The central position of Hungary in Europe ensured a rich and controversial history with its ups and downs sometimes being a blessing, sometimes a curse. Hungary has been playing decisive role in the political and economical games and needless to say too many times in the conflicts of the major powers of the World. As for her territory at the beginning of the WW1 Hungary could boast ranking the 8th position.
Below, some important dates from Hungarian history are highlighted.
The Hungarian tribes (who called themselves Magyar, which roughly means ‘the ones who can speak’) left the area of the Urals. They passed along the Volga and the Caspian Sea. After several hundred years of wandering, they reached the Carpathian Basin.
Seven Hungarian tribes conquered the Carpathian Basin under Árpád’s leadership.
Stephen I (Saint Stephen) was crowned king and it was during his reign that Christianity was adopted and the structure of the Hungarian state and church was established.
András (Andrew) II was forced by the nobles to accept the Golden Bull, the first constitutional document of Hungary. The Bull is often compared to the Magna Charta Libertatum of England.
The Mongols invaded Hungary. After the defeat of the Hungarian army at the battle of Muhi, the king had to flee from the country. About 50% of the population died during the invasion. King Béla IV reconstructed and rebuilt the country and the state, and invited settlers mostly from Saxony, Bavaria.
After the dynasty of Árpád died out, under the reign of their successors, the Anjous, Hungary became a dominant power in Central Europe. Anjou Louis the Great of Hungary was also crowned King of Poland. The first university was established in Pécs, Hungary during his reign. Louis’ successor and son-in-law, Sigismund from the Luxembourg dynasty was King of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Emperor at the same time. The kings of this era made special efforts to unite Christian forces to prevent a possible conquest by the Ottoman Turks.
János (John) Hunyadi, Governor of Hungary stopped the attacking Ottoman Turks at Belgrade. Pope Callixtus III ordered the bells of every European church to be tolled as a call to pray for the defenders of the city of Belgrade. As the news of the victory spread before the arrival of the papal order, the chiming of bells at noon was transformed into a commemoration of this victory.
Mátyás (Matthias) Hunyadi’s reign brought a golden age in Hungary. The country became an important Central European power again and a centre of renaissance culture.
The battle of Mohács fought against the attacking Ottoman Turkish Empire sealed the fate of an independent Hungary. 150 years of Turkish occupation followed in the country.
The Ottoman Turks occupied Buda, the then capital of Hungary. The country was split into three parts. The Habsburgs governed the western and northern parts of the country, the central area was ruled by the Turks, and the south-east Principality of Transylvania became the stronghold of Hungarian culture and independence for a long-long time.
The Ottoman Turks were expelled from Hungary by the armies of the Saint League (alliance of the Habsburgs, Poland, Venice, the Pope, and others). Afterwards, Hungary was united under the reign of the Habsburgs. Habsburg absolutism and tyranny ignited several riots and independence wars in Hungary until the Compromise between the Habsburgs and Hungary was concluded in 1867.
An independence war was fought under the leadership of Ferenc Rákóczi II, Prince of Transylvania, against the Habsburgs. The rebels defeated the Imperial army in several battles but the rebellion was eventually put down.
As a consequence of the constant warfare between Hungarians, Habsburgs and the Ottoman Turks, population and economic growth in Hungary stunted for one and a half centuries. After the Saint League forced the Ottomans out from Hungary, the ethnic composition of the Hungarian Kingdom dramatically changed due to internal and external migration. Economic reconstruction only began mainly under the reign of Maria Theresa and her son Joseph II.
First half of the 19th century
A national reform movement was launched to promote both the political and economic transformation of the country and the cultivation of the Hungarian language and culture. This was the time when the National Anthem was written and composed, and when the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was established. The construction of the first permanent bridge (the Chain Bridge) between Pest and Buda commenced, and also the first railroads were built. The initiator of these major events was Count István Széchenyi, an eminent figure in the Reform Age.
A revolution broke out in Pest on 15 March (now a national holiday), which extended to the entire country and escalated to an independence war. The Habsburg Emperor was dethroned after the Hungarian army won several significant battles. In 1849, Lajos Kossuth was appointed Governor-President of Hungary. The longest European national revolution could be oppressed only in the summer of 1849 by the Habsburgs, with the intervention of the Russian army.
Compromise with the Habsburgs was concluded. Franz Josef I was crowned King of Hungary, and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was established. A dynamic development of the economy and modernisation started in Hungary, while political and ethnic tensions aggravated.
The Millennium, the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar Conquest was celebrated with great pomp.
28 July 1914
Following the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne, the Monarchy declared war on Serbia: World War I broke out. As a result of defeat in 1918, the Monarchy fell apart.
The First Republic was established but it shortly collapsed due to a coup of the Communist Party. The soon-to-emerge Hungarian Soviet Republic also collapsed because of the invading armies of the surrounding countries and an emerging conservative counter-revolutionary movement. In 1920, Hungary became a monarchy again under the rule of Governor Miklós Horthy. Limited parlamentarism was established.
4 June 1920
The Treaty of Trianon was signed, which reduced Hungary’s territory from 288,000 square kilometres to 93,000 square kilometres and its population from 18.2 million to 7.6 million. Millions of Hungarians found themselves in the successor states of the collapsed Monarchy, and the revision of the Treaty became a key objective for Hungarian foreign policy until 1945.
Hungary entered World War II in 1941. Hungary’s loss of human lives was approximately one million, and 40 per cent of the national wealth was destroyed. The Soviet army drove the Germans out of the country and occupied Hungary until 1990. After the few years of the Second Republic in Hungary, a Soviet-style dictatorship was established.
23 October – 4 November 1956
A revolution and freedom fight for Hungary’s democratic transformation of domestic politics and for her national independence was fought. The revolution was put down, and an unprecedented bloodshed in the aftermath of retaliation claimed well over two hundred lives.
23 October 1989
The Opposition Round Table, a formal meeting between the representatives of the ruling political regime and its opposition was formed; Hungary subsequently became a republic for the third time. The first democratic, multi-party elections were held in 1990.
Hungary became a member of NATO.
1 May 2004
Hungary became a member of the EU.
Hungary joined to the Schengen area.
Hungary held the EU presidency in the first half of the year.