Hungary lies in the Carpathian Basin, surrounded by the Carpathian
mountain chain, the Alps and the southern Slav Mountains. In the
early as the mid-8th century, the nomadic tribe known as Magyars
had settled here first. Known for their equestrian skills, the Magyars
raided far and wide, until the Germans stopped them in 955.
The defeat left the Magyar tribes in disarray, and later forced
them into an alliance with the Holy Roman Empire. In the year 1000,
the Magyar prince Stephen was crowned 'Christian King' Stephen I.
After his death in 1038, Hungary, was a nascent Christian culture,
increasingly westward-looking and multi-ethnic.
The next two and a half centuries - during the reign of the House
of Árpád - tested the New Kingdom to the limit. The period was marked
by constant struggles between rival claimants to the throne, and
land grabs by powerful neighbors. Hungary's descent into anarchy
was arrested only after Andrew III, the Árpád's last in line, died
After the death of Andrew III, Hungary flourished. A succession
of able rulers, beginning with Charles Robert and culminating in
the golden reign of Matthias Corvinus, made the country one of Europe's
However, the death of Matthias in 1490 resulted in another setback.
His successor Vladislav was unable to maintain royal authority,
funds were squandered, and retrograde laws reduced the peasantry
to serfdom. In 1526, the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Mohács crushed
Hungary's motley army.
The defeat marked the end of a relatively prosperous and independent
Hungary, and sent the nation into a tailspin of partition, foreign
domination and despair. Turkish occupation did little to improve
the country, and resistance to their rule forced the Turks out in
The expulsion hardly created a free and independent Hungary. Instead,
the country became a province of the Austrian Habsburg Empire. Thus
began a period of enlightened absolutism. Hungary blossomed economically
and culturally under the Habsburgs, but so did thoughts of nationalism.
In 1849, under the rebel leadership of Lajos Kossuth, Hungary declared
full independence and the dethronement of the Habsburgs.
The Habsburgs replied by quickly crushing the revolution and instigating
a series of brutal reprisals. Hungary was again merged into the
empire as a conquered province, and absolutism was reinstated. However,
passive resistance among Hungarians and a couple of disastrous military
defeats for the Habsburgs prompted negotiations between the two
The outcome was the Compromise of 1867, which created the Dual Monarchy
of Austria the empire and Hungary the kingdom. This 'Age of Dualism'
set off an economic, cultural and intellectual rebirth in Hungary,
but there were worrying signs that all was not well in the kingdom.
After accelerating the collapse of Communism by dismantling the
fence along its border with Austria, the nation became the Republic
of Hungary in 1989.
Hungary has since held free elections - the first in more than four
decades. Despite initial success in curbing inflation and lowering
interest rates, a host of economic problems has slowed the pace
Hungarian art and architecture is laced with Romanesque, Gothic,
Baroque and Art Nouveau influences. The country has one of the finest
folk traditions in Europe, producing excellent examples of embroidery,
pottery, ceiling and wall painting, and objects carved from wood
Literature has been shaped by the monumental events of the nation's
history, which have given rise to swashbuckling odes, stirring poems
of independence, gritty tales of realism, and strident polemic.
Its musical contributions are just as rich, and range from the rhapsodies
of Franz Liszt and the operas of Ferenc Erkel to Gypsy and folk
music. Soccer is far and away the favourite spectator sport, while
chess is also popular.