Hungary’s history is characterized by its central location in Europe. During the Iron Age and during the migration period, the country was populated by many different groups of people, and it was for a time also a Roman province. In 896, the area was conquered by the Madjars, who would become the country’s dominant group of people. Around the year 1000 the Madjans were united into one kingdom, and it is only from this time that one can speak of any really Hungarian state. At this time the country was also Christianized.
Hungary reached its greatest extent in the 1300s and 1400s, and that was also when the country had its heyday. In 1500s and 1600s, Hungary was constantly at war with the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. Large parts of the country were conquered by the Turks, and another part of the German-Spanish prince Habsburg. In 1699, the country became part of the Habsburg Empire, and from 1867 part of the Austria-Hungary double monarchy.
After World War I ended in 1918, the double monarchy was disbanded, and Hungary lost much of its former territories. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Hungary. During World War II, Hungary participated in the Axis Powers. After the war, the country was occupied by the Soviet Union, and the Hungarian Communist Party came to power. In 1956, a revolt broke out against the occupation. The uprising was turned down and several Hungarians fled the country. The Soviets withdrew after the end of the Cold War in 1990, and Hungary eventually became a member of NATO and the EU.
During the Iron Age, there were many different cultural groups in the area that currently encompasses Hungary. The shooters left their mark on the cultural scene in the central Danube area for a while. In the 300s BCE. needed Celtic tribes into the country. These came for a while to dominate in northern and western Hungary. In 12-11 BCE the land was conquered by Tiberius, and became part of the Roman province of Pannonia.
In 107 AD, the Romans also occupied the southeastern parts (Dacia), but this province was already declared 271 AD and invaded by the Visigoths. In 433, Pannonia was conquered by the Huns, and Hungary became the center of Attila’s empire, which quickly disintegrated after his sudden death in 454.
Hungary was continuously invaded by the Ostrogoths, the Gypsies and the Langobards in the 500s, until a new Asian nomadic people, the Avars, gained dominion over the area in 568. The Avarian empire was annihilated by Charles the Great in about 800, and the Franks occupied Pannonia. At the same time, Northern Hungary became part of the Great Moravian Empire, while the southeastern regions came under Bulgarian rule. In 896 the whole area was conquered by the Madjars.
The Madjarans (Hungarians) are a Finno-Ugric people. Where they originally came from is disputed, but at the beginning of our time, they were in the tracts between Volga and the Ural Mountains; from here they were gradually penetrated westward by other nomadic peoples. In the 700s, the Madjars lived in an area just west of the river Don, in the Khazar Empire. In the 800s, they were penetrated further west, and the seven Madjars tribes joined together in a loose tribal union, which was also joined by three Khazar tribes, the Cavaliers. This unorthodox tribal federation may have been the source of the present designations of the Madjans in the various European languages.
In the late 800s, a new people, the pet hunters, penetrated from the east, forcing the Madjeans to search further west. When Emperor Arnulf at the same time sought their help against the slaves, the Madjars – led by the tribal chief Árpád – crossed over the Carpathians in 896, first beating the slaves, then also the Franks, thus abandoning what later became their settlement areas in the Carpathian Basin. At this time, Western Europe was characterized by divisions and internal strife, which the Madjeans’ riding warriors exploited to carry annual war and robbery raids to the south and west; they reached several times all the way to Paris, Rome and Byzantium. Only when they suffered defeat at Lechfeld (near Augsburg) in 955, against Otto 1, and at Bysants in 970 did these attacks end.
During Prince Géza (972–997), there was a transition to agriculture and permanent settlement. He strengthened the central power and forced the self-governing tribes together in a state built on Western principles. It is from his time you can talk about a Hungarian state in the true sense of the word. He baptized himself and his son Vajk, and opened the country to Christian (Roman Catholic) missionaries.
The Independent Kingdom of the Year
Vajk, who at the baptism was named István (later István – Stefan – the Holy One), took over after his father in 997 and became the founder of the centralist, feudal and Christian Hungarian state. He defeated his domestic pagan-Madjaran opponents and completed the Christianization of the country. He created the Archdiocese of Esztergom and ten dioceses, and founded a number of monasteries. In addition, he divided the land into counties (warm-mékék) that corresponded to the tribal settlements, and introduced a temporal administration and justice apparatus according to Frankish pattern. He claimed the country’s independence from Germany, and was crowned in 1001to the king, probably with a crown sent to him by Pope Sylvester 2 (Stephen’s Crown).
After István’s death in 1038, a troubled period of throne, pagan revolt and foreign (German and Byzantine) interference followed. But under King László 1 the Holy (1077–1095), the country’s position was consolidated inward and outward. He exploited the investiture battle between the pope and the emperor for expansion south by beginning the conquest of Croatia and Dalmatia, and at the same time resisted the attacks of the nomadic cumans. The successor, the learned King Kálmán (1095–1116), completed the conquest of the northwestern Balkans and in 1102 was crowned king of Croatia and Dalmatia. Under him important legislation was passed, and he promoted the Latin language literature, schooling and the arts.
In the 12th century, Byzantine emperors constantly sought to gain influence in Hungary by supporting rival pretenders. During the reign of King Béla 3 (1172–1196), the Byzantine influence ended, and Hungary became equitable with other European feudal monarchies, but a period of feudal dissolution continued under King Endre 2 (1205–1235). He was a king of horsemen who led useless wars and an unsuccessful crusade, and bestowed large estate properties. This led to a dramatic weakening of the royal central power and to dissatisfaction in the numerous lava. In 1222, the king was forced to issue a letter of liberty, Bulla aurea, which curtailed the king’s power and affirmed the expansion of the nobility – especially the lava nobility -; the letter also states the nobility’s right to resistance in case the king should violate its privileges.
Endre’s son Béla 4 (1235–1270) tried in vain to strengthen his power, but the disintegration of his army led his army to defeat when the Tatars in 1241–1242 attacked Hungary and inflicted enormous destruction. The king spent the rest of his life rebuilding and rebuilding the land; he reorganized defense and administration, promoted urbanization by issuing letters of privilege to the citizenry, building citizen and fortresses, stimulating the transition to money economy, increasing royal revenues through new quarries, etc. However, the weakening of central power did not stop, and the last kings of Árpáds Ancestry had to wage a bitter but hopeless struggle against the nobility. With King Endre 3 (1290–1301), the prince genus died out on the male side.
Anjou kings and Hunyadi times 1307–1490
The empire of the Barons was first broken by Károly Róbert of Anjou, who became king of Hungary in 1307, after a war with other faithful dependents. He strengthened the central royal power at the expense of nobility. During the reign of his son Lajos 1 the Great (1342–1382), Hungary again became the leading power in central Eastern Europe. This was first and foremost expressed in his many victorious wars against Venice and Naples, and in the expansion of the Hungarian state’s rule over large parts of the Balkans (Valakia, Moldavia, Serbia, Bosnia and Dalmatia). When he became king of Poland in 1370, Hungary reached its greatest territorial extent. At the same time, his court became a thriving center for the late medieval knightly system. On the Hungarian throne he was succeeded by daughter Maria, in Polish by daughter Hedvig (Jadwiga).
The following decades were characterized by turmoil and decline. From 1387, Mary’s husband Sigismund of Luxembourg sat on the throne. From the 1300s, Hungary’s southernmost provinces were repeatedly threatened by the advancing Ottomans. Sigismund piled on his legs a broken European crusader army, but suffered defeat at Nikopolis in 1396. In 1411 he became a German emperor, concerned with national politics and cared less and less about Hungary’s problems. His son-in-law Albrecht of Habsburg (1437-1439) died after only two years on the throne.
The nobles then first deployed the Polish king Vladislav 1 (Ulászló, 1439–1444), then Albrecht’s son, László 5 (1444–1457). Vladislav fell at the Battle of Varna in 1444, which ended with Turkish victory. Then the Hungarian field lord János Hunyadi was elected national director. He worked diligently to strengthen the central state power and to build up a temporal army that could withstand the Turks. In battles against them he suffered some defeats, but he also won several decisive blows.
After the death of Hunyadi, the nobility gathered again for a national dynasty, and chose his son Mattias Corvinus as king (1458–1490). He became one of Hungary’s foremost rulers. The country again became the leading power in Central Europe. Mattias relied on the lava and the cities, led a strong, centralized government and strengthened the country’s economy. His standing army, “the black army,” was the most modern of his time. He beat the Turks several times in Serbia, but realized that he needed more power and wanted to get the German Emperor’s throne. He conquered Moravia, Silesia and Lausitz, defeated Emperor Fredrik 3 and occupied large parts of Austria. Mattias entered Vienna in 1485, which from then on became his residence; but he died without attaining the goal itself, the imperial title, and the establishment of a powerful Central European empire. He was a true Renaissance prince, with a keen interest in art, literature and science, and his court in Buda (with the famous Bibliotheca Corviniana) was an important cultural center.
The time of the Turkish wars 1526–1699
King Mattias Corvinus’ subsequent Bohemian kings Vladislav 2 (Ulászló 2, 1490–1516) and Lajos 2 (1516–1526) were too weak; The barons again strengthened their power, let the army decay and exploited peasants and homemakers recklessly. In 1514, a peasant revolt broke out. The occasion was a crusade intended to curb the Turks, but the Crusader army turned its weapons on its own noble oppressors. However, the peasants were turned into a bloody war and punished with eternal life. However, the country itself was also greatly weakened, and Suleiman 2’s huge army faced only insignificant resistance when the Turks attacked Hungary in 1526. The defeat of Mohács, where also the king himself perished, opened the country to Turkish invasion and ended its independence for the next four hundred years.
The Sultan accepted the new king János Zápolya, who, with Turkish help, conquered most of the country. In the peace in Várad (1538), Zápolya and Ferdinand of Habsburg agreed that the throne after the death of Zápolia should fall to the Habsburgs, but when Zápolya died, the sultan reigned. The former Hungarian areas were then divided into three: the northern and western areas came under Habsburg rule; the middle area around the Danube and Tisza with the castle of Buda was occupied by the Turks, used as a march towards Vienna and fairly depopulated and destroyed; while Transilvania in the east/southeast became a free principality (Siebenbürgen), albeit under Turkish supremacy. It was in Transilvania, where Hungarians constituted only one of several population groups, that the idea of an independent and free Hungary was overpowered by the fact that strong first-person figures managed to assert themselves politically and militarily in the ongoing wars between the emperor and the sultan.
In the 16th century, the Reformation prevailed in Hungarian-dominated areas; In Transilvania, most Hungarians switched to Calvinism, while the Habsburg regions remained predominantly Catholic, and it was also from there that the Counter-Reformation was initiated. These national and religious contradictions led to many noble rebellions that had their arsenal in Transilvania and were most often led by one of the princes. One of the most important was led by István Bocskay (1604-1606) and ended up conquering the part of Hungary that was not occupied by the Turks. The peace in Vienna guaranteed the independence of the Principality and established the principle of full religious freedom, an epoch-making principle in a Europe characterized by religious struggles. First Gábor Bethlen (1613–1629) supported Bohemia during the Thirty Years War and fought to establish an international coalition against the Habsburgs.
The boundaries between the three Hungarian “states” were fluid according to the strength of the relationship, and the border areas were constant war zones. The Hungarian strongholds there were usually strong opposition to the Turks. Leopold 1 (Emperor 1657-1705), who had become Hungary’s king in 1655, ruled the country according to absolutist principles. This led to an uprising led by Imre Thököly, who received Turkish support. But now Turkey was greatly weakened, its army had to give up the siege of Vienna in 1683, and in 1686 the Turks also had to give up Buda. In 1697, Turkey joined a peace in Sremski Karlovci (Karlowitz) in 1699, where the country surrendered almost all of Hungary to Austria.
Hungary under Habsburg rule 1700-1867
From now on, Austria regarded Hungary as a conquered province, and as early as 1687 the Hungarian crown was made hereditary to the Habsburgs (from 1723 on the women’s side as well). The absolutist regime led to a renewed rebel movement on the part of Kurut’s people. They managed to win first Ferenc Rákóczi 2 to their side; under his leadership the rebellion developed into a nationwide freedom struggle, but when outside help failed, the great men came to an agreement with the emperor at the peace in Szatmár in 1711: Hungary was allowed to retain its constitution and the nobility its privileges.
The colonialist politics of the Habsburgs came to full effect after this, especially from the time of Karl 3 (1711-1740). Hungary’s economic interests became entirely subordinate to Austria’s, and while industrialization was beginning to emerge in other parts of Europe, Hungary remained a country with a feudal agricultural economy. The regions that had been depopulated during the wars were now inhabited by Swabians, Serbs, Romanians and Slovaks, and the Madjars lost their position as a majority population.
Empress Maria Teresia (1740-1780) showed a genuine interest in Hungary; she pursued a cautious reform policy in the spirit of the Enlightenment and implemented some reforms. But her son, Joseph 2 (1780–1790), sharply turned against the privileges of the nobility, degraded Hungary into an ordinary Austrian province, introduced German into school and administration, and worked for bourgeois reforms. However, he met a massive and unified Hungarian resistance and had to give up his plans.
Inspired by the French Revolution, in 1794, a Jacobin- Republican conspiracy, led by Ignác Martinovics, came to an end, and it was defeated, and under Frans 2 (Ferenc 1, 1772-1835) a strict police regime emerged. But social development eventually led to a liberal and national movement, where economic interests coincided with civic-national and literary endeavors. The idea of reform had its first breakthrough during the Riksdag in 1825–1827. The movement was first led by Count Széchenyi, who demanded economic and social transformation of the country according to a Western pattern and wanted to clear the way for a capitalist development. From the 1840s, the leadership of the reform movement was taken over by Lajos Kossuth, which led to a radicalization of the demands. Ferdinand 5 (1835-1848) promised to accommodate some of them, and in 1844 Hungarian was made the state language.
When news of the February revolution in Paris and of the Vienna uprising reached Budapest on March 13, 1848, they sparked a bloodless revolution in Hungary. The revolutionary youth with poet Sándor Petöfi at the forefront put the nation’s demands on twelve points. Ferdinand 5 agreed to meet the requirements. On April 7, he appointed the first responsible and independent Hungarian government with Lajos Batthyány as prime minister and with Lajos Kossuth among the ministers. The April Laws abolished the quality of life and secured the most important preconditions for bourgeois reform and national independence.
However, in the kingdom of the Habsburgs, with its ethnically, linguistically and culturally composed population, it was not only Madjians who felt the need for greater national self-assertion. The emperor soon found allies, among them the Romanians in Transilvania, but primarily the Croats, who allied with the Vienna authorities and attacked Hungary. They were beaten by the Hungarian Army Defense Force, which now went to Vienna; but the rebellion there was just a cow, and the imperial army could turn against the Hungarians and force them back. Through a victorious offensive in the spring of 1849, however, the Madjeans managed to gain control of most of the country, and on April 14, 1849, the Hungarian National Assembly declared the Habsburgs deposed, and at the same time elected Kossuth to the head of state.
However, the new emperor Franz Joseph (1849-1916) succeeded in winning the support of Russian Tsar Nikolai 1, and the Hungarian forces were forced to capitulate on August 13, 1849. Austrian General Haynau imposed a military dictatorship in Hungary with bloody terror, and Batthyány became executed. The Hungarian constitution was repealed and the country ruled from Vienna. The Hungarians responded with passive resistance. Following the defeat of Austria in the war against Prussia in 1866, the basis was laid for an agreement with the Madjars. The Habsburg state was transformed into the Austro-Hungarian double monarchy, where Hungary gained great independence with its own government and parliament. A joint Minister of Defense, Foreign and Finance was appointed, and Franz Joseph was crowned Hungarian King on June 8, 1867.
The time of the double monarchy 1867-1918
A new Hungarian government gave the nationalities cultural rights and implemented a comprehensive education reform, and an agreement between Hungary and Croatia from 1868 gave the Croats some degree of internal autonomy, especially in cultural matters. The settlement between Austria and Hungary was otherwise the start of a peaceful period of significant growth. The Hungarian large goods owners needed the Austrian market for their agricultural products, and the Hungarian agricultural industry saw a major upswing, while Hungary became a welcome capital market and supplier of cheap raw material for the Austrian bourgeoisie.
The rapid economic development also led to social change; next to the numerous agricultural proletariat, a city of proletariat was now emerging. In the years leading up to 1900 and later Hungary experienced social unrest, strikes, an increasingly active labor movement and mass emigration. Domestic politics was marked by the struggle between the supporters of the settlement of 1867 and the nationalist opposition that demanded full independence for the country. In the 1890s, unrest among workers and minorities was suppressed by violence; the minorities were subjected to a stricter madarization policy (assimilation policy).
The years after 1900 were marked by foreign policy issues. The double monarchy led an aggressive policy on the Balkan Peninsula (annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908) and joined the triple tent together with Germany and Italy. The outbreak of World War I was a direct consequence of this policy. Hungary was at first opposed to the war, but then joined loyally about its allies. As a result of the war, great financial difficulties arose which were exacerbated by the growing unrest among the nation’s nationalities.
In 1916, Frans Josef died and was succeeded by Karl 4 (Emperor Karl 1), who was interested in internal reforms and who sought separate peace, without result. The setbacks in the war accelerated the dissolution of the double monarchy. On October 25, 1918, a national council was formed in Budapest under the leadership of Mihály Károlyi. On October 30, the king appointed him as Hungarian prime minister, but the king had to abdicate on November 13 of that year. Following pressure from the radicalized masses, on November 16, 1918, Hungary was proclaimed a republic, with Károlyi as prime minister, later president.
On November 8, 1918, the Károlyi ceasefire ended, but the Romanians, Serbs and Czechs continued to advance and occupied large areas even outside the demarcation lines. This, together with the dismissive attitude of the Western powers and the distress in the country itself, forced the anti-friendly Károlyi to resign. The power was taken over by the Communists on March 21, 1919, led by Béla Kun, who proclaimed the Hungarian Council Republic. The banking system, the factories and the land were taken over by the state, and all resistance was met with terror. The newly created Red Army beat the Czechs and recaptured large parts of northern Hungary, but suffered defeat against the Romanians, who occupied Budapest. After 133 days, on August 1, 1919, Béla Kun surrendered the power of a Social Democratic government and fled the country.
Treaty of Trianon
While some short-lived governments shifted power, Admiral Miklós Horthy organized his counter-revolutionary army in Szeged, occupied Western Hungary and moved into Budapest on November 16; the red terror was thus replaced by a white one. After the elections in January 1920, the new parliament came together in March, and in keeping with the monarchist form of government, Horthy was elected governor (“the kingdom without king”). On June 14, 1920, Hungary was forced to accept the Trianon Treaty and surrender two-thirds of its territory with approximately 3.5 million Hungarians to neighboring states.
In 1921, King Charles 4 made two unsuccessful attempts to regain the throne, but was rejected. The Habsburgs were then detronized by Parliament. In the same year, István Bethlen assumed government responsibility, and with the help of the League of Nations loans and a new monetary system he managed to stabilize the economy, but without solving the huge social problems. Some land reform was implemented, but the landowner field was largely maintained, while trade union activity and the labor movement were kept down.
The territorial provisions of the Trianon peace, which gave significant Hungarian minorities in the neighboring states, led to new national oppression and new strong contradictions between the people of the Danube basin. Hungary’s foreign policy orientation was determined from now on by striving to revise the peace treaty. The country’s foreign policy isolation was broken when in 1927 a friendship agreement was signed with fascist Italy. In the 1930s, right-wing currents became more and more prevalent; Hungary joined the Axis powers and Germany’s influence increased. Germany and Italy, through the so-called arbitration orders in Vienna on November 2, 1938 and August 30, 1940, decided that Hungary should regain the border regions in Slovakia and Carpathian Ukraine, which was populated with Hungarians, as well as the northern part of Transilvania with the Szekler country. In return, Hungary had to join the Antikomintern Pact (1939) and accede to the Three Pact Pact (1940).
In order to improve Hungary’s position, the government signed a friendship agreement with Yugoslavia in December 1940. However, when the Germans attacked Yugoslavia in April 1941, Hungary was also forced to join in, as was the attack on the Soviet Union in June. However, following the defeat of Voronezh in January 1943, Horthy withdrew his forces and tried to achieve peace with the Allies. On March 19, 1944, Hungary was occupied by Germany, and the deportation of the Jews began. When the Soviet forces reached Hungary’s borders, Horthy declared on October 15, 1944, that Hungary withdrew from the war, but he was abducted by the Germans, who deployed a fascist sound government.
The fascist Arctic Cross movement now embarked on a terrorist regime almost unparalleled in the country’s history. But the Russians were constantly advancing, and after six weeks of siege and violent street fighting fell severely destroyed Budapest on February 13, 1945. In the Debrecen, occupied by the Russians, a provisional government had already formed on December 22, 1944, declaring war on Germany and ceased ceasefire with the Allies.
The Communists’ Road to Power 1945–1953
Following the victory of the Allies in 1945, Hungary belonged to the Soviet Union’s sphere of interest, and political developments followed the pattern of the other Eastern European countries. In the spring of 1945, far-reaching land reform was implemented. In November, elections were held that gave the Small User Party an absolute majority (57 percent, against the 17 percent of the Communists, the Social Democrats 17.4 percent and the peasant party’s 6.8 percent). Nevertheless, a coalition government was formed with the Small User Party leader Zoltán Tildy as head of government.
In 1946, Hungary was proclaimed a republic and Tildy was elected president. During 1946, the banking system and the business community were nationalized, and the monetary system was deconstructed to end devastating inflation. A three-year plan from 1947 aimed at rebuilding the country after the devastation of war. On February 10, 1947, Hungary signed the Paris Treaty of Peace, which reintroduced its pre-1938 borders and determined the war reparations Hungary had to pay to the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.
However, the Soviet troops remained standing in the country and represented an important base of power for the Communist Party, which was now beginning to rid itself of its political opponents. Among them was also Prime Minister Ferenc Nagy, who in May 1947 was not allowed to return from abroad. In the spring of 1948, the Communist Party united with the Social Democrats and seized power; the other political parties were banned. Immediately after that, clearances and processes of false, constructed charges were initiated. The school system was nationalized, the church order dissolved, and from the cities (especially Budapest) thousands of “undesirable elements” were forced to move to remote villages or camps.
In 1949 the country was given a new constitution, and Hungary was proclaimed a people ‘s republic. Forced collection of agriculture was carried out with violent means, which together with an inhuman tax system caused food shortages. As a result of the rapid expansion of the large-scale industry at the expense of the consumer goods industry, the standard of living decreased significantly and the bitterness grew. From 1948, the country was actually ruled by party secretary Mátyás Rákosi, who in 1952–1953 also served as head of government. Later, he and the “personal cult” around him were blamed for the mistakes and illegalities committed during this period.
The 1956 uprising in Hungary
After Stalin’s death, there was a thawing period in Hungary as well. In June 1953, Rákosi was replaced by Imre Nagy, who led a more liberal economic policy. As a result of internal power struggles in the party, he had to retire in March 1955 when he was also ousted by the party. Rákosi was also forced to step down. However, the pressure in the people increased further, supported by the intellectuals ‘activities in the Petöfi Reform Club and in the Writers’ Association. The reports of political ferment in Poland led to spontaneous demonstrations of sympathy in Hungary. The steep attitude of the party secretary, Stalinist Ernö Gerö, led a student demonstration on October 23, 1956, to a genuine uprising with demands for political freedom, economic reforms and for the withdrawal of Soviet troops.
In the ensuing armed fighting, the secret police and the stationary Soviet forces were beaten. The government was taken over by Imre Nagy, while János Kádár became the new party leader. The secret police were disbanded and the multi-party system was reintroduced. On October 30, a coalition government was formed on a national basis, reforms were in view, and the Warsaw Pact was terminated following reports that new Soviet forces were pouring into the country. On November 3, the Russians lured Defense Minister Pál Maléter and several others under the promise of negotiations, but arrested them, and early November 4 launched a vicious attack on Budapest. After one week, all armed resistance was defeated, but prolonged strike action continued.
Around 20,000 people were killed in the fighting, while more than 200,000 Hungarians fled the country. At the same time as his military intervention, the Russians established a new government with Kádár as prime minister. It initiated retaliation actions with prisons and executions. Imre Nagy and several of his closest associates seeking refuge in the Yugoslav embassy were lured out under false promises, arrested, sentenced to death in June 1958 and executed. The Hungarian tragedy was raised on several occasions in the UN General Assembly, which condemned the Soviet intervention. The UN Committee Report of June 1957 stated that it was a national struggle for freedom.
Kádár era 1956–1988
Hungary’s economic and political consolidation and reconstruction progressed relatively quickly. In 1960–1961, agricultural collectivization was carried out, while in 1963 amnesty was announced. In 1968, a new economic policy was launched that made Hungary the most market-oriented country in Eastern Europe, even though it was a member of the economic cooperation organization Comecon. The result of the new economic policy was a marked increase in production and real wages. The economic changes were accompanied by more general liberalization with certain social and political reforms. Hungary, however, is highly dependent on raw material and energy imports, and was therefore severely affected by the price increases in the Soviet Union and worldwide on the 1970s; they led to up to 40-50 percent increase in prices of important food and energy.
Foreign policy Hungary followed the Soviet Union loyally. Thus, in 1968, the country participated in the Warsaw Pact’s intervention in Czechoslovakia. In 1973, diplomatic relations with West Germany were established as part of the tension between East and West. Throughout the 1970s, however, Hungary faced increasing economic but also social and political problems. The background was both the general international crisis and that the 1968 reform program had not been adequately implemented. The result was that Hungary had to raise large loans in the west. Domestically, this led to galloping inflation and cuts, eventually also to unemployment.
The 1968 reform program was linked to Kádár’s name and political leadership, which in the first years gave him a popularity no one had thought possible. From the early 1980s, however, in an atmosphere of widespread dissatisfaction, Kádár was blamed for the setbacks that hit Hungary. The national party conference in May 1988 therefore went to the unexpected step of removing both Kádár and his supporters. Kádár died in 1989.
The regime change in 1989–1990
The new leaders who gathered power in their hands from the mid-1980s were Károly Grósz (prime minister in 1987–1988) and Miklós Németh (prime minister in 1988–1990). They failed to stop the “ferment” in the country. The Communist Party was run from scandal to scandal. The most conservative in leadership eventually had to give way to new, more reform-friendly forces. It was opened to a pluralistic system with several political parties, free unions and other organizations. In October 1989, the Communist Party was dissolved and a new Socialist Party formed; work on drafting a new state constitution was started, and June 16 was proclaimed as a national mourning day in memory of Imre Nagy and the other victims of the 1956 uprising.
Overall, the domestic political changes in Hungary represented a reform effort that was unparalleled in socialist Eastern Europe. Hungary’s foreign policy also went its own way: diplomatic relations were established with South Korea and Israel; the iron blanket, the barbed wire fence between Hungary and Austria, was removed; East German citizens were allowed to travel freely through Hungary to Austria and West Germany, which contributed to the spectacular collapse of the East German Communist regime.