nation’s history, giving rise to odes, inspiring poems of independence, and producing gritty tales of realism.
The Roman, Gothic, Baroque, and Art Nouveau periods have all influenced Hungarian art and architecture. Thermal baths and spas are an important part of modern life in Hungary. The tradition is an old one as archaeologists have unearthed Roman baths in Hungary.
Because they have been the primary breadwinners in the home, men have traditionally dominated Hungarian families. But as more and more women have become wage earners, the traditional family roles have changed dramatically, and women have come to play more significant, high-profile roles within the family and the larger community as well.
In traditional Hungarian society, games and sports competitions have played an important role, especially for children, and the nation is well known for water sports such as swimming, canoeing, and water polo.
Hungarian cuisine tends to be heavy and meat-centered because traditional recipes reflect the importance of agriculture, especially the family farm, and provide directions for preparing flavorful and unforgettable peasant dishes. Many popular dishes from Hungary took advantage of the bounty of the land and required slow cooking while the farmers worked in the fields. These are stick–to-the-ribs, clog-yourarteries food, many of them pork and beef dishes, particularly goulash (a beef soup) and a stew called porkolt. Basic dishes consist of fatty meat (pork is generally preferred) or overcooked fish, a quantity of starch, and a garnish of pickles. The main dishes often contain potatoes, and are flavored with paprika, black pepper, and onions. Sausages, sauerkraut, and a variety of dumplings are also popular family meals.
In addition to porkolt and goulash, popular Hungarian delicacies include halaszle (spicy fish soup cooked with paprika), jokai bableves (bean soup), hideg gyumolcsleves (cold fruit soup made from sour cherries), and palacsinta (stuffed crepes).
In Hungary many pregnant women place their trust in midwives for a safe delivery. Some Hungarians believe that cutting the baby’s cord less than six or seven inches from the body would mar the baby’s physical appearance.
Traditional Hungarian weddings are three-day events. All of the guests are personally invited either by the best man or the bride and the groom.
In earlier times the bride wore a tricolor wedding dress along with a headdress embedded with wheat, which symbolized fertility. In the villages the entire village would escort the bride, seated in a decorated cart, to the church or the groom’s house, where the wedding would take place. There was also a custom of kidnapping the bride by a group of relatives before the wedding, and the groom had to rescue the bride from her alleged kidnappers.
When she reached the groom’s house, the bride was offered a glass of wine by the groom’s parents.
After drinking the wine, she was required by tradition to toss the glass over her shoulder. Then she would break an egg, a symbol of fertility, on the floor, indicating her desire to have healthy children. Another ritual involved breaking plates on the floor and tossing coins among the shards. Hungarians believed that the more pieces created when the plate broke, the more successful married life would be. The bride was then required to separate the coins from the pieces of plate as a test of her industriousness.
Prior to a church ceremony Hungarians are married in a civil ceremony to legalize the marriage.
In the presence of two witnesses and a legal authority, the bride and the groom are declared husband and wife under Hungarian law after confirming that they have freely chosen to get married and signed their names in the marriage registry. The couple then goes to a local church for a Catholic wedding ceremony where their friends and family join them.
During the church service the couple sit on a platform in front of the altar, while friends and relatives express their good wishes for the couple through poems and songs or share fond memories of the bride and the groom. After exchanging wedding vows, the bride and groom move their rings to their right hands from the left, where they had worn them from the time of their engagement. The priest pronounces them husband and wife, and the wedding guests congratulate the newlyweds. After the wedding ceremony the bride presents her husband with three or seven handkerchiefs (three and seven are considered lucky numbers by Hungarians); the groom gives her a small bag of coins.
A wedding reception with much feasting, singing, and dancing follows the church service. A custom called the “money dance” is observed: The guests have to “pay” money to earn the right to dance with the bride. They either pin the money on her wedding gown or drop it into her wedding shoes.
The money is used by the bride to set up her new home, as well as to meet the expenses of the honeymoon trip. Dancers are accompanied by the violin, the traditional musical instrument for weddings.