Short History

Significant Moments in Hungarian History

5th century
Hungarian tribes leave the area of the Urals and continue to travel along the Volga and the Caspian Sea. After several hundred years of wandering, they reach the Carpathian Basin.

Under the leadership of Árpád, the Hungarian tribes settle in the Carpathian Basin.

King Stephen, of the Árpád dynasty, rules the country.

The Hungarian state is founded.  St. Stephen, the first Hungarian king, converts the country to western Christianity.

The Abbey of Tihany is constructed. The foundation charter of this church is the earliest record written in Hungarian.

Andrew II (1175-1235) issues the Golden Bull, stating the basic rights and privileges of the nobility.  This document plays a role similar to that of the Magna Carta of 1215.

The Mongolian Tatars devastate the country. Their year-long presence halts development for at least a century. After warring with the Hungarians, the Tatars do not continue westward.

Hungary is a wealthy and flourishing kingdom again. In the 14th century, it extends its borders to the Baltic, the Black Sea, and the Adriatic Sea.

The court of king Matthias Hunyadi Corvinus is a bastion of Renaissance culture, visited by numerous great humanist thinkers and artists of the period. A core mercenary army is constructed, and modern managerial practices are established to control the Hungarian economy. Matthias Corvinus appoints Magyars to the most important offices and authorities, though the German population (approximately 50% of the total population at the time) retains its own rights. There is struggle against the Turks.

At Mohács, the present southern frontier of the country, the Turks defeat the Hungarian army and the 150 years of Turkish occupation begin.

The Turks occupy Buda and Hungary is split into three parts. The Habsburgs govern the western part of the country, the central area is ruled by the Turks, and only the south-east Transylvanian principality remains Hungarian. Under Turkish rule (lasting 145 years) Buda becomes the western outpost of the Ottoman Empire.

Buda is recaptured from the Turks. The whole of Hungary goes under Habsburg rule, resulting in a semi-colonial situation.

Under the leadership of Ferenc Rákóczi II, Prince of Transylvania, a freedom war is waged against the Habsburgs. The rebels defeat the Imperial Army in several battles, but do not receive the promised French support and fail.

First half of the 19th century
A national reform movement is launched for the political and economic transformation of the country and for the support of Hungarian language and culture.  During this movement, the National Anthem is born, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences is established. The building of the Chain Bridge begins with the support of Count István Széchenyi, one of the principal figures of the Reform Ages.

Hungarian becomes the official language.

A revolution for independence breaks out in Pest and extends over the entire country. The Habsburg Emperor is dethroned after the Hungarian army wins several significant battles. Lajos Kossuth is elected Governor. In the summer of 1849, with the help of the Russian army, the Habsburgs are able to wing the longest European national revolution.

The Hungarians compromise with the Habsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy is established with Vienna and Pest-Buda as centers. Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I is crowned King of Hungary. There is a period of economic, social and political development.

Pest, Buda and Obuda are unified, Budapest becomes a European metropolis. Monuments like the Opera House, the National Gallery, and the Parliament are built.

Germany and its allies, including the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, lose the world war. The monarchy disintegrates.

The Trianon Treaty reduces Hungary’s area by two thirds and the population by one third. Since this time, considerable Hungarian minorities have been living in neighboring countries.

Germany concludes treaties in Munich and Vienna, according to which Southern Slovakia and Northern Transylvania are returned to Hungary.

The Nazis occupy Hungary, as they did not consider it a reliable ally. During the Second World War, the Hungarians suffer grave losses on the Soviet front.  At the end of the war, Fascists take over the governing of the country.

The Soviet Army liberates and then occupies Hungary.  At the hastily held elections, the Communists win only 17 percent of the votes.

The last, relatively free elections are followed by the years of Communist control: executions, deportation of hundreds of thousands, imprisonment, harassment, forced industrial development, falling of living standards, and Stalinist dictatorship.

Marks the first attempt at loosening the totalitarian rule; the first government of Prime Minister Imre Nagy is organized.

The Stalinists return.

A revolution against communist rule and Soviet domination begins, but the uprising is defeated by Soviet troops. János Kádár, who acquired power with their assistance, promises democratic socialism; in the meantime, retaliation and executions begin.

The Kádár regime is established, a Socialist People’s Republic with a one-party system. After bloody reprisals in 1957-58, and the execution of former Prime Minister, Imre Nagy, and several hundred freedom fighters and politicians, a slow liberalization begins in the mid- 1960s. The 1970s are the “goulash-communism” of Kádár: relative affluence, gradual relaxation of political control, enlightened and paternalistic absolutism. Cautious economic reforms are launched, living standards are on the rise and the iron curtain becomes penetrable. In 1968, the so-called New Economic System is launched, which is the first important step on the road to transforming the centralized and planned state socialist economy into a market or mixed economy. In 1970, the reform process is obstructed by the conservative forces and slowed by the resistance of Brezhnev and the Soviet leadership. Economic and social crisis follows.

The Hungarian transition period begins.

Hungary opens its borders to Austria and lets Germans from East-Germany go to the “West.” October 23 marks the Proclamation of the Republic of Hungary and the end of the Socialist People’s Republic.

The Communist Party voluntarily relinquishes its autocracy. A multi-party parliamentary democracy comes into being and holds the first free parliamentary election in forty-two years. New elements introduced include: private ownership, increasing unemployment, adjustment from backward technology to top technology.  There is a major reduction in social welfare and security, no job security, and an increasing gap between the rich and the poor.  Free healthcare and free higher education are abolished.

The Red Army withdraws from Hungary and The Warsaw Pact dissolves.  The Association Agreement is signed with the EC (in force since 1 February 1994) and admission to NATO’s North Atlantic Cooperation Council is granted.

Hungary becomes a full member of NATO.

Hungary joins the European Union.