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Tuesday 25th June
Hungary Information - Page 2
Hungary was part of the Roman province of Pannonia. By the fifth century the Romans had withdrawn and various tribes, such as Huns, Goths, Lombards and Avars had swept into the area. In turn, the Avars were subdued (796) by Charlemagne, the Frankish Emperor. The Magyars, warrior horsemen, arrived during the ninth century. A chief called Arpad led the Magyars; the first Christian King of Hungary, Stephen I (977-1038), later St Stephen, was an Arpad prince.

Around 1241 Mongolian Tatars attacked Hungary killing one third of the population and plundering the country. Following the death of the Mongol chief Khan, the Tatars returned to Mongolia and King Bela IV (1235-1270) set about rebuilding and fortifying Hungary.

The Arpad dynasty died out by 1301 and the Anjou's took the Hungarian crown. During this period Hungary expanded its borders becoming an important European state. The male Anjou line came to an end and Sigismund of Luxembourg (elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1410) took the throne. Around this time the Ottoman Turks were advancing into Europe threatening Hungarian territory.

From the middle of the fourteenth century, the Turks were kept at bay by Janos Hunyadi. Hunyadi's son, Matthias, was elected king becoming one of Hungary's most famous rulers. On Matthias' death Hungary was left without a strong ruler and following the Battle of Mohacs (1526) the Turkish army, led by Suleiman I, occupied Buda. Hungary was divided into three parts: the area occupied by the Turks, Royal Hungary (governed by Ferdinand of Habsburg) and the Transylvanian Principality, a new state.

In 1683 the Turks moved further into Europe and tried to take Vienna (Austria) but were defeated by the Polish king, John III (Jan Sobieski). The Turks were finally driven out of Hungary in 1686 by the Austrian, Hungarian and Polish armies.

Hungary became aligned with the Austrian Habsburg Empire, although the Prince of Transylvania waged an unsuccessful war to free Hungary of the Habsburgs (1703-1711). A revolution in 1848 dethroned the Habsburg ruler in Hungary but Russian military assistance helped them regain power. Unrest in the Austrian Empire led to the formation of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy in 1867.

The First World War (1914-18) broke out after the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne in Sarajevo. The Austro-Hungarian Empire joined the German Empire and Italy to form the Triple Alliance. Following the defeat of Germany and Austria, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was broken up and Hungary became independent.

During the Second World War Hungary became an ally of Hitler but in 1944 the German army occupied the country. At the end of the war the Russians defeated the fascists and Hungary came under communist rule and within the sphere of the USSR.

The Warsaw Treaty Organisation (1955-1991) allowed the Red Army to have bases in member states. (Warsaw Pact member countries were Albania (until 1968), Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic), East Germany (DDR), Hungary, Poland, Romania and the Soviet Union).

In 1956 a revolutionary Hungarian government announced plans to leave the Eastern Bloc military alliance. The "Hungarian Revolution" was suppressed by the Soviet military.

1985 saw Mikhail Gorbachev's accession to power in the Soviet Union. Gorbachev introduced extensive political and economic reforms (Perestroika) and promoted greater openness (Glasnost) between nations.

On October 23 1989 Hungary was renamed the Republic of Hungary and in 1990 free elections were held. The Hungarian Democratic Forum formed the new government and Hungary began to develop close political and economic ties with the EU.

In December 2002 Hungary took part in EU accession negotiations with nine other countries (Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia). The Accession Treaty was signed on 16 April 2003 with 1 May 2004 the formal entry date. EU enlargement meant the unification of twenty-five countries after over half a century of political division and the "Cold War" which followed World War II.

Hungary began the process of privatization in the early 1990s opening up opportunities for investment from the West. Hungary became a full member of the EU on 1 May 2004.

In 2008 Hungary was badly affected by the global financial crisis and at the end of October the government agreed, in principle, a rescue plan with the International Monetary Fund.

By 2013 it was reported that Hungary was emerging from recession.

Hungary benefits from fertile soil - half of its land is arable. However, the agricultural sector only supplies a relatively small amount of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Agricultural products include wheat, maize, sunflower seeds, sugar beets, potatoes, other vegetables and dairy products. Poultry, pigs and cattle are reared.

Hungary's main industries are mining, metallurgy, construction materials, vehicles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles and food processing.

The services sector provides the largest percentage of GDP and is also the largest employer. Tourism has increased enormously since the early 1990s.

Over the years many people have left Hungary for political and economic reasons. Among these have been artists who have moved abroad to pursue their work.

Sandor Marai was a Hungarian who had to leave Hungary moving to Italy and then to the USA. His novel "Embers" is considered to be a masterpiece of European literature. Following his death in 1989 "Embers" became an international best seller.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was another Hungarian who left Hungary; Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) was a painter, photographer and sculptor who taught in the Bauhaus school of art and architecture in Germany from 1923 to 1928. Later Moholy-Nagy moved to the USA.

Folk culture is important to Hungarians. Colourful embroidery, carvings, pottery and decorative paintings are all part of the Hungarian heritage. Traditional Hungarian folk music and dance have been popular throughout the centuries.

Folk music has influenced classical compositions. Famous Hungarian composers include Franz Liszt (1811-1886), Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967) and Bela Bartok (1881-1945).

Popular team sports in Hungary are football, water polo and ice hockey. Ferenc Puskas, who died in November 2006, was a legendary football player.

Olympic gold medals have been awarded to Hungarians for water polo, swimming and canoeing.

Horse riding is a traditional sport dating from the time of the Magyar horsemen.

New Year, Christmas and Easter are holidays. Other days celebrated are the 1848 Revolution Day (15 March), International Labour Day (1 May), Whitsun (beginning of June), St. Stephen's Day (20 August) and Remembrance Day of the 1956 Revolution (23 October).

News from Hungary is available in Newslink.

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