Republic, central Europe, bounded on the N by Czech Republic and Slovakia, on the NE by the Ukraine, on the E and SE by Romania, on the S by Serbia and Montenegro and Croatia, on the SW by Slovenia, and on the W by Austria. A small landlocked country, Hungary is largely a huge fertile plain that supports the agriculture that is a mainstay of a rapidly industrializing economy. Hungary was dominated by the major power concerns of the USSR and has long since abandoned the important role it once held in central Europe.
Hungary was held by the Roman Empire as the provinces of Pannonia and part of Dacia until the fourth century a.d. In 892 the Carolingian emperor Arnulf invited a barbarian horde of Magyars to leave the western Russian steppe and help him conquer the empire of Moravia. Led by Arpad, the Magyars speedily secured the entire central basin, destroying the Moravian Empire and conquering Pannonia.
Hungary was brought into the mainstream of the Western Christian world by Stephen I in a.d. 1000. He converted Hungary to Christianity and, as a result, was canonized in 1083. St. Stephen’s successors constantly quarreled over the throne, but the country prospered and was a major European state by 1200, with over 2 million inhabitants. In 1222 the nobility forced the weak king Andrew II to sign the Golden Bull, Hungary’s Magna Carta. This signalled a constitutional commitment to liberty, but in actuality all ethnic minorities except the Magyars were treated as inferiors, an attitude that accounts for many of the rebellions and uprisings studding Hungary’s history.
Hungary’s prosperity was shattered by a yearlong invasion of Mongols in 1241. Half the population was killed or dispersed. Recovery was swift, but by 1301 the national Arpad dynasty had ended, and Hungary came under the French Angevin dynasty. The only national ruler after the Arpads was the great Renaissance king Matthias Corvinus (1458–90) who made Hungary the greatest power in central Europe and temporarily secured it against the threat of the expanding Ottoman Empire. In 1526 a huge Turkish army crushed the Hungarians at Mohacs. Hungary was then split into three parts. The Turks occupied the central part of the kingdom, including the capital of Buda. Transylvania became a separate state and the Austrian Hapsburgs controlled the western part of the Kingdom. This partition lasted
until the end of the 17th century, when the Turks were expelled and Hungary came wholly under Hapsburg rule.
The country recovered economically under the Hapsburgs, but in the early 19th century intense Magyar nationalism developed, and in 1848 a group of reformers led by Louis Kossuth declared Hungary’s independence. Austria put down the uprising with Russian military aid. In 1867 Hungary became linked with Austria in the Dual Monarchy of the AustroHungarian Empire and remained so until its defeat in World War I. The Treaty of Trianon awarded major portions of the country to Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. After defeat in World War II, Hungary became a satellite of the Soviet Union. A revolt was brutally crushed by Soviet troops in 1956. Since then the country has been peaceful and moderately prosperous, following the Soviet political line and moving toward a mixed economy.
In 1988, reformists took control of the government. In August of 1989, Hungary opened its borders to Austria, which began the fall of the “Iron Curtain.” Thousands of East Germans escaped to the West through Hungary. In October of 1989, the name of the nation was changed from the People’s Republic of Hungary to the Republic of Hungary, which signaled the change from a centrally planned socialist dictatorship to a market economy with free elections. In 1990, there were free elections and the beginning of the privatization of state industries. In 1991, the last Russian troops left the country. In 1998 Hungary joined NATO, and in 2004 Hungary joined the European Union. Hungary has passed a number of laws and referenda giving rights and or citizenship to ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries. These measures have been criticized in neighboring Slovakia and Romania where sizable ethnic Hungarian populations reside.