Hungary's history in a nutshell
Hungarians were nomadic people and are believed to have moved to the Carpathian basin from the East, somewhere around the Ural Mountains. Under the leadership of Árpád, the Hungarians took over the land around 895.
In 1000, King Stephen I (St. Stephen) founded the state of Hungary, and accepted the Catholic religion as standard. Stephen was crowned with the Holy Crown of Hungary and blessed by the Pope. The crown is now displayed in the Parliament building.
In 1241-1242 the invasion of the Mongols caused serious destruction in the country, and half of the population were killed or deported as slaves (1 million people). After the invasion King Béla ordered the construction of a system of strong stone castles to defend the country from further attacks. The second Mongolian strike was stopped at Pest by the royal army thanks to these castles.
After a Turkish conquering army defeated the Hungarian royal army at Mohács in 1526, the country split into three parts around 1541; the Hungarian Kingdom, the Habsburg dominion and the Turkish dominion. It took 150 years before the Hungarians could stand up to this situation, reunite and drive out the Turks. After the Turkish domination, the country became part of the Habsburg dominion, but under the leadership of Ferenc Rákóczi II. Hungarians partly took back their independence, and signed the treaty of peace at Szatmár in 1711.
In the 19th century very important reforms were made. Hungarian became the official language of the country, and the language was renewed and elected to a literary level.
In 1848 there were independence revolutions in Europe, as well as in Hungary. The Magyars tried to remove the boundaries of the Habsburg dominion. After the suppression of the revolution, the silent resistance made the nation stronger than ever before. In 1867, a Hungarian delegation, led by Ferenc Deák finally came to an agreement with the Habsburgs and so the dualistic system of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy was born and peace descended across the land.
In World War I Hungary was ally to Germany and Austria and had to send hundreds of thousands of troops to die for foreign interests. In 1918 the Monarchy broke up, the first government was established and the country became the Republic of Hungary. After losing the war, the allied Atlantic countries overran Hungary and in accordance with the Treaty of Trianon, split up the country. The Hungary of more than 20 million became a small country of less than 8 million. Hungary was now in the shape we know today.
World War II brought more tribulations to the people of Hungary. Fighting alongside the Germans against the Soviets, the Hungarian government eventually tried to change sides to the allied Atlantic countries. Possibly fearing the sudden exposure from the vulnerable flank of the Hungarian plains - perfect tank country- the Germans then overran Hungary near the end of the war and deposed the government to their nationalist allies. Hundreds of thousands died during the war or were deported to German concentration camps.
After the Germans were beaten by the Allies, Soviets took over the country, drove out the Germans, and stayed for 44 years. In 1956 the people tried to force the leadership to stop this domination, and dictatorship by the soviets, but the attempt was unsuccessful and was punished unmercifully. However it did have some effect on the government and some concessions were made. The soviet domination lasted until 1989, when Hungary finally became an independent democracy.
In 1999 Hungary joined NATO, and in 2004 became a member of the European Union.
Picture: Árpád Feszty: Arrival of the Hungarians (oil painting)