Europe

Hungary country profile

  • 7 January 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Hungary

Hungary traces its history back to the Magyars, an alliance of semi-nomadic tribes from southern Russia and the Black Sea coast that arrived in the region in the ninth century.

After centuries as a powerful medieval kingdom, Hungary was part of the Ottoman and then Habsburg empires from the 16th century onwards, emerging as an independent country again after World War I.

A landlocked country, Hungary is home to Lake Balaton, the largest in central Europe, and to a large number of spa towns and hot springs.

It has especially rich traditions in folk and classical music and has been the birthplace of many outstanding performers and composers, including Franz Liszt, Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly.

FACTS

Hungary

Capital: Budapest

  • Population 10 million

  • Area 93,030 sq km (35,919 sq miles)

  • Major language Hungarian

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 71 years (men), 78 years (women)

  • Currency Forint

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LEADERS

President: Janos Ader

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A lawyer and member of the European Parliament for Hungary's governing Fidesz party, Janos Ader was elected President of Hungary in 2012 in a parliamentary vote that was boycotted by the main opposition Socialist Party.

The far-right Jobbik party voted against him, but the large Fidesz majority guaranteed his win.

He is closely associated with the controversial policies of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and helped draft changes to election laws and the role of the judiciary that prompted complaints from the European Commission.

Prime minister: Viktor Orban

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Mr Orban scored his third election victory in April 2014, when the coalition led by his conservative Fidesz party gained more than 44% of the vote, giving it an 18% lead over the Socialist-led opposition alliance.

He first served as prime minister from 1998 to 2002, then had an eight-year spell in opposition before reclaiming the premiership in 2010.

The Fidesz-led coalition's triumphant two-thirds majority in the 2010 election allowed it to push through a number of radical changes. Many of Mr Orban's policies have been implemented in defiance of the international financial institutions and what he likes to refer to as the "Brussels bureaucrats".

MEDIA

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Hungary's private broadcasters compete with public radio and TV. The public broadcaster has faced financial struggles, dwindling audiences and allegations of political influence.

Some European governments and institutions have criticised a controversial media law, introduced in 2011. The legislation created a Media Council, with a chairperson appointed by the prime minister.

Reporters Without Borders says the regulatory body has the power to "interfere in the news media's editorial decision-making".

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TIMELINE

Some key dates in Hungary's history:

1867 - Hungary becomes equal partner in Austro-Hungarian Empire.

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Image caption Bridge over the River Danube between Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest

1918 - Austro-Hungarian Empire is broken up at the end of World War I. Hungarian republic is proclaimed following a revolution.

1919 - Communists take over power under Bela Kun. Kun wages war on Czechoslovakia and Romania. Romanian forces occupy Budapest and hand power to Admiral Miklos Horthy.

1920 - Under Treaty of Trianon, Entente powers award more than two-thirds of Hungarian territory to Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia. The re-defining of Hungary's borders leaves a third of native Hungarian speakers living outside the country.

The National Assembly re-establishes the Kingdom of Hungary, but as the Entente powers had refused to allow the return of a Habsburg king, Admiral Horthy is made regent.

1920s-1930s - Admiral Horthy's rule is characterised by bitter resentment at loss of Hungarian territories, becomes progressively more reactionary and more closely allied with Nazi Germany.

1938 - After Munich Agreement cedes part of Czechoslovakia to Germany, Hungary regains some of the territory it lost in 1920.

1939 - Hungary joins Anti-Comintern Pact of Germany, Japan and Italy, and withdraws from League of Nations.

1940 - With the encouragement of Nazi Germany, Hungary regains northern Transylvania from Romania.

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Image caption The Szechenyi Thermal Baths in Budapest, one of the largest spa complexes in Europe

1941 - Germany invades Soviet Union. Hungary allies itself with Germany, and loses a large part of its army on the Eastern Front.

1944 - Hungarian Nazis seize power after Horthy asks advancing Soviet troops for an armistice. Jews and gypsies are deported to death camps.

1945 - Soviet forces drive the Germans out of Hungary by early April. New coalition government introduces land reform bill, redistributing land from large estate owners to peasants.

1947-49 - Communists consolidate power under Soviet occupation, with new constitution, nationalisation of industry, collectivised agriculture and mass terror.

1956 - Uprising against Soviet domination suppressed by the Soviet Army. Janos Kadar becomes head of government.

1989 - Border with Austria is opened, and thousands of East Germans escape to the West. Communist state in Hungary is dismantled and a transition to a multi-party democracy starts.

1990 - A centre-right coalition wins elections. Hungary withdraws from any participation in Warsaw Pact military exercises.

1991 - Soviet forces withdraw from Hungary. The Warsaw Pact is dissolved.

1999 - Hungary joins Nato.

2004 - Hungary is one of 10 new states to join the EU.

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