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History

Nomadic Magyars came to the Carpathian Basin as early as the mid-8th century. The original settlement of Magyars in Hungary took place in 896. The seven Hungarian tribes led by Árpád conquered the Carpathian Basin in a couple of years. Known for their equestrian skills, the Magyars raided far and wide, until the Germans stopped them in 955. Hungarian statehood has a history of a thousand years. 

Árpád’s descendants realized that to guarantee the survival of the Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin it was necessary to establish a European pattern of settled existence. This principally meant converting to Christianity and the establishment of a state organization. The founder of the state, King St. Stephen, who was crowned as the ‘Christian King’ Stephen I in 1000 AD (with a crown sent from Rome by the Pope), ruled the country from 997 to 1038. He made respect for Christianity obligatory for all subjects of the state, and established a church organization covering the entire country. He transformed the new homeland into a modern, Christian and European state which in the king’s own lifetime was strong enough to defeat the aggressive attentions of the Holy Roman Empire. This relatively steady progress was interrupted in 1241 by the dramatic incursion and ruthless raids by Tartar (Mongol) forces, after which the country had to be rebuilt practically from scratch. During King Matthias Corvinus’ reign, Hungary became one of Europe’s leading powers. Renowned as the “Just Matthias” of folk tales, he maintained one of the most luxurious Renaissance courts in contemporary Europe in Buda and at the scenic Visegrád overlooking the Danube. However, his death in 1490 resulted in a setback as his successor Vladislav was unable to maintain royal authority. In 1526, Hungary’s army was crushed by the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Mohács. The defeat marked the end of a relatively prosperous and independent Hungary, and brought the nation under foreign domination and partition by the Turks and the Austrians. Turkish occupation came to an end in 1699, but the expulsion hardly created a free and independent Hungary. Instead, the country became a province of the Austrian Habsburg Empire. The absolutism of the Habsburg Dynasty created a national re-awakening and the desire for full independence from the Habsburgs throughout the country. In 1848, under the rebel leadership of Lajos Kossuth, Hungary declared full independence and the dethronement of the Habsburgs. The Habsburgs replied by crushing the revolution and Hungary was merged into the empire as a conquered province. 

However, passive resistance among Hungarians and a couple of disastrous military defeats for the Habsburgs prompted negotiations between the two sides. The outcome was the Compromise of 1867, which created the Dual Monarchy of Austria, the empire, and Hungary, the kingdom. The Dual Monarchy entered World War I as an ally of Germany, with fatal results, and was replaced by a republic immediately after the war. In 1920, the Allies drew up a post-war settlement under the Treaty of Trianon, which drastically reduced Hungary's territory to one third of its original size. Hungary found itself again on the losing side in World War II. In 1947, questionable elections brought the Communists to power. The 1956 uprising, an anti-Soviet revolution, left thousands of dead. After reprisals and the consolidation of the regime, János Kádár began a program of consumer-oriented communism. After the collapse of Communism, the country became a republic on 23 October 1989.

The present historical situation offers new possibilities for the economy, politics, culture and everyday life of Hungary.