The beginnings – Conquest of the Carpathian basin

The written history of Hungary started with the Romans, though there are some evidences, that also Celtic people were attracted by the fertile soil and the hotprings of this territory to settle down here. The Roman legions arrived here around 10 A.D, and marked the boundarias of their newly occupied colony by the river Danube. So, Western Hungary, under name of Pannonia Inferor became part of the Roman Empire. The name of Pannonia’s centre was Auquincum. When visiting Budapest the ruins of the old legion’s camp and the extended settlement of Roman citizen, merchants and noblemen, with the remains of the old Roman theaters, coliseum and baths can be seen even today in the Archeological Park of Auquincum.

When at the end of the 4th century the Roman Empire disintegrated, a new era, the „wandering of the ethnicums”  came in Europe. Scythian, Gepida, Avaric and Hun tribes trailed on the roads, whoose remembrance survived in old legendaries and archeological findings alike.  If you visit Heroe’s Square in Budapest, you will hear from your local guide: „Hungarian tribes conquered the Carpathian basin in 896.”  Yes, we keep in mind this date, as startpoint of the present Hungary’s history, but it is a certified fact: settling down of the „magyars” started hundreds earlier, the first wave of the Hungarians arrived here around the middle of the 6th century. Settling down and settling in was ongoing for some hundred years, remembered by some Roman historian. Often asked question „who are Hungarians?”, and „where Hunngarian languages is from”? Time being we do not keep count of any ethnicum of the world as direct relatives to Hungarian. For sure, once upon a time we were nomadic people, like mongols, and some Chinese and Turkish tribes, and if there any language we can compare Hungarian, we have to look for it somewhere in the steppes of inner Asia, where tribes like uigur live . Ancient Hungarians also lived on the steppes, sheperding animals in peace, threating their enemies with their unbelievably knowledge of archbow and horseriding in wars and spats. Several theories exist why the ancient „magyars” left their homeland in inner Asia, and started to wander looking for a new home. What is for sure, that by 896 Hungarian settled down in the middle of the Carpathian basin, rich in fertile soil, grasslands and water. „Magyars” lived here at the beginning in allience of tribes, all the tribes having their own territory. Chronicles are talking about seven tribes, woose leaders under the lead of Arpad contracted by their own blood.  Arpad’s and the other chieftain’s statur stand today in the middle of the Heroe’s Square in Budapest, but their remebrance lives in names of cities and districts of Hungary too.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator border_width=”5″][vc_single_image image=”3071″ img_size=”large”][vc_separator border_width=”5″][vc_column_text]Hungary, as Christian kingdom – Medieval Hungary

In the middle of the Christian Europe, Hungarians became christian too. According to our traditions coronation of the first  christian king, Saint Stephen (Saint Stephen Basilica of Budapest dedicated to whom) happened at Christmas of 1000. King Saint Stephen I was the scion of tribeleader Arpad (actually grand-grandson), so the first royal dynasty of Hungary became the Arpad-dynasty. Saint Stephen was supported in his enourmous statefounding work by a simple Venetian monk, Gerardio (Gellert). Later on during a pagan riot Gerardio died as a martyr, tossed into river Danube from Gellert Hill in a barrel padded with iron nails, and today Saint Gellert is one of the most honoured figure of the Hungarian history. On Heroe’s Square’s one can see the others, the righthand colonnad of the Millenium Monument depicts the most important kings originating from Arpad-dynasty: Saint Stephen, founder of the country himself, Saint Ladislaus, the „knight king”, who followed him in his work, Coloman, the „bookman king”, who was not only a literate,  but a bellicose ruler and conquering Istria and Dalmatia started to expand Hungary, Andrew II, the crusader, who intruduced the Hungarian „Magna Carta” called Golden Bull in 1222,  Bela IV, who rebuilt Hungary after the first big severe blow, the invasion of the tatars in 1241-1242, Angevin Charles Robert, who introduced unified coinage, named Hungarian forint (name is valid even now), founded royal towns, solidified feudal law in Hungary and forged strong economical and political allience with the Czech and Polish kingdom, and Luis the Great, who founded the first university of Hungary in 1367. The medieval Hungary was a booming and sometimes feared kingdom of Europe. The territory of  present Slovakia and Transylvania was part of this strong kingdom from the beginnings, just like Burgenland’s territory in present Austria. The Hungarian kingdom led some vanquisher expedition, and participated in the crusades too. Trade fluorished, specially since Angevin Charles Robert (1288 – 1342), who reorganized and improved the administration of royal revenues, and during his reign five new “chambers” (administrative bodies headed by German, Italian or Hungarian merchants) were established for the control and collection of royal revenues from coinage, monopolies and custom duties. By 1330 Hungarian mines yielded about 1,400 kilograms (3,100 lb) of gold, which made up more than 30% of the world’s total production. The minting of gold coins began under Charles’s auspices in the lands north of the Alps in Europe. His forint, which were modelled on the gold coins of Florence, were first issued in 1326 and remained official currency in Europe in the next five hundred years. By the 14th century internal peace and increasing royal revenues strengthened the position of the mediveal Hungarian Kingdom.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator border_width=”5″][vc_single_image image=”1667″ img_size=”large”][vc_separator border_width=”5″][vc_column_text]The Golden Age of the Hungarian Kingdom

The golden days of the medieval Hungary continued up to the end of the 15th century. The 15th century’s  biggest figure was King Corvinus Matthias (most known monument named after him is Matthias Church in Buda Castle). The Hungarian renessaince king’s, Matthias’s thirty-two year long reign  between 1458 and 1490 is referred as Hungary’s real golden age, and Matthias himself – as figure of numerous legends and folktales, today cartoons and movies alike  – is maybe the most popular historical figure of Hungary. His benevolent figure, who rewards the good and punishes the bad is dear and familiar to all Hungarian hearts. One of his most known legend was even manifested in a famous fontain, the Matthias Well in the Royal Palace of Budapest. The historical king Matthias was more, then a charitable man of just. Corvinus Matthias reigned with iron hand: he set not only on the Hungarian, but the Polish and the Bohemian throne too, waged and won wars against the Czech mercenaries who dominated Upper Hungary, subdued the armies of the Hussite uprisers, kept Hungary’s borders, when  the Ottoman Empire conquered Serbia and Bosnia, ruled over Istria and Dalmatia, conquered Vienna, and extending the Hungarian Kingdom went as far as Olmutz in Germany. When walking in Buda Castle you find a relief at Hotel Hilton, which is the exact copy of the steele above today’s Olmutz Citygate. King Matthias was great not only on the battlefield, but  was the first non-Italian monarch promoting the spread of Renaissance in his realm: the earliest appearance of Renaissance style buildings and works outside Italy was in Hungary, as you can see when visiting Visegrad in the Danube Bend. Matthias dealt with astrology, astronomy, philosophy, theology, alchemy and medicines, established university in Bratislava (1465),  and founded the Bibilioteca Corviniana, the second largest library of Europe at that time.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_single_image image=”1669″ img_size=”large”][vc_separator border_width=”5″][vc_column_text]Hungary under Ottoman rule

After death of Corvinus Matthias (1490), the power and strengthness of the Hungarian Kingdom gradually started to relapse. Hungary became an easy prey, when the Ottoman Empire started expedition against the Christian Europe, first of all the Austrian Empire, neigbouring Hungary. In 1526 on their way the military forces of the Turks under the leadership of Sultan Suleiman I annihilated the armies of the Kingdom of Hungary  at the Battle of Mohács (southern Hungary). The that time king, Louis II died on the battlefield without a legitimate son, thus initiating a struggle for the throne of the Kingdom of Hungary between Voivode of Transylvania János Szapolyai, the most powerful man in the realm following the  disastrous defeat, and Archduke of Austria Ferdinand of the House of Habsburg.  In the months following both Szapolyai and Ferdinand were crowned king of Hungary, though they break up the country: in 1526-1527 the military forces of Ferdinand defeated those of Szapolyai in two battles, thus compelling the latter to withdraw to his base of power in eastern Hungary and Transylvania. In 1529, Sultan Suleiman I launched a new military campaign aimed at conquering Vienna, adjourning Hungary. However, Ottoman forces suffered defeat against Christian armies  Suleiman only delayed his plans. In 1541 the Turks occupied Buda and incorporated the central wedge of the Kingdom of Hungary directly into the Ottoman Empire. Thus, the that time Hungarian Kingdom was torn in three parts for the next 150 years. Transylvania remained independent, under the reign of an elected suzerain, who was the king for all of Hungarians escaped from the Turks to Transylvania or the Upper Land. On the Upper Land there were continous fights between Austrians and Hungarians. The Habsburg-loyals accepted the Austrian emperor also as Hungarian king, and their coronations went on in Bratislava. Central Hungary – Buda, and the Big Plain of Hungary – was under Turkish occupation. The Ottomans divided the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary that came under their control into administrative districts called „eyalets”. Of course, the most powerful official in Ottoman Hungary was the Pasha of Budin (Buda), but the Turkish military established major fortresses in Pest, Székesfehérvár and after 50 years of siege Esztergom alike. Ottoman Hungary had a population of around 900,000 at the end of the 1500’s, half that of the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary, and roughly equal to that of the Principality of Transylvania. On the borders fights were continous with altering success. The most famous battle of those times between Turks and Hungarians maybe the siege of Eger in 1552, when a handful Hungarian defender in heroic struggle repulsed the severalfold overpowered Ottoman army. A famous novel was written on the battle in  he 19th century (by (Geza Gardonyi), which is taught and red in Hungary’s elementary schools even today.

But the oughly 150 years of Turk occupation was not filled up only with battles and enmity. Hungarians also learned from the new settler Turks, Turks renovated and enlarged our bathes, built dervish monasteries and mosques, renovated the occupied fortresses, and acquainted us to „paprika” , carpet, slipper, tobacco and coffee. In the present Hungarian language one can trace back the origin of at least 800 words to Turkish. Remnants of the Turkish era can be seen all over Hungary, and not only in bathes. One can still visit mosques, (in city Siklos, Esztergom, Pecs and Budapest), climb up on minarets (in Eger), see once upon a time „mihrab” alcoves in by now Christian churches, and visit the grave of the last pasha of Buda in Buda Castle. Actually, the most northern pilgrimage place of muslims in Europe – Tomb of Gul Baba – also locates in Budapest.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_single_image image=”1671″ img_size=”large”][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Hungary under Austrian rule and the reform age in Hungary

The expulsion of the Turks from Hungary began with the victory of Christian forces under the command of King of Poland John III Sobieski over Ottoman armies laying siege to the city of Vienna in 1683.  The following year, Pope Innocent XI established the Holy League composed of the Holy Roman Empire (including the Habsburg Monarchy), the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Republic of Venice with the objective of driving the Ottoman Turks out of Europe. The ensuing 15-year military conflict between the Holy League (which the Tsardom of Russia joined in 1686) and the Ottoman Empire came to be known as the Great Turkish War of Europe. Troops of the Holy League –  occupying Esztergom in 1683, Buda and Pécs in 1686 and Székesfehérvár in 1688 – gradually expelled the Ottoman Turks from their strongholds in Hungary. In the Treaty of Karlowitz (today Croatia) in 1699 the Ottomans formally ceded most of the territory they had previously conquered in the Kingdom of Hungary to the Habsburg Monarchy, and beginning in this year, the Habsburg Empire rapidly extended its control over the entire area of the pre-1526 Kingdom of Hungary, maintaining the Principality of Transylvania as a separate constituent Crown Land of the realm.

For Hungary a new era began: life under Austrian reign. The Habsburgs ruled Hungary autocratically, and relegated the once-upon-a-time great kingdom  to the status of a colony. At the Parliament meeting held in Bratislava 1687, the Austrian emperor Leopold I promised to observe all of Hungary’s laws and privileges, so hereditary succession of the Habsburgs was recognized. In 1690 Leopold began redistributing lands freed from the Turks. Protestant nobles and all other Hungarians thought disloyal by the Habsburgs lost their estates, which were given to foreigners. Vienna controlled Hungary’s foreign affairs, defense, tariffs, and other functions, and it separated Tranyslvania from Hungary, treating it as a separate imperial territory. As an answer uprises started in Hungary: the repression of Protestants and the land seizures embittered the Hungarians, and in 1703 a peasant uprising sparked an eight-year national rebellion aimed at casting off the Habsburg yoke. Disgruntled Protestants, peasants, and soldiers united under Suzerain Ferenc Rakoczi II, a Roman Catholic magnate. Most of Hungary soon supported Rakoczi, and the joint Hungarian-Transylvanian Parliament voted to annul the Habsburgs’ right to the throne. The rebellion ended in 1711, when moderate rebel leaders concluded the Treaty of Szatmar, in which the Hungarians gained little except the emperor’s agreement to reconvene the Parliament and to grant an amnesty for the rebels. Ferenc Rakoczi II is considered one of the greatest figure of Hungary’s numerous freedom fights, his statues stands near to the Hungarian Parliament at Kossuth square. Some easing of tension between Hungarians and the Austrian Empire occured, when emperor Charles VI was enthroned. Charles VI organized Hungary’s first modern, centralized administration and in 1715 established a standing army under his command, which was entirely funded and manned by the nonnoble population. This was the time when the later on famous, moreover worldfamous „hussar” cavalry of Hungary were also organized. The most famous hussar combat of the era was the unit of Andras Hadik, whose statue stands in Buda Castle today. Charles VI was followed by his daughter, empress Maria Theresa on the Austrian and Hungarian throne. Maria Theresa (1740-80) – though Protestant religion was still forbidden and Hungary experienced further economic decline – intiated some political and economical reforms. She cancelled the feudal bondsman system, effected educational reforms and to gain the Hungarian aristocracy’s support brougt home from Ragusa (Dubrovnik today) Hungary’s most honoured relique, the Holy Right Hand of  King Saint Stephen. The Holy Right Hand, guarded and can be visited in Saint Stephen Basilica of Budapest, is the most precious treasure of the Hungarian Church even today, which is showed around in a ceremonical process on 20th August, the most important political holiday of Hungary. By the 18th century long-long years of Ottoman occupation, rebellions, and wars had reduced Hungary’s population drastically, and large parts of the country’s southern half were almost deserted. A labor shortage developed as landowners restored their estates. In response, the Habsburgs began to colonize Hungary with large numbers of peasants from all over Europe, especially Slovaks, Serbs, Croatians, and Germans. A complex patchwork of minority peoples emerged in the lands along Hungary’s periphery. Droves of Romanians entered Transylvania during the same period, and  leaders of the Orthodox Church began arguing that Romanians were descendants of the Roman Dacians and thus Transylvania’s original inhabitants. The Orthodox leaders demanded, without success, that the Romanians be recognized as Transylvania’s fourth “nation” and the Orthodox Church as its fifth “established” religion. In the early to mid-eighteenth century, Hungary had a primitive agricultural economy that employed 90 percent of the population. The nobles failed to use fertilizers, roads were poor and rivers blocked, and crude storage methods caused huge losses of grain. Barter had replaced money transactions, and little trade existed between towns and the serfs. After 1760 a labor surplus developed. The serf population grew, pressure on the land increased, and the serfs’ standard of living declined. Landowners began making greater demands on new tenants and began violating existing agreements. In response, Maria Theresa issued her Urbarium of 1767 to protect the serfs by restoring their freedom of movement and limiting the corvee. Despite her efforts and several periods of strong demand for grain, the situation worsened. Between 1767 and 1848, many serfs left their holdings. Most became landless farm workers because a lack of industrial development meant few opportunities for work in the towns. Maria Theresa died in 1780 and his son, Joseph II (1780-90) followed her on the throne. Emperor Joseph II was a dynamic leader strongly influenced by the Enlightenment movement of Europe. Joseph II sought to centralize control of the empire and to rule it by decree as an enlightened despot. He refused to take the Hungarian coronation oath to avoid being constrained by Hungary’s constitution. In 1781 Joseph issued the Patent of Toleration, which granted Protestants and Orthodox Christians full civil rights and Jews freedom of worship. He decreed that German replace Latin as the empire’s official language, and granted the peasants the freedom to leave their holdings, to marry, and to place their children in trades. This way Hungary (together with present Slovakia, that time the Upper Land), Croatia, and Transylvania became a single imperial territory under one administration. When the Hungarian nobles again refused to waive their exemption from taxation, Joseph II banned imports of Hungarian manufactured goods into Austria and began a survey to prepare for imposition of a general land tax. Joseph’s reforms outraged Hungary’s nobles and clergy, and the country’s peasants grew dissatisfied with taxes, conscription, and requisitions of supplies. Hungarians perceived Joseph’s language reform as German cultural hegemony, and they reacted by insisting on the right to use their own tongue. As a result, Hungarian lesser nobles sparked a renaissance of the „magyar” language and culture, and a cult of national dance and costume flourished. These national revivals later blossomed into the nationalist movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that contributed to the empire’s ultimate collapse. In 1790, three weeks before his death emperor Joseph II issued a decree canceling all of his reforms except the Patent of Toleration, peasant reforms, and abolition of the religious orders. The peasant reforms remained in effect, and Protestants remained equal before the law. Joseph’s successor, Leopold II (1790-92), recognized Hungary again as a separate country under a Habsburg king and reestablished Croatia and Transylvania as separate territorial entities. In 1791 the Parliament passed Law X, which stressed Hungary’s status as an independent kingdom ruled only by a king legally crowned according to Hungarian laws. Law X later became the basis for demands by Hungarian reformers for statehood in the period of the so called „reform age” lasted from 1825 to 1849. Enlightened absolutism ended in Hungary under Leopold’s successor, Francis I (1792-1835), who brought to Hungary decades of political stagnation. In 1795 the Austrian secret police arrested an abbot and several of the country’s leading thinkers for plotting a Jacobin kind of revolution to install a radical democratic, egalitarian political system in Hungary. The execution of the alleged plotters silenced any reform advocates among the nobles, and for about three decades reform ideas remained confined to poetry and philosophy. By the turn of the nineteenth century, the aim of Hungary’s agricultural producers had shifted from subsistence farming and small-scale production for local trade to cash-generating, large-scale production for a wider market. Road and waterway improvements cut transportation costs, while urbanization in Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia and the need for supplies for the Napoleonic wars boosted demand for foodstuffs and clothing. Hungary became a major grain and wool exporter. New lands were cleared, and yields rose as farming methods improved. Hungary did not reap the full benefit of the boom, however, because most of the profits went to the Austrian court, what remained to the magnates, who considered them not as capital for investment but as a means of adding luxury to their lives. Napoleon’s final defeat brought recession. As the demand highly dropped, grain prices collapsed, and debt ensnared much of Hungary’s lesser nobility. Poverty forced many lesser nobles to work to earn a livelihood, and their sons entered education institutions to train for civil service or professional careers. The decline of the lesser nobility continued despite the fact that by 1820 Hungary’s exports had surpassed wartime levels. As more lesser nobles earned diplomas, the bureaucracy and professions became saturated, leaving a host of disgruntled graduates without jobs. Members of this new intelligentsia quickly became enamored of radical political ideologies emanating from Western Europe and organized themselves to effect changes in Hungary’s political system.

The greatest figure of the this reform era came to the fore during the 1825 convocation of the Parliament, held at that time in Bratislava. Count Istvan Szechenyi, a magnate from one of Hungary’s most powerful families, shocked the „nobel house”, when he delivered the first speech in Hungarian ever uttered in the upper chamber and backed a proposal for the creation of a Hungarian academy of arts and sciences by pledging a year’s income to support it. Though many aristocrat followed his example, there were opponents too. In 1831 angry nobles burned Szechenyi’s book Hitel (Credit), in which he argued that the nobles’ privileges and tried to base a „modern” banksystem for Hungary.  Szechenyi called for an economic revolution,  including agricultural reforms, development of horsebreeding,  starting scheduled steamship lines on river Danube, regulation of the flow of Hungary’s main rivers, Danube and Tisza, and foundation of numerous new manufatures. His name is mostly preserved all over the world by the Chainbridge of Budapest, officially Stephen Szechenyi Chainbrige, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences built at its bridehead. The Tunnel and the Funicular of Buda Castle was built also for the initiation of the Szechenyi family. The other popular of Hungary’s great reform leaders, Lajos Kossuth, addressed passionate calls for change to the lesser nobles. Kossuth published commentaries on the parliament’s activities, which made him popular with young, reform-minded people, as Kossuth argued that only political and economic separation from Austria would improve Hungary’s plight. He called for broader parliamentary democracy, industrialization, general taxation, economic expansion through exports, and abolition of privileges and serfdom. Kossuth later on died in exile, but Hungarians never forgot him: the political centre of Budapest, the square in front of the Hungarian Parliament was named after him, and his statued – alongside with other freedomfights heroes of Hungary – stands in the right hand collonad of the Millenium Monument of Heroe’s Square. The reform era’s greatest remain is the Hungarian Anthem. Ferenc Kolcsey’s poem – with the original title: ’From the stormy centuries of the Hungarian nation’ – was still written in 1823, and as anthem was adopted in 1844, when Hungary was still under Austrian rule, Never-ever any emperor approved it as anthem, and until 1867, the year of Austro-Hungarian Monarch’s birth its singing was forbidden the Anthem of Hungary. 

The music of the Hungarian Anthem was written by Ferenc Erkel, father of the Hungarian operamusic and later on the fist director of the Operahouse of Budapest. The biggest natural catastrophe hit Budapest in this years. 13rd March 1848 river Danube left its bed and the Great Flood of Budapest followed. This was the greatest flood in the city’s history that damaged thousands of buildings and made loads of people homeless, mainly on the Pest side. On Saint Roc chapel and many houses of Budapest’s downtown signs indicate the almost 2 meters level that the water reached in 1838.

In of March 1848  revolution erupted in Vienna, forcing Austria’s Chancellor Klemens von Metternich to flee the capital. Unrest broke out in Hungary on March 15, (one of Hungary’s political holidays today), when radicals and students stormed the Buda fortress to release political prisoners. A week later, on March 22 a new national cabinet took power with Count Louis Batthyany as chairman, Kossuth as minister of finance, and Szechenyi as minister of public works. Under duress, the parliament’s upper house approved a sweeping reform package, signed by emperor Ferdinand, that altered almost every aspect of Hungary’s economic, social, and political life. These so-called April Laws created independent Hungarian ministries of defense and finance, and the new government claimed the right to issue currency through its own central bank. Guilds lost their privileges; the nobles became subject to taxation; entail, tithes, and the corvee were abolished; some peasants became freehold proprietors of the land they worked; freedom of the press and assembly were created; a Hungarian national guard was established; and Transylvania was brought under Hungarian rule. But new freedom of Hungary did not lasted long. By summer the revolution turned into war with Austria. A committee of national defense under Lajos Kossuth took control, authorized the establishment of a Hungarian army, and issued paper money to fund it.

In December Emperor Ferdinand abdicated in favor of Franz Joseph (1848-1916), who claimed more freedom of action because, unlike his predecessor, Ferdinand, he had given no pledge to respect the new parliament of Hungary. Hungarians refused to recognize him as their king because he was never crowned. The Austrian army captured Pest early in 1849, and the Hungarian revolutionary government fled to Debrecen. In April 1849 Hungarian parliament meeting deposed the Habsburg Dynasty in Hungary , proclaimed Hungary a republic, and named Lajos Kossuth governor with dictatorial powers. After the declaration, Austrian reinforcements were transferred to Hungary, and in June, at Franz Joseph’s request, Russian troops attacked from the east and overwhelmed the Hungarians. The Hungarian army surrendered on August 13, 1849, and Kossuth escaped to the Ottoman Empire. A period of harsh repression followed. Count Batthyany and about 100 others were shot, several society women were publicly whipped, and the government outlawed public gatherings, theater performances, display of the national colors, and wearing of national costumes and Kossuth-style beards. This was the time, when Austrians decided to build up Citadel on Gellert Hill, the only fortress of the world built not to defend a city, but control its rebellist citizens.

Life in the Austrian-Hungarian Monarch

 Aftermath of the Revolution and Freedomfight of 1848/1849 Hungary falled under absolute control of emperor Franz Joseph and the Austrian Empire. Franz Joseph divided the country into four distinct territories: Hungary, Transylvania, Croatia-Slavonia, and Vojvodina. German and Bohemian administrators managed the government, and German became the language of administration and higher education. Hungarian public opinion split over the country’s relations with Austria. Some Hungarians held out hope for full separation from Austria; others wanted an accommodation with the Habsburgs, provided that they respected at least Hungary’s constitution and laws. Ferencz Deak became the main advocate for accommodation. The first crack in Franz Joseph’s neo-absolutist rule occured in 1859, when the forces of Sardinia and France defeated Austria at Solferino in Italy. The defeat convinced Franz Joseph that national and social opposition to his government was too strong to be managed by decree from Vienna, and he recognized the necessity of concessions toward Hungary. Austria and Hungary thus moved toward a compromise. In 1866 the Prussians defeated the Austrians, further underscoring the weakness of the Habsburg Empire. Negotiations between the emperor and the Hungarian leaders were intensified and finally resulted in the Compromise of 1867, which created the Dual Monarchy of Austra-Hungary, also known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The coronation ceremony of Franz Josep and Sissi, as Hungarian king and queen occured on 8th June 1867 in Matthias Church of Buda Castle. The ceremony was dubbed by Franz Liszt’s Coronation Mess. Queen Sissi herself became an iconic figure for Hungarians,  who missed care for their history and country for so long time. Sissi loved Hungary, Hungarians and the Hungarian culture more than much, according to the chronicles she even learned Hungarian language and tried to teach emperor Franz Joseph too. She participated on events, like opening the Operahouse of Budapest in 1888, the first parliamentary meeting in the Hungarian Parliament in 1896 and took trips with pleasure in Buda Hills. Beside her famouse statue at the Buda side headbridge of Elizabeth bridge the bridge itself, a hospital, a district of Budapest and also a section of Grand Boulvard was named after her. But the place she spent much of her time, gladly and happily is outside of Budapest. Godollo’s splendid baroque castle (built in the middle of the 18th century) was presented to the royal couple for the occasion of their coronation, and since that time the Grassalkovic Castle of Godollo and Sissi were inseparable.

Life in the Austro-Hungarian Monarch brought prosperity and development for Hungary. As prime minister Count Gyula Andrassy was appointed, and no wonder, the grateful posterity named the „artery of Budapest”,  Andrassy Avenue after him. Though Hungary basically remained agricultural country,  numerous modern factories were establised, and certain industries, like production of pig iron, sugar, petroleum, chemicalies, electricity and textiles flourished. The lifestyle in Budapest was radically changed: elegant women walked on Dunacorso and Castle Bazaar, balls were held in the Redout (Vígadó), the legendary Gerbeaud coffee introduced home delivery, and making of bon-bon and icecream, the famous termal bathes of Budapest were full of visitors, and in City Park of Budapest horseraces were held. In the turns of the 19th/20th century more than 300 coffees were opened in Budapest, most of them – like the worldfamous New York Coffee – operating even today. In the Hungarian capital first omnibuses, from the end of the 19th century trams, trolley and buses effected public transport, and in 1896 the first underground of the continent, the still operating Millenium Underground was built. Between 1873 and 1913 the Austro-Hungarian Monarch’s economy increased by 5 % yearly, which meant the highest record in that time Europe. Budapest – mainly the Pest side – went under complete renovation and rejuvenation. Numerous new buildings – Budapest’s Operahouse, Great Market Hall of Budapest,  Music of Academy, Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest, Saint Stephen Basilica, hospitals, coffees, theathers, baths, tenement houses alongside the Grand Boulvard and palaces at the Andrassy Avenue – were built, public parks, like City Park and Margaret Island were created and plus to the Chainbridge three more bridges – Margaretbridge, Liberty bridge and Elizabeth bridge – were constructed to span over river Danube in Budapest. In the meantime Budapest as Budapest was born too: on 17th November 1873 Pest and Buda was unified and became the capital of Hungary! At the same time Budapest and Hungary feverishly prepared to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Conquest by Hungarians. Celebrations lasted half a year in 1896, when throughout the country were opening ceremonies, festivities, meetings, processions, parades, and unveilings of memorials. The most significant events took place in the capital city of Budapest, where the biggest project – which had more than 5 millions visitors – was the Millennium Exhibition (Castle of Vajdahunyad in the City Park is a remnant of the Exhibition). At the location of the exhibition’s former entrance later the Millennium Monument of Heroe’s Square was built. The renovation of Mathias Church and Fishermen’s Bastion of Buda Castle was finished by the Millenium Celebrations, and – tough still not ready – the first meeting was held in the newly started Hungarian Parliament’s Ceremonial Hall.

Hungary in and between the World Wars

The heydeys lasted to the beginning of WWI, wich happened on July 28, 1914, one month to the day after Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were assasinated in Sarajevo, Serbia.  Austrio-Hungarian Monarch declared war on Serbia, and in the summer of 1914 the major powers in the Western world – with the exception of the United States and Italy, both of which declared their neutrality, at least for the time being – flung themselves headlong into the First World War. In spite of their multi-ethnic nature and some expectations to the contrary, the military forces of Austria-Hungary remained largely unified over the course of the war. Hungarian troops fighted on Isonzo-Doberdo line in Italy, where the Hungarian army suffered a severe loss. In comparison to the other armies of Europe, Hungary’s  armed forces, technical equipment, and military expenditures were underdeveloped. The artillery was not sufficient, and the correct supply of ammunition was not solved even by the end of the war. The troops raised in the Kingdom of Hungary spent little time defending the actual territory of Hungary, exept when the Romania invaded Transylvania, and tried to occupy even Budapest. For the Austro-Hungarian Monarch WWI ended on 11st  November 1918 with a complete military loss. Of the 3.6 million soldiers Hungary sent to war, 2.1 million became casualties With the collapse of the army, Austria-Hungary also collapsed. In the Treaty of Trianan signed on 4th June 1920 Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory, more than half of its population, more territory than any other country at that time in Europe. Eight million Hungarians left in Hungary and more than 3 million Hungarians were stranded outside of the newly established borders. New nations, such as Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia were established, while the southern part of Hungary was given to Yugoslavia and renamed Vojvodina. Bosnia.Hercegovina was also incorporated in Yugoslavia and Croatia became part of Yugoslavia too, after a 900 years federation with Hungary. More than 104.000 square km – the whole of Eastern Hungary and Transylvania –  were awarded by the Entente to Romania, more than what was left for Hungary itself (93 000 km2, as it is today). The northern part of Hungary, the so called Upper Land was annexed by the newly created Czechoslovakia. In Hungary 4th June is the „Day of National Cohesion „ today, remembering all native Hungarians living outside the present borders of Hungary.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_single_image image=”1683″ img_size=”large”][vc_separator border_width=”5″][vc_column_text]By late 1918, Hungary’s farms and factories were producing only half of what they did in 1913, which resulted in unsatisfaction of the people. On 31st October 1918 the smoldering unrest burst into revolution in Budapest, which turned into a socialist uprise, helping the rise of the Hungarian Communist Party at the first time in history. The Party was organized in a Moscow hotel on 4th November 1918 from a group of Hungarian prisoners of war and communist sympathizers. They dispatched members to Hungary to recruit new members, propagate the party’s ideas, and radicalize the government. In 1918 an independent Hungary was declared. The communists wrote a temporary constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and assembly; free education, language and cultural rights to minorities; and other rights. It also provided for suffrage for people over eighteen years of age except clergy, “former exploiters,” and certain others. What the Communist Comittee and the conservative  politicians were agreed on was to restore Hungary’s historical borders. But this era did not lasted long, and did not brought success. A militantly anticommunist authoritarian government composed of military officers entered Budapest in late 1919, and wiped away the goverment moved by the Communist Party of Hungary.  The new conservative government made several progress toward economic modernization, and in spite the losses of the WWI,   Hungary was able to revive.  In March 1920 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 (1920-44) – a former admiral of the Austro-Hungarian Navy – was elected as 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. Horthy’s goverment effected radical economical reforms. tariffs on finished goods was imosed, and new industries were subsidized. As a result  the agricultural sector was able to increase cereal export in a rate, wich generated foreign currency to pay for imports critical to the industrial sector. In 1924  Hungary had gained admission to the League of Nations. By the late 1920s, the new policies had brought order to the economy. The number of factories increased by about 66 percent, inflation subsided, and the national income climbed 20 percent.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator border_width=”5″][vc_single_image image=”1684″ img_size=”large”][vc_separator border_width=”5″][vc_column_text]In 1929 the New York Stock Exchange crashed, and as a result, world grain prices plummeted, so the framework supporting Hungary’s economy buckled too. Hungary’s earnings from grain exports declined, the standard of living dropped, the political mood of the country shifted further toward the right. The governor remained Miklós Horthy, but as prime minister of Hungary a right wing politician, Gyula Gombos was appointed. Pressured by domestic and foreign radical nationalists and fascists, Hungary fell increasingly under the influence of Germany, where the Nazi regime consolidated itself in the 1930’s. When Germany began to redraw national boundaries in Europe, Hungary was able to regain some territories, like southern Slovakia from Czechoslovakia in 1938, Subcarpathian Rus in 1939, northern Transylvania from Romania in 1940, and the Backa region from dismembered Yugoslavia in 1941. In November 1940, Hungary joined the Axis Allience. WWII caused bigger losses – if that is possible – to Hungary as WWI. Hungary’s decision to join the German invasion of the Soviet Union was uncertain up to 1941, as Soviets promised to support Hungary’s territorial claims for Transylvania, but the question was decided by bombing raid on Kosice on 26th June 1941. Even today it is uncertain, the bombers came really from the USSR, or perhaps Germans tried to solve the question with this provocation. As a result Hungary declared war on the Soviet Union on 27th June 1941, and became the active figthing country of WWII. Hungarian Army suffered te biggest losses on the Soviet front, at river Don and Stalingrad. Supply problems, extremely cold wheather, plagues, lack of sufficient armories, food and clothes – all that contributed to, that dutring winter of 1942/43 the Hungarian Army practically was diminished, 200 000 soldiers died or was captured by Russians. After the defeat, Hungarian Admiral Miklós Horthy and Prime Minister Miklós Kallay recognized that Germany would likely lose the war, and with Horthy’s approval Kallay tried to negotiate a separate armistice for Hungary with the western Allies. To prevent these efforts, German forces occupied Hungary on 19th March 1944.  Already before the German occupation the German government began to pressure the Hungarians to deliver Jews who were Hungarian citizens into German custody, however, Miklós Horthy refused to deport the Hungarian Jews. In mid-October 1944 Germans arrested Horthy and installed a new Hungarian government under Ferenc Szalasi, the leader of the fascist and radically antisemitic Arrow Cross party. In November 1944, the Arrow Cross regime ordered the remaining Jews of Budapest into a ghetto which, covering an area of 0.1 square miles, held nearly 70,000 people. Several thousand Budapest Jews were also marched on foot under Hungarian guard to the Austrian border during November and December 1944. The siege of Budapest by the troops of the Soviet Union started at Christmas of 1944. This siege was – after the battle of Stalingrad – the second most bloody siege of WWII: Budapest was in the ring of the Soviet Red Army, while bombers of the Allied Forces were in the air over Budapest. The siege lasted for two monthes, while 300 000 thousand people died, 80 % of the buildings suffered serious damages, and Budapest’s all historical bridges over the river Danube were exploded. In January 1945, with Soviet forces already in the Pest part of Budapest, Hungary signed the armistice. Soviet forces occupied the Buda part of the city on 13rd February 1945. The last German units and their Arrow Cross collaborators were dispelled out of western Hungary in early April 1945. While exact numbers are not known, it is estimated that up to 600,000 Hungarians were captured by Russians, including an estimated 200,000 civilians. They were delivered in camps and used for „malenkij robot”, forced labor in the Soviet Union, mainly in Siberia.  

Communism in Hungary

After the World War II, a victorious Soviet Union succeeded in forcing its political, social, and economic system on Eastern Europe, including Hungary. During World War II, a communist cell headed by Laszlo Rajk, a veteran of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and a former student communist leader operated underground communist cells within the country, while Matyas Rakosi led a second, Moscow-based group whose members were later called the “Muscovites.” After the Soviet Red Army invaded Hungary in September 1944, Rajk’s organization emerged from hiding, and the Muscovites returned to Hungary. These were the beginning of the new Hungarian Communist Party, ruled over Hungary in the next fifty years. On 22nd December 1944 a provisional government emerged in Debrecen that was made up of the Provisional National Assembly, in which communist representatives outnumbered those of the other “antifascist” parties. The armistice bond at the end of the war established the Allied Control Commission with Soviet, American, and British representatives, which held complete sovereignty over the country. The commission’s chairman, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, a member of Stalin’s inner circle, exercised absolute control over Hungary. In the immediate postwar period the new Hungarian government pursued economic reconstruction and land reform. Hungary had been devastated in the last years of World War II. About 24 percent of its industrial base was destroyed, and many of the large landowners and industrialists fled Hungary in advance of the Soviet Red Army. Reconstruction proceeded rapidly, expedited by gradual nationalization of mines, electric plants, the four largest concerns in heavy industry, and the ten largest banks. In 1945 the government also carried out a radical land reform, expropriating all holdings larger than fifty-seven hectares and distributing them to the country’s poorest peasants. Nevertheless, the peasants received portions barely large enough for self-sufficiency. Finally to help curb high inflation, the government introduced a new currency, the new forint.. In the meantime in politics the Hungarian Communist Party – forming a leftist alliance with the Social Democratic Party and the National Peasant Party and gaining control of several key offices, including the leadership of the security police and the army general staff – argued for immediate establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat. Using methods later called “salami tactics,” the Hungarian Communist Party strengthened its position by discrediting leaders of rival parties as “reactionaries” or “antidemocratic,” even „facists” , forced their resignation from the government and sometimes prompted their arrest. In 1949 general elections were held, and on 20th August the socialist Hungarian People’s Republic was declared. New leader, Matyas Rakosi, was put in power by Stalin of Russia, and Hungary was governed by the Socialist Workers’ Party, which was under the absolute control of the Soviet Union. Communism in Hungary meant a total political terror int he 1950’s: approximately 350,000 Hungarian officials and intellectual party members were purged from the Communist Party, any citizen with a western connection was immediately vulnerable, which included large numbers of people who had spent years in exile in the West during the Nazi occupation of Hungary. Rougly 150,000 people were imprisoned, with 2,000 summarily executed for their opinion opposit to the Hungarian communists. Additionally, during “social purges” of non-party members, in Budapest on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays vans transported purge targets, who by 1953, numbered approximately 700,000. Of those 98,000 were branded as spies and saboteurs, 5,000 of which were executed. Practicizing religion just as marrying in church was forbidden, numerous books were on inhibitory list, free media did not existed, right of assembly was cancelled,  and education in school targeted to bring up „the future’s communists and stalinist workers”. The government collectivized agriculture by force, and extracted profits from the country’s farms to finance rapid expansion of heavy industry, which attracted more than 90% of total industrial investment. At first Hungary concentrated on producing primarily the same assortment of goods it had produced before the war, including locomotives and railroad cars, but soon the country as for the agriculture became the larder of the Soviet Union, while the goverment – forced also by the Soviet Union – invested pointlessly in baseless heavy industrial sectors. Among the memorials to this economic policy were the iron and steel combine at Dunapentele (Stalintown, now Dunaújváros), the many units of Miskolc’s ironworks, and several socialist new towns based on heavy industrial developments, such as mining towns of Komló, Tatabánya and Várpalota. Industrial production was controlled by annual and five-year economic plans, determined for all countries in the communist world by the Soviet Union. In some periods, the targets were changing every month. A particularly drastic and unrealistic change was made to the first five-year plan in 1951, when some of the original figures were raised by 6080 percent. Workers were encouraged to keep increasing their output not with pay, but with psychological and even legal pressures. During this time like agriculture, the infrastructure was neglected, with no development and even sinking levels of provision. Hungarian railways had been up to international standards, but it became obsolescent in several respects. Apart from goods haulage, road transport stagnated and the number of private cars and other vehicles dwindled, so that road improvements were not a priority either. National income of Hungary int he 1950’s was less, then two-thirds of the European average, and the standard of life was falling. The anarchy of the command economy, the Soviet Union’s withdrawals, and Hungary’s forced contribution to Russia’s armaments race during the Cold War brought chronic shortage and crisis in public supplies, in 1951 rationing of bread, sugar, flour, meat and egg was introduced. Hungarians were just dreaming of „simple luxury”, like normal quality clothes and foods. Travel out from the country was also forbidden, or strictly controlled by the Hungarian Communist Party.  Europe was divided literally and physically by the almost 7000 km long Iron Curtain. Due to all this Rákosi’s  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 Working People’s Party and over the next three years the two men became involved in a bitter struggle for power. Life improved under Imre Nagy, as prime minister, goods started to appear in the shops of Budapest, and most of the political prisoners were released. But Nagy was too popular for Kremlin’s supporters. In April 1955 Matyas Rakosi was put back in charge, and a new era of opression started.

Russians go home! – the Hungarian Uprise of 1956

On 23rd October 1956 students of Budapest staged a peaceful demonstration, drawing up a list of sixteen demands againts the communist goverment. Among them the need of a new government led by Imre Nagy, release of all political prisoners, free elections, free media, right of free assembling, free pratice of religion, immediate relieving the leaders of the Stalin-Rakosi era, election of a new National Assembly, ceasing the Russsian language as compulsory subject in Hungarian schools, and removal of the Soviet troops from the Hungarian soil was listed. By the evening the number of the demonstrating mass reached 200 000 in number, „Russian go home!” was heard everywhere. Red stars were torn down from the buildings, the 30-foot high bronze statue of Stalin stood near Heroe’s Square of Budapest was pulled down, and demonstrators marched to the Hungarian Broadcast, demanding the radio for the nation and appointing Imre Nagy as prime minister of Hungary. The Hungarian police opened fire, and some protesters were killed. But the Uprise seemed to win, on 24th October Imre Nagy took over as Prime Minister. He asked Khrushchev to take out the Russian troops, on wich on 28th October  Khrushchev agreed, and the Russian army pulled out of Budapest. Still before, on 25th October the most tragic event of the revolution occured: on Kossuth square, in front of the Hungarian Parliament.soviet tanks massacred about 800 armless civils, between them women and children. Their memory is guarded by a shocking memorial exibition on the place of the massacre. Between 29th October and 3rd November the new Hungarian government introduced democracy, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion (the leader of the Catholic Church, primate Jozsef Mindszenty was freed from prison), and Imre Nagy announced that Hungary was going to leave the Warsaw Pact. As an asnwer on 4th Novemberat dawn 1000 Russian tanks rolled into Budapest to crush, once and for all, the national uprising. Vicious street fighting broke out, but the Soviets’ great power ensured victory. By 8.10 am they had destroyed the Hungarian army and captured the Hungarian Radio – its last words broadcast were ‘Help!   Help!  Help”!’   Hungarian people – even children – fought against the Soviet Army with machine guns, Molotov coctails and sometimes with bare hand. The most heroic figts went on at Corvin-köz, where a handful  revolutioner – in 80 % kids under age 14 – with the help of the for that time uprise supporter Hungarian Army tried to hold up the Russian tanks arriving from east, from the direction of Ferihegy Airport. During the fights some 4000 Hungarians were killed, 200,000 Hungarian refugees fled into Austria, and more than 26 000 revolutioners were arrested and almost 1000 executed. The Soviet action stunned many people in the West, many British Communists left the Communist Party, In France, moderate Communists resigned, questioning the French Communist Party’s policy of supporting Soviet actions. The French philosopher and writer Albert Camus wrote an open letter, „The Blood of the Hungarians”,  and even Jean-Paul Sartre, still a determined Communist, criticised the Soviets in his article „Le Fantôme de Staline”. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had pledged a retreat from the Stalinist policies and repression of the past, but the violent actions in Budapest suggested different: sporadic armed resistance, strikes and mass arrests continued for months thereafter, causing substantial economic disruption. Russia stayed in control behind the Iron Curtain. Imre Nagy sought asylum at the Yugoslav Embassy in Budapest. He was captured shortly thereafter, imprisoned, tortured and two years later executed. His burial – together of his many companions in distress – happened in the famed 301 parcel of Budapest’s Public Cemetery, in an anonym grave, placing his body into the earth face down. On 6th July 1989 the Hungarian Supreme Court of the present Hungarian Republic aquitted Imre Nagy of the charges of high treason he was executed for. Thousands – between them a handful of the 200 000 refugees and their decendants – came to pay their respects at Imre Nagy’s reburial on 16th June 1989. His coffin was placed – alongside four of his comrades and one empty coffin symbolising the Unknown Revolutionary  – on the steps of the Hall of Arts in Heroes Square. Imre  Nagy’s statue stands near to the Hungarian The memory of the victims of the communism and the heroe’s and martyrs of Uprise 1956 is commmorated by the shocking exibition of House of Terror, a museum opened on Andrassy Avenue Budapest in the original headquarter of the the Hungarian Secret Police in the communist times. Today 23rd October is an official National Holiday in Hungary. World also remembers the “Blood bath of Melbourne” wich was a water polo match etween Hungary and USSR at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. The match took place on 6th December 1956 against the background of the Hungarian Revolution,  and saw Hungary defeat the USSR 4–0. From the beginning, kicks and punches were exchanged, but the name was coined after Hungarian player Ervin Zador emerged during the last two minutes with blood pouring from above his eye after being punched by Soviet player Valentin Propokov.  “We felt we were playing not just for ourselves but for our whole country”, said Zador after the match.