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Republic of Hungary

Magyar Népköztársaság

CAPITAL: Budapest

FLAG: The national flag, adopted in 1957, is a tricolor of red, white, and green horizontal stripes.

ANTHEM: Isten áldd meg a magyart (God Bless the Hungarians).

MONETARY UNIT: The forint (Ft) of 100 fillérs is a paper currency with flexible rates of exchange. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 fillérs and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 100, and 200 forints, and notes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 forints. Ft1 = $0.00508 (or $1 = Ft196.83) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Anniversary of 1848 uprising against Austrian rule, 15 March; Labor Day, 1 May; Constitution Day, 20 August; Day of the Proclamation of the Republic, 23 October; Christmas, 2526 December. Easter Monday is a movable holiday.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.


Hungary is a landlocked country in the Carpathian Basin of Central Europe, with an area of 93,030 sq km (35,919 sq mi), extending 268 km (167 mi) ns and 528 km (328 mi) ew. Comparatively, the area occupied by Hungary is slightly smaller than the state of Indiana. It is bounded on the n by Slovakia, on the ne by the Ukraine, on the e by Romania, on the s by Serbia and Croatia, on the sw by Slovenia, and on the w by Austria, with a total boundary length of 2,171 km (1,349 mi). Hungary's capital city, Budapest, is located in the north central part of the country.


About 84% of Hungary is below 200 m (656 ft) in altitude, its lowest point, at the Tisza River, being 78 m (256 ft) above sea level and the highest being Mt. Kékes (1,014 m/3,327 ft) in the Mátra Mountains, northeast of Budapest. The country has four chief geographic regions: Transdanubia (Dunántúl), the Great Plain (Alföld), the Little Plain (Kisalföld), and the Northern Mountains. Hungary's river valleys and its highest mountains are in the north-east. Generally, the soil is fertile. The chief rivers are the Danube (Duna) and Tisza. The largest lake is Balaton, which has an area of 601 sq km (232 sq mi).


Hungary lies at the meeting point of three climatic zones: the continental, Mediterranean, and oceanic. Yearly temperatures vary from a minimum of -14°c (7°f) to a maximum of 36°c (97°f). The mean temperature in January is -4°c to 0°c (25° to 32°f) and in July, 18° to 23°c (64° to 73°f). Rainfall varies, but the annual average is approximately 63 cm (25 in)more in the west and less in the eastwith maximum rainfall during the summer months. Severe droughts often occur in the summers.


Plants and animals are those common to Central Europe. Oak is the predominant deciduous tree; various conifers are located in the mountains. Among the abundant wildlife are deer, boar, hare, and mouflon. The Great Plain is a breeding ground and a migration center for a variety of birds. Fish are plentiful in rivers and lakes. As of 2002, there were at least 83 species of mammals, 208 species of birds, and over 2,200 species of plants throughout the country.


Chemical pollution of the air and water is extensive, but resources to combat pollution are scarce: a 1996 government study estimated that us$350 million were needed to combat pollution, but only us$7 million were allocated for this purpose. According to the study, air pollution affects 179 areas of the country, soil pollution affects 54 areas, and water pollution affects 32. Hungary is also one of 50 nations that lead the world in industrial carbon dioxide emissions, with a 1992 total of 59.9 million metric tons, a per capita level of 5.72 metric tons. However, the total carbon dioxide emissions dropped to 54.2 million metric tons in 2000. Hungary has 6 cu km of renewable water resources, with 55% used for industrial purposes and 36% used for farming activity. Hungary's principal environmental agency is the National Council for Environment and Nature Conservation, under the auspices of the Council of Ministers.

Geothermal aquifers lie below most of Hungary. The water brought from these to the earth's surface ranges in temperature from 40°c (104°f) to 70°c (158°f). In the southwest, geothermal aquifers have produced water at 140°c (284°f). Some of these waters are cooled and used for drinking water, but many aquifers are used to heat greenhouses.

In 2003, about 7% of the total land area was protected. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 7 types of mammals, 9 species of birds, 1 type of reptile, 8 species of fish, 1 type of mollusk, 24 species of other invertebrates, and 1 species of plant. Endangered species included the longicorn, the alcon large blue butterfly, the dusky large blue butterfly, and the Mediterranean mouflon.


The population of Hungary in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 10,086,000, which placed it at number 79 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 16% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 16% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 91 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the population for 200510 was expected to decline annually by -0.4%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The fertility rate, which had been declining since the 1990s, reached just 1.5 births per woman in 2005. The projected population for the year 2025 was 9,588,000. The population density was 108 per sq km (281 per sq mi).

Since the early 1950s, there has been a fundamental shift of the population from rural to urban areas. The UN estimated that 65% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005. The urban growth rate has substantially slowed in recent years, with the UN estimating annual growth in urban areas at just 0.14% as of 2005. The capital city, Budapest, had a population of 1,708,000 in that year. Other urban areas include: Debrecen, 217,706; Miskolc, 211,000; Szeged, 178,878; Pécs, 172,177; Nyíregyháza, 115,643; Székesfehérvár, 111,478; and Kecskemét, 107,267.


Sizable migration during the two world wars resulted from military operations, territorial changes, and population transfers. Peacetime emigration in the decades before World War I was heavy (about 1,400,000 between 1899 and 1913). Emigration of non-Magyars was prompted by the repressive policy of Magyarization; groups also left because of economic pressures, the majority going to the United States and Canada. In the interwar period, migration was negligible, but after 1947 many thousands left, despite restrictions on emigration. As a result of the October 1956 uprising, approximately 250,000 persons fled Hungary. The largest numbers ultimately emigrated to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Australia. Emigration totaled 42,700 between 1981 and 1989. By the 1990s, emigration was virtually nonexistent; only 778 persons left in 1991, according to official statistics.

Between 1990 and 2003, some 115,000 immigrants acquired Hungarian citizenship, granted almost exclusively to ethnic Hungarians from neighboring countries. At the end of 2000, 3% of Hungary's population (294,000) were foreign-born, resulting from international migration, and as a consequence of historic events such as border changes or citizenship agreements. According to Migration Information Source, from 1990 to 2003, the border guards recorded 152,000 cases of foreigners attempting to enter illegally, and 80,000 efforts to leave Hungary illegally. These activities indicate Hungary's transit role in illegal migration.

Since 1960, net migration from the villages to the cities has decreased, from about 52,000 that year to 20,814 in 1986. Since 1989, Hungary has received nearly 155,000 refugees, with major influxes from Romania in 198889 and the former Yugoslavia in 199192. About 5,400 asylum seekers have been recognized as refugees since 1989. In the 1990s Hungary provided temporary protection for over 32,000 Bosnians. Most of these refugees resettled to another country or repatriated. The Temporary Protection status of some 480 Bosnian refugees, who remained in Hungary in the latter part of the 1990s, was withdrawn by the government in mid-1999. As a result of the Kosovo crisis, 2,800 Yugoslav asylum seekers arrived in Hungary, including 1,000 Kosovo Albanians. The organized voluntary repatriation of refugees began in August 1999, when the first 185 Kosovars returned to their homeland. At the end of 2004 there were 7,708 refugees and 354 asylum seekers in Hungary. Asylum seekers were from Georgia and Turkey. In 2004, 832 Hungarians applied for asylum in Canada.

As a member of the European Union (EU) since 1 May 2004, Hungary's migration and illegal migration border controls have tightened. According to Migration Information Source, as of 2002 some 115,000 foreign citizens with a valid long-term permit (i.e., good for at least one year) or permanent residence permit resided in Hungary; 43% were Romanian citizens, 11% Yugoslavians, 8% Ukrainians, and most of these were ethnic Hungarians, and 6% were Chinese. This population amounted to 1.13% of Hungary's total population. These changing waves of labor migration are also characterized by a new form of labor migration within the EU, termed "walk-over-the-border for employment," where workers seeking higher wages travel from one country to a neighboring one, such as from Slovakia to Hungary.

In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as 0.86 migrants per 1,000 population.


Ethnically, Hungary is essentially a homogeneous state of Magyar extraction. The 2001 census indicates that Hungarians constitute about 92.3% of the total population. Roma account for about 1.9%. Ethnic Germans make up about 0.7% of the population. There are also small groups of Croats, Poles, Ukrainians, Greeks, Serbs, Slovenes, Armenians, Ruthenians, Bulgarians, Slovaks, and Romanians.


Hungarian, also known as Magyar, is the universal language. In addition to the letters of the English alphabet, it has the following letters and combinations: á, é, í, ó, ö, ő, ú, ú, cs, dz, dzs, gy, ly, ny, sz, ty, zs. Written in Latin characters, Hungarian (Magyar) belongs to the Finno-Ugric family, a branch of the Ural-Altaic language group. Hungarian (Magyar) is also characterized by an admixture of Turkish, Slavic, German, Latin, and French words. In addition to their native language, many Hungarians speak English, German, French, or (since World War II) Russian. In 2002, 98.2% of the population spoke Hungarian; 1.8% spoke various other languages.


According to a 2001 census, approximately 55% of the people are nominally Roman Catholic, 15% are members of the Reformed Church, 3% of the population are Lutheran, and less than 1% are Jewish. About 3% of the population describe themselves as Greek Catholics. About 15% of the population claim no religious affiliation.

About one million Jews lived in Hungary before World War II and an estimated 600,000 were deported in 1944 to concentration camps. According to estimates from the World Jewish Restitution Organization, there are between 70,000 and 110,000 Jews currently residing in Hungary. There are also seven Buddhist and five Orthodox denominations. There are three Islamic communities.

A 1990 Law on the Freedom of Conscience provides for separation of church and state and safeguards the liberty of conscience of all citizens and the freedom of religious worship. However, the state does grant financial support to religious denominations for religious practice, educational work, and maintenance of public collections. To promote further support of religious institutions, between 199799 the government signed separate agreements with the country's four largest churches (the Roman Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, and Calvinist churches) and two smaller groups (Hungarian Baptist and Budai Serb Orthodox). The government also provides funds each year for the revitalization of churches based on annual negotiations between the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and the Ministry of Finance.


Transportation facilities have improved steadily since the 1960s. Budapest is the transportation center. In 2002, roads totaled 159,568 km (99,251 mi), of which some 70,050 km (43,571 mi) were paved, including 527 km (328 mi) of expressways. In 2003, Hungary had 2,777,219 passenger cars and 394,988 commercial vehicles registered for use.

As of 2004, Hungary had 7,937 km (4,937 mi) of broad, standard and narrow gauge railroad lines. Of that total, standard gauge lines accounted for the largest portion at 7,682 km (4,778 mi), followed by narrow gauge lines at 219 km (136 mi) and broad gauge lines at 36 km (22 mi). Most freight is carried by trucks; railway transport is of lesser importance. The railroad and bus networks are state owned.

Permanently navigable waterways totaled 1,622 km (1,009 mi) in 2004, of which most were on the Danube and Tisza rivers. In addition to the government shipping enterpriseswhich operate the best and largest ships and handle the bulk of water trafficthe Shipping Cooperative, an association of small operators, continues to function. In 1999, the latest year for which data was available), the merchant marine fleet consisted of 2 cargo ships with a total capacity of 12,949 GRT.

Hungary had an estimated 44 airports in 2004. As of 2005 a total of 19 had paved runways, and there were also five heliports. Ferihegy Airport in Budapest is the most important center for domestic and international flights. All domestic traffic is handled by the Hungarian Air Transportation Enterprise (Magyar Légiközlekedési VallalatMALÉV). In 2003, about 2.369 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


Ancient human footprints, tools, and a skull found at Vértesszóllós date the earliest occupants of present Hungary at a period from 250,000 to 500,000 years ago. Close to that site, at Tata, objects used for aesthetic or ceremonial purposes have been discovered, among the earliest such finds made anywhere in the world.

Celtic tribes settled in Hungary before the Romans came to occupy the western part of the country, which they called Pannonia and which the Roman Emperor Augustus conquered in 9 bc. Invasions by the Huns, the Goths, and later the Langobards had little lasting effect, but the two subsequent migrations of the Avars (who ruled for 250 years and, like the Huns, established a khanate in the Hungarian plain) left a more lasting impression.

The Magyars (Hungarians) migrated from the plains south and west of the Ural Mountains and invaded the Carpathian Basin under the leadership of Árpád in ad 896. For half a century they ranged far and wide, until their defeat by Otto the Great, king of Germany and Holy Roman emperor, near Augsburg in 955. They were converted to Christianity under King Stephen I (r.10011038), who was canonized in 1083. The Holy Crown of St. Stephen became the national symbol, and a constitution was gradually developed. The Magna Carta of Hungary, known as the Golden Bull of 1222, gave the nation a basic framework of national liberties to which every subsequent Hungarian monarch had to swear fidelity. Hungary was invaded at various times during the medieval period; the Mongols succeeded in devastating the country in 124142.

Medieval Hungary achieved its greatest heights under the Angevin rulers Charles Robert and Louis the Great (r.134282), when Hungarian mines yielded five times as much gold as those of any other European state. Sigismund of Luxembourg, king of Hungary, became Holy Roman emperor in 1410, largely on the strength of this national treasure. During the 15th century, however, Turkish armies began to threaten Hungary. The Balkan principalities to the south and southeast of Hungary developed as buffer states, but they did not long delay the advance of the Turks; nor could the victories of János Hunyadi, brilliant as they were, ultimately stem the Turkish tide. With the Turks temporarily at bay, the Hungarian renaissance flourished during the reign of Hunyadi's son, Matthias Corvinus (145890), but his successors in the 16th century overexploited the gold mines, brutally suppressed a peasant revolt, and allowed the Magyar army to deteriorate. Hungary's golden age ended with the rout by the Turks at Mohács in 1526.

Thereafter, warring factions split Hungary, but power was gradually consolidated by the Habsburg kings of Austria. With the defeat of the Turks at Vienna in 1683, Turkish power waned and that of the Habsburgs became stronger. The Hungarians mounted many unsuccessful uprisings against the Habsburgs, the most important insurrectionist leaders being the Báthorys, Bocskai, Bethlen, and the Rákóczys. In 1713, however, the Hungarian Diet accepted the Pragmatic Sanction, which in guaranteeing the continuing integrity of Habsburg territories, bound Hungary to Austria.

During the first half of the 19th century, in the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, Hungary experienced an upsurge of Magyar nationalism, accompanied by a burst of literary creativity. The inability of a liberal reform movement to establish a constitutional monarchy led to the revolt of 1848, directed by Lajos Kossuth and Ferenc Deák, which established a short-lived Hungarian republic. Although Hungarian autonomy was abolished as a result of intervention by Austrian and Russian armies, Austria, weakened by its war with Prussia, was obliged to give in to Magyar national aspirations. The Compromise (Ausgleich) of 1867 established a dual monarchy of Austria and Hungary and permitted a degree of self-government for the Magyars.

After World War I, in which Austria-Hungary was defeated, the dual monarchy collapsed, and a democratic republic was established under Count Mihály Károlyi. This was supplanted in March 1919 by a Communist regime led by Béla Kun, but Romanian troops invaded Hungary and helped suppress it. In 1920, Hungary became a kingdom without a king; for the next 25 years, Adm. Miklós von Nagybánya Horthy served as regent. The Treaty of Trianon in 1920 formally freed the non-Magyar nationalities from Hungarian rule but also left significant numbers of Magyars in Romania and elsewhere beyond Hungary's borders. The fundamental policy of interwar Hungary was to recover the "lost" territories, and in the hope of achieving that end, Hungary formed alliances with the Axis powers and sided with them during World War II. Hungary temporarily regained territories from Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia. In March 1944, the German army occupied Hungary, but Soviet troops invaded the country later that year and liberated it by April 1945.

In 1946, a republican constitution was promulgated, and a coalition government (with Communist participation) was established. Under the terms of the peace treaty of 1947, Hungary was forced to give up all territories acquired after 1937. The Hungarian Workers (Communist) Party seized power in 1948 and adopted a constitution (on the Soviet model) in 1949. Hungarian foreign trade was oriented toward the Soviet bloc, industry was nationalized and greatly expanded, and collectivization of land was pressed. Resentment of continued Soviet influence over Hungarian affairs was one element in the popular uprising of October 1956, which after a few days' successduring which Hungary briefly withdrew from the Warsaw Treaty Organizationwas summarily put down by Soviet military force. Many people fled the country, and many others were executed. From that time on, Hungary was a firm ally of the USSR. In 1968, the New Economic Mechanism was introduced in order to make the economy more competitive and open to market forces; reform measures beginning in 1979 further encouraged private enterprise. The movement toward relaxation of tensions in Europe in the 1970s was reflected in the improvement of Hungary's relations with Western countries, including the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the FRG in 1973. A US-Hungarian war-claims agreement was signed that year, and on 6 January 1978 the United States returned the Hungarian coronation regalia.

The New Economic Mechanism that had been instituted in 1968 was largely abandoned, at Soviet and Comecon insistence, a decade later. This compounded the blows suffered by Hungary's economy during the energy crisis of the late 1970s, leading to a ballooning of the country's foreign indebtedness. By the late 1980s the country owed $18 billion, the highest per capita indebtedness in Europe.

This indebtedness was the primary engine of political change. The necessity of introducing fiscal austerity was "sweetened" by the appointment of reform-minded Karóly Grosz as prime minister in 1987. Faced with continued high inflation, the government took the step the following year of forcing János Kádár out entirely, giving control of the party to Grosz. In 1989 Grosz and his supporters went even further, changing the party's name to Hungarian Socialist Party, and dismantling their nation's section of the Iron Curtain. The action that had the most far-reaching consequences, however, came in October 1989 when the state constitution was amended so as to create a multiparty political system.

Although Hungarians had been able to choose among multiple candidates for some legislative seats since as early as 1983, the foundations of a true multiparty system had been laid in 198788, when large numbers of discussion groups and special interest associations began to flourish. Many of these, such as the Network of Free Initiatives, the Bajscy-Zsilinszky Society, the Hungarian Democratic Forum, and the Alliance of Free Democrats, soon became true political parties. In addition, parties that had existed before the 1949 imposition of Communist rule, such as the People's Party, the Hungarian Independence Party, and the Social Democrats, began to reactivate themselves.

All of these groups, or the parties they had spawned, competed in the 1990 general election, the first major free election to be held in more than four decades. No party gained an absolute majority of seats, so a coalition government was formed, composed of the Democratic Forum, Smallholders' Party, and Christian Democrats, with Forum leader Jozsef Antall as prime minister. Arpad Goncz, of the Free Democrats, was selected as president. An important indicator of Hungary's intentions came in June 1989, when the remains of Imre Nagy, hanged for his part in the events of 1956, were reentered with public honors; politicians and other public figures used the occasion to press further distance from Communism and the removal of Soviet troops. Another sign of public sentiment was the first commemoration in 40 years of the anniversary of the Revolution of 1848.

Under Antall Hungary pursued a vigorous program of economic transformation, with the goal of transferring 3035% of state assets to private control by the end of 1993. Hungary's liberal investment laws and comparatively well-developed industrial infrastructure permitted the nation to become an early leader in attracting Western investors. However, there were large blocs in society, and within the Democratic Forum itself, that found the pace of transition too slow, particularly since the government did not keep to its own time schedule.

In addition to its economic demands, this radical-right contingent also has a strongly nationalist, or even xenophobic, agenda, which has tended to polarize Hungarian national politics. Approximately 10% of the Hungarian population is non-Hungarian, including large populations of Jews and Roma (Gypsies). There are also large Hungarian populations in neighboring states, particularly in Romania, all of whom had been declared dual citizens of Hungary in 1988. The appeal to "Hungarianness" has been touted fairly frequently, widening preexisting tensions within the dominant Democratic Forum party, and weakening their coalition in parliament. The Smallholders Party withdrew from the coalition in 1992, and in 1993 other elements were threatening to do the same.

The Democratic Forum's loss of popularity was vividly exposed in the parliamentary elections of May 1994, when the party, led by acting head Sandor Leszak, lost almost one-third of the seats it had controlled. In that election voters turned overwhelmingly to the Hungarian Socialist Party, giving the former Communist party an absolute majority of 54%. Voter turnout in the two-tier election was as high as 70%, leaving little doubt that Hungarian voters had repudiated the Democratic Forum and its programs of forced transition to a market economy.

Hungary's international indebtedness remained very highthe country ran a $936 million trade deficit for the first two months of 1994 aloneobligating new prime minister Gyula Horn to continue most of the same economic reform programs which the Socialists' predecessors had begun. There was concern, however, that the Socialists' absolute majority could lead to a reversal of some of the important democratic gains of the recent past. Those concerns sharpened in July 1994, when Prime Minister Horn unilaterally appointed new heads for the state-owned radio and television, who immediately dismissed or suspended a number of conservative journalists.

On 8 January 1994 Hungary formally accepted the offer of a compromise on NATO membership. The offer involved a new defense partnership between Eastern Europe and NATO. By July 1997, NATO agreed to grant Hungary full membership (along with Poland and the Czech Republic) in the organization in 1999. In order to help them qualify to join NATO and the EU, Hungary and Romania signed a treaty on 16 September 1996 ending a centuries-old dispute between the two neighbors. The agreement ended five years of negotiations over the status of Romania's 1.6 million ethnic Hungarians. On 12 March 1999, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic were formally admitted to NATO, becoming the first former Warsaw Pact nations to join the alliance.

Despite improvements in the economy, the position of the Socialists was undermined by dissatisfaction among those negatively affected by privatization and austerity measures, as well as by financial scandals in 1997. The Socialist government was toppled in national elections held in May 1998, and a new center-right coalition government was formed in July by Viktor Orbán, leader of the victorious Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (Fidesz).

In 1997 Hungary was invited to begin negotiations leading to membership in the European Union. It was formally invited to join the body in 2002 at the EU summit in Copenhagen. It was accepted as a full member on 1 January 2004. In 2000, parliament elected Ferenc Madl as president.

Under Victor Orbán, Hungary experienced increasing prosperity, but also increasing social division. Fidesz is a strong supporter of ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries. Indeed, parliament in June 2001 passed a controversial law entitling Hungarians living in Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia to a special identity document allowing them to temporarily work, study, and claim health care in Hungary. In June 2003 the law was amended by the parliament, with a majority of the Hungarian population agreeing with it. However, the referendum held in December 2004, in conjunction with this law, was invalidated due to low turnout.

Orbán's party was challenged in the April 2002 general elections by the Socialist Party, which chose Péter Medgyessy as its candidate for prime minister. Although Medgyessy characterized his party as patriotic, he stressed it was less extreme than Fidesz, and supported diversity as well as traditional values of fairness and social justice.

The 2002 campaign was divisive, and saw nationalists come out in force in favor of Fidesz. Although it won the largest bloc of seats in the National Assembly in the second round of voting (aligned with the Hungarian Democratic Forum), it was the Socialists in concert with the Alliance of Free Democrats that formed a coalition government with Medgyessy as prime minister.

In June 2002, allegations surfaced that Medgyessy had worked as a counterintelligence officer in the secret service under the Communist regime in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Medgyessy claimed he never collaborated with Moscow's KGB, but instead sought out Soviet spies attempting to disrupt Hungary's efforts to join the IMF. Upon his admission, his popularity soared.

In the summer of 2004, internal problems within his own party, as well as growing opposition from the coalition partnersthe Alliance of Free Democrats, led Medgyessy to resign. He was replaced with Ferenc Gyurcsany, the former sports minister and one of the government's most popular figures. Gyurcsany received 453 votes, while his main contenderPeter Kissgot 166.

The new prime minister promised to strengthen the coalition, boost economic growth, and improve living conditions for Hungarians. However, strict budget controls (many imposed by the EU), and unfulfilled election promises dramatically decreased the popular support for his government, and party. In the 2004 European Parliament elections, the Young Democrats (the main opposition party) led the pack, and predictions for the 2006 national parliamentary elections showed Socialists as garnering only 20% of the votes.

In June 2005, opposition-backed Laszlo Solyom was elected as the new president of Hungary. He garnered 185 votes, in the third round of elections, followed closely by the Socialist's nomineeKatalin Sziliwith 182 votes.


Hungary's present constitution remains based upon the 1949 Soviet-style constitution, with major revisions made in 1972 and 1988. The 1988 revisions mandated the end of the Communist Party's monopoly on power, removed the word People's from the name of the state, and created the post of president to replace the earlier Presidential Council.

The present system is a unitary multiparty republic, with a parliamentary government. There is one legislative house (the National Assembly), with 386 members who are elected to four-year terms. The head of state is the president, who is elected by the parliament, for a five-year term. In 2005, Laszlo Solyoma university professor and former president of the Constitutional Courtwas elected president by a simple majority of the legislative vote. The next presidential elections were scheduled for June 2010.

The head of the government is the prime minister, leader of the largest party seated in the parliament. The prime minister is elected by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the president. In the Antall government important ministerial and other posts were split among representatives of various parties. As of 2005, the prime minister was Ferenc Gyurcsany, a wealthy businessman and popular political figure. Gyurcsany replaced Péter Medgyessy in 2004, following dissentions within the ruling coalition.


Following the general elections of April 2002, four political parties were represented in the 386-member National Assembly, split into two coalitions. This situation raised fears that Hungary was drifting into a two-party state, divided by ideology and personalities, instead of reflecting other interests not represented in government.

The predominant party is the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), whose government was toppled in 1998, but returned to power in 2002, receiving 42.05% of the popular vote and garnering 178 seats in the National Assembly. The MSZP is the Hungarian Communist Party renamed and, to a certain extent, reoriented. The party's platform indicates strong support for the market economy system, albeit with a wide net of social services. It supports diversity in Hungarian society, as opposed to the center-right's more populist, nationalistic party Fidesz.

The leading opposition party was the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (also known as Fidesz), which held 164 seats. The party's leader, Viktor Orbán, was named prime minister in 1998; he was out of office in 2002 when the Socialists came to power. Originally known as the Federation of Young Democrats, the party was formed on an anti-Communist platform by student activists and young professionals in 1988. During the 1990s, it evolved into a mainstream center-right party and was renamed in 1995.

The Alliance of Free Democrats (SzDSz), which holds 20 seats, is the coalition partner of the MSZP. This party was a liberal opposition party during the Antall government, with positions strongly in favor of closer integration with Europe, cooperation with Hungary's neighbors, and support for alien Hungarians. In economic terms their platform is very similar to that of the MSZP, which was the basis of their agreement to enter into a coalition. However, their alliance had frequent disputes that in result undermined their political strength.

The Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), which has been reduced to 24 seats, is a party of strong support for the ethnic minorities within Hungary. It is currently aligned with Fidesz. The Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) first gained parliamentary representation in 1998, winning 14 seats, and was founded by Istvan Csurka, who was expelled from the MDF for his nationalist and anti-Semitic sentiments. The party is populist in orientation, seeking to elevate "Hungarian values." It won 4.4% of the vote in 2002 but held no seats. The next legislative elections were scheduled for April 2006.

The Independent Smallholders' Party (FKgP), which held 48 seats in the 1998 government but no seats in the government formed in 2002, is a center-right party that seeks to ensure Hungarian interests in the context of European integration. It draws particular support from rural districts and among farmers.

Other parties include the centrist Center Party and the communist Worker's Party. Hungary also has a noticeable "skinhead" movement, which has provoked fights and other disturbances, especially with Gypsies.


Hungary is divided administratively into 19 counties, 20 urban counties, and the capital city of Budapest also has county status. At the local and regional level, legislative authority is vested in county, town, borough, and town precinct councils whose members are directly elected for four-year terms. Members of the county councils are elected by members of the lower-level councils. Hungary also has provisions for minority self-government, which is not based territorially, because minorities live dispersed throughout the country. Municipality councils must seek the approval of minority self-governments for matters affecting minority education and culture, among others.


Cases in the first instance usually come before provincial city courts or Budapest district courts. Appeals can be submitted to county courts or the Budapest Metropolitan Court. The Supreme Court is basically a court of appeal, although it may also hear important cases in the first instance. As of 2003, a new intermediate court of appeal was to be established between county courts and the Supreme Court, designed to alleviate the backlog of court cases.

The president of the Supreme Court is elected by the National Assembly. A National Judicial Council nominates judicial appointees other than those of the Constitutional Court. The state's punitive power is represented by the public prosecutor. Peter Polt was appointed as prosecutor general in 2000.

The Constitutional Court reviews the constitutionality of laws and statutes as well as compliance of these laws with international treaties the government has ratified. The 11 members of the Constitutional Court are elected by parliament for nine-year terms with a two-thirds majority; their mandates may be renewed in theory, but as of 2002, this had not happened in practice.


In 2005, Hungary had a total of 32,300 active personnel in its armed forces, including an army of 23,950 and an air force of 7,500 personnel. The Hungarian Army operates 238 main battle tanks, 178 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 458 armored personnel carriers, and over 573 artillery pieces. The Air Force operates 14 combat capable aircraft, as well as 12 attack helicopters and 17 support aircraft. All major equipment is of Soviet design. There is a small Army maritime wing with 60 personnel operating three river craft to patrol the Danube River. Paramilitary forces, consisting of frontier and border guards, under the direction of the Ministry of the Interior, number about 12,000. There are about 44,000 military reservists. The defense budget was estimated at $1.43 billion in 2005. Hungary provides UN observers and peacekeepers to eight regions or countries.


Hungary has been a member of the United Nations since 14 December 1955 and participates in ECE and most of the nonregional specialized agencies except the IFAD. Hungary became a member of the OECD in 1996, a NATO member in 1999, and a member of the European Union in 2004. Hungary is also a member of the WTO, the Council of Europe, G-9, and the OSCE. The nation has observer status in the OAS and is a member affiliate of the Western European Union.

Hungary is part of the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and the Nuclear Energy Agency. In environmental cooperation, Hungary is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Air Pollution, Ramsar, CITES, the London Convention, International Tropical Timber Agreements, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


Before World War II, industrial growth was slow because adequate capital was lacking. Since 1949, however, industry has expanded rapidly, and it now contributes a larger share than agriculture to the national income. The government has no capital investments abroad, but it participates in limited economic activities in developing countries. Substantial industrial growth continued through the 1960s and mid-1970s, but output in the socialized sector declined during 197980, and growth was sluggish in the 1980s.

After the fall of Communism in 1989, Hungary began a painful transition to a market economy. Between 1990 and 1992, GDP dropped by about 20%. Freed to reach their own level, consumer prices rose 162% between 1989 and 1993. The rate of unemployment was 12.2% at the end of 1992. By late 1998, private-sector output was over 85% of the GDP.

By 1994, Hungary was in an economic slump unknown since the reforms toward capitalism began. Export earnings were down, inflation was on the rise, and Hungary's gross debt rose to about $31.6 billion in mid-1995 (the highest per capita foreign debt in Europe). The IMF directed the government to curb social spending, but restricting social welfare during a period of high unemployment was unpopular with voters. The government began a stabilization plan in March 1995 designed to decrease the budget deficit by ft170 billion (34% of the GDP) and to decrease the current account deficit to $2.5 billion from the record high of $4 billion in 1994. The government cut expenditures, increased its revenues, devalued the forint by 9%, introduced a crawling peg exchange rate policy, added an 8% surcharge on imports, and called for wage controls at state-owned companies. As a result of the program, inflation and GDP growth rose. In addition, the black market economy was estimated to be as much as 30% of GDP.

In the years since its implementation, the stabilization program has borne fruit. By 1999, the IMF assistance had been repaid. The Hungarian economy exhibited strong growth rates with GDP increases of 4.6% and 5.1% in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Although a hard winter and the Kosovo conflict appeared to hamper Hungarian efforts to match the prior years' growth rate levels, the economy performed well in 2000, led by an increase in foreign direct investment. Since then, manufacturing output and productivity increased, and export industries did well, although increases in wages and a rapid appreciation of the forint in 2002 moderated export growth. The global economic downturn that began in 2001 had an impact on the Hungarian economy, as GDP rose by 3.3% in the first half of 2002, down from 6.6% in the first half of 2000. Although this growth rate was higher than most European nations in 2002, it was below the rate needed for Hungary to reach the wealth levels of EU countries.

Due to government efforts at privatization, over 80% of the economy was privately owned by 2001, and Hungary stands as a model for countries undergoing market reforms. In December 2002, Hungary was formally invited to join the EU; it was accepted as a full member in May 2004 as one of the most advanced of the 10 candidate countries slated for accession.

As an EU member, Hungary maintained its position as one of the most dynamic and strong economies in Central and Eastern Europe. Its position within the European Union, and the fact that it is still comparatively cheaper to do business there than in other Western European countries, makes Hungary a prime target for investments. However, Hungary is being challenged by some of its neighbors that have managed to maintain lower labor costs, and a more attractive tax system. Already some of the investments in the country have moved further east, to countries like Romania and Ukraine, and some of the bids for new investments have been lost for the same reasons.

Although the GDP growth was slower in 2002 and 2003 (3.3% and 2.9% respectively), it recuperated lost ground in 2004, with a 4% increase, and is expected to exceed 4% in 2005. Inflation decreased to 7% in 2004, and unemployment was only 5.9% in the same time period. However, in order to catch up with the developed economies in the EU, Hungary should register (according to the IMF specialists) annual growth rates of 55.25%. This means that further investments have to be attracted to generate funds for the state. Consequently, the governments planned to sell Budapest Airport and Antenna Hungaria in 2005. Attracting additional foreign investments is increasingly difficult though, as the country has to fight with rather high budget deficits (5.9% in 2004), and with increased competition from its neighbors.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Hungary's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $159.0 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $15,900. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.7%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 3.7%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 3.9% of GDP, industry 30.9%, and services 65.3%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $295 million or about $29 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.4% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $248 million or about $25 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.3% of the gross national income (GNI).

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Hungary totaled $56.30 billion or about $5,574 per capita based on a GDP of $82.8 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1.6%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 25% of household consumption was spent on food, 17% on fuel, 6% on health care, and 20% on education. It was estimated that in 1997 about 17.3% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


Hungary's workforce in 2005 was estimated at 4.18 million. In 2003, agriculture accounted for 5.5% of the labor force, with 33.7% in manufacturing, and 60.7% in the services sector. In 2005, the estimated unemployment rate stood at 7.1%.

Before World War II, trade unions had not developed substantially; their combined membership was only about 100,000, principally craftsmen. After the war, the government reduced the number of the traditional craft unions, organized them along industrial lines, and placed them under Communist Party control. The Central Council of Hungarian Trade Unions (SZOT) held a monopoly over labor interests for over 40 years. Since wages, benefits, and other aspects of employment were state-controlled, the SZOT acted as a social service agency, but was dissolved in 1990 with the shift away from centralization to democracy. The National Federation of Trade Unions is its successor, with 735,000 members in 1999. There are now several other large labor organizations in Hungary, including the Democratic League of Independent Trade Unions, with some 100,000 members, and the Federation of Workers' Councils, with 56,000 members. Labor disputes are usually resolved by conciliation boards; appeal may be made to courts. Since 1991, most unions have been hesitant to strike, preferring instead to act as a buffer between workers and the negative side effects of economic reform. Collective bargaining is permitted but is not widespread.

The eight-hour day, adopted in several industries before World War II, is now widespread. The five-day week is typical, but many Hungarians have second or third jobs. The law prohibits employment for children under the age of 15 and closely regulates child labor. The minimum wage in 2002 was $140 per month which was not sufficient to provide a decent lifestyle for a family. Most workers earn more than this amount. Health and safety conditions in the workplace do not meet international standards, and regulations are not enforced due to limited resources.


In 2003, 52% of the land (4,820,000 hectares/11,910,000 acres) was arable. More than half of Hungary's area lies in the Great Plain; although the soil is fertile, most of the region lacks adequate rainfall and is prone to droughts, requiring extensive irrigation. In 2003, some 230,000 hectares (568,000 acres) of land were irrigated. In 2003, agriculture contributed 4% to GDP.

Before World War II (193945), Hungary was a country of large landed estates and landless and land-poor peasants. In the land reform of 1945, about 35% of the land area was distributed, 1.9 million hectares (4.7 million acres) among 640,000 families and 1.3 million hectares (3.2 million acres) in state farms. In 1949, the government adopted a policy of collectivization based on the Soviet kolkhoz, and by the end of 1952, 5,110 collectives, many forcibly organized, controlled 22.6% of total arable land. Peasant resentment led to a policy change in 1953, and many collectives were dissolved, but the regime returned to its previous policy in 1955. As a result of the 1956 uprising, collectives were again dissolved; but a new collectivization drive begun in 1959 was essentially completed by 1961. Meanwhile, the proportion of the economically active population employed in agriculture decreased steadily. In 1949, agricultural employees accounted for 55.1% of the total labor force; in 2003, agriculture accounted for 10.7% of the engaged labor force and gross agricultural output was valued at over 1.95 billion. In 2004, Hungary had an agricultural trade surplus of $1.3 billion.

Hungary has achieved self-sufficiency in temperate zone crops, and exports about one-third of all produce, especially fruit and preserved vegetables. The traditional agricultural crops have been cereals, with wheat, corn (maize), and rye grown on more than half the total sown area. In recent years, considerable progress has been made in industrial crops, especially oilseeds and sugar beets. Fruit production (especially for preserves) and viticulture are also significant; the wine output in 2004 was estimated at 48 million liters. That year, over 650,000 tons of grapes were produced on 93,000 hectares (230,000 acres).

The principal field crops harvested in 2004 included (in tons): corn, 8,317,000; wheat, 6,020,000; sugar beets, 3,130,000; potatoes, 767,000; rye, 125,000.


Although animal husbandry is second only to cereal cultivation in agricultural production, the number and quality of animals are much lower than in neighboring countries. An inadequate supply of fodder is one of the chief deficiencies. In 2005 there were 4,059,000 hogs, 1,397,000 sheep, 723,000 head of cattle, and 68,000 horses; poultry numbered 32,800,000. The 2005 out-put of livestock products was 1,034,000 tons (live weight) of meat, 2,043,000 tons of milk, and 5,000 tons of wool; egg production was 180,200 tons.


Fishing was unimportant before World War II (193945), but production has increased in recent years. The best fishing areas are the Danube and Tisza rivers, Lake Balaton, and various artificial ponds. The catch is composed mainly of carp, catfish, eel, and perch. The 2003 catch was 18,406 tons, 64% from aquaculture. Hungary imports around $1520 million in seafood annually to meet demand.


Forests totaled 1,840,000 hectares (4,547,000 acres), or 19.9% of Hungary's total land area, in 2000. The forest consists of the following main species: oak, 23%; black locust, 20%; pine and fir, 15%; Austrian and turkey oak, 11%; poplars, 9%; beech, 6%; horn-beam (blue beech), 6%; and others, 10%. Because of the relatively small forest area and the high rate of exploitation, Hungary traditionally has had to import timber. During the 1960s, a systematic reforestation program began. Reforestation affected about 440,000 hectares (1,087,000 acres) during 196068 but only about 65,000 hectares (161,000 acres) in 197074 and 64,322 hectares (158,942 acres) during 197581. From 19902000, some 136,000 hectares (336,000 acres) were annually reforested.

Roundwood production has remained stagnant in recent years, at 5,660,000 cu m (200 million cu ft) in 2004. Less than 12% of the production is softwood; Hungary's wood imports consist mostly of softwood, while exports are based on hardwood products. Production of wood products in 2004 (in thousands of cu m) included: sawn wood, 204; wood-based panels, 638; paper and paper-board, 579; and pulpwood, 653.

Privatization of agricultural land, including forests, finished in 1996. According to estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture's Forestry Office, 55% of forests were under state control, 44.5% were owned by private individuals, and 0.5% belonged to municipalities.


In 2002, Hungary produced modest amounts of fossil fuels and industrial minerals, cement and coal being the dominant components of industrial minerals and metals. Although the country had significant output of alumina and bauxite, the output of primary aluminum was modest, due to limited domestic energy sources. Construction aggregates and cement continued to play an important role in Hungary's economy, especially in view of the modernization process necessary for the country's infrastructure, for which planned highway construction through 2008 would be an important element. Mineral reserves were small and generally inadequate.

Bauxite mining and refining to alumina, as well as manganese mining, remained the only metal mining and processing operations in Hungary in 2002. Production of bauxite, found in various parts of western Hungary, was 720,000 tons in 2002, compared with 1 million tons in 2001. Total resources of bauxite were estimated to be 23 million metric tons, with commercial reserves at 16 million metric tons. Bakony Bauxitbany Kft. constituted Hungary's bauxite mining industry in 2002. Hungary also produced 40,000 metric tons of manganese ore concentrate (gross weight) in 2002, up from 338,000 metric tons in 2001, and 250,000 tons of gypsum and anhydrite in 2002. A total of 500,000 tons of calcined lime were also produced that same year. In addition, Hungary produced alumina (calcined basis), bentonite, common clays, diatomite, kaolin, nitrogen, perlite, sand (common, foundry, and glass) and gravel, dimension stone, dolomite, limestone, sulfuric acid, and talc. Although Hungary no longer mined copper, past surveys of the deeplying Recsk copper ore body, in the Matra mountains, discovered 172175 million tons of copper ore at a grade of 1.12% copper and about 20 million tons of polymetallic ore at a grade of 4.22% lead and 0.92% zinc as well as smaller quantities of gold, molybdenum, and silver. After failing to attract foreign investment, the exploration shaft and adit at Recsk was closed, the equipment removed, and the facilities flooded in 1999. Exploration for gold in the Recsk region continued in 2000, as 35 million tons of gold-bearing enargite copper ore was delineated with a grade of 1.47 grams per ton of gold.


Hungary has modest reserves of oil, natural gas, and coal. In addition, the country's electric power sector relies upon nuclear power to provide a sizable portion of its electric power needs.

In 2002, Hungary's electric power generating capacity stood at 8.393 million kW, of which conventional thermal plants accounted for: 6.478 million kW; nuclear 1.866 million kW; hydropower 0.048 million kW; and geothermal/other 0.001 million kW. Electric output in 2002 came to 34.061 billion kWh, of which: conventional thermal sources accounted for 20.548 billion kWh; nuclear 13.255 billion kWh; hydropower 0.192 billion kWh; and geothermal/other 0.066 billion kWh. Electric power consumption in 2002 totaled 35.977 billion kWh. Imports and exports of electric power that year came to 12.6 billion kWh and 8.3 billion kWh, respectively. By the end of 1963, all villages were connected with electric power. Hungary's sole nuclear power plant, at Pécs, consists of four second-generation, Soviet-designed, VVER-440/213 reactors, which began production in 1982. As of 2002, modernization was planned to extend the operating life of the reactors by 20 years. The normal lifespan of the four units would end between 2012 and 2017. However, if the continuous operation of the power plant is to be maintained, the needed modernization would have to start in 2007.

Hungary's reserves of crude oil and natural gas are estimated, as of 1 January 2004, at 102.5 million barrels and 1.2 trillion cu ft, respectively. Refining capacity for that same date is estimated at 161,000 barrels per day. Coal reserves in 2001, were estimated at 1,209 million short tons. In 2003, Hungary's total oil production was estimated at 45,700 barrels per day, with natural gas and coal output estimated in 2002 at 110 billion cu ft and 14.2 million short tons, respectively. Consumption of oil, natural gas and coal outstrips domestic production. Demand for oil in 2003 was estimated at 137,000 barrels per day, while natural gas and coal consumption in 2002 were estimated at 473 billion cu ft and 15 million short tons, respectively. However, the consumption of coal has declined. Between 1993 and 2003, Hungary's demand for coal fell 21%. Brown coal, or lignite, accounted for all domestic coal out-put in 2002. Uranium, discovered in 1953 near Pécs, is expected to supply its nuclear station until 2020.


Hungary is poor in the natural resources essential for heavy industry and relies strongly on imported raw materials. Industry, only partially developed before World War II, has expanded rapidly since 1948 and provides the bulk of exports. Industrial plants were nationalized by 1949, and the socialized sector accounted for about 98.5% of gross production in 1985.

Hungary has concentrated on developing steel, machine tools, buses, diesel engines and locomotives, television sets, radios, electric light bulbs and fluorescent lamps, telecommunications equipment, refrigerators, washing machines, medical apparatus and other precision engineering equipment, pharmaceuticals, and petrochemical products. Textile and leather production has decreased in relative importance since World War II, while chemicals grew to become the leading industry in the early 1990s. Food processing, formerly the leading industry, provides a significant portion of exports; meat, poultry, grain, and wine are common export items.

In 1993, industrial production was only two-thirds of the 1985 level. In 1997, industrial output increased in the manufacture of road vehicles, consumer electronics, insulated cables, office equipment and computers, steel products, aluminum metallurgy, household chemical products and cosmetics, rubber and plastic products, and paper and pulp production. In 1992, Suzuki and Opel began producing automobiles in Hungary, the first produced there since before World War II. Suzuki increased annual output at the Magyar Suzuki Corporation from 29,000 to 50,000 units starting in the 1995 fiscal year. Since 1990, Hungary has developed industrial strength in the automotive field as well as an expanding automotive sourcing industry in plastics and electronics. In 2001, Hungary produced 144,313 automobiles, a 5% increase over 2000. In 2000, it produced 1,621 heavy trucks, a 24% increase over 1999. In 2000, close to 14% of total Hungarian industrial output was accounted for by the vehicle manufacturing industry.

The growth in manufacturing output and productivity in the early 2000s has been supported by a considerable amount of foreign investment. Successive Hungarian governments have pursued privatization policies and policies to restructure industry, so that by 2002, 80% of the economy was privately owned. Hightech equipment (computers, telecommunication equipment, and household appliances) showed the strongest industrial growth in 2001. Industries targeted for growth in 2003 were the automotive industry, the general industrial and machine tool industry, and the information technology industry. Housing construction was another growth sector in 2002.

In 2004, the share of the industrial output in the GDP was 31.4%, while its representation in the labor force was 27.1%. Agriculture contributed 3.3% to the GDP, while occupying 6.2% of the labor force; services came in first with a 65.3% share in the economy, and a 66.7% representation in the labor force. The industrial production growth rate was 9.6% in 2004, and most of this growth occurred in industries like motor vehicles, chemicals (especially pharmaceuticals), textiles, processed foods, construction materials, metallurgy and mining.


In 2002, there were 486 technicians and 1,473 researchers per million people that were actively engaged in research and development (R&D). Total expenditures on R&D during that year amounted to $1.374 million, or 1.01% of GDP. Of that total, the government sector accounted for the majority of spending at 58.6%, followed by business at 29.7%, foreign investors at 10.4%, and higher education at 0.3%. Undistributed funds accounted for the remainder. Hightech exports in 2002 were valued at $7.364 billion and accounted for 25% of manufactured exports.

Among major scientific organizations are the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (founded in 1825), the Association for Dissemination of Sciences (founded in 1841), and the Federation of Technical and Scientific Societies (founded in 1948), with 32 agricultural, medical, scientific, and technical member societies. In 1996, Hungary had 45 research institutes concerned with agriculture and veterinary science, medicine, natural sciences, and technology. There are 25 universities and colleges offering courses in basic and applied science. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 32% of university enrollment. In 2002, science degrees (natural sciences, mathematics and computers, and engineering) accounted for 11.9% of all bachelor's degrees awarded.

In addition to the National Museum of Science and Technology, Budapest has museums devoted to transport, electrical engineering, agriculture, natural history, and foundries.


Budapest is the business and trade center of the country, though most production facilities lie elsewhere. Over the past few years, the retail and wholesale sector has grown along Western standards. Throughout most of the country, small, family-owned and operated retail establishments predominate. However, in Budapest supermarkets, department stores, and indoor shopping malls have grown rapidly.

The Polus Center, the first American-style shopping mall in Central Europe, opened on the outskirts of Budapest in November 1996. West End City Center, the largest mall complex in Central Europe, was opened in Budapest in 1999. As of 2002, there were about 400 franchise operations nationwide. Several foreign chains are present. Retail purchases are still primarily cash based, though some banks are beginning to issue credit cards. A 12% value-added tax (VAT) applies to food, books, hotel accommodations and utilities. A 25% VAT applies to most other good and services. Additional excise taxes (ranging from 1035%) apply to some products, such as gold, coffee, wine, and automobiles.

New regulations passed in January 1997 concerning trade in food products and the operation of retail outlets focus on the reduction of black market activity, consumer protection, and harmonization with EU law. Nevertheless, the underground economy remained at around 30% in 1999.

Business hours extend from 9 or 10 am to 4 or 5 pm for offices and general stores and to 3 or 4 pm for banks. Early closing (between noon and 1 pm) on Saturdays is widespread; Sunday closing is general. Food stores open between 6 and 8 am and close between 7 and 9 pm weekdays; a few remain open on Sundays.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 43,007.8 46,675.0 -3,667.2
Germany 14,572.2 11,672.2 2,900.0
Austria 3,475.3 2,981.3 494.0
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 2,484.7 3,362.9 -878.2
France-Monaco 2,467.9 2,285.4 182.5
United Kingdom 1,966.8 1,291.7 675.1
Netherlands 1,764.6 1,024.0 740.6
Sweden 1,396.7 558.7 838.0
United States 1,339.4 1,528.2 -188.8
Spain 1,173.6 918.6 255.0
Romania 1,100.0 598.2 501.8
() data not available or not significant.

Newspapers and general, trade, and technical magazines are used for advertising; there is also broadcast and outdoor advertising. A major industrial fair, held since 1906, takes place every spring and autumn in Budapest.


Hungary imports raw materials and semifinished products and exports finished products. Within that general framework, however, the structure, volume, and direction of Hungarian foreign trade have changed perceptibly in recent years. The total trade volume expanded from huf18.344 million (foreign exchange) in 1959 to huf2.657 billion in 1994. In 2000, exports were estimated at $28.1 billion (up from $12.9 billion in 1995), while imports were estimated to be $32.1 billion (up from $15.4 billion in 1995).

The majority of Hungary's export market is concentrated in the manufacturing industry, including electrical machinery, motor vehicle parts, polymers, petroleum refining, telecommunications equipment, and aluminum. Manufactured goods make up 82% of all exports. Other important exports include apparel (4.4%), polymers (2.2%), and meat (2.1%).

In 2004, Hungary's exports reached $54.6 billion (FOBFree on Board), while its imports (FOB) grew to $58.7 billion; the trade deficit was $4.1 billion. The most important export partners were Germany (where 31.4% of Hungary's exports went), Austria (6.8%), France (5.7%), Italy (5.6%), and the United Kingdom (5.1%). The bulk of exports were made up of machinery and equipment (61.1%), and other manufactures (28.7%); other export commodities included food products (6.5%), raw materials (2%), fuels and electricity (1.6%). Imports came mainly from Germany (29.2%), Austria (8.3%), Russia (5.7%), Italy (5.5%), the Netherlands (4.9%), China (4.8%), and France (4.7%). The main import commodities included machinery and equipment (51.6%), other manufactures (35.7%), fuels and electricity (7.7%), food products (3.1%), and raw materials (2.0%).


Having scrapped central planning, the Hungarian government is engaged in stabilizing the economy and taming inflation. In 1992, exports had grown by 7.4%, but recession in export markets, western European protectionism, an appreciating forint, bankruptcies of firms producing one-third of exports, and drought caused Hungarian trade to slow down. In 1994, Hungary had a current account deficit of $4 billion, but it shrank to $2.5 billion in 1995, and to a further $1 billion in 2001. Export markets were weak in 2003, and were not expected to rebound until mid-2004. Strong private consumption growth was sustaining the growth of the economy in 2003, but the current account deficit was forecast at 5.4% of GDP in 2003/04.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2002 the purchasing power parity of Hungary's exports was $31.4 billion while imports totaled $33.9 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $2.5 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001 Hungary had exports of goods totaling $28.1 billion and imports totaling $30.1 billion. The services credit totaled $7.71 billion and debit $5.55 billion.

By 2004, the exports of goods and services expanded to $65.3 billion, while imports reached $68.3 billion; this resulted in a

Current Account -7,364.0
   Balance on goods -3,365.0
     Imports -46,594.0
     Exports 43,229.0
   Balance on services -197.0
   Balance on income -4,455.0
   Current transfers 653.0
Capital Account -77.0
Financial Account 7,311.0
   Direct investment abroad -1,598.0
   Direct investment in Hungary 2,506.0
   Portfolio investment assets 35.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities 2,900.0
   Financial derivatives 36.0
   Other investment assets -2,606.0
   Other investment liabilities 6,309.0
Net Errors and Omissions 466.0
Reserves and Related Items -336.0
() data not available or not significant.

negative resource balance of $3 billion. Also, the current account deficit worsened, growing from -$7.2 billion in 2003, to -$8.8 billion in 2004. The reserves of foreign exchange and gold grew from $11.5 in 2003 to $14.8 in 2004, covering less than four months of imports. Hungary is a major recipient of aid from the EUfor 200406 it had $4.2 billion available in structural adjustment and cohesion funds. The external aid is dwarfed however by the external debt, which grew from $47.4 billion in 2003 to $61.3 billion in 2004.


Banking was nationalized in 1948, when the National Bank of Hungary was installed as the bank of issue, with a monopoly on credit and foreign exchange operations.

Following the 1987 reform of the banking system, the National Bank retained its central position as a bank of issue and its foreign exchange monopoly, but its credit functions were transferred to commercial banks. Three new commercial banks were established: the Hungarian Credit Bank, the Commercial and Credit Bank, and the Budapest Bank. Two other commercial banks, both founded in the 1950s, are the Hungarian Foreign Trade Bank and the General Banking and Trust Co. These six banks serve the financial needs of enterprises and government operations. The main bank for the general public is the National Savings Bank; in 1987 there were also 262 savings cooperatives. The Central Corporation of Banking Companies handles state property, performs international property transactions for individuals, and deals with the liquidation of bankrupt companies. The State Development Institution manages and controls development projects. In 1987 there were also three banks with foreign participation: the Central European International Bank (66% of shares held by six foreign companies), Citibank Budapest (80% owned by Citibank New York), and Unibank (45% owned by three foreign companies). In 1991 there were 10 government owned commercial banks, 16 joint-stock owned commercial banks, 5 government owned specialized financial institutions, one offshore bank, and 260 savings cooperatives. By 1997, Hungary had over 30 commercial banks, about 10 specialized financial institutions, and 260 savings cooperatives. By 1998, around 75% of all banks had been privatized and 70% of these shares had foreign owners. Upon joining the OECD in 1996, Hungary ceased its ban on the establishment of foreign branches, effective January 1998.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $9.7 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $24.3 billion. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 9.8%.

In Budapest, an authentic commodity and stock exchange functioned from 1867 until 1948, when it was closed down as the country transformed into a centralized socialist economy. The reorganization of the Hungarian securities market, after a pause of some 40 years, started at the beginning of the 1980s. The Exchange was founded eventually on 21 June 1990. The bull market on the Budapest Stock Exchange (BUX) continued during the final quarter of 1996. The BUX index closed 1996 at 4,125, up 170% compared with end-1995. The increase was the second strongest in the world, following the Venezuela market. By 7 February 1997, the BUX index had reached 5,657. By mid-2000, the index stood at over 8,800, but as of mid-2003, it had dropped to just over 8,000 amid the global recession. However, by the end of 2004, the BUX had recovered, rising 57.2% that year to close at 14,742.6. In 2004, a total of 47 companies were listed on the BUX, which had a market capitalization of $28.711 billion.


Before World War II, 49 private insurance companies25 domestic and 24 foreignconducted business activities in Hungary. All insurance was nationalized in 1949 and placed under the State Insurance Institute, a government monopoly. A new institution, Hungária Insurance Co., was founded in 1986. As of 1997, the regulatory authority was the Insurance Supervisor (allami Biztositasfeluegyelet). Compulsory insurance in Hungary includes third-party auto liability, workers' compensation, and liability for aircraft, watercraft, and several professions. In 2003, the value of direct premiums written totaled $2.454 billion, of which nonlife premiums made up the largest portion at $1.473 billion. Allianz Hungaria was the country's leading nonlife insurer, with gross written nonlife premiums of $621.8 million for 2003. ING was Hungary's top life insurer in 2003, with gross written life premiums totaling $280.1 million.


In recent years, the government has presented its budget bill to the National Assembly sometime during the first several months of the year, but the budget itself becomes effective on 1 January, when the fiscal year begins. It is prepared by the Ministry of Finance. Although Hungary had one of the most liberal economic regimes of the former Eastern bloc countries, its economy still suffered the growing pains of any country trying to come out of communism

Revenue and Grants 6,338.1 100.0%
   Tax revenue 3,656.6 57.7%
   Social contributions 2,159.1 23.4
   Grants 34.1% 0.4%
   Other revenue 499 7.9%
Expenditures 7,781.6 100.0%
   General public services 2,188 28.1%
   Defense 231.5 3.0%
   Public order and safety 333 4.3%
   Economic affairs 1,599.3 20.6%
   Environmental protection 40.4 0.5%
   Housing and community amenities 33.8 0.4%
   Health 453.3 5.8%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 141 1.8%
   Education 407.4 5.2%
   Social protection 2,353.8 30.2%
() data not available or not significant.

and privatize its industries. The last few years, however, Hungary has enjoyed a remarkable expansion, averaging annual GDP growth of 4.5% between 1996 and 2002. Inflation in that period dropped from 28% to 7%, and unemployment fell to 6%, less than most EU countries. Eighty percent of GDP is now produced by privately owned companies. Still, Hungary's foreign debts remain large, putting a damper on the economy's otherwise spectacular performance.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Hungary's central government took in revenues of approximately $51.4 billion and had expenditures of $58.3 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$6.9 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 60.9% of GDP. Total external debt was $76.23 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2002, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were Ft6,338.1 billion and expenditures were Ft7,781.6 billion. The value of revenues was us$25 million and expenditures us$30 million, based on an exchange rate for 2002 of us$1 = Ft257.887 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 28.1%; defense, 3.0%; public order and safety, 4.3%; economic affairs, 20.6%; environmental protection, 0.5%; housing and community amenities, 0.4%; health, 5.8%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.8%; education, 5.2%; and social protection, 30.2%.


As of 2006, Hungary's corporate tax rate is 16%. Capital gains are also taxed at the 16% rate. However, only 50% of capital gains generated from stock transactions are subject to the tax. Capital gains from the sale of business assets are treated as business income. The withholding tax on dividends paid to foreign companies is 20% unless recipients reinvest them in Hungarian companies. Dividends paid to individuals are subject to a 25% withholding tax, and dividends that are in excess of 30% of the return on equity are subject to a 35% rate. However, most tax treaties with Hungary reduce the withholding tax to between 5% and 15%.

The progressive personal income tax schedule in Hungary has a top rate of 38%. Individuals receiving capital gains on immovable property or the sale of securities are subject to a 25% tax. Individuals also can take allowances against the taxes they owe in the form of tax deductions or tax credits. The main deduction from taxable income is 20% of annual income up to a certain maximum. The disabled are given an extra deduction. There are also partial deductions allowed for school fees, interest paid for the purchase of a house, and for donations to charity. Inheritance and gift taxes range from 1115%. There is a 26% tax on the transfer of housing, and a 10% tax on the transfer of large estates. Local authorities may levy individual income and corporate taxes.

The major indirect tax in Hungary is the value-added tax (VAT). The normal VAT rate is 25%, with a reduced rate of 15% for items of social value, food and other staple items. A 5% VAT applies to certain medical materials and supplies, and to textbooks. Housing leases, health and education services, and financial services are exempt from the VAT. Other taxes include a stamp tax and a consumption tax imposed on cars, jewelry, gasoline, alcohol, cigarettes, and cosmetics at rates between 10% and 200%.


Under Hungary's liberalized import policies, 93% of all imports do not require licenses. Under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, import licenses on certain products from WTO states are no longer required. Under the same regulations, duties for countries with most-favored-nation status stood at around 8% in 2002, but could be over 100% for selected commodities.


Even before the repudiation of communism, Hungary sought to enter joint ventures with Western countries. By the end of 1996, Hungary had attracted $15 billion in foreign direct investment. Since 1989, Hungary has attracted nearly one-third of all foreign direct investment in Central Europe and Eastern Europe. In 199596, the government adopted a stringent economic reform program of liberalization and privatization, and by 2002, the private sector, which had been 20% of the economy in 1989, was about 80%. Hungary has five free trade zones in which corporations are treated as foreign and are exempt from custom duties and taxes.

In the period 1988 to 1990, Hungary's share of world FDI inward flows was five and a half times its share in world GDP, the sixth-largest ratio in the world. Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into Hungary reached a peak in 1995 at about $4.5 billion, from which point they declined steadily until 2001, when there was an upswing to $2.4 billion from $1.6 billion in 2000. In 2002, FDI inflow fell to less than $1.5 billion. The average FDI in-flow from 1998 to 2001 was about $2 billion a year. For the period 1998 to 2000, Hungary's share of FDI inflows was about equal to its share of world GDP. Total FDI stock, from 1989 to 2002, is estimated at about $34 billion.

The largest single source of foreign investment has been the United States, followed by Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, the United Kingdom, and France.

Of foreign capital invested in Hungary through 2000, 50% has been in manufacturing, 15% in telecommunications, 13% in energy, 6% in banking and finance, and 10% in other areas. FDI out-flows from Hungary have averaged about $400,000 per year and as of 2001, foreign stock held by Hungarians totaled $2.2 billion.

The flow of foreign investment reached peak levels in 2003 and 2004, with 2.3 billion and 2.5 billion respectively. The Hungarian Ministry of Economics and Transportation estimated that by 2004 the total stock of FDI exceeded 42 billion, with the United States and Germany taking the lion's share of this total. The same agency expects the flow of FDI to grow to 33.5 billion in 2005. Most of the investments went to manufacturing (46%); real estate (12%); trade and repair (11%); finance (10%); transport, telecommunications, storage and post (10%); and the energy sector (5%). By 2003, the biggest investors in Hungary were: Deutsche Telekom A.G., Germany (with cumulative investments exceeding $1.7 billion); Audi A.G., Germany ($1.4 billion); General Electric, US ($1.1 billion); Telenor ASA, Norway ($1 billion); and, Vodafone, Netherlands ($850 million).


During the first 20 years after World War II, Hungary had the following economic plans: the three-year plan (194749) for economic reconstruction; the first five-year plan (195054) which aimed at rapid and forced industrialization and which was slightly modified in 1951 and by the "new course" policy of 1953; the one-year plan of 1955; the second five-year plan (195660), designed to further industrialization but discarded as a result of the October 1956 uprising; the three-year plan (195860), which also emphasized industrialization, although it allocated greater investment for housing and certain consumer goods; and the new second five-year plan (196165), which provided for a 50% increase in industrial production. These were followed by the third five-year plan (196670); the fourth five-year plan (197175), with greater emphasis on modernization of industrial plants producing for export and housing construction; the fifth five-year plan (197680), which called for amelioration of the gap in living standards between the peasantry and the working class; the sixth five-year plan (198185), emphasizing investment in export industries and energy conservation and seeking to curb domestic demand; and the seventh five-year plan (198690), which projected growth of 1517% in NMP, 1316% in industrial production, and 1214% in agriculture.

Far-reaching economic reforms, called the New Economic Mechanism (NEM), were introduced on 1 January 1968. In order to create a competitive consumers' market, some prices were no longer fixed administratively, but were to be determined by market forces. Central planning was restricted to essential materials, and managers of state enterprises were expected to plan and carry out all the tasks necessary to ensure profitable production. In the early years of the NEM, the growth rate of industrial output surpassed target figures; national income rose substantially, surpassing any previous planning periods; and productivity increased significantly in all sectors of the national economy. However, following the huge oil price increases of 197374, the government returned to more interventionist policies in an attempt to protect Hungary's economy from external forces. Beginning in 1979, the government introduced a program of price reform, aimed at aligning domestic with world prices; changes in wage setting, intended to encourage productivity; and decentralization of industry, including the breakup of certain large enterprises and the creation of small-scale private ones, especially in services. New measures introduced in 1985 and 1986 included the lifting of government subsidies for retail prices (which led to sharp price increases) and the imposition of management reform, including the election of managers in 80% of all enterprises. The 199195 economic program aimed to fully integrate Hungary into the world economy on a competitive basis. The program's main features were to accelerate privatization, control inflation, and institute measures to prepare the way for the convertibility of the forint.

Reforms slowed in 1993 and 1994, and the privatization of state firms stopped. However, privatization accelerated in 1995 as the result of new laws passed in May of that year, which made the process simpler and allowed for the rapid privatization of small firms. Some large utilities were privatized in 1995; the first wave of the electricity and gas company privatization totaled $3.2 billion, primarily from German, Italian, and French interests. Budapest Bank, one of the country's largest banks, was sold to GE Capital Services. Hungary is now one of the few countries in Eastern Europe to have privatized major portions of its telecommunications and energy sectors. In 1995, the government received $4.5 billion in privatization proceeds. From the mid-1990s, a massive amount of foreign investment flowed into the country. (It stood at just under $23.5 billion by the end of 2001, which was equivalent to about 46% of GDP.)

In 1994, the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD distributed $68.3 million in aid to Hungary. Net concession flows from multilateral institutions that year amounted to $132 million. With the adoption of an International Monetary Fund (IMF)-backed stabilization program in 1995, Hungary exhibited consistent GDP annual growth of 4% in the late 1990s. Moreover, Hungary has repaid its entire debt to the IMF, and was formally invited to join the EU in 2002, and finally accepted in 2004, together with nine other countries.

The private sector now produces 80% of GDP. The economy was suffering from the effects of currency appreciation in 2003, and from rises in wages in 200102. Hungary's markets in 2003 were weak, given the dismal state of the global economy. (Exports in 2001 reached the equivalent of some 60% of GDP, up from 30.6% in 1991.) The current account deficit reached 5.9% of GDP for in 2004.

The Hungarian economy improved as it joined the EU, but the rate of improvement was deemed unsatisfactory. The GDP growth rate was 4% in 2004, but IMF specialists consider that the economy needs to grow by 55.25% annually if Hungary is to catch up with Western Europe in the timeline that it set for itself. The Hungarian policy makers are trying to attract additional investments in the country as a way of fostering additional growth. This task is made difficult however by increasing competition from neighboring countries, and the need to implement a leaner and more flexible tax system.


A national social insurance system was relatively well advanced before World War II for the nonagricultural population. A 1972 decree of the Council of Ministers extended this system to cover virtually the entire population, including craftsmen; by 1974, 99% of the population enjoyed the benefits of social insurance. Coverage includes relief for sickness, accidents, unemployment, and old age and incapacity, and provides maternity allowances for working women, allowances for children, and payment of funeral expenses. Men can collect old age pensions at the age of 62 after 20 years of employment. As of 2005, women collect at age 60, and will meet the same standards as men by 2009. The social insurance system also provides for disability and survivorship benefits. Medical care is provided directly to the insured through the public health service.

Women have the same legal rights as men, including inheritance and property rights. They hold a large number of the positions in teaching, medicine, and the judiciary, but generally earn less than men. Women are underrepresented in senior positions in both the private and public sectors. Sexual harassment in the workplace is commonplace, and it is not prohibited by law. Spousal abuse is a huge problem; approximately 20% of women were victimized in 2004. Sexual abuse, rape, and domestic violence are underreported due to cultural prejudice.

Minority rights are protected by law, allowing for the creation of minority local government bodies for limited self-rule. The law also preserves ethnic language rights and encourages minorities to preserve their cultural traditions. Despite these efforts, the Roma minority continues to face discrimination and prejudice. There were also reports of excessive police force in certain cases, as well as pretrial detention.


The Ministry of Health administers the state health service, with the counties and districts forming hospital regions. By the end of 1974, 99% of the population was covered by social insurance and enjoyed free medical services; those few not insured pay for medical and hospital care. Limited private medical practice is permitted. In 1992, the Ministry of Welfare proposed a compulsory health care scheme based on the German system, to be administered by the National Health Security Directorate. After the termination of socialism in 1989, the Hungarian health system was largely unchanged. About 5% of clinics were privatized and health care was available to nearly all of Hungary's people. Health expenditures comprised an estimated 6.8% of the gross domestic product.

As of 2004, there were an estimated 316 physicians, 852 nurses, and 46 dentists per 100,000 people. Hungary's birthrate was estimated at 9 per 1,000 people. Contraceptives were used by an estimated 73% of married women. Average life expectancy was 72.40 years in 2005. Free professional assistance given to insured pregnant women and to the mothers of newborn children, maternity leave and grants, and improved hygienic conditions helped lower the infant mortality rate to 8.57 per 1,000 live births in 2005. As of 2000, the total fertility rate was 1.3 per woman during her child-bearing years.

The country faces severe problems in maintaining an acceptable level of health care for its population. The UN considers its death rate unacceptable (13 per 1,000 in 1999). The heart disease occurrence is below the average for wealthier countries. The likelihood of death after age 65 from heart disease was 283 (male) and 283 (female) per 1,000 people during 19901993. The number of cardiovascular deaths in 1994 was 74,182 people. Arteriosclerosis is a major cause of death (100 per 100,000 people). Contributing factors include the incidence of cardiovascular disease, which is directly related to stress through pressures of work, together with smoking and dietary factors. Hungary has one of the highest smoking rates in Europe. In 1990, there were 40 reported cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people. Virtually all children up to one year old were vaccinated against tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, polio and measles.

Compulsory testing for HIV has been widespread since 1988 in Hungary's attempt to stop the spread of AIDS. Hungary has resisted pressure from international agencies to switch from compulsory to voluntary testing. The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 2,800 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


The construction rate for new dwellings has been greater in smaller cities and towns than in Budapest, where as of 1980, 17.3% of all housing units were built before 1900 and 56.3% before 1945. About 20,320 new dwellings were completed in 2000; about 31,511 dwellings were completed or under construction in 2001. According to national statistics, in 2005 there were about 4,127,743 dwelling units nationwide. About 84% were owner occupied. Only about 130,208 units were owned by municipal governments. Most homes have an average of four rooms. It has been estimated that about 1.2 million people are affected by overcrowding.

Low-income residents and other private builders generally rely on the labor of family and friends, buying the essential materials little by little; they may apply for loans if necessary to complete the dwelling.


Before education was nationalized in 1948, most schools were operated by religious bodies, especially the Roman Catholic Church. The educational system is under the control of the Ministry of Education and is supervised by the local councils, which receive financial assistance from the central government. As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.5% of GDP, or 14.1% of total government expenditures.

Education is free for 12 years of study and compulsory for 10 years. The state also pays the bulk of costs for higher education. Primary school covers eight years of study. Secondary schools are divided into academic schools (gimnázium ) and vocational schools (szakközépiskola ). Programs at academic schools run from four to six years. Vocational school programs generally cover four years of study. In addition to its regular primary education, Hungary has over 100 primary schools with special music programs based on the pedagogy of the 20th-century composer Zoltan Kodály; at these "music primary schools," music receives as much emphasis as all other subjects. The academic year runs from September to June.

In 2001, about 80% of children between the ages of three and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 91% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 94% of age-eligible students. Most students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 9.6:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 11:1.

Hungary has about 77 institutions of higher education, including 25 universities and 47 colleges. Adult education expanded after World War II, especially through workers' schools and correspondence courses. Although there are university fees, many students are exempt from payment or pay reduced fees. In 2003, about 51% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99%.


Hungary's National Archives were established in 1756; among its treasures are some 100,000 items from the period prior to the Turkish occupation (1526). Hungary's National Széchényi Library is the largest and most significant in the country. Founded in Budapest in 1802, it has more than 2.5 million books and periodicals and more than 4.5 million manuscripts, maps, prints, and micro-films. Other important libraries are the Lóránd Eötvös University Library (1.5 million volumes) and the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (2.1 million volumes), both in Budapest; and the Central Library of the Lajos Kossuth University in Debrecen (1.27 million volumes). There are numerous local and regional public libraries.

There were over 500 museums (about 70 in Budapest) and many zoological and botanical gardens. One of the largest institutions is the Hungarian National Museum, which displays relics of prehistoric times as well as artifacts reflecting the history of Hungary from the Magyar conquest through 1849, including the Hungarian coronation regalia. A branch of the National Museum is the Hungarian Natural History Museum. Other museums, all in Budapest, include the Ethnographical Museum, the Museum of History, the Hungarian National Gallery, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Many castles and monasteries throughout the country have been converted to museums. There is also a Bela Bartok Museum, a Chinese Museum, a House of Terror museum (2002), and a Franz Lizst Memorial Museum and Research Center, all in Budapest.


Budapest is the principal communications center. Although tele-communication services in Hungary were long underdeveloped, services improved significantly during the 1990s, and investment in value-added services, such as the Internet and VSAT, grew. In 2003, there were an estimated 349 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 28,000 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 769 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

In 2004, there were two state-owned public service television stations and two national commercial television stations. The same year, there were one public service radio and two national commercial radio stations. There are some smaller regional stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 690 radios and 475 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 190.7 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 108.4 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 232 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 210 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

Budapest has always been Hungary's publishing center. The largest dailies (with affiliations and 2002 circulation rates as available) are Népszabadság (Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, 316,000), Népszava (Hungarian Trade Unions, 120,000), Mai Nap (100,000), Kurir (80,000), Magyar Hírlap (Budapest Party Committee and Metropolitan Council, 75,000), Expressz (75,000), and Magyar Nemzet (Patriotic People's Front, 70,000).

The constitution of Hungary provides for free speech and a free press, and the government is said generally to respect these rights. Although previously all means of communication had been government property, 1995 saw the beginning of the privatization process, with aims to put most print and broadcast media in private hands.


There is a Chamber of Commerce in Budapest. The International Labour Organization has a subregional office in Budapest. Hungary is a member of the International Chamber of Commerce. Trade and professional associations exist representing a variety of occupations, including the steel and automotive workers, journalists, teachers, librarians, engineers, architects, and various medical professionals. There is a Confederation of Professional Unions based in Budapest.

Organizations promoting research and study of various medical and scientific fields also exist. Some of these are member organizations of the Federation of Hungarian Medical Societies and/or the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. A cultural organization particular to Hungary is the International Kodaly Society; named for the music composer, scholar, and teacher, this organization promotes appreciate and study of music, particularly for youth. The multi-national scientific organization of the International Measurement Confederation is based in Budapest.

Notable national youth organizations include the Federation of Young Democrats of Hungary, the Goncol Environmental Youth Alliance, the National Union of Hungarian Students, and Young Musicians of Hungary. The Hungarian Scout Association is also active, as are various chapters of the YMCA/YWCA. There are several sports associations promoting amateur competition in such pastimes as tennis, badminton, skating, and baseball. There is a national chapter of the Paralympic Committee. National women's organizations include the Association of Hungarian Women and the National Council of Hungarian Women.

Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and International, are also present. The Red Cross, Caritas, and Amnesty International have active chapters in the country.


Among Hungary's diverse tourist attractions are Turkish and Roman ruins, medieval towns and castles, more than 500 thermal springs (some with resort facilities), and Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater lake in Europe. Budapest is a major tourist attraction and cultural capital, with 2 opera houses, over 200 monuments and museums, and several annual arts festivals.

Popular sports include handball, football (soccer), tennis, and volleyball. The Budapest Grand Prix, the only Formula-1 motor race in Eastern Europe, was inaugurated in August 1986. A valid passport is required of all foreign visitors. Citizens of the United States and Canada are not required to have a visa for stays of up to 90 days.

Hungary had 31,412,483 visitors in 2003, about 48% of whom came from Central and Eastern Europe. There were 64,091 hotel rooms with 158,634 beds and an occupancy rate of 38%. The average length of stay was three nights. Tourist expenditure receipts totaled $3.4 billion.

In 2004, the US Department of State estimated the daily expenses for staying in Budapest at $218. Other areas were much lower at $93 per day.


The foundations for modern Hungarian literature begin with the movement known as the Period of Linguistic Reform, whose leaders were the versatile writer Ferenc Kazinczy (17591831) and Ferencz Kölcsey (17901838), lyric poet and literary critic. Among the outstanding literary figures was Dániel Berzsenyi (17721836) of the Latin School. Károly Kisfaludy (17881830) founded the Hungarian national drama. Mihaly Vörösmarty (180055), a fine poet, related the Magyar victories under Árpád in his Flight of Zalán. He was followed by Hungary's greatest lyric poet, Sándor Petöfi (182349), a national hero who stirred the Magyars in their struggle against the Habsburgs in 1848 with his Arise Hungarians. Another revolutionary hero was Lajos Kossuth (180294), orator and political author. János Arany (181782), epic poet and translator, influenced future generations, as did Mór Jókai (18251904), Hungary's greatest novelist. The outstanding dramatist Imre Madách (182364) is known for his Tragedy of Man. Endre Ady (18771919) was a harbinger of modern poetry and Western ideas; Attila József (19051937) is another well-known poet. Lyric poets of the contemporary era include László Nagy (192578), János Pilinszky (192181), and Ferenc Juhász (b.1928). Gyula Illyés (190283), a poet, novelist, and dramatist, was one of the outstanding figures of 20th-century Hungarian literature. Ferenc Molnár (18781952) is known for his plays Liliom, The Swan, and The Guardsman. György Lukács (18851971) was an outstanding Marxist writer and literary critic. Hungarian-born Arthur Koestler (190583), a former radical, was a well-known anti-Communist novelist and writer. Imre Kertész (b.1929) is a Jewish-Hungarian author, Holocaust concentration camp survivor, and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 2002.

János Fadrusz (18581903) and József Somogyi (191693) are among Hungary's best-known sculptors. The outstanding Hungarian painter Mihály Munkácsy (18441900) is best known for his Christ before Pilate. Victor Vasarely (190897), a world-famous painter of "op art," was born in Budapest and settled in France in 1930. Miklós Ybl (181491) was a leading architect; and Gyula Halasz (18991984), better known as Brassai, was a well-known photographer. The Hungarian-born Joseph Pulitzer (18471911) was a noted journalist and publisher in the United States. Hungarian musicians include the composers Franz (Ferenc) Liszt (181186), Ernst (Ernö) von Dohnányi (18771960), Béla Bartók (18811945), Zoltán Kodály (18821967), and György Ligeti (b.1923); violinists Jeno Hubay (18581937) and Joseph Szigeti (18921973); cellist János Starker (b.1924); and pianists Lili Kraus (190386) and Erwin Nyiregyhazi (190387). Renowned Hungarian-born conductors who became famous abroad include Fritz Reiner (18881963), George Széll (18971970), Eugene Ormándy (18991985), Antal Doráti (190688), and Ferenc Fricsay (191463). Miklós Jancsó (b.1921) is a distinguished film director, and Vilmos Zsigmond (b.1930) a noted cinematographer; Béla Lugosi (Blasko, 18821956) and Peter Lorre (Laszlo Loewenstein, 190464) were famous actors.

Notable scientists include Lóránd Eötvös (18481919), inventor of torsion balance; Ányos Jedlik (180095), known for his research on dynamos; and the psychoanalyst Sándor Ferenczi (18731933). Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (181865) pioneered in the use of antiseptic methods in obstetrics. Béla Schick (18771967) invented the skin test to determine susceptibility to diphtheria.

Hungarian-born Nobel Prize winners are Róbert Bárány (18761936) in 1914, Albert Szent-Györgyi (18931986) in 1937, and Georg von Békésy (18991972) in 1961 in physiology or medicine, Georg de Hevesy (18851966) in 1944 in chemistry, and Dénés Gábor (190079) in 1971 for physics. Budapest-born scientists who contributed to atomic research in the United States were Leó Szilárd (18981964), Eugene Paul Wigner (190295), John von Neumann (190357), and Edward Teller (19082003). Theodore van Karman (Todor Kármán, 18811963) is the father of aerodynamics. Paul Erdős (19131996) was an important mathematician, as was John von Neumann (Neumann János, 19031957). Eugene Paul Wigner (19021995), physicist and mathematician, received the 1963 Nobel Prize in physics. George Andrew Olah (b.1927 as György Oláh), a Hungarian-American chemist, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1994.

Imre Nagy (1895?1958) served as prime minister from 1953 to 1955, but was removed from office because of his criticism of Soviet policy; the uprising of October 1956 briefly brought Nagy back to the premiership. Arrested after the Soviet military intervention, Nagy was tried and executed in 1958. János Kádár (191289), first secretary of the HSWP since 1956, initially aligned himself with Nagy but subsequently headed the government established after Soviet troops rolled in. Kádár, who held the premiership from late 1956 to 1958 and again from 1961 to 1965, was the preeminent political leader in Hungary until his removal in May 1988. Gyula Horn (b.1932), a former communist, was named prime minister in 1994. He served in that post until 1998, when he was succeeded by Viktor Orbán (b.1963), who was prime minister between 1998 and 2002. Péter Medgyessy (b.1942) served as prime minister from 2002 until 2004, not completing his term. Ferenc Gyurcsány (b.1961) succeeded him.

George Soros (b.1930), philanthropist, was born in Budapest.


Hungary has no territories or colonies.


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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Republic of Hungary
Region: Europe
Population: 10,138,844
Language(s): Hungarian
Literacy Rate: 99%
Number of Primary Schools: 3,596
Compulsory Schooling: 10 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 4.6%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 6,399
Libraries: 3,518
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 508,003
  Secondary: 1,128,911
  Higher: 170,147
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 103%
  Secondary: 98%
  Higher: 24%
Teachers: Primary: 44,585
  Secondary: 109,902
  Higher: 19,103
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 11:1
  Secondary: 10:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 102%
  Secondary: 99%
  Higher: 26%

History & Background

The Republic of Hungary is one of the oldest nations in Europe, tracing its roots to the invasion of the vast Hungarian plain from the east by King Árpád the First around A.D. 1000. This cultural group, the Magyars, was the forerunner of today's ethnic Hungarian population that constitutes more than 90 percent of the current population. In addition to a long settlement history, Hungary also boasts a long history of formal education. The University of Pécs was established in 1367 to study law and medicine, and a number of other universities were established as early as the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In 1777 the first university was established in the capital Budapest. The blossoming of the Austro-Hungarian Empire between 1848 and 1920 saw significant achievements in the educational, scientific, and cultural life of the nation. This period also saw significant exchanges with other European universities that contributed to the vitality of the Hungarian educational system. The end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the significant reduction in the territorial area of Hungary in 1920, as a result of the conditions of the Treaty of Trianon, created a large diaspora of ethnic Hungarians outside the present boundaries of Hungary. The welfare of these people, particularly in the preservation of their Hungarian identity, has been an issue since 1920. Education has played a significant role in preserving this identity; for example, the demand by the Hungarian government for the creation of Hungarian language universities in present day Romania has been a feature of inter-ethnic and international relations.

Language is the single most unifying feature of Hungarian identity. Hungarian is a language of the Finno-Ugrian group of Uralic languages. It is therefore a non Indo-European tongue with its nearest linguistic relatives being Finnish and Estonian. As a result speech, writing, and comprehension are more difficult for Indo-European speakers. Thus the Hungarian education system is marked not only by an emphasis on studying the mother tongue but also on preparing students to communicate in the Indo-European tongues, particularly English and German, of the nations that surround them. Religion is also important in Hungary, and the Catholic Church in particular plays a large role in the educational system. More than two-thirds of the population are Roman Catholic, 20 percent are Calvinists, and 5 percent are Lutheran. A major exception to the Hungarian linguistic and religious majority is the presence of 500,000-700,000 Roma, often called "Gypsies," representing approximately 5 percent of the population. The educational system and achievements of this cultural group represent a major exception to the overall excellent standard of education in Hungary.

The other significant development in the Hungarian educational system has been the effects of demographic trends. Demographically, Hungary is one of the few nations in the world experiencing a negative natural increase. In other words, the death rate is higher than the birth rate. This pattern has been present for more than 20 years and as such has important repercussions for school enrollment and ultimately the future labor force.

All of these cultural and historical trends must be seen in the light of political change in Hungary in the twentieth century from a European system between 1920 and 1948 to a socialist system between 1948 and 1990. From 1990 to the present, the restructuring of the system to reflect a more democratic system of government and privatization of property and the demands of a market economy occurred.

For many years the Hungarian system of education was seen as one of the finest in the world. Indeed at one point Hungary had produced more Nobel Prize winners per capita than any other nation. It particularly excelled in science, where such important figures as Dr. Leó Szilárd and Dr. Edward Teller, atomic scientists on the Manhattan project, and Van Kaman, the helicopter pioneer, were all Hungarian born and trained. Perhaps more recognizable are Ernö Rubik, the Hungarian mathematician who invented the Rubik's cube, and József Bíró, who invented the Biro disposable pen. Finally, Andy Grove, the CEO of Intel Corporation and the 1998 Time magazine Man of the Year was born in Budapest. Today the challenge presented by the need to restructure the Hungarian educational system puts this legacy of educational excellence at serious risk.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Constitutional Provisions & Laws Affecting Education: An understanding of the laws and regulations that currently guide Hungarian education requires an understanding of the changes wrought by the imposition of the socialist system in 1948. The socialist government in the years following 1948 placed a great emphasis on education and significantly increased the number of schools, colleges, scientific institutes, and universities. They also made all the institutes of higher education separate and distinct from other institutions within the higher education community. Thus, for example, medical schools were separate institutions from law schools, which in turn were separate from technical schools, schools of veterinary medicine, teacher training colleges, art colleges, and physical education colleges. Yet all of these could be located in the same city and often on the same campus. At the highest level of the system were the Academies of Sciences that functioned as supreme educational, yet predominantly research institutes.

Reform of this system commenced in 1993 with the Law on Higher Education (Act LXXX). All education was placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education (previously education had been the responsibility of five ministries). Two advisory bodies were formed to guide, and in some cases control, institutions and their curricula. These bodies were the Hungarian Accreditation Committee (HAC) and the Higher Education and Scientific Council (HESC). The law also established budgeting procedures for student support, facility support, program development, and research.

In 1996 the Law on Higher Education was amended to integrate postsecondary vocational institutions into an overall system of higher education. In addition the law proscribed what constituted a higher education degree namely:

  • A 3- or 4-year degree (equivalent to an undergraduate degree)
  • A 3-year doctoral program (The Ph.D.)
  • A further 2-year program for a specialized postgraduate degree

This amendment also initiated the integration of the universities. The goal was to reduce the number of state institutions of higher education from 55 to 30 (17 universities and 13 state colleges). However many of the existing colleges refused to forgo their autonomy, and the process of integration was slow and resented.

Further amendments were made in 1999 (Act LII) to expedite this consolidation, and further proposals to amend the Act in 2000 were produced that would affect quality assurance, admissions to higher education, distance learning, the credit system, and regional cohesion.

Educational Philosophies: Since 1990, the Hungarian educational philosophy has been concerned with access, equality of opportunity, quality (or, given the standard of excellence prior to 1990, maintenance of quality), and applicability to the needs of the twenty-first century workforce and in particular to its integration into the European Union philosophy of educational development. The Ministry of Education in 2000 enunciated the following goals:

  • To provide the opportunity of having access to educational institutions of guaranteed quality to every child and youth
  • To make the standard and efficiency of the educational work visible to all partners and interested parties
  • To improve the quality of the professional work of maintainers of schools and kindergartens
  • To enhance the flexibility of the structure of training and its orientation towards the labor market in secondary vocational education

The educational policy of the Ministry of Education is based on three pillars, namely: strengthening the role of the state in the field of financing (increasing the ratio of state funding to local funding), supplementing the regulation of content by framework curricula, and developing the national system of assessment and quality control. As part of the latter, the COMENIUS 2000 Program for Quality Improvement in Public Education was launched in 2000.

Educational SystemOverview

Compulsory Education & Age Limits: Education in Hungary is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. The child may have had the benefit of a kindergarten (óvoda ) experience prior to school entry but formally begins school (általános iskola ) at 6 and remains in that school until 14. At 14 the child will attend a secondary school, either a grammar school devoted primarily to academic studies (gimnázium ) or a vocational school (szakközépiskola ). While the pupil is permitted to leave school at 16, most continue to 18 years of age. Further study in institutes of higher education is by competitive entry and less than one fifth of all students go on to colleges and universities.

Academic Year: The school academic year runs from September to mid-June while institutes of higher education are finished by the end of May. Schools generally use two semesters, but religious holidays (Christmas and Easter) are times of extended school breaks.

Enrollment: In 1996 enrollment in primary schools was 97 percent of the relevant age group and enrollment in compulsory secondary school was 87 percent. Enrollment for males (98 percent) was similar to females (97 percent) in primary schools but female enrollment was higher in secondary schools (87 percent) than males (85 percent). Overall school enrollment has risen since 1990, probably as a result of a dedicated effort on the part of the government and population to adjust to economic change.

Females & Minority Enrollments: Unlike many nations, Hungary has full equality in education as a legacy of the Socialist system. As a result school enrollment is around 98 percent for the nation. The most significant obstacle to full enrollment is enrollment of Roma children into the school system.

Language of Instruction: In the primary and secondary schools of Hungary, Hungarian is the predominant language of instruction. However, in areas of significant ethnic minorities (Croats, Serbs, and Roma), bilingual education is present. This is particularly so in southern Hungary (areas of Croat and Serbian ethnicity) and in the northeast region (an area of Roma concentration). Language training in English and/or German (sometimes Italian) commences around the age of ten, but, in schools specializing in languages, it can be as early as the third grade or age eight. Language training continues through the four years of secondary school. In institutes of higher education, classes are often taught in German or English to improve student familiarity with these languages and also to attract foreign students to study in Hungarian institutions.

Examinations: Students at the primary and secondary levels are examined at the end of the year with the summer examination acting as the judge of whether the student advances to the next grade. Examinations at the end of secondary school are set by the state and partly used as university entrance examinations, in conjunction with examinations set by the individual university for the faculty in which the aspiring student wishes to enter. Examinations in universities and colleges are at year's end and can be both written and oral.

Grading System: When graded at primary and secondary school, the grading is on a one (failure) to five (excellent) system.

Private Schools: Private schooling is not a major part of the Hungarian educational system. This is because the state has consistently reaffirmed its commitment to full funding (albeit an increasingly diminishing amount). In 1996 only 2 percent of all preprimary students were in private schools, 3 percent of primary school children were in school, and 5 percent of secondary students were in school.

Religious Schools: During the period of Socialist government, the church as a vehicle in the education system was totally repressed. With the coming of democracy, the church sought to recover its role in the system, culminating in Law LXX of July 1999 that established the role of the Catholic Church in the financing of the public and religious activities of the schools. In 1999 the church ran 74 kindergartens, 177 primary schools, 7 schools for special education, 15 vocational schools, and 79 general secondary schools. At the tertiary level in 2000, there were 26 institutions of higher education sponsored by the church, mostly theological colleges but some universities. One example is Pázmány Péter Catholic University, which was established in 1993 following the change of government. Other religions were less impactful. The Károlyi Gáspár University of the Hungarian Reform church was formed in 1993 though.

It should also be noted that there are six "foundation" colleges in Hungary specializing in such subjects as education for the handicapped, business, and entrepreneurial activity. They receive their funding from tuition fees and educational foundation grants and attempt to provide educational services to defined market niches.

Instructional Technology (Computers): There is a growing availability of computers in the schools of Hungary, usually for administrators and within the library. Most students commence computer training at the age of 11 or 12, but voluntary instruction at an even earlier age is not unknown. Most of the institutions of higher education have computer labs but state institutions, particularly in the outlying cities, have a serious lack of computers for instructional technology. Access to the Internet is thus restricted.

TextbooksPublication & Adoption: The state of school libraries is generally considered poor notwithstanding their heavy use in the curriculum. Budget difficulties in education have meant that new textbooks have not been produced or purchased, and hence the concern is not necessarily content but quantity and the physical condition of the existing inventory. Most socialist texts have disappeared though this was never a major feature of Hungarian libraries. In the area of tertiary education the situation seems a little better. As the institutions merge their holdings and expand, new libraries are being built to cater to the larger institutions. The World Bank has been a major supporter in the revitalization of libraries at the tertiary level.

Audiovisuals: There is a serious deficiency in the provision of audio-visual services in the classrooms at all levels. In large part this is a legacy of the socialist pedagogical method of instruction by means of lecture. Budget restrictions since the collapse of the Socialist system has made the provision of audio-visual as a modern teaching aid even more problematic. Audio-visual aids are limited to overhead projectors and slide projectors.

CurriculumDevelopment: The state is responsible for the development of the schools' curriculum and, in the case of Hungary, has been very active in the attempted transformation to a more western or global perspective. Teachers have some freedom to decide on their course content based usually on local and regional topics, opportunities, and issues.

Foreign Influences on Educational System: With the granting of associate membership in the European Union (EU) in 1994, the full application to join in 1997, and the joining of Hungary to NATO in 1999, European influences on Hungarian education have become more apparent. In particular Hungary was required to fulfill a number of requirements in order to conform to EU standards, which involved significant foreign involvement. Specific EU influences include Hungarian participation in the Socrates (K1-12 student exchanges), Erasmus (youths and student exchanges in higher education), and Leonardo da Vinci (development of vocational education) projects. Hungary is a partner in the EU European Voluntary service initiative established in 2000 and is also part of the "Fifth framework program" in which research and technological development are coordinated with the EU through the Ministry of Education. Finally, by becoming part of NATO, Hungary could take part in the NATO Science Fellowships Program that links Hungarian research in higher education to scientific institutes within all NATO countries.

Role of Education in Development: Education is very important to the Hungarian economy with more than 297,000 persons employed in this sector in 1997 or 8.14 percent of the labor force, making it a very significant employer in the country. Moreover, education has been touted as a major contributor to the bringing of Hungary into the world economy. To this end there has been a great emphasis placed on the role of the education system in fostering innovative thinking and entrepreneurshiptwo major areas that are seen as very important for the future of Hungary but were completely lacking in the socialist system of education. This emphasis must be reconciled with the concern that since the high literacy rates and technological achievements in the socialist era, the educational system has regressed. The reasons for this regression are readily apparent: lack of funding for teachers, equipment, and buildings; a movement out of the teaching profession of teachers; and a move away from a teaching career of the best and brightest graduates.

Preprimary & Primary Education

General Survey: Prior to 1990 Hungary had an extensive system of crèches and kindergartens that provided preschool care from the age of one up to the time children started primary school. This system was state-run and was an excellent preparation for school system entry. Mass privatization and the divesting of kindergarten facilities by the state and "new" private enterprises has led to a reduction in the number of preschool facilities. By the year 2000, crèches were still in use, but children could only enter kindergarten at age three and then move into the primary school at six. In 1999 to 2000 there were 4,643 kindergartens with 365,704 students and 31,409 teachers. The children are taught songs, games, and nursery rhymes in the first year and then language, basic mathematics skills, communication skills, and music in subsequent years.

In 1999 to 2000 there were 3,696 primary schools with 960,601 students being taught by 82,829 teachers, a ratio of 11:1 that ranks it amongst the best in the developed world. Enrollments in primary schools are in a state of decline as a result of the overall decline in birth rates. Primary enrollments are falling by about 4 percent per annum, and the decline in enrollments is exacerbated in rural areas as a result of migration into the cities as young people pursue employment opportunities.

One area that has received significant attention in the provision of education has been the attempt by the government to more fully integrate the Roma population into the educational system. Most often these efforts have been directed at the primary level of schooling for, as noted below, the dropout rate for Roma children is particularly high at this level. The official government policy that attempts to give the Roma population a more sedentary lifestyle has created a large number of predominantly Roma villages, and the educational result has been a series of special schools. There are 134 special schools in Hungary, but they are unevenly distributed in the country. In some parts of the country, particularly the northeast, this proportion is as high as 94 percent. The Hungarian Ombudsman for Ethnic and Minority Rights notes that such a disproportionate number of Roma pupils is a sign of institutional prejudice and discrimination and in particular the education of these pupils suffers because of this spatial concentration. Moreover the schools have great difficulty in finding teachers who will and can teach in such schools in part because of discrimination but also because of the need to speak Romany, the Roma language. The government responds that such a concentration helps disadvantaged Roma children but has appointed an Ombudsman for Educational Affairs to study the issue. The issue of Roma education remains a difficult issue. For example in 2000 the Hungarian courts found in favor of Roma students whose primary school had organized a separate graduation ceremony for Roma students, and the local government was required to pay compensation. The issue of Roma education will remain at the forefront of Hungarian educational policy as the EU views respect for minority rights as a major criterion for admittance.

CurriculumExaminations: The curriculum for all students is set by the state, and teachers generally teach this curriculum though departures are possible. The most important subjects, not prioritized, are mathematics, history, Hungarian language and grammar, physical education, a foreign language of choice, physics, biology and chemistry (the latter 3 only ages 12-14), music, arts, geography, and environmental skills. Music and art lessons only take place in one or two classes per week. At the conclusion of each lesson period of some 45 minutes, the teacher is required to record in a centralized book what was taught to each student. The student will typically have 5 to 6 classes per day. Students are not usually examined in primary schools but are required to do essays and homework and interact during creative problem solving exercises. They are graded on their work on a scale of one (failure) to five (the best) and these cumulative assessments at the end of the school year determine whether they will be advanced to the next grade level.

Urban & Rural Schools: Data on the ratio of urban to rural schools is difficult to obtain. It is known that 25 percent of all primary schools are in the central region of Budapest and Pest County. If rural settlements are defined as those below 10,000 people, then 58.7 percent of schools are in rural areas and 41.3 percent in urban areas. Rural primary schools exhibit lower results in all performance measures than urban schools as enrollments are decreasing as a direct result of state support that is less than urban schools. This is because the amount of state subsidy is directly based on number of enrollments.

Teachers: Most teachers are women. They are usually trained at the regional teachers training institute and in rural areas usually teach in a former collective school building. In preprimary Hungarian schools, 100 percent of the teachers are women while in primary schools 92 percent are women. The average monthly salary in 2001 was approximately 50,000 Hungarian Forints or less than $200. In urban and suburban areas, teaching conditions are better than rural areas with greater access to equipment and supplies. Moreover local city governments are relatively more wealthy than rural governments and hence the buildings are in a better state of repair and thus more conducive to teaching. Overall, including secondary education, teacher numbers in the labor force per capita at 50 per 1,000 is amongst the highest in the world.

Repeaters & Dropouts: The number of repeaters in any one school year in Hungary was reported in 1990 at 3 percent (4 percent males and 2 percent females). Officials suggest that this has not changed significantly over the years. Total numbers of dropouts are not available but it is known that in 1999 the proportion of those reaching the age of 15 but not finishing primary school was 6.3 percent. This is up from 5 percent in 1997 and 5.1 percent in 1998. It is also known that a disproportionate number of these school dropouts are Roma children. In 2000 the EU indicated less than 46 percent of Roma youth completed their primary school education.

Secondary Education

General Survey: In 1999 to 2000 there were 14,155 secondary school teachers in the 1,533 general grammar schools and 26,512 teachers in the 990 secondary vocational schools. In total there were 503,617 students at the secondary level with females in the majority in general secondary schools (87,569 females and 57,641 males). In vocational schools males outnumber females (195,268 males and 162,035 females). The number of enrollments in secondary schools increased on average 3 percent per year between 1997 and 2000, but the decrease in primary and preprimary enrollments should reverse this trend in coming years.

CurriculumExaminations & Diplomas: The most important diploma a student obtains is his or her Secondary School Certificate, which forms the basis for entering higher education or a profession. It is supplemented by an official book in which the school has recorded all courses taken and the grades received in the various examinations that are a part of the courses.

Teachers: Of the teachers in the secondary school system, most have received a university education, which is a necessary prerequisite to teaching in the school system. In secondary schools teachers tend to teach specialized subjects such as music, physical education, science, and art. With the falling number of teachers and the rising enrollment rate, class sizes are invariably increasing.

Vocational Education: As was noted earlier, a student, upon completing the lower level of primary education at age 14, can either continue in the secondary school or begin specialized technical or vocational study at a vocational school. In 1999 to 2001 there were 357,303 students and 26,512 teachers in 990 secondary vocational schools teaching 350 subjects. In 1999 the number of students in different types of secondary vocational schools were as follows: teacher training (1,684), arts (4,916), journalism and media (114), business administration (41,891), computers/MIS (7,229), engineering (27,929), manufacturing (7,909), architecture (4,939), agriculture (6,055), health (5,851), social services (2,535), human resources (8,445), transportation (4,137), environmental programs (1,996), security (3,100), and pre-vocational training (112,639). Since 1999 the government has dedicated a significant portion of its efforts to reforming the system of vocational education to create conformity with EU practices and objectives. The first measure was to provide a network of Public Evaluation and Examination Centers to standardize vocational education and training. The National Institute for Vocational Education, in conjunction with these centers, undertook an assessment of the needs of economy and recommended changes to the qualifications a student should obtain to reflect the changing labor marketplace. Finally, in January 2000 these qualifications were transferred from the Ministry of Economic Affairs to the Ministry of Education such that such qualifications were part of the educational attainment of the individual. By 2001, some 460 qualifications or 50 percent were under the Ministry of Education. Further progress in this area is being driven by Hungary's participation in the Leonardo da Vinci program that assists in aligning vocational education with future EU labor needs.

Education Outside the School System: In order to fight illiteracy and upgrade the workforce, Hungary has an extensive system of training outside the school system delivered primarily through regional job centers. In 1998 there were 103,675 participants in 5,363 vocations of which government or some other external financial source supported 36 percent. A total of 43 percent of these students were completing secondary school qualifications and 46 percent primary school qualifications. Of the fields of study of the vocational training establishments, 23 percent were in business administration; 20 percent in hospitality, trade, and tourism; 19 percent in the acquisition of computer skills; 16 percent in the industrial sector; 5 percent in health industries; and 17 percent in 7 miscellaneous fields. The institutions providing this type of private training are predominantly private companies (45 percent), autonomous bodies of existing educational institutions (47 percent), and non-profits (8 percent).

Higher Education

Types ofPublic & Private: There are no private institutions of higher education with the exception of the 6 foundation universities noted above and the 26 church universities that are run with some support from the state.

Admission Procedures: Admission to Hungarian institutions of higher education commences with the publication of an admissions guide on or around December 15 each year. A central body, the National Office of Higher Education Admissions (NOHEA), publishes this guide. This body also provides information on the criteria required for admission, and sets national university entrance examinations. Their booklet also contains the application forms, which must be submitted by March 1 in the proposed year of entry. (There are two other less significant application periods but these are only for a limited number of subjects and institutions.) This body receives and processes the application forms after March 1 and sets entrance exams. It then acts as a liaison with the institutions of higher education.

Individual institutions have a significant role in the selection and admission of students. Applicants are generally scored on a combination of their scores in the final examination at secondary school, their overall GPA in secondary school, and their score on the NOHEA national examinations. However in practice the individual institutions have significant autonomy in the criteria they use in ranking an applicant. In some cases NOHEA scores alone may be used or the examinations waived (particularly for outstanding students). Language ability is often an important criterion, as is previous professional training. Health and artistic abilities may also be used. Finally a parent who graduated in the proposed profession, particularly law and medicine, may also be a factor. These subjective criteria for admission are awarded as "extra points" when creating an applicant's total score for admission. Essentially the institutions control their entry numbers and choose their entry-level class.

Applicants, on their application form, may apply for several majors and institutions but must rank their choices as they can only be admitted to one institution. The national scores for the NOHEA tests are published in July, and the applicant can then see if he or she has passed the standard for university or college admission. If this is so, at that time the prospective student's secondary or lower choices for colleges are dropped. It is also at this time that the "extra points" are awarded to place students.

It should be noted that in 2000 the Ministry of Education began a process to reform this admissions process, particularly to standardize admissions and make the system more equitable, transparent, and fair. To do this it is expected that greater emphasis will be placed on overall performance in the secondary school system and the final secondary school score and the NEOHA test will be made more responsive to specific applications to specific disciplines. The Ministry hopes to have reformed the secondary school examinations by 2002 and the university entrance exams by 2005. Finally, as part of this overall change, the admittance of more students into higher education is planned. At present only 17 percent of all eligible students are in higher education (up from 12 percent in 1995). The system is therefore seen as elitist and discriminatory.

Administration & Governance: Administration of higher education establishments is conducted by the individual institution with the state acting in an oversight capacity and enforced by granting an accreditation license to award degrees. The senior administrator is the rector (or the director general in a small number of colleges) who is elected by the university faculty for a period of five years, which is a renewable term. The rector reports to an institutional council and a senate that ratifies his decisions but who can also veto his decisions. The state can only intervene in university affairs in theevent of legal irregularities. Thus a university is essentially autonomous in regard to its inner workings. The composition of the governance boards is specified in the Higher Education Act of 1993-1996.

Enrollment: In 1999 there were 62 institutes of higher education in Hungary serving 280,000 students. Most are located in and around Budapest. With the amalgamation of the former Socialist institutions, there has been a move to provide regional centers of educational excellence that in turn will create economic development. Thus the cities of Debrecen, Miskolc, Szeged, and Pécs have taken on importance in not only regional education but also regional economic development. Eötvös Loránd University, with 18,500 students and more than 1,000 faculty; the Technical University of Budapest, with 12,300 students and more than 1,000 faculty members; and the Budapest University of Economic Science and Public Administration, with 3,700 students and 375 full time faculty, are the largest institutions of higher education in Budapest. Budapest is also the center for universities and colleges concentrating on music, fine arts, and applied arts. The University of Pécs, with 407 full-time faculty members and 19,500 students; the University of Debrecen, which will have 1,600 full-time faculty members and 14,000 students when 4 institutions are fully amalgamated into 1; and the University of Szeged, catering to 6,000 students with approximately 500 full-time faculty members, have the most students outside Budapest. Highly specialized studies (veterinary medicine, dentistry, pharmaceutics, forestry, and horticulture) tend to be located in only one institution, usually in the city and institution that provided that specialization in socialist times. Of all the institutions of higher education, the ecclesiastical institutions catered to 10,303 full-time students and 5,511 evening and correspondence students in 1999 while the foundations catered to 7,582 full-time students and 15,743 evening and correspondence students.

Teaching Styles & Techniques: The principal language of instruction in the institutions is Hungarian. Teaching pedagogy is in the process of slow change from primarily a standard lecture format to a more varied style with wider use of source material. Thus the use of overheads is becoming increasingly common but PowerPoint presentations and the use of Internet sources is still rare.

Finance (Tuition Costs): Typical tuition fees for Hungarian nationals for university courses range from US$75.00 (20,000 HUF) per course rising to $2,200 per semester, but fees for all Hungarian colleges and universities are generally paid for in full by the state in the form of fee waivers. In addition the state may give scholarships for living expenses or support in the form of meals and accommodations. In addition the Hungarian government has substantially increased the number and amount of scholarships for Roma students in higher education in order to increase the number of Roma in higher education. Data indicates only 0.24 percent of the Roma population obtained a degree in higher education in 1999.

Courses, Semesters, & Diplomas: Higher education in Hungary depends on the institution and the level of study. At the college level the length of study is either three or four years. The student receives the equivalent of a baccalaureate degree. For a university degree, the length of study is between four and five years and is equivalent to obtaining a master's degree. The exception to these degrees are degrees in law and medicine in which the law degree can be obtained in four and a half years and medicine is typically of six years duration with significant practical work in the latter part of the prospective lawyer or doctors study.

During the socialist regime, upon completion of the university education, a student could undertake further post-graduate work, usually of a scientific nature. Thus a person could get a doctor universitatis (university doctor or dr. univ) from a university or a candidatus scientiarium (candidate of sciences or C.Sc.) or doctor scientarium (doctor of sciences or D.Sc.) as part of the Academy of Sciences system. However within the Act of 1993 there was the provision for universities to grant a Ph.D. There has been a dramatic change in the number of doctoral degrees awarded from the former system to the new Ph.D. qualification (or a Doctor of Liberal ArtsDLA in the case of liberal arts) allowed under the law. In all doctoral programs the student is required to pursue a proscribed course of study, undertake original research, and write and defend a dissertation.

Upon completion of their degree program students receive a college graduate degree (fo~iskolai oklevél ) or a university graduate degree (egyetemi oklevél ) that may be referred to as a Bachelor of or Master of, depending on their study program and its length in order to facilitate comparison with international degrees. In the case of medical doctors, dentists, veterinary doctors or lawyers, their degrees are dr. med, dr. med. dent., dr. vet., and dr. jur., respectively.

All higher education institutes work in a two semester system that commences in September and ends in May with a one-month winter recess.

Professional Education: Universities and colleges can also provide certification programs of shorter duration than typical university courses. This is called Accredited Higher Vocational Training (AHVT) and is typically in a specialized area of applied study. These programs are usually two years in length, taught at colleges (though not exclusively), and in cooperation with secondary vocational schools. The graduate receives a certificate upon graduation, not a diploma. In addition university and college courses may be taught at other campuses to extend the reach of an institute's course offerings. This represents an important source of supplementary income for both institutions and their faculty.

Postgraduate Training: There is a long history in Hungary of post-graduate teaching in the various Academies of Science that was usually linked with the award of the doctorate degree. Out of necessity, this training was highly specialized and found in those specialized institutes established under the socialist system to produce an intellectual elite. This system is gradually being replaced by a system where university professors undertake both research and teaching while former academicians in academies must make their living by teaching as well as undertaking research.

Foreign Students: There are a number of foreign students in Hungarian universities primarily studying at the baccalaureate level. Typical of the extent of foreign students was the University of Pécs with 95 foreign students or 0.5 percent of their total student body in 2001. Seventy-five came from Europe, primarily under the EU Socrates program, and the remainder were American. Many of the students classified as foreign are ethnic Hungarians granted scholarships to study at Hungarian institutions. Thus, for example, ethnic Hungarians living as Croatian citizens in Croatia or Romanian citizens living in Transylvania often study in Hungary. The number of students from Western Europe and the United States is considerably less owing to the difficulty in understanding Hungarian, which is the language of instruction. Many universities provide lectures in English in part to offset this problem, and these courses are often linked to the Socrates/Erasmus program of the EU. Elementary language instruction in Hungarian is also a significant part of Hungarian higher education course offerings. In 1999 there were 448 Americans studying in Hungary.

Students Abroad: Given the difficulty of transition and the uncertain future of the nation, any ability to speak a foreign language, particularly English, and the resultant opportunity to study abroad has become a major incentive to students in higher education completing their studies overseas. This incentive is unfortunately accompanied by a reluctance to return to Hungary to become part of the labor force. Essentially a brain drain is occurringalbeit on a small scale, but enough to warrant concern. In 1999 there were 1,166 Hungarian students in the United States with a little more in Europe, the majority being in Germany. The major deterrent for Hungarian students to study abroad is the high cost of tuition and living expenses outside Hungary. Hence most students studying outside Hungary are on some kind of scholarship. It should also be noted that in 2000, a total of 479 Hungarian scholars were also studying in the United States, the largest of any eastern European country except Poland.

Role of Libraries: As was noted above, libraries have received serious attention since the change from a socialist government. In addition the historic importance placed on education throughout the last 500 years has left an impressive legacy of historic documents and literature that is available for consultation.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Government Educational Agencies: There are essentially two levels of educational responsibility in Hungary. At the local level, elected administrative bodies (village and city councils) are responsible for school provision, maintenance, and teaching materials, including teachers. At the state level the Ministry of Education sets the curriculum for all primary and secondary public schools while institutions of higher education set their own curriculum with approval from the Higher Education and Scientific Council. Control over education policy is exercised by the state through the HESC by means of allocating finances, certification, and licensing of educational bodies.

At the local level schools are funded through a portion of tax revenue that is provided to schools by the local municipality and supplemented by state funds.

In Hungary, local teachers elect school principals. However, the election is a formality since the local government appoints school leaders in the end. School boards exist but without power or decision-making authoritypolicy and appointments are thus made by the local mayors and councils. Thus a school principal may not be a professional educator but rather a political appointee.

Ministry of the Department of Education: Daily responsibility for state education resides in the Ministry of Education based in Budapest. There were 700 public servants working in the Ministry of Education in 2001613 ministry employees, 5 for the secretariat of UNESCO, and 82 working for the National Public Education and Examination Board.

Educational Budgets: State budgeting is still the primary source of funds for education in Hungary. Hungary's Gross National Product was $46.6 billion in 1998, and while only 1992 data on contribution to education is available (in 1992 education contributed 7.5 percent to the GDP), it is estimated that the percentage has remained approximately the same.

In 1996, some 308 billion forints (US$1,029 million) of government expenditures were spent on education. By 2001 spending on education represented 4.6 percent of the gross national product and had fallen since 1996 when it was just over 6 percent. Of the monies spent on education, 0.74 percent of the GNP went to kindergarten education, 2.38 percent to primary, 1.47 percent to secondary, 0.81 percent to higher education, and 0.28 percent to other forms of education. Education spending represented 9.56 percent of all government expenditures in 1990, and it fell at an average annual rate of 5.2 percent between 1990 and 1996. In 1996 education represented 8.66 percent of all state expenditures. Inflation over the years has also eroded significantly the purchasing power of these expenditures and notwithstanding the commitment to funding education, it is apparent that education spending is falling.

Types of Expenditures: Preprimary and primary education consumed 36.8 percent, secondary education consumed 46.3 percent and tertiary education consumed 15.5 percent of the national education budget in 1996. However expenditures per pupil as a percentage of GNP indicate only 18 percent was spent on primary and preprimary education (down from 23 percent in 1990), 49 percent was spent on the secondary sector, and 33 percent on tertiary education. Teacher and professional salaries take up approximately 70 percent of the total education budget.

National Education Organizations: There are a large number of committees and advisory bodies that advise the Minister of Education. The presence of advisory bodies such as HÖOK, the Association of Hungarian Students, the House of Professors, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and the Hungarian Rectors Conference are important independent bodies guiding Hungarian educational policy. Moreover the two major committees that guide policy and programming, the Hungarian Accreditation Committee and the Higher Education and Scientific Council, have representatives from all interest groups. For example, the HAC has a board of 30 members chosen from higher education, research institutes, and professional organizations. There are also non-voting members on the HAC from unrepresented groups and also a nonvoting student representative. The HESC has 21 members on its board of which 10 are academics, 10 are from user organizations (employers, municipalities, academic bodies, and unions), and 1 is from the Ministry of Education.

Educational Research: There are two bodies conducting educational research in Hungary; the Hungarian Institute for Educational Research (Oktataskutato Intezet ), which deals with sociological and other social science issues associated with education. They also publish a periodical called "Education." This institute provides for a doctorate in education through the University of Debrecen. The second body, the National Institute of Public Education (Orszagos Kozoktatasi Intezet ), carries out research at all levels of education and across the spectrum of educational issues usually by means of surveys on education topics. Both institutes are part of the Ministry of Education but they also receive external funding from private sources both Hungarian and international.

Project specific research is also undertaken by the HAC and the HESC. As part of their mandates to provide educational policy and program development, they may see the need to research a particular issue. To that end they frequently utilize experts and professional committees to undertake research as preparatory work for the decisions of the bodies.

Nonformal Education

Adult Education: Adult education has been recognized as a priority in Hungary in order for adults to adjust to the new socio-economic system. However the requirement that students (or businesses) pay for this learning seems to be a major obstacle to its success in difficult economic times. Invariably, if the individual wishing to upgrade his or her skills is unemployed, the government, through the job-center network, will pay for or subsidize the training. Costs vary on the type of training but the average in 2001 was between 70,000 and 120,000 HUF (US$230 to US$400). Foreign languages, bookkeeping and accounting, marketing and market economics, management and particularly human resource management, and computer literacy have been identified as priorities, but few establishments outside the larger cities of Budapest, Debrecen, Miskolc, Szeged, and Pécs offer these programs at present. In 1999 there were 132,789 persons registered as undertaking 6,743 types of adult education courses.

Open Universities & Distance Education: There are no open university-type opportunities. Distance learning in the form of correspondence courses through existing universities is possible but these are supplementary to the universities' normal in-residence structure. Correspondence courses with major universities are a significant contributor to the part time student body. There are distance education courses delivered through TV, radio, or Internet. These are becoming more and more popular but a dramatic growth in online courses is limited owing to the limited availability or scarcity of Internet links.

Teaching Profession

Training & Qualifications: Seven universities and colleges offer teacher training either as distinct faculties of teacher training or integrated into schools of natural, humanities, or social science. Those teachers who are trained in colleges graduate after four years and are qualified to teach in kindergartens and primary schools. Those trained in universities train for five years and are then qualified to teach in secondary schools. In 1999 some 21 percent of the total tertiary student population in teacher training colleges were education majors. This was down from 35 percent in 1994 probably reflecting the poor salaries to be expected upon graduation. In 1999 to 2000, there were 44,500 students studying in teacher training institutes, and if one assumes one-sixth of these graduated, there would be 6,500 new teachers in 2000. Eighty percent of all new graduates were women. In view of the low birth rates it might be expected that the demand for teachers in the twenty-first century will be reduced but this must be balanced with a teaching force that has a high median age. Moreover the loss of teachers, particularly in rural areas as a result of urbanization, will be cause for concern. This process will be exacerbated by the fact that urban schools have a higher prestige attached to teaching in them so they are preferred by teachers. It is also known that while 37 percent of the Hungarian population is considered rural, only 8 percent of students leaving secondary schools are from rural areas. As a result the challenge is to persuade urban teachers to move to rural areasa policy that is in conflict with the urban migration trend of the rural population. Finally, upon the transformation away from a socialist economy to a more western system in 1990, there was a shortage of English language teachers in particular. By 2000 there was no teacher shortage and in some subject areas a surplus.

Salaries: Education is generally considered by Hungarians to be one of the worst paying employment sectors in the nation. The average teacher salary has increased every year since 1990 but has been grossly inadequate both in purchasing power and in its ability to keep up with inflation. It remains one of the most problematic areas of Hungary's educational system. In 2001 a typical salary of a person working in the education sector would be 72,710 HUF gross and 48,533 HUF net. There is no official discrimination in salary between men and women. More detailed data from the Ministry of Education reveal that salaries for women can range from 67,644 HUF to 46,162 HUF and for men 90,122 HUF to 56,714 HUF. This probably reflects the lower salaries for women who tend to occupy the more menial tasks (cleaners and canteen workers) in the education system. The typical salary scale quoted above is for all persons in education. Specifically for teachers, in 1998 a kindergarten teacher received 1.14 times the average salary, primary teachers earned 1.38 times, a secondary school teacher 1.67 times, and a university teacher 1.9 times. At the rate of exchange in 2001, a primary school teacher would take home approximately US$160.00 per month, while a university assistant professor could be expected to receive US$300.00 (In 2001, $1.00 was approximately 300 forints). The amount of salary usually depends on the years spent in the job, educational background, degree, and number of languages spoken, but not on gender. These salaries should be seen in light of daily living expenses in Hungary in 2001 that invariably exceeded salary by a significant amount. Indeed the average salary of a teacher or university professor in Hungary is such that supplemental sources of income must actively be sought. In rural areas it is estimated that 80 percent of teachers make extra money in addition to their teaching salary while in Budapest the figure is 79 percent of primary school teachers. In secondary schools the figure is 88 percent. This supplemental work usually involves private tutoring, supplemental teaching or consulting or even separate and different employment outside school hours, especially during the long summer recess.

Unions & Associations: Teachers are represented in Hungary by a union called The Democratic Union of Higher Education Employees (Pedagógusok Szakszervezete ). However, the role and influence of this trade union, as those of all other trade unions, is weakening. In the socialist era they were not, nor could be, real organs of interest or representation, and after the systemic change in 1990, they were unable to adjust to the new political and economic system. The Union of Higher Education that represents employees in other areas of education (Felso~oktatási Dolgozók Szakszervezete ) is not an exception, either. It is too weak to have a strong negotiating position.

There are also a number of student and administration bodies that are actively making representation in the process of changing the Hungarian educational system. For example there is a students' union that represents students' interests; it is represented at the national level by an association of students' unions with the acronym HÖOK.


General Assessment: The Hungarian educational system is currently in a state of rapid and dramatic change. Up until the collapse of the eastern Bloc, it was a model of literacy, availability, and accomplishment. Since 1990 it has been required to transform to a more global orientation, conform to a more European system, and make provision in its graduates for a student that must function in a market economy and democratic system. The adjustment has been often slow, painful, and problematic. The principal challenges appear to be:

  • The desire to retain the standard of excellence that has characterized Hungarian education for many years
  • The ongoing ability of the Central government to find the financial means to provide complete funding for education
  • The need to pay teachers in the public schools and universities a living wage
  • The need for curriculum change to reflect the move away from a centralized economy to a market-driven privatized economy
  • A decreasing birth rate, particularly in the urban areas, that will put pressure on the educational system to adjust to a diminution in students entering the school system in the coming years
  • The removal of administrative appointments from the political sphere and its replacement by a system based on competition and merit.

It is also common practice that people who have not undergone educational leadership training, nor studied organizational development, make all education decisions at the local and regional level. It appears that there is the need for the installation of a professional educational leadership system of school principals and superintendents to provide professional leadership at the local and regional level. This in turn would suggest the need for more power for school boards made up of parent representatives.

International Programs: Upon the fall of the Soviet Union, the countries of the eastern Bloc embarked on a rapid program of opening up their educational system to the influences of western educational institutions. Many of these links were established by expatriate Hungarians who were located in the west as refugees or descendants of refugees from the 1956 Hungarian uprising. Hungarian institutions therefore invariably have a network of partners that are former socialist states as well as European and American partners. More specifically, the desire of the Hungarian government to join the European Union also created an extensive liaison with western institutions. Thus, for example, the HAC has an international advisory board of nine European Union and U.S. academics that meet yearly to advise and recommend changes to Hungary's educational system. The overall result today is vibrant and active exchanges between Hungarian educators and international educational institutions.

Needs for ChangesFuture: It would therefore appear that the most significant changes required for Hungary's educational system to stabilize would be for the country to enjoy economic stability and prosperity from which education could take its place as a significant contributor to the country's viability. This kind of stabilization and growth is anticipated upon the accession of Hungary to the EU and at that time a revitalization of Hungarian education might be said to be complete.


Europa Publications 2001. The Europa World Yearbook 2000. 41st ed. Vol. 2. London: Europa Pub.

International Association of Universities 1998. International Handbook of Universities. 15th ed. New York: Groves Dictionaries, 1998.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (UNESCO). The Right to Education. World Education Report 2000. Paris: UNESCO, 2000.

Government of Hungary, Ministry of Education, 2001. Available from

Richard W. Benfield and
Zoltán Raffay

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Republic of Hungary

Major Cities:
Budapest, Debrecen, Miskolc, Szeged, Pécs, Gyor

Other Cities:
Ajka, Baja, Eger, Hajdúböszörmény, Kaposvár, Kecskemét, Makó, Nyíregyháza, Sopron, Székesfehérvár, Szombathely, Veszprém


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated August 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


Budapest, the capital city of Hungary located on the Danube River, is one of the most beautiful cities of Europe. An assignment here can be rewarding and highly enjoyable. Since the major political changes here in 1990, the challenges of living in Hungary have been greatly diminished; all who live or visit here can easily partake in the countless affordable opportunities presented in Hungary for working, learning, and enjoying life. Because of Hungary's location, travel to other European destinations is relatively trouble-free. The city of Budapest is split by the Danube, with the hilly, wooded section of Buda on the west bank and Pest, the flat, more urban side, on the east. It is a city growing with the 20th century, yet retaining its Old World charm and rich sense of tradition, culture, and history.



Budapest, the capital and principal city of Hungary, is a combination of three originally distinct cities: Buda on the western bank of the Danube River, Pest on the eastern bank, and Obuda, located north of present day Buda. The three are now linked by nine bridges across the Danube. Despite heavy damage during World War II and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Budapest has been rebuilt into one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Much of the city, particularly Pest, has a decidedly 19th century look.

Buda, built on rolling hills rising to 1,700 feet, contains many attractive residential sections and wooded areas. Pest, built on level ground, is the business center of the capital. Obuda, located north of Buda, is the fastest growing area of the city. The greater city population is 1.9 million.


Fresh fruit and vegetables (in season), meat and poultry are available in local markets year round, but the variety is limited during winter and early spring. The variety of fresh and frozen fish is limited throughout the year. Large and small shops stock canned and frozen produce, breads, dairy products, pasta, and cleaning and personal hygiene supplies. Such items are not available everywhere and at all times, so shopping can be an adventure. However, there are several large Western-style grocery stores that carry a wide variety of food and household items. Fresh milk is pasteurized and safe to drink, but tends to have a short shelf life. Long-life milk is widely available and is stocked in the commissary. All fruits and vegetables are safe to consume.

Local food prices are slightly lower than in the Washington, D.C. area, but imported items are more expensive.


Dress in Hungary is similar to that in Washington, D.C. Cold weather clothing is an absolute necessity. Also, the spring season can be raw and rainy. The summer season stretches from late May through August, with temperatures ranging from 70°F through the 90's. Rain apparel, warm winter boots, and walking shoes are necessary, as well.

It is advisable to bring shoes and boots from the U.S. These are available locally, but proper fit can be hard to find. Comfort is important for Budapest's rough and often uneven streets. Thin-soled shoes are not recommended, as streets are often in poor condition.

Men: Men's ready-made Hungarian-made suits are sometimes less than satisfactory in material and style; although imported clothing is of higher quality, it tends to be quite expensive.

Hats are not generally worn, except in cold or rainy weather.

Women: Women's suits and knit-wear are practical and often worn to work, daytime affairs. Pants, dressy and sport, are worn by everyone, including Hungarians.

Children: Bring a supply of children's clothes. Baby supplies are available locally, but usually at higher cost and lesser quality. Good quality clothing can also be found in Vienna, but prices are much higher than those in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Services: A few excellent men's tailors are located in Budapest. Good dressmakers are also available at reasonable prices. Alterations are satisfactory. Zippers, buttons, thread and accessories are available. Shoe repair is inexpensive, and a number of shops have opened in convenient locations.

Dry-cleaning is reasonably priced and satisfactory.

Good salons are abundant, and the work is excellent. Beauticians use local supplies; hotel shops have more modern equipment, and more English language speakers, but rates are higher. Manicures are inexpensive, as are facials, massages and waxing. All local salons cut men's hair. A few shops cater especially to children.

Auto repair is available for most vehicles. Parts for some American cars may be difficult to obtain in Hungary.

Religious Activities

Religion can be practiced in total freedom in Hungary. Budapest has many Catholic churches, the most well known being the Matyas Templom (Matthias Church) in the Var. Several synagogues and places of worship for a variety of religions exist, such as Lutheran, Reformed, Calvinist, Baptist, and Seventh Day Adventist. These services are in Hungarian. However, there are a number of weekly English language services in Budapest, including Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, Catholic, and Nondenominational Evangelical.


There are a number of educational opportunities for children in Budapest. The most popular is the American International School of Budapest (AISB). There are other schools, as well, including a British-run elementary school, a Christian school, and other English-language schools. The AISB is the only American-accredited school in Budapest.

The American International School of Budapest, which offers instruction for kindergarten through high school, was founded in 1973. Since then, it has undergone tremendous growth. The lower school, which includes grades kindergarten through five, is located in the Buda hills next to the American Club. The upper school, which includes grades six through twelve, is located further up the hill, and is situated in the confines of a natural recreation preserve. Special features of the lower school campus include a large indoor swimming pool, full gymnasium, separate kindergarten playground, tennis court, sports field, theater, and computer lab.

Children must be 5 years old by September 1 of the year of entrance in order to be eligible for enrollment in kindergarten. Please note that there is NO exception to this age requirement rule. Kindergarten classes run the entire school day.


Budapest has a wide variety of recreational facilities. The American Club has its own indoor basketball/volleyball court, a platform tennis court, and a full-size swimming pool. The clubhouse contains a bar area, television with satellite hookup with Armed Forces Network, dartboard, and ping-pong table. Aerobics classes are held in the gym twice a week, and are open to American Club members. Nonmembers pay a small fee.

Softball, popular among many Westerners, is played on Margit Island from spring through fall, with games open to all who care to play.

Outdoor sports activities in Budapest during the winter months include jogging, skiing, horseback riding, skating, sledding, and platform tennis. A small ski area in the Buda hills, snow permitting, offers skiers a short run.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Many pleasant excursions can be made within the city of Budapest and the surrounding area, by car or public transportation. The hills of Buda provide numerous attractive areas for pleasant weekend walks and picnics. Szentendre, an artists' colony located on the Danube north of Budapest, and Esztergom, the seat of the presiding Bishop of the Catholic Church in Hungary, are worthwhile nearby visiting places and can be reached in less than an hour from the city.

Further away from the city, Lake Balaton, the summer retreat for a great part of Budapest's population, offers swimming, windsurfing and sailing. The major Balaton resorts of Balatonfured, Siofok, and Tihany are about 90 minutes from Budapest by car, and all offer adequate hotel facilities at international prices. In addition, cottages are available for rent throughout the Balaton region.

Other interesting points in the countryside are the attractive city of Eger, which has traditionally been the center of the Catholic Church in Hungary. A well-preserved minaret located in Eger is one of the most visible reminders of the century and a half of Turkish rule here during the 16th and 17th centuries. In addition, Eger is an important center of the Hungarian wine industry, and wine cellars outside the city are open to visitors. The countryside north of Eger is somewhat similar to the terrain found in the U.S. Appalachian Mountains in the vicinity of Washington, D.C., and provides some scenic contrast to the flat plain that accounts for the largest percentage of the Hungarian countryside.

Eastern Hungary contains the plain of the well-known Hungarian Puszta, where one is able to see for miles in any direction. At Hortobagy, in the middle of the Puszta, visitors can see displays of traditional horsemanship performed by costumed csikos (cowboys) and view the unique gray longhorn breed of Hungarian cattle, which have vanished from the landscape elsewhere. An overnight stay at the 250-year-old Hortobagy Inn, which offers charming deluxe accommodations, can be most enjoyable.

Half an hour east of Hortobagy lies Debrecen, the largest city in Eastern Hungary and the center of Hungarian Protestantism. Debrecen's Protestant College, one of Hungary's oldest learning institutions, is exceptionally interesting. It is noteworthy that Debrecen was the seat of the provisional government during the revolution against Austrian rule in 1848. Other interesting provincial cities include Szeged and Gyula, both of which host annual summer festivals; Kecskemet, which lies in the heart of the country's fruit growing region an hour from Budapest; Pecs, where two Turkish mosques remain and which enjoys an exceptional ballet company; Sopron, with its medieval walled city center; and Sarospatak, seat of the Reformed College, with a remarkable library and cloister, which has been converted to a good restaurant.

In Budapest, Margit Island, the central city park, Varosliget, and a number of smaller parks offer greenery and play areas for children. The Varosliget also contains a city zoo, an ice skating rink for winter skating (boating in summer), an amusement park, a weekend flea market, and a circus.

A number of first-rate museums of old and modern art, several of oriental art, and of Hungarian folklore are located in Budapest. The Szechenyi Library contains old Hungarian publications and manuscripts.


Budapest's cultural life is rich with opera, symphonies, chamber music, ballet, theater, and nightclubs. There is a wide range of operas and ballets running concurrently. Operas are well staged and directed with a wide repertoire of German, Italian, Russian, and Hungarian works. Most are performed in Hungarian. A number of foreign and Hungarian guest stars appear in Budapest during the opera season. The Operetta Theater specializes in light musicals.

Budapest offers numerous concerts by symphonies and chamber groups. Stage plays are performed in over a dozen theaters. Although translated into Hungarian, many western and American musicals and plays are performed, including works by Albee, O'Neill, Williams, Miller, and Weber. The Duna Players, a fledgling amateur group of English speaking expatriates, presents plays periodically.

More than 100 cinemas in Budapest feature films from all over the world, including many recent American films. Most theaters show films in their original language with Hungarian subtitles, and there are many films shown in English. Folklore programs by the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble and other leading groups are presented at the Folklore Center and other venues throughout the year. Budapest is also well known for its culinary opportunities; it boasts a wonderful variety of international cuisine. Many Hungarian restaurants feature live Gypsy music.

In the spring, Budapest hosts the annual Spring Festival, a month-long performing arts extravaganza. During the summer, performances of operas, ballets, concerts, and folklore programs are staged in the outdoor theater on Margit Island, at the Buda Castle, the Kiscelli Museum, and some of the smaller cities in Hungary. A music festival is held each summer in the city of Szeged. Youth concerts by various internationally-known popular music groups are offered throughout the year.

You may take pictures in Hungary, provided they are not of a military nature. Areas are marked where photography is forbidden.

Social Activities

Among Americans: Entertaining is informal. The new joint ventures opening in Hungary have brought a large number of American private business people to Budapest. Other American residents of Budapest include Peace Corps volunteers, Fulbright scholars, students, and retirees.

The American Club of Budapest, located in the Buda hills on the AISB grounds, provides an excellent opportunity to meet Americans and people of other nationalities. A restaurant and bar operate on the premises. Club members enjoy numerous special activities, including Thursday night family dinners, volleyball, basketball, tennis, and other sporting and social events. Many of these events celebrate children's holidays. The Club can also be rented for private parties. Membership in the American Club is open to individuals of all nationalities.

International Contacts: Budapest is home to a large and active international community. The International Women's Club is open to all foreign women in Budapest. The American Women's Association, with membership open to all women from North America, meets monthly and sponsors numerous events.

Budapest boasts a chapter of the "Hash House Harriers," who enjoy a biweekly run and meal following. The Harriers are popular worldwide, and the Budapest group attracts many diplomats, business people, and other Westerners.

The Budapest Platform Tennis Association also promotes the enjoyment of the sport of platform tennis for the international community. A platform tennis court is located adjacent to the AISB and American Club. Several tournaments are held during the season, with some highly competitive matches.


Debrecen is located in eastern Hungary, 20 miles west of the Romanian border and 120 miles east of Budapest. With a population of 208,000, Debrecen is the country's second largest city, as well as the economic and cultural center of the Great Plain (Alföld) region east of the Tisza River. Industrially, the city produces railway cars, agricultural machinery, medical instruments, pharmaceuticals, furniture, and processed foods. Traditionally, Debrecen is known for its fairs and livestock markets.

Historically, Debrecen grew from a cattle and grain market in the 13th century to a stronghold of Hungarian Protestantism in the 16th century. From the 16th through the 17th century, the city was occupied by the Turks, enjoying semi-autonomous status and often serving as a refuge for peasants fleeing the Turks. Debrecen was also an important trade center before the late 17th century wars ruined the city's economy. The city was the center of Hungarian resistance against Austrian rule in the 19th century, and on April 14, 1849, Hungary's independence was proclaimed from the church in Debrecen's center.


Miskolc, Hungary's third largest city with a population of 178,000, is located 90 miles northeast of Budapest on the Sajó River. A major industrial center, Miskolc has large iron and steel mills, machinery and motor vehicle factories, and lime and cement works. Iron ore and lignite mines are located nearby. Wine is also produced locally, and the region's numerous caves are used as wine cellars. Miskolc is the seat of a Protestant bishopric and the site of a law school and a technical university.

Historically, Miskolc was frequently invaded by Mongols, Turks, and Germans, and was nearly destroyed by the Mongols in the mid-13th century. Industrialization began late in the 19th century.

Landmarks here include the 15th century Avas Reformed Church, the remains of a 13th-century castle, and a museum displaying Scythian art.

Mezokövesd, 20 miles southwest of Miskolc, is a city of about 19,000 noted for the embroidery produced there. Polgár, 20 miles southeast of Miskolc, has a population over 12,000;Ózd, 25 miles northwest of Miskolc, has 42,000 residents.


Szeged, in southern Hungary near the Serbian border, is 95 miles south of Budapest at the confluence of the Tisza and Maros Rivers. A river port, railroad hub, and agricultural center, Szeged has a population of 166,000. Among the city's industries are food processing, flour milling, boat building, and textile production. The chief city of southern Hungary is also a principal tourist spot known for its attractive parks and squares. An annual festival of drama and music is held in Szeged.

The seat of a Roman Catholic bishopric, Szeged has a university, established in 1921, a medical school, and a library. The early history of Szeged saw the city as a military stronghold and trade center of the Arpad kings in the 10th century; it was ruled by the Turks from 1542 to 1686. Partly destroyed by a flood in 1879, Szeged was rebuilt in modern style. It retains a 13th-century Romanesque tower and a 16th-century church.

Hódmezovásárhely, 15 miles north of Szeged, with a population of 49,000, produces textiles. Békéscsaba, 60 miles northeast of Szeged, produces textiles and processes food; the population is 69,000. Kiskunfelgyháza, 40 miles north of Szeged, is a market center for livestock, tobacco, fruit, and wine, with a population of 33,000.


Pécs is situated in southwest Hungary at the confluence of the Danube and Drava Rivers, 105 miles southwest of Budapest near the Croatian border. An industrial center in Hungary's chief coal-producing region, the city produces coke, metals, agricultural machinery, tobacco, and leather goods. There are also several vineyards in the surrounding region. Pécs is also known for its pottery.

One of Hungary's oldest cities, Pécs was the site of a Celtic settlement and was later the capital of the Roman province of Lower Pannonia. By 1009, Pécs was an episcopal see, and in 1367, the first Hungarian university was established there. The Turks ruled Pécs from 1543 to 1686. German miners and colonists settled there in the 18th century and in 1780, Pécs became a free city.

Historic landmarks include an 11th-century cathedral (rebuilt in the late 19th century), an episcopal palace, a Turkish minaret, and several churches that were formerly mosques.

The current population of Pécs is 161,000.


Gyor is located in northwest Hungary, 65 miles west of Budapest near the Czechoslovak border. Situated at the confluence of the Raba and Danube Rivers, Gyor is a road and rail hub, a river port, and a leading industrial city and one of the fastest growing cities in western Hungary. With a current population of just over 127,000, the city is known for its textile and distilling plants, flour mills, and engineering works. Its location midway between Budapest and Vienna makes Gyor an important communications point.

Originally, the site of Gyor was a Roman military outpost called Arabona that was evacuated in the fourth century and later destroyed. Fortifications were built by the Magyars in the same area in the ninth century. Gyor was established around the fortress, which was later used as a defensive position against the Turks in the 17th century. Hungarian forces were defeated by the Austrians near Gyor in 1849.

Historic landmarks include a 12th-century cathedral, an episcopal palace, and several impressive monuments. The baroque houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, the stately squares, and narrow, winding streets give Gyor an Old World charm.

The town of Mosonmagyaróvár, with a population of 31,000 is 22 miles northwest of Gyor. Pápa is 25 miles south of Gyor, with a population of 35,000. It produces tobacco products, textiles, and farm trucks, and is the site of an 18th-century castle.


AJKA lies in the Csinger Valley in west-central Hungary, 15 miles west of Veszprém. It began as a small coal-mining village in the late 19th century. Major growth in the mid-20th century was the result of bauxite exploitation of a deposit said to be Europe's largest. Currently, the city has food-processing facilities, an aluminum furnace, and a telecommunications parts factory. Ajka's population exceeds 35,000.

BAJA is situated in south-central Hungary, less than 40 miles northeast of Pécs. With a population of 40,000, it is a market center for livestock and agricultural produce. Baja is also a river port that manufactures chemicals, furniture, and farm machinery. There are a number of baroque churches and old houses in the city.

EGER , a town of 62,000, is located in north-central Hungary, 25 miles southwest of Miskolc. The modern city is known for its orchards and vineyards and the resulting wine and brandy. Tourists may visit the town's wine cellars. Historically, Eger gained fame in the 16th century when its small garrison held back a Turkish force of 150,000. It took the Turks more than 40 years to finally capture the fort, which they then held between 1596 and 1687. Ruins of the old fort still remain, as well as other historical buildings including an 18th-century county hall and a palace, which houses a county library.

HAJDÚBÖSZÖRMÉNY , about 20 miles northwest of Debrecen, has a population of 31,000 and a 16th-century church. Hajdúszoboszló, with a population of 22,000, is a health resort 13 miles southwest of Debrecen. Balmazújváros, a commune just west of Debrecen, has a population over 18,000; and Püspökladány, 30 miles southwest, has a population over 16,000.

KAPOSVÁR is 25 miles northwest of Pécs and 30 miles south of Lake Balaton. With a population of 71,000, Kaposvár is the market center in a livestock-raising region. Nagykanizsa, 65 miles northwest of Pécs, was held by the Turks from 1600 through 1690. Oil and natural gas wells are near the city, which has a current population of 55,000. Mohács, 20 miles southeast of Pécs on the Danube River, is a commercial center with a population of 20,000. The city was the site of two battles between the Hungarians and the Turks in the 16th and 17th centuries.

KECSKEMÉT , 50 miles north of Szeged, is a market center for an agricultural, fruit-growing, and livestock-raising region. With a population of 105,000, the city is also known for its leatherwork.

MAKÓ is 15 miles east of Szeged near the Romanian border on the Muresul River. A market town in an agricultural and livestock-raising region, Makó was the birthplace of the American journalist, Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911). The current population is 26,000.

NYÍREGYHÁZA is 30 miles north of Debrecen in northeast Hungary. The city was completely destroyed during the 16th-century occupation of Hungary and rebuilt in the 18th century. Today, Nyíregyháza is a road and rail center and a market for an extensive agricultural region which grows vegetables, tobacco, and potatoes. The city has museums that contain gold relics. The current population is 113,000.

SOPRON , 50 miles west of Gyor near the Austrian border, has a population of 55,000. The only part of Burgenland that remained in Hungary after the rest of the province transferred to Austria in 1922, Sopron produces wine, sugar, and textiles, and has a medieval church. A former Roman outpost, Sopron today is still surrounded by much of the old garrison.

SZÉKESFEHÉRVÁR , 40 miles southwest of Budapest, is a busy industrial town and market center for fruit and wine. It is best known, however, as the coronation and burial site of Hungarian kings. The patron saint and first king of HungaryStephenis buried here. The Turks destroyed many of the medieval monuments during their 150-year domination of the city, but there are outstanding buildings from more recent times. Székesfehérvár's present population is 107,000.

SZOMBATHELY is 60 miles southwest of Gyor near the Austrian border. A commercial center in a rich wine-producing region, Szombathely's population is 87,000. The site of a cathedral and an episcopal palace, the city was taken in World War II by the Soviets on March 29, 1945.

Named in honor of the Polish prince Bezbriem, the city of VESZPRÉM is nestled between the Bakony Mountains in western Hungary. It is located 60 miles southwest of the capital on the Séd River. Notable landmarks include the street of ancient houses, the baroque bishop's palace (1765-1776), the fortress with its Heroes' Gate, the Cathedral of St. Michael, and the Gizella Chapel with valuable frescoes from the 13th century. Industries include the manufacture of textiles, vegetable oil, and wine. Veszprém's population is over 70,000. The Veszprém University of Chemical Engineering opened in 1949.


Geography and Climate

Hungary is a landlocked country, 36,000 square miles in area. It is bounded by Slovakia on the north, Ukraine and Romania on the east, Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia on the south, and Austria on the west. Some parts of Hungary are flat, but other sections offer pleasant scenery, such as the Matra Mountains in the north and the area around Lake Balaton, central Europe's largest lake.

Budapest's climate is temperate. Winters, although damp and cold, are generally less severe than in Washington, D.C. Snow may fall from late November through February, but generally disappears on the Pest side after 3 or 4 days. In the hills of Buda, small amounts of snow may remain on the ground for weeks. January, the coldest month, has an average temperature of 31°F. During the winter, the minimum daily temperature is generally below freezing. The July mean temperature is 71°F. The occasional periods of hot, dry weather are easier to tolerate than Washington's humidity. Temperatures are somewhat lower on the Buda side of the city. The yearly average precipitation is 25.2 inches.


Of Hungary's 10.1 million people, 2.9 million reside in the capital city of Budapest. Hungary is the most densely populated country in east-central Europe, and trends indicate a steady urbanization. The ethnic composition is 89.9 percent Hungarian, 2.6 percent German, 4 percent Gypsy, 1 percent Slovak, .8 percent Southern Slavs, and .7 percent Romanian.

Roman Catholics account for 67.5 percent of the population. Calvinists and Lutherans make up 20 percent and 5 percent, respectively. All major churches receive limited financial aid. Religion can be practiced in total freedom.

Political Setting

Hungary is a young democracy. For 40 years prior to 1989, the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party Central Committee and Politburo established all policy. In 1989, round table discussions commenced between the reform-oriented communist government and the political opposition. A democratic republic was established in October.

Hungary has a functioning multi-party democracy, with all parties represented in Parliament committed to free market democracy and stability. The center-right coalition government headed by the Hungarian Democratic Forum, which led the country since Hungary's first free elections in 1990, was voted out in the May, 1994 parliamentary elections. The Hungarian Socialist Party and the Alliance by Free Democrats formed a new government as a result of the elections. Hungarian foreign and domestic policies have not changed dramatically as a result of the change in government.

According to the Constitution, the 386-seat Parliament is the supreme organ of state power. It has the authority to propose, review, adopt or reject all legislation, and can override presidential vetoes. A political party must receive at least five percent of all votes to gain representation in Parliament.

The Government consists of the Prime Minister, currently Viktor Orbán, who is elected by a majority of the members of Parliament, and a Council of Ministers. The Ministers are appointed by the President of the Republic, currently Ferenc Mádal, upon the Prime Minister's recommendation. The Prime Minister chairs the Council of Ministers and is the government's chief executive official. The President, elected separately by the Parliament to an independent five-year term, is the Head of State. The President has limited, largely ceremonial powers, but his role in promulgating laws gives him the ability to return legislation to Parliament for further debate or to forward it to the Constitutional Court if he deems any of its provisions unconstitutional. The President also appoints the commander of the armed forces and approves the nation's defense plan. The Constitutional Court decides the constitutionality of legislation, and a separate Hungarian Supreme Court adjudicates appeals from lower courts.

Arts, Science and Education

Hungary has enjoyed a long and rich cultural tradition that has produced important leaders and innovators in the fields of music and science. Among the most well known are Ferenc Liszt, Bela Bartok, Zoltan Kodaly, Edward Teller, and Nobel Prize winner Albert Szent-Gyorgy, a participant in the U.S. delegation that returned the Crown of St. Stephen to Hungary in 1978.

Hungarian cultural life has also produced a number of outstanding writers and poets, such as Gyula Illyes and Endre Ady. Although translation of Hungarian works is increasing, it is a slow process that produces only a few works over a long period of time; this continues to hinder Hungary's rise in international literary eminence.

Budapest is the center of Hungary's cultural life. It has a large number of permanent theaters, as well as open air stages that offer performances in the summer. Performances of excellent opera productions, ballets and concerts, often featuring foreign artists, are held at both the State Opera House and the Erkel Opera Theater.

The city's highly rated symphonies, chamber groups, and soloists perform at the Academy of Music in the winter and on Margit Island in the summer. Budapest Music Weeks, arranged each year in the spring and fall, and the Liszt-Bartok Piano Competition, held every third year, are internationally known. The Hungarian State Folk Ensemble and the Budapest Ballet perform regularly during the winter season. The Budapest Festival Orchestra, a newly organized ensemble of polished younger musicians, now presents excellent programs throughout the year.

Hungarian filmmaking has achieved a high level of sophistication. A number of Hungarian films and directors have received international recognition, including Istvan Szabo, who received an Oscar for "Mephisto" in 1982. Budapest has many affordable first-run movie theaters that show both Hungarian and foreign films. A wide range of American and European films are shown regularly in theaters in Budapest. A good number of these remain in English, with Hungarian subtitles, although the trend is toward dubbing into Hungarian.

As a consequence of efforts to preserve Hungary's historical and cultural treasures, Budapest abounds in museums of all types. Among the most interesting are the Buda Castle Museum, which recreates the atmosphere of the Middle Ages with its artful blend of authentic medieval artifacts and skillful reconstruction; the Hungarian National Gallery, which focuses on Hungarian painting, sculpture, and graphic arts from the 19th and 20th centuries, both in the Var (Castle district); The Museum of Fine Arts, which houses an extensive collection of both Hungarian and foreign artwork, much of which is top quality; and the Hungarian National Museum, which is the repository of the Crown of St. Stephen.

A number of galleries and exhibition halls display the work of contemporary Hungarian artists. Among them are the Mucsarnok and Ernst Museums. Hungarian artists are well versed in Western art movements and tendencies, which often find expression in their work.

In all cultural areas, tickets are priced well below U.S. equivalents. Information on cultural events is published in each of the daily papers, while such publications as the Pesti Musor and Programme in Hungary, as well as the cultural pages of the weekly English language press, provide details. For further information on this topic, please refer to the following section on recreation.

Budapest is the center of Hungarian education. In addition to the Eotvos Lorand University, consisting of faculties of law, liberal arts, and the natural sciences, the Semmelweis Medical University, Budapest University of Economics, and academies for fine arts and technical fields are located in Budapest. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the country's highest scientific body, maintains more the 80 research institutes and centers, most of which are located in Budapest.

Commerce and Industry

Hungary possesses few natural resources other than agriculture, rich bauxite deposits, and some coal, oil, and natural gas. A strategic location in the heart of central Europe, a well educated population, and a history of government policies favorable to exports combine to give the economy a remarkable degree of openness. Emphases on internal reform and on foreign trade have helped make Hungary a leader among the reformist economies of central and eastern Europe.

Roughly three economic watersheds have taken place since 1945. The first was post-World War II reconstruction, setting the base for a highly concentrated Stalinist-type heavy industry. The second was the reintroduction of light industry and modern agriculture following the 1956 popular uprising and Hungary's acceleration through the 1968 New Economic Mechanism. The third, most dramatic and far-reaching step has been the economic transformation following the end of the socialist era here in 1990.

Recent Economic History and Current Situation

Hungary's transition to a free market economy has proven more protracted and difficult than expected. Unemployment in 2000 remained high (9.4%) in a society where job security was long taken for granted. Output has fallen throughout the economy. Privatization has been frustratingly slow. Hungary remains saddled with Europe's highest per capita foreign debt. 8.6% of the population lives below the official poverty line, and living standards of the middle class have declined.

However, painful policies are yielding positive results. The country has had strond economic growth in recent years. Hungary manages its foreign debt responsibly, and has attracted over $23 billion in foreign investment.

Hungary's creation of a market economy, its removal from the COCOM list of proscribed countries, and its trade agreements with European trading partners offer expanded opportunities for American businesses. The U.S. Government is assisting the country with a wide range of official assistance programs.



Public city transportation is excellent. Budapest and its environs are well serviced with a network of buses, streetcars, and subway lines. All systems are crowded during rush hour. The monthly pass for bus, subway, and streetcar is currently around 1,140 forints ($11.40), but increases quite often. Taxis are numerous, and available at stands throughout the city. Taxi fares depend on the taxi company and time of day. In addition, a highly dependable van service operates to and from Ferihegy, the Budapest airport; fares are much lower than for taxis.


Air service between Budapest and most cities in Western Europe is adequate but, as is common in Europe, expensive. However, there are discount fares available in winter. Service is provided by KLM, Swissair, Austrian Airlines, Sabena, Iberia, Lufthansa, British Air, Alitalia, Delta, Air France, and Malev.

Trains are available in Budapest to almost any destination in Europe. During the summer, daily (except Sunday) hydrofoil boats travel the Danube from Budapest to Vienna. The ride is scenic, pleasant, and takes about 5 hours. Reservations must be made in advance.

There is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol. Police often conduct routine road checks where breath analyzers are administered. Persons found to be driving while intoxicated face jail and/or fine. The condition of Hungarian highways is, in general, relatively good. However, roads in the provinces are narrow, badly lit, and in poor repair in some places. They are often used by pedestrians, agricultural machines, and animals, requiring increased caution from drivers.


Telephone and Telegraph

Telephone and telegraph service to most countries is available, but quality is not up to U.S. standards. A stake in the Hungarian telephone company was recently purchased by a German-American consortium, which plans to upgrade the quality of service. Most countries can be reached by direct dialing, but service is unreliable and frustrating during working hours. After hours calling is easier and more reliable.

Long distance calls are expensive to the U.S. (two to three times higher than calls placed from the U.S.), but relatively inexpensive to continental Europe. It is now possible to use long distance calling cards here, and this results in some cost saving on calls to the U.S. The Embassy operates its own FAX services. Telegrams sent through the Hungarian post office are inexpensive and reliable.

All government-owned and-rented housing units have telephone service available at the occupant's expense. Monthly bills include a monthly service charge and a per-call charge; however, the calls are not itemized. Local monthly service is much cheaper than in the U.S.

Radio and Television

Hungarian Radio (MR) has eastern FM channels which broadcast to a nationwide audience. They play music, news, talk shows, and entertainment programs. Pending the lifting of the three-year moratorium on the licensing of TV and radio frequencies, there are other radio stations audible in Budapest. Privately owned Radio Bridge, which broadcasts rock music on the western FM band, also runs Voice of America news in English several times a day, as well as locally produced English language news programs twice a day. Danubius Calypso Juventus, jointly owned by a media entrepreneur and the 11th District Council, broadcasts daily on the eastern FM band to a small section of Budapest. Radio Danubius and Radio Calypso, commercial stations owned by MR, play music on western FM. Radio Juventus is a private commercial channel based in Siofok.

There are numerous indigenous cable producers, and satellite television is increasingly popular in Hungary. The Hungarian government finances a satellite television network, Duna TV, which is seen in Hungary and surrounding countries.

Hungarian television uses the PAL SECAM standard.

Newspapers, Magazines and Journals

There are many daily newspapers in Budapest and scores of other regional and local dailies in the provinces. The printed press was privatized very soon after the political changes in Hungary, and many papers were bought by foreign investors. A wide variety of opinions and views are represented, though most papers tend to be associated with a particular political faction or point of view.

Western newspapers and magazines are readily available in Budapest, but less so outside the city. The International Herald Tribune is available on the day of publication, either by subscription or at the kiosks. USA Today is available, usually a day late. Daily newspapers such as The New York Times are almost impossible to find, and arrive late and at great cost. The international editions of Time, Newsweek, and other magazines are in the kiosks on the day of publication. There are currently several English-language newspapers published weekly by American publishers, including Budapest Week, The Budapest Sun, and The Budapest Business Journal.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Many pharmacies are beginning to stock Western drugs as they become licensed in Hungary.

Local physicians are highly qualified and well trained. Many pediatricians provide home care. More and more small, private clinics are opening with well-trained, English-speaking doctors. Although the hospitals and other facilities are often dated and standards of appearance are lower than what Americans are accustomed to, medical competency is high. Most doctors and hospitals expect cash payment before providing health services

Preventive Measures

Tap-water is potable. Because the water is considered very "hard," with a high metal content and sediment, many individuals filter their drinking water. Budapest is a source of naturally carbonated water, which is sold in restaurants and stores. It is not necessary to boil milk. However, regular pasteurized milk spoils quickly. Sterilized long life milk is widely available and has a shelf life of six months. Raw fruits and vegetables are safe to eat, using washing precautions normally followed in the U.S. Sewerage and garbage disposal is adequate.

Sinus and respiratory ailments are aggravated by winter smog and year-round pollution. Springtime provokes allergy problems.


Each person should have a Hungarian entry visa. Completed application forms and photographs should be submitted to a Hungarian diplomatic or consular mission under cover of a note from the individual's post of origin. This should be done well before your estimated arrival time in Hungary, as the application process normally takes up to three weeks.

A visa is not required for stays of up to 90 days. Further information concerning entry requirements can be obtained at the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary at 3910 Shoemaker Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 362-6730, or the nearest Hungarian consulate in Los Angeles or New York.

Each member of the family, including children, should have his or her own passport.

Hungary has a low rate of violent crime. However, street crime, which occasionally involves violence, has increased especially at night near major hotels and restaurants and on public transportation. Theft of passports, currency and credit cards is a frequent problem, especially in youth hostels, at train stations, and when riding public transportation. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Foreigners may also experience problems with excessive billing, etc., at night clubs featuring "adult entertainment." The number of burglaries has risen substantially, and vehicle thefts, particularly of high value automobiles, is a major problem.

No quarantine restrictions apply to household pets, but all animals must have valid, current general health and rabies certificates. All shots must be up to date at least thirty days before arrival in Hungary. Several well-trained veterinarians practice in Budapest, many of whom speak English and make house calls. Most pet supplies are available locally.

The unit of Hungarian currency is the forint (Ft.). Currency is available in notes of 5,000; 1,000; 500; 100; and 50 Ft., and coins of 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 Ft. The official exchange rate at the beginning of 2001 was around 282 Ft. to the U.S. dollar.

You may exchange travellers checks and hard currency at banks and leading hotels. However, the acceptance of traveler's checks and credit cards is not universal. The presence of ATM's is increasing in Budapest only. Black market exchange and use of unauthorized currency exchange vendors in Hungary is illegal.

Hungary uses the metric system.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy, and obtain updated information on travel and security within Hungary. The U.S. Embassy is at V. Szabadsag Ter 12 in Budapest; telephone (36-1) 267-4400, or afterhours at (36-1) 269-9331.


Jan.1New Year's Day

Mar. 15Revolution Day


Mar/Apr.Easter Monday*

May 1Hungary Labor Day


May/JuneWhit Monday*

Aug. 20National Day

Oct. 22 Hungary Goverment Holiday

Oct. 23 Republic Day

Nov. 1All Saints' Day

Dec. 25Christmas Day

Dec. 26Boxing Day

Dec. 31Hungary Government Day



Editor's note: Because of the political change in Hungary in 1990 and its subsequent effect on nearly all aspects of life in Hungary, much of the literature about Hungary and Budapest is already outdated and obsolete. The following list is therefore necessarily short. It can be added to the literature which relates to Hungarian history prior to 1990 referred to in the reading list published in the previous Post Report. One may also consult A Readers Guide To Hungary, a reading list published by the Foreign Service Institute School of Area Studies.

Abel, Elie. The Shattered Bloc: Behind the Upheaval in Eastern Europe (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990).

Ash, Garton. The Magic Lantern: The Revolution of '89 Witnessed in Warsaw, Budapest, Berlin, and Prague (New York: Random House, 1990).

Austria and Hungary, 1991-1992. Frommer's Guides Series. New York: Prentice-Hall General Reference and Travel, 1990.

Batt, Judy. East Central Europe: From Reform to Transformation. New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1991.

Brada, Josef C., and Istvan Dobozi, eds. Money, Incentives, and Efficiency in the Hungarian Economic Reform (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1990).

Gati, Charles. The Bloc that Failed (Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana Univ. Press, 1990).

Honak, Peter, ed. One Thousand Years: A Concise History of Hungary. Portland, OR: International Specialized Book Services, 1991.

Kiraly, Bela K. et al., eds. The First War Between Socialist States: The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and Its Impact. New York: East European Quarterly, 1984.

Kornai, Janos. The Road to a Free EconomyShifting from a Socialist System: The Example of Hungary (New York: W.W. Norton, 1990).

Michener, James A. Bridge at Andau. New York: Random House, 1957.

Parsons, Nicholas T. Hungary: A Traveller's Guide. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1991.

Sisa, Stephen. The Spirit of Hungary: A Panorama of Hungarian History and Culture, 2nd ed. Long Branch, NJ: Vista Publishing, 1991.

Torok, Andras. Budapest: A Critical Guide (Budapest: Park/Officina Nova, 1992).

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Republic of Hungary
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 10,106,017
Language(s): Hungarian
Literacy rate: 99.0%
Area: 93,030 sq km
GDP: 45,633 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 40
Total Circulation: 1,625,000
Circulation per 1,000: 194
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 33,781 (Forint millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 14.30
Number of Television Stations: 35
Number of Television Sets: 4,420,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 437.4
Number of Cable Subscribers: 1,576,000
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 157.6
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 1,753,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 173.5
Number of Radio Stations: 77
Number of Radio Receivers: 7,010,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 693.6
Number of Individuals with Computers: 870,000
Computers per 1,000: 86.1
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 1,480,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 146.4

Background & General Characteristics

Perhaps the one person that is associated worldwide with excellence in the media, innovation in communications, independent liberalism in journalism and education for the media is Joseph Pulitzer, a man of Hungarian descent. At 17, Pulitzer left Hungary for America where, in a series of newspaper ownerships, he pioneered the use of illustrations and photographs, news stunts and crusades against corruption. As a result of competition with the Hearst Group of newspapers characterized by vicious and lengthy circulation wars, Pulitzer's newspapers became renowned for sensationalism, yellow journalism and banner headlines. His name was later remembered for the foundation of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York, and endowment of the series of prizes for excellence in journalism, the Pulitzer Prizes.

Thus it is somewhat ironic that nearly 100 years after his death in 1911, the country of his birth is attempting to establish an independent media by means of sensationalism, the rooting out of corruption and mismanagement, and with a political orientation of independent liberalism that was the hallmark of Pulitzer's newspapers in his formative years as a journalist in America.

The need for an independent media results from the period following World War II, during which Hungary was part of the Eastern Bloc and therefore dominated by the Soviet Union. At that time, all media was strictly controlled as an instrument of the Communist Party. In 1989 Hungary became the first country of the Eastern Bloc to move away from the Soviet Union and its attempt to establish an independent media dates from then. The years since independence generally have been successful economically, but the transformation of the media from a state-controlled propaganda machine to an independent and self-policing vehicle of public discourse has been a hard-fought battle. At the turn of the twenty-first century the Freedom House, an independent, non-partisan organization that assess media freedom, awarded Hungary a rating of 27 out of 100, indicating almost complete freedom of the press.

The Nature of the Audience

The population of Hungary is around 10 million, of which 1.8 million (18 percent) live in the capital Budapest. Other major cities are Debrecen (204,000), Miskolc (172,000), Szeged (158,000), Pécs (157,000) and Györ (124,000). Almost two-thirds of the population is urbanized and the remaining one-third has ready access to all media.

Hungary has a highly literate audience. Literacy is estimated at almost 100 percent for men and women, and the level of education is high. Thus it is no surprise that newspapers have a circulation of 194 per 1,000 people, though this is down from the early 1990s when reportedly a phenomenal 400 per 1,000 of the population read newspapers.

The Hungarian language is classified as Finno-Ugrian and is part of the Altaic group of languages. Apart from linguistic relatives in Estonia and Finland, the Hungarian language is unique in Europe, and 95 percent of ethnic Hungarians speak a language very different from other European languages. There exists a possibility the media could marginalize other ethnic groups, but the Hungarian government has made significant commitments both in the constitution and the media to recognize and cater to these groups. The most numerous of the ethnic minorities are the Romaoften called Gypsiesthe exact numbers of which are unknown but may be as high as 9 percent of Hungary's population. Germans, Slovaks, Croats, Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Polish, Serbian, Ruthenes and Ukrainians comprise the balance of the population. Of the 13 recognized ethnic minorities in Hungary, it is the status and accommodation of the Roma that is the most serious case for concern and which has received the most attention in the context of minority rights.

Notwithstanding the highly literate nature of the Hungarian population, the fact that the economy is in the process of recovering from the problems inherited from the socialist economic system means the affluence of the average Hungarian remains relatively low in contrast to that of its neighbors to the west. The purchasing power standard in Hungary, estimated by the European Union at 11,700 Euros, is 52 percent of the European Union average. This figure conceals significant hardships that exist in the population, not the least among the unemployed, senior citizens, and the Roma population in general. This climate of hardship and perceived injustice has created a vocal and predominantly liberal journalistic orientation.

Hungary has little in the way of historic traditions of a free media because it was effectively under the influence of the Soviet Bloc since 1945. Any history of media independence present in pre-World War II was lost in the following 45 years of Communist rule. During the Soviet period Hungary's oldest newspaper, Magyar Nemzet, was the principal organ of the party but was in serious decline near the turn of the twenty-first century. With mounting debts and a circulation of only 40,000 it merged with a right-wing daily, Napi Magyarorszag, and in recent years is Hungary's second most popular newspaper. It generally is considered the most right-wing of newspapers, and hence was the most sympathetic to the predominantly conservative governments of post-independence Hungary amid a sea of left-leaning print publications. Foremost among the liberal press are newspapers of the German-owned Axel Springer group, which have a leading position in the Hungarian newspaper market, particularly in the county newspapers outside Budapest.

Most Hungarian journalists cite a great journalistic tradition in their nation, largely a result of the early foundations of journalism during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the socialist years since 1945 little movement away from the party line occurred in Hungarian journalism. The only exception was during the time of the Hungarian revolution in November 1956 when many journalists and newspaper editorials supported the head of the independence movement, Imre Nagy. Following the Russian invasion to quell the revolution, a number of journalists were executed and others sentenced to long prison terms. Western observers have given Hungarian journalists a mark of 4 on a scale of 10 for quality of journalism, citing too much commentary, little quality investigative reporting and a tendency to present the newspaper's avowed political leanings with little or no attempt at balance in editorial viewpoint.

The Importance of Newspapers

There are more than 40 daily newspapers in Hungary, and more than 1,600 print publications. The most popular newspaper up to 2000 was Népszabadság with a daily circulation of 210,000. It was surpassed in the beginning of the millennium by a new Swedish-owned, freely distributed tabloid, Metro, which by 2002 had a circulation of 235,000. Newspapers are in a constant circulation war, competing in a declining readership market amid an excess of publications and are increasingly turning to yellow journalism in attempts to gain market share.

Népszabadság Rt. (People's Liberty Co.) was founded in 1990 with 340 million Hungarian forints (HUF) in capital assets. Today it is a powerful business owned by the Swiss-based Ringier Corporation, with some 8 billion HUF annual revenues and it is active in other media fields. Its paper, the Népszabadság (Peoples Liberty) is by far the largest newspaper in circulation in Hungary. Its long-time slogan was "Hungary's Most Popular Daily Newspaper." The paper is of standard size (63 by 47 cm) and is published six times a week (Monday to Saturday). The number of pages varies during the weekWednesday averages the most (40)as does the ratio of advertisementsFriday averages the highest percentage (29) of advertisements. It has only a morning edition, similar to all Hungarian newspapers, with the exception of Déli Hírek (News at Noon), a regional newspaper circulated in the Northeast region of Miskolc and the surrounding county of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén. Déli íírek is on newsstands by noon or the early afternoon, and also has a single edition per day.

The Népszabadság has both permanent features and special supplements over the week. Its standard coverage consists of foreign politics with commentary, home affairs, mirror to the world, mirror to Hungary, culture, forum, market and economy, real estate market, news of the world, sport (in every day's edition), info world, green page, youth/school, the economy and technical/computer electronics. Each weekday there are special sections concentrating on popular subjects. Monday's edition has a regular supplement called "Daily Investor, " Tuesday has a supplement on labor and job issues, Wednesday's special edition is dedicated to cars and motorcycles, Thursday it produces a supplement called "At Home" (concentrating on domestic Hungarian issues), Friday has a real estate supplement, and Saturday has "Magazine" and "Weekend" sections. The newspaper generally is considered to have a left-wing attitude, so it was quite critical towards the Hungarian government from the middle of 1998 to the middle of May 2002.

In contrast, the second largest newspaper, Magyar Nemzet (Hungarian Nation) has a definite right-wing bias. It is owned by Nemzet Lap és Könyvkiadó (Nemzet Newspaper and Book Publishing Co.) which consists of a number of private shareholders. It calls itself the "bourgeois paper" and acted as a de facto forum. Some would say it also acted as a mouthpiece for the government up to 2002, with an orientation favoring the conservative government in power. Magyar Nemzet has a circulation of about 110,000, is published six times a week from Monday to Saturday, and has permanent columns dedicated to home affairs, foreign affairs/diplomacy, the economy, culture, letters from the readers, a large sports section, and a weekend magazine on Saturday. It usually has two to three pages of advertisements and around 20 to 24 total pages. It is a full-size newspaper.

Magyar Hírlap (Hungarian News), also owned by the Ringier Group, has a circulation of around 38,000, regular (large) size pages and 24 pages on weekdays, but the Saturday edition has 28. Its motto is "The news is intangible, the opinion is free," thus claiming that it is the most objective of all Hungarian newspapers. Its regular columns are the topic of the day, foreign affairs, home affairs centered on Budapest, culture, letters from the readers, world news, the domestic economy, the world economy, E-world, food market, science, sports and a weekend magazine called "As You Like It" in the Saturday edition.

Népszava (People's Word) a left-wing broadsheet owned and influenced by trade union interests, has about the same circulation as Magyar Hírlap. Its regular columns include home affairs, foreign affairs, background, opinion, world, culture, television programming, letters from readers, sports and world news.

There are two economic papers published five times a week on weekdays. In the mid-1990s they were one paper, then they split into Napi Gazdaság (Daily Econo my) and Világgazdaság (World Economy). They are much more expensive than the dailies, especially Világgazdaság, which costs 190 HUF, and Napi Gazdaság 's cost of 178 HUF. In comparison Népszabadság sells for 85 HUF, Magyar Nemzet 98 HUF, Magyar Hírlap 99 HUF and Népszava 89 HUF.

In Budapest there is an English-language weekly, the Budapest Sun, which primarily covers topics of concern to the business community. Other European-language newspapers are readily available and often with same-day coverage as the rest of Europe. North American newspapers (USA Today, New York Times ) usually are editions from two to three days earlier. There is no restriction on their import.

A major feature of Hungarian newspaper readership is the numbers, circulation and impact of 18 regional newspapers outside Budapest. Hungarian county newspapers and magazines are noteworthy for their dominance by the Axel Springer German newspaper conglomerate. Axel Springer is the publisher of nine county papers, or almost half of all the county papers, as there are 19 counties in Hungary. Pest County, where Budapest is located, has no newspaper of its own but owing to the dominance of Budapest in Hungarian affairs, the national dailies devote much of their news coverage to what is happening in the capital. Only three counties Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Heves and Fejérhave more than one paper. Total circulation of the nine county papers is about 250,000 with an average circulation around 37,500, thus giving them as important an impact, if not more, than the so-called national dailies. Axel Springer's county newspapers are the following: Békés Megyei Hírlap (Békés County News, circulation of 33,200); Új Dunántúli Napló (New Transdanubian Diary, 55,000); Jászkun Krónika/Új Néplap (Jászkun Chronicle/New People's Paper, 16,000); Heves Megyei Hírlap (Heves County News, 21,000); Nógrád Megyei Hírlap (Nógrád County News, 17,000); Somogyi Hírlap (Somogy News, 25,365); Petöfí Népe (Petöfí's People, 50,485); Tolnai Népújság (Tolna People's Paper, 23,650) and 24 Óra (Twenty-four Hours, 25,365).

The remaining county newspapers are owned either by another German-based group, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitungsgruppe (WAZ), an Austrian-based conglomerate, Inform Stúdió Ltd. or the British-based Daily Mail group.

The second largest conglomerate, Pannon Lapok Társasága (Society of Pannon Papers), a division of Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitungsgruppe (WAZ), is one of the largest European regional media concerns, consisting of more than 160 companies and an annual turnover in excess of 4 billion Deutsche Marks in 2001. It has papers in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria. In Hungary it has four county papers with a total circulation of around 250,000. These papers have a radio and television program color attachment called RTV-Tipp. The newspapers are: Zala Megyei Hírlap (Zala County News, with a circulation of about 65,000); Napló (Diary, 56,400); Vas Népe (Vas People, 64,200) and Fejér Megyei Hírlap/Dunaújvárosi Hírlap (Fejér County News/Dunaújváros News, 53,500 and 9,800, respectively).

The third county newspaper group in Hungary is Funk VerlagInform Stúdió. The publisher has Austrian majority ownership (Inform Stúdió Ltd.) but with its Hungarian center in Miskolc. It publishes three county newspapers with a total circulation exceeding 136,000. Its papers are: Hajdú-Bihari Napló (Hajdú-Bihar Diary, 50,400), Észak-Magyarország (North Hungary, 37,350), and Kelet-Magyarország (East Hungary, 48,750).

Finally the Rothermere family, based in Britain and publishers of the Daily Mail in the UK, publishes two county papers in Hungary with a total circulation of more than 150,000. The Kisalföld (Small Hungarian Plain) is the leading county paper in Hungary, with regional editions distributed across county borders. Its other paper is Délmagyarország/Délvilág (South Hungary/Southern Part).

Additionally, there are three minor county/urban county seat dailies. They are: Békés Megyei Nap (Békés County Daily, 10,680), Komárom-Esztergom Megyei (Komárom-Esztergom County News, 15,000) and the only afternoon-edition newspaper, Déli Hírek (News at Noon, 18,000).

In the magazine market, a company called AS-Budapest publishes most of the major magazines such as the popular women's magazines Kiskegyed (My Fine Lady), Csók és Könny (Kisses and Tears), Kiskegyed konyhája (Kitchen of the Kiskegyed), Gyöngy (Pearl), TVR-hét (Weekly Television and Radio Programs), Lakáskultúra (Homes Culture), and Party. AS-Budapest also publishes a Sunday paper called Vasárnap Reggel (Sunday Morning).

In twenty-first century Hungary there are few logistical problems with producing such a large output of print media. Most presses are modern offset presses, usually manufactured and imported from within Europe. News-print is readily available in adequate quantities. In a country that had a socialist history of trade union membership, there have been no strikes or work stoppages that have significantly affected newspaper production. The average print journalist's salary in Hungary in 2002 was around HUF 170,000 a month. Junior staff earn around HUF 120-150,000, more experiencedjournalists (staff members) around HUF 200-250,000, editors between HUF 250-400,000, senior editors up to 500,000, and editor-in-chiefs' salaries may go up to 1 million HUF. Television journalists are said to earn considerably more. Internet journalists earn less than the average, around 20-40 percent less than their newspaper colleagues.

Freelance journalists do not exist in Hungary in the Western sense of the term. That is, newspapers do not, or cannot, afford to pay a separate story the sum it would be worth and that helps explain why there is so little independent investigative journalism. There are journalists who do not have a single workplace and sell pieces to different publications, but their articles are public relations pieces. It is suspected that Playboy and similar magazines pay the largest sums for a piece, around HUF 10,000 (U.S. $39.50) per flekk, a Hungarian journalistic term for the length of the text, around 1,500 characters with spaces.

There also exists a strange phenomenon in Hungary because according to tax authorities, there are only a couple of journalists in the whole nation! This means that few of them are registered as being employed as a journalist in their medium, and even those who are official journalists receive only the minimum wage of HUF 50,000 per month. The remainder of their salary is paid according to an agreement with the small companies of the journalists. This way the employer can avoid paying Social Security and other taxes.

In a country the size of Hungary, the depth and extent of newspaper coverage can be viewed as remarkable. The Observer Budapest Media Watch Co. regularly examines 162 newspapers and periodicals in Hungary, although most have circulations of about 5,000 to 10,000 subscribers. The generally adverse economic climate is the major factor in the low percentage of advertising, with the result that subscriptions, circulation, market area and discretionary retail sales become major influences on newspaper viability. On the other hand, advertisers have very little influence on editorial policies. As the economy strengthens and full European Union integration brings more foreign investment, the importance of advertising to the newspaper industry can be expected to increase.

As a result of the almost homogeneous Hungarian population, most publications are printed in Hungarian. Major minority newspapers in Hungary and their ethnic audience are: Amaro Drom (Roma), Ararát (Hungarian and Armenian), BarátságPrietenie (Hungarian and Romanian), Foaia Romaneasca (Romanian), Haemus (Bolgár), Hromada (Hungarian and Ukrainian), Hrvatski Glasnik (Croatian), Közös ÚtKethano Drom (Hungarian and Roma), Lungo Drom (Roma), Ludové Noviny (Slovakian), Neue Zeitung (German), Porabje (Slovenain) and Srpske Narodne Novine (Serbian).

The news media in Hungary is generally seen as having a left-wing bias, an accusation that the ruling political parties in the 1990s disliked and have attempted to counterbalance by political appointments in oversight bodies. This accusation is most prevalent in Budapest which, by nature of its population and political importance, is most affected by the political climate in Hungary. In smaller cities and towns, local news is just as important and the circumstances of individuals become more important than the political agenda. In some newspapers there have been instances of anti-Semitism that have found voice in the media, but the government moved quickly to silence such right-wing extremists.

Economic Framework

In the 10 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, the economy of Hungary has been one of the most successful in making the transition to a privatized, market economy. As Hungary entered the new millennium, inflation was at a manageable 9 percent, growth was at a robust 3.5-4 percent and productivity was among the highest of all Eastern European nations. Based on this successful economic transformation, Hungary was one of the first former communist nations to gain candidate status for entry into the European Union. Economically, the European Union has stressed that the Hungarian government needs to further reduce inflation, cut the budget deficit and reform the tax code.

The European Union also attaches considerable importance to the status of the press, with particular emphasis on freedom and independence. In addition, the European Union has used the question of the status of the Roma as a barometer upon which to judge Hungary's suitability to join the Union. In this regard the media has served in part as a barometer with which to judge Hungary's movement toward recognition and accommodation of its ethnic minorities, particularly the Roma. Some sections of the press have acted as watchdogs toward government mismanagement and discrimination, and acted to publicize and criticize racist acts directed against the Roma.

More than 80 percent of the print media and more than 70 percent of the broadcast media (in total, 30 radio stations and 29 television stations) are in private hands. The process started almost immediately after independence with the purchase of the existing media. Since independence there has been a veritable explosion of independent newspapers and magazines. Recently the print media has become highly competitive and of high quality. There is no direct control of the electronic media by the government, although there have been accusations that the government seeks to influence the media in its structuring and appointments to the Boards of Trustees.

Press Laws

The Constitution of the Hungarian Republic, written in 1949 but greatly amended upon independence in 1989, guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press under Act XX, Article 61, which states (paraphrased):

  • Part One: In the Republic of Hungary everybody has the right to freely express their opinion and have access to and disseminate data concerning the public.
  • Part Two: The Republic of Hungary acknowledges and protects the freedom of the press.
  • Part Three: The amendment of the Act on the publication of data of public concern and on the freedom of the press requires a two-thirds majority of Parliament.
  • Part Four: A two-thirds majority is needed for the appointment of the leaders of public radio, television and news agencies, the licensing of commercial radio and television stations and the passing of any act on the prevention of media monopolies.

These freedoms are generally respected. The most important subsequent legal qualifications were in 1994 when the Constitutional Court ruled that Article 232 of the criminal code was unconstitutional, thus removing the crime of libel from the criminal code and affirming the right of citizens/journalists to criticize public officials. In effect it meant that journalist harassment by means of libel lawsuits was no longer possible. This provision was never completely accepted by the government, and a 2000 law would permit journalists to be tried in criminal court if the journalist in question was continually charged with libel. This law has aroused much protest internally and by external media watchdogs. In 1996 a second landmark law affecting the media was passed. It was aimed specifically at the creation of commercial broadcast media and making the state public broadcasting system a separate public broadcasting service at more distance from the government. To date, the former has generally been successful while the latter has been only partially realized and is the cause of much discontent.

Finally, in 2000 the Constitutional Court removed another section of the criminal code forbidding "deliberately spreading panic" that in the past had been used against journalists.

It is worth noting that the Media Act (Act No. 1 of 1996 on Radio and Television services and passed by an 89 percent parliamentary majority in 1996) is one of the most problematic acts in Hungary. Reformation of this act has been on the political agenda many times since its passage with limited success. For example, Hungary is the only associate country of the European Union that has not closed negotiations with the European Union on the so-called "audiovisual chapter." As a consequence, the Hungarian film industry lost access to large amounts of European Union subsidy money, as it was not eligible for support. Both the former government and the former opposition (who in 2002 reversed their positions in government) blame it on the other side. The former government (now opposition) says that the then opposition (now government) consistently voted against amendments to the media law making it impossible to close the negotiations. The opposition said that it had no real influence on the amendment as the members of the Board of Trustees consisted only of the leading government party, and that is why it voted against the amendments.

In 2002 the Board of Trustees was constituted with members from both sides. Thus the prognosis is more positive for the Media Act to be amended and harmonized with European Union requirements. The issue was raised in parliament again in the summer of 2002 for the fourth time in as many years. Principal changes will be the re-regulation of broadcasting and urban county seat requirements, the introduction of the concept of "European program," the preference for programs made in Europe, stricter measures protecting youth (less violence on the screen) and the amendment of advertising rules.

There are laws codifying the privacy of individuals and these are generally respected. In Hungary the judiciary is independent under the constitution and a National Judicial Council nominates judicial appointmentsother than the Supreme Court or the Constitutional court whose members are elected by parliamentat the local and county level. The Constitutional Court decides on all matters of legal interpretation and has been required to make decisions a number of times on matters affecting the media. All decisions emanating from this court have been seen as impartial and fair.


There is no government body that monitors the press, either via pre-publication censorship or modes of compliance. However in view of the general adversarial relationship between the media and the government, the International Journalists Network (IJNET) claims that information from government officials is not readily forthcoming. This is despite an existing Freedom of Information Act that provides for press access to government activities. As a result, the IJNET suggests that the media has had "modest success" in uncovering alleged government wrongdoing, malfeasance or illicit activities. In 1998 the government passed a law limiting information that could be revealed about official meetings, banning recordings or transcripts, and limiting information to the proposed agenda and meeting attendees.

Overall the subject of censorship is a delicate issue. For example, although there is no "official" censorship in Hungary, many impartial observers have noted the blatant manner in which administrations since independence (ruling from 1998 to 2002) have tried to influence the media. The most egregious example seems to have occurred during the general elections in Hungary in May 2002. The fourth general election since independence in 1989, this generally was agreed to be the most virulent campaign ever waged, with accusations of lying and hatred from both sides. In particular, public opinion polls were published in the government newspapers predicting a clear government majority and saying that FIDESZ (Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége or Federation of Young Democrats), the incumbent party, would win again. But exactly the opposite happened. After the first round of elections, the MSZP (Magyar Szocialista Párt or Hungarian Socialist Party) had a slight advantage of only 1 percent. However, its ally, the Alliance of Free Democrats had a better position than the MIÉP (Magyar Igazság és Élet Pártja or Party of Hungarian Justice and Life), the only potential partner of the government. MIÉP is considered as an extremist right-wing party and it they had made a coalition with FIDESZ, Hungary probably would have reduced chances for European Union accession.

Between the two election rounds, then Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered a 40-minute speech filled with hatred, scaremongering and raising populist topics such as fear of the Communists returning, possible loss of homes and children, and religion being threatened and in danger of abolition. State television broadcast the speech in its entirety, and then rebroadcast it free of charge, not as a political advertisement (in which case it would have cost FIDESZ a fortune) but as a program of public interest.

Two days before the second round of the elections, a program defaming the MSZP candidate for prime minister was broadcast at peak evening viewing time, and on every program between the elections one could see only Orbán opening factories, talking to the people, shaking hands, crowds supporting him and so on, whereas there was hardly any news about the opposition parties campaign.

Despite this, Orbán and his FIDESZ party did not come out on top, and in 2002 Hungary elected a new government. One of the first priorities of the new government was to restructure the Board of Trustees, which governs the broadcast media. The recent board has representatives from both the government and the opposition. It is too early to judge the relationship between the new government and the media, but there is hope that it will try to exert less influence than the former government. It might also be assumed that given the left-wing bias in much of the Hungarian media, apart from Magyar Nemzet and a few periodicals, the media will be probably be more tolerant of the mistakes and faults of the new government.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

The Hungarian government has sometimes had a rocky relationship with the foreign media. While there are no restrictions on foreign journalists, no accreditation required and no violence against foreign media, the government is suspicious of the role foreign media plays, probably because of a perceived influence of foreign media on the process of European Union accession. In particular, the government in the past has accused foreign media of "spreading lies about Hungary abroad," and in 2000 then Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took the unusual step of naming three foreign newspapers that he claimed were trying to discredit Hungary: the New York Times, Die Zeit and Le Monde, all amongst the most reputable newspapers in the world. Having said that, some commentators noted that the three are liberal in their orientation and hence their pronouncements were bound to rankle the conservative governments of that time.

As much of an irritant as foreign media are in Hungary, the oversight provided by other media watchers has proven to be effectiveand mostly critical. The British Helsinki Human Rights Group, the Our Society Enlightenment Centre and domestic organizations such as the Openness Club have kept a constant commentary on press issues and freedoms in Hungary and are generally effective.

News Agencies

The official Hungarian news agency is MTI Co. (Magyar Távirati Iroda or Hungarian Telegraph Office). Founded in March 1881, then the news, reports and photographs of the MTI Co. since then have been the backbone of information released in the Hungarian press. The company has a staff of 400, including 19 county reporters and 14 reporters abroad, plus a number of photo reporters and journalists on 24-hour shifts, processing more than 10,000 pages of printed information daily. The fact that MTI produces some 700 news items per day shows how prolific it is in a country of only 10 million. As a result, there is extensive coverage of most issues in Hungary and those who use it generally see MTI Co. as fair and balanced. Almost all foreign news agencies are represented in Hungary, including Associated Press, Reuters, Inter-fax, Bloomberg and Dow Jones, as well as a number of European and Austrian newspapers that have offices in Budapest. The UK's Guardian and the Independent newspaper groups also have offices in Hungary.

In order to represent the Roma population more extensively and perhaps fairly, the Roma have their own news agency, the Roma Press center. In addition, Roma media television (Patrin TV News Magazine) and radio ("Roma 30 minutes") as well as Roma Print Media (Lungo Drom, Amaro Drom, Rom Som) have offices in the larger communities outside Budapest that distribute Roma news.

Broadcast Media

Television broadcasts are in Hungarian. However, there is minority language print media, and state-run radio broadcasts two-hour programs daily in Romany, Slovak, Romanian, German, Croatian and Serbian. State-run television also carries a 30-minute program for every major minority group. This programming is written and produced by the minority groups. Moreover, those minority groups without daily programming have weekly or monthly programs in their language. These programs may be repeated during off-hours on weekends. In February 2001 the radio station Radio C, took to the national airwaves with a seven-year license to broadcast in Romany for the Roma population.

The broadcast media has been the one area of concern in the transition to a free press. In 1989 the government controlled all electronic media, but plans for dismantling this system were put in place early in the life of an independent Hungary. Early difficulties in the privatization and regulatory agencies were solved by the media law of 1996 that was one of the most influential instruments of change for media in the former Soviet Bloc. At the turn of the twenty-first century only three electronic media outlets were government owned: Radio Hungary, Hungarian Television and Duna TV. Moreover, it was estimated that state television was watched by less than 10 percent of the viewing audience in the year 2000.

Notwithstanding this low market share, Hungarian television has been the focus of much of the discussion over the provision of a free press and the removal of government control and influence. Specifically, the state broadcast media have laid off a large number of journalists and administrative personnel, citing massive financial losses. This is almost certainly true but the government has been accused of selective layoffs, in particular firing journalists unsympathetic to the government. Moreover the Board of Trustees that governs executive positions, and ultimately programming, was weighted towards persons favoring the coalition government. Indeed, the board was incomplete with opposition seats remaining unfilled while they apparently fought amongst themselves for representation.

This infighting caused diplomats overseeing Hungary's accession into the European Union to strongly urge that this element of media affairs be resolved as it would hurt accession chances, a reprimand that is unusual and therefore indicative of a serious problem. Recently, Parliament and the Constitutional Court were embroiled in this dispute.

An example of the kind of interference in program content that has characterized Hungarian television and that has irked many Hungarians is a situation where one of Hungary's leading commercial televisions, RTL Klub, had a very popular weekly program called "Heti Hetes" (Weekly Seven), a talk show in which renowned Hungarian guest personalities (actors, writers, comedians) commented on the news of the week. It was among the two or three most popular and most watched shows on commercial television. Originally it was broadcast live, then after a few months it was filmed in a studio on Thursday night and broadcast Saturday night, starting quite late (about 10 p.m.). The program had a strong anti-government attitude but made fun of any politician, irrespective of his or her party. It was soon revealed in other media by the personalities that the best jokes were omitted from the program, notwithstanding their protests. A few weeks before the 2002 national elections, the RTL Klub announced it would cease broadcasting Heti Hetes for a few weeks until the election was over. There was a public uproar over this decision, and while the station announced that it would broadcast during the election, there was no Heti Hetes on the two Saturday nights before the elections.

Another example of government influence on the media was the case of the Hungarian writer, Péter Kende. He wrote a book called A Viktor about the former prime minister in which he exposed several negative characteristics of the former official. There was no formal government protest against the book nor was the writer sued, but the tax authority invaded his office the day after the book's release (the Hungarian tax authority has a history of use by the government to investigate and punish citizens) and a popular television program broadcast on state television in which Kende had an interest was taken off the air. Additionally, in many bookstores a few people were discovered wanting to buy all the books available, probably in an attempt to eliminate them from the market.

The potential for government interference in information dissemination is further exacerbated because Radio Hungary is the only radio station to cover the entire country and hence provides the opportunity for government to reach areas that television, through its limited appeal, does not. Radio Hungary also has come under much criticism as a government mouthpiece. In contrast, commercial radio stations have a limited local reach and provide little news.

Notwithstanding these problems with a state media that controls only 10 percent of the total viewing market, private electronic media flourish to the extent that Western private consortia have opened up television channels in Hungary. However, in 2000 during a sale of local radio stations to further privatize the media, buyers with ties to Hungary's right were favored by the licensing body over bidders such as the BBC, Radio France and Germany's Deutsche Wellean occurence leading some to comment that Hungary was not as committed to a free international press as it has claimed.

Electronic News Media

There are a large number of electronic news media sites that may be accessed by the 20 percent of Hungarian households connected to the Internet. Of significance, eMarketer believes that academic users make up more than half of the estimated Internet users, suggesting that among educated Hungarians, Internet news access may be an important trend. This is reinforced when one considers that the average Hungarian Internet user is usually between 20 and 25 years of age. Moreover, for those without Internet access, the market economy has created a large number of Internet cafes that provide access to the Internet for those who are not online at home. The major areas without Internet access are more rural, and often are areas of greater poverty. News flow is both voluminous and freely available both domestically and from international sources.

Hungary's online magazines total around 440, with some of the more popular subjects being technical and natural sciences, culture and arts, local and municipal issues, politics and public life, portals, and health and lifestyle. Overall, there is a wide variety of online magazines covering many areas of interest.

Education & TRAINING

Since 1989 there has been dramatic growth in both the number of journalists graduating from higher education establishments and a large number of private institutions led by well-known journalists (for instance: Komlósi Stúdió) or founded by papers (Népszabadság Stúdió) that teach journalists. The problem is that most instructors teaching journalism in the institutions were trained during the socialist period and hence have little appreciation of the need and application of a free press and all that it entails. Thus graduating students are technically good, but lack an ability to discriminate in selection of media content or provide balance in their coverage. Moreover, they feel obliged to insert their own commentary (by liberal use of adjectives and long-winded impressions) while burying the facts.

The most prestigious journalist schools are in the communications departments in Budapest's Eötvös Lo-rand University and Szeged University (the latter also has a presence in Budapest). Smaller universities in the countryside have similar departments. In reality, working journalists indicate journalism schools have only one function and that is to assist students with the opportunity to practice journalism in a working editorial office for some months, and if they are good, they may have a job opportunity. Moreover, they add that with the knowledge of two Western languages a graduate of any discipline has a good chance to become a journalist regardless of writing ability.

Once employed, journalists have the benefit of ongoing training through a number of bilateral programs that bring in teachers from the BBC, major U.S. newspapers and the German media. The Independent Journalism Center in Budapest has been at the forefront of this training program, funded in the early days by the U.S. financier George Soros, who put significant financial resources into media development in his native Hungary.


The transformation of Hungary's media from a state-controlled, politically dominated institution in past years to a twenty-first-century competitive, uncensored market with the majority of print and electronic media in private handsall in the space of 10 yearsis a remarkable transformation. Moreover, the quality of journalism and programming is high. The only apparent impediment to a nearly flawless media role is the lingering tendency of government to see the press as an adversary, and thus try to mute its criticism. This situation is most apparent in the electronic media, and particularly in the regulation of state television companies. The regulating board has remained heavily politicized but the demand for change is strong, as shown in March 2001 when around 6,000 demonstrators marched in Budapest to demand an independent advisory board. The change of government in 2002 created the climate for such a change, and change must occur in order to facilitate Hungary's accession into the European Union.

Significant Dates

  • 1989: Amendment to the Constitution of the Hungarian Republic, written in 1949, guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of the press under Act XX, Article 61.
  • 1994: The Constitutional Court rules that Article 232 of the criminal code was unconstitutional, thus removing the crime of libel from the criminal code and affirming the right of citizens and journalists to criticize public officials.
  • 1996: Passage of The Media Act (Act No. 1 of 1996 on Radio and Television services).
  • March 2001: Around 6,000 demonstrators march in Budapest to demand an independent advisory board for state electronic broadcasting.


Bajomi-Lázár, Péter. Media Policy Proposals for Hungary. The Center for Policy Studies, Open Society Institute. Available from

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"Europa-Enlargement relations with Hungary." The European Commission. Available from

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"Hungary." In World Press Freedom Review 2001. Available from

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"Hungary Press Overview." International Journalists Network. Available from

Richard W. Benfield

Dr. Zoltán Raffay

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Republic of Hungary

Magyar Népköztársaság



Hungary is a landlocked country in eastern Central Europe bordered by Austria, Slovakia, the Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia. Located in the Carpathian Basin, it is surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, the Alps, and the Dinaric Alps. It has a total area of 93,030 square kilometers (35,919 square miles), 690 square kilometers (266 square miles) of which is water. Comparatively, Hungary is slightly smaller than the state of Indiana. The capital, Budapest, is located in the central northern region on the Danube river, which runs from Austria to the Croatian-Serbian border.


The population of Hungary was estimated at 10.04 million at the end of January 2000, a slight decrease compared to the 1990 population of 10.38 million. In 2000 the birth rate was estimated at 9.26 births per 1,000, and the death rate was 13.34 deaths per 1,000. The population growth rate estimate in 2000 was-.33 percent, making Hungary a country where population is declining. The majority religion in Hungary is Roman Catholic (67.5 percent), followed by Calvinist (20 percent), Lutheran (5 percent), and atheist and other (7.5 percent).

Some 60 percent of Hungarians live in urban areas. Compared to other European countries in population density, Hungary ranks in the middle with about 109.4 persons per square kilometer (283 per square mile). The most densely populated areas lie in the industrial axis areas, running southwest to northwest, that are rich in natural resources.

The Hungarian population is predominantly ethnic Hungarian (89.9 percent), descendants of the Finno-Ugric and Turkish tribes who merged with the Avars and Slavic tribes in the 9th century. The modern population also includes Roma (Gypsies, 4 percent), Germans (2.6 percent), Serbs (2 percent), Slovaks (0.8 percent), and Romanians (0.7 percent). An interesting feature of Hungary is that many ethnic Hungarians who identify themselves as Hungarians also live in bordering states and other countries, approximately 5 million in all. The largest Hungarian population outside Hungarian bordersapproximately 2 millionlives in the Romanian region of Transylvania. Another 700,000 live in the Slovak and Czech Republics, and some 650,000 live in the former Yugoslavia.


Hungary has an advanced and diversified free-market economy. Economic growth is strong relative to other countries in Europe, and Hungary has its sights set clearly on accession to the European Union (EU) before 2010. It has been more than 10 years since the official end of state socialism and a semi-command economy, and over 85 percent of the economy has been privatized . Hungary has undergone significant economic reform since 1989 including privatization, reform of important state-supported sectors like health care, pensions, and social security, and housing supports. It has also experienced significant regional development and the encouragement of both foreign and domestic investment.

Hungary's economic output has been steadily growing, yet it continues to lag behind typical western countries, including those of the European Union. Still, its growth rates have been impressive by the standards of developed countries, in recent years exceeding the EU average. Hungary's growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) was 5.5 percent in 2000, up from 4 percent in the previous year.

Hungary is regarded as a converging economy approaching the ranks of developed countries in general. Hungary is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is currently an associate member of the European Union and has been preparing for full membership since 1997.

The most significant event affecting Hungary's economy after 1950 was the experiment of state socialism. When the communists took over in 1948, the economy of Hungary was based primarily on agriculture. That emphasis shifted under communist rule toward industrialization, especially heavy industry and manufacturing. In the late 1950s and 1960s the government retreated on this stance somewhat, emphasizing more consumer-oriented goods. As a consequence the Hungarian standard of living rose relative to that of other Eastern European countries under communist rule, but by the 1980s the Hungarian economy began to stagnate. As a consequence, Hungary became increasingly indebted to international lenders. At the same time, its ties with foreign governments, businesses, and organizations were gradually increasing. The combination of these financial and commercial trends contributed to the shift to a multiparty system in 1989.

The introduction of multiparty competition in 1990 was quickly followed by significant free market reforms, especially in the area of privatization. The new government was also particularly aggressive at attracting foreign investment, accounting for more than half of all direct foreign investment in Eastern Europe by 1993. Since 1989 more than US$20 billion in working capital has been invested by foreign companies. About 40 of the world's top 50 multinational companies are represented in Hungary. Hungary also has the most highly capitalized stock exchange in eastern Central Europe.

The growth potential of the Hungarian economy remains strong relative to both its neighbors and to the advanced economies of the European Union. Hungarian sovereign debt now rates as investment grade (debt low enough for investors to seriously consider putting money into the country). Hungary's economic growth in 2000 exceeded 5 percent, placing it above the EU average. Inflation , while high at just above 10 percent, is expected to drop to single digit levels in 2001 or 2002.

Organized crime has been a problem in Hungary since its political and economic transition in 1989, especially as a consequence of its geographic location and relative economic openness. Organized crime groups have used Hungary as a transit country for smuggling drugs, people, and weapons. Hungary has passed tough laws against such activities, however, and is rated much more highly as an attractive locale for foreign investment than many other post-communist countries. As it seeks to gain accession to the European Union, Hungary is actively seeking to eradicate the further influence of organized crime.


Since its transition to a multiparty system in 1989, Hungary has enjoyed a fully competitive and democratic political system. Hungary is a parliamentary democracy with the leader of the largest party as prime minister. There is also a president who acts as head of state and is elected by the legislature. The legislative branch consists of the single-chambered National Assembly, consisting of 386 representatives elected through a combination of proportional and direct representation. Elections are held every 4 years, taking place in 1990, 1994, and 1998.

The ruling coalition in 2001 consisted of the right-of-center Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Party, in concert with the Hungarian Democratic Party and the Independent Smallholders' Party. The main opposition parties were the leftist Hungarian Socialist Party and the centrist Alliance of Free Democrats. A far-right nationalist party, the Hungarian Justice and Life Party, also received 14 seats for the first time in the 1998 election. The parties differ over the emphasis and content of some key economic policy issues. The Fidesz-based coalition, for example, supports a faster pace of economic reform than does the Socialist Party, which during its period in government from 1994-98 slowed the pace of reforms. Because all major parties are committed to Hungary's joining the European Union, however, economic policy differences are muted.

Hungary's judicial branch is headed by an independent Constitutional Court, established during the regime change of 1989 by the First Act of the Constitution. By law it is the responsibility of the Constitutional Court to guarantee that the constitution is adhered to in legal and political affairs. One important duty of the Constitutional Court is to reconcile the differences between national and international law, especially important in the economic and policy sphere as Hungary prepares its laws to conform to EU standards.

The Hungarian justice system is divided into 3 areas of jurisdiction, including criminal, civil, and administrative law. Administrative law includes reviewing the legality of administrative decisions, including economic policy decision, with regard to existing regulations. Hungary has a 3-tier justice system. At the lowest level are local courts (municipal district courts), superseded by county courts (in the 19 counties and the capital Budapest), and the Supreme Court. The office of the public prosecutor also plays an important role, used to investigate criminal activity and to represent the public interest. The public prosecutor supervises investigations, enforces punishments, and oversees court proceedings.

Hungary has a large centralized tax office, known in Hungarian as APEH. APEH monitors the financial activity of citizens and businesses, processing annual returns and value-added taxes , currently between 12 and 25 percent in Hungary depending on the category of good. APEH has fairly sweeping powers to investigate tax non-compliance, including its own police branch. Income tax on individuals is progressive (meaning the proportion of tax paid increases as income increases), ranging from 25 percent to 42 percent for the highest incomes. The general tax rate on businesses is 18 percent.


Like many former communist countries, Hungary possesses an excellent public transport system. The rail system, consisting of 7,606 kilometers (4,726 miles) of track, is state-owned and operated and connects all major cities in Hungary as well as a large number of international destinations. Hungary has 188,203 kilometers (116,944 miles) of highways, 81,680 kilometers (50,756 miles) of which are paved and 438 kilometers (272 miles) of which are expressways. Hungary also has 1,373 kilometers (853 miles) of permanently navigable waterways, including the Danube River flowing north to south through the center of the country. With its tributaries, the Danube provides a low-cost means to transport passengers and a large portion of domestic freight.

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Hungary 186 689 437 146.5 105 17.7 58.9 93.13 600
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Germany 311 948 580 214.5 170 73.1 304.7 173.96 14,400
Austria 296 753 516 139.1 282 N/A 233.4 252.01 1,840
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

The completion of a canal between the Main River and the Danube River in 1992 allowed for goods to be shipped from the Black Sea to the North Sea. Finally, Hungary had 43 airports in 1999, including an international airport just outside Budapest. Hungary has a national airline, Malév, serving nearly all major European cities and several destinations in North America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The airline was formerly state-owned but has now been partially privatized. The Ministry of Economic Affairs approved a large-scale program, the Széchényi Plan, designed to make massive national investments in highway and property development after 2000.

Power production in Hungary relies on a combination of domestically generated energy sources and imports. In 1999 Hungarian consumption of energy was 33.317 billion kilowatt hours (kWh), while production was 35.104 billion kWh. Hungary still has artificially low subsidized energy prices, but there are plans to allow prices to rise to western European market levels. At present Hungary's energy prices are between one-third and one-half of the prices in EU countries.

Like many other former Eastern bloc countries, Hungary relies heavily on fossil fuels to meet its energy needs. Hungary's estimated sources of primary energy supplies (1996, OECD/IEA) were 16.9 percent coal, 27.1 percent oil, and 40.4 percent natural gas. Of non-fossil fuel sources, 14.6 percent came from nuclear energy, 0.1 percent from hydroelectric sources, and 0.9 percent from other sources. Nuclear energy is produced in Hungary's 1 nuclear power plant, located near the city of Paks. Nuclear energy provides 38.9 percent of Hungary's electricity production, producing 13.969 billion kWh in 1998.

Hungary's telecommunication network has until recently been underdeveloped both from a technological and a service standpoint. But partial privatization of the state telephone company Matáv in 1993 and the planned introduction of competition for land-based telephone lines in 2002 has led to many important changes. Among these has been a spectacular growth in cellular phone services and ownership, with the number of mobile phone subscribers estimated at more than 3 million in 2000. (Official data put this number at 1.62 million in 1999, and 1.034 million in 1998.) There were 3 companies providing cellular service in 2001.

Under communism the telecommunication system was underdeveloped and poorly operated. Even in the first half of the 1990s, Hungarians often had to wait more than a year to have a fixed telephone line installed. This situation has changed quickly in recent years, however. The domestic phone network is now digitized and highly automated and is able to provide almost any telecommunication service need. Trunk services are carried by fiber-optic cable and digital microwave radio relay. Subscribers have had the option of fiber-optic connections (using ISDN lines) since 1996. Hungary has fiber-optic cable connections with all neighboring countries. Total fixed-line telephones in use were 3.609 million in 1999 and estimated at over 4 million in 2000. The Hungarian state telecommunications company, Matáv, had a state-guaranteed monopoly on fixed-line communications, a monopoly that was scheduled to end in 2002.

Hungary has an extensive number of radio stations: 57 FM radio stations, 17 AM radio stations, and 3 shortwave radio stations in 1998. Total radio ownership in 1997 was 7.01 million. Hungary also had 39 television broadcast stations and some 4.42 million televisions in 1997. Internet activity has also grown significantly in Hungary, with 45 Internet service providers operating in 1999. Only 58.9 persons per 1,000 owned personal computers in 1998, a figure well behind the United States, although many more people use computers in school or at their workplaces. The number of Internet users in 1999 was 137,000, and estimates for 2000 put this figure at 733,000.

Since private ownership of publications was legalized in 1989, the print media in Hungary has blossomed. In 1999 there were 10 national daily newspapers, the most popular being Népszabadság and Metró, each with 207,000 copies printed per day. Népszabadság, meaning People's Freedom, was formerly controlled by the communist party but is now independent. Most of Hungary's daily newspapers are partially foreign owned. Hungary also has dozens of weekly and monthly magazines and papers, the largest exceeding 500,000 copies per week.


Hungary's shift to a service-based economy, away from the agricultural and industry sectors, has been the most marked change in recent decades. Before World War II, Hungary's economy was based primarily on agriculture, and its industry was almost entirely destroyed by the war. During the communist period beginning in 1948, emphasis shifted toward the development of industry, although production goals were set unrealistically high and Hungary was not able to meet them. In the 1960s and 1970s economic reforms shifted some of the emphasis from industry and placed more focus on agriculture and consumer goods . More recently, services have come to dominate the economy. According to 1999 figures, services account for 65 percent of the GDP, compared to 30 percent in industry and only 5 percent in agriculture. The labor force of 4.2 million shows a similar distribution, with 65 percent employed in services, 27 percent in industry, and 8 percent in agriculture.


Agricultural production is important to Hungary's economy although its role in the economy has steadily declined. In 1999 agriculture provided 5 percent of the GDP and 8 percent of employment, roughly similar to proportions observable in West European countries. As a share of exports, agricultural and food products constituted 10.5 percent of Hungary's exports in 1998. Hungary has 93,000 square kilometers (35,900 square miles) of cultivated land, covering 52 percent of Hungary's total area.

During the communist period about 90 percent of all farmland was organized into collective and state-owned farms. In collective farms, different families worked together on jointly owned land and shared the earnings from the farm's output. State farms were directly owned and managed by the government. Following the introduction of the multiparty system and the transition to a free market economy in 1990, the new government began returning farms to private hands, also introducing forms of compensation for lands that had been seized. The result is that currently about 90 percent of cultivated land in Hungary is privately owned. Severe droughts following privatization, combined with sharp drops in government subsidies for farming, caused a 30 percent drop in agricultural production during the past 10 years. Animal breeding has fallen by 50 percent in comparison with 1990. State subsidies for agriculture in Hungary tend to be comparatively low, an average of 5 to 7 times less per capita in Hungary than in the average European Union country.

Hungary's leading agricultural products are a combination of staple crops, famous specialty items such as wine and livestock products, and basic livestock. Hungary's most important crops include corn, wheat, sugar beets, barley, potatoes, and sunflower seeds. It also produces grapes and wine, including several famous wines such as those from the Tokaj region. Other well-known specialty items include salami, goose liver, and paprika. Livestock production is also important in Hungary, including cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, and poultry. Important livestock products include milk, meat, butter, eggs, and wool. Finally, Hungary has some important freshwater fisheries, mostly located on the Danube and Tisza rivers, and on Lake Balaton. The commercial fish catch consists mainly of carp, pike, perch, sheatfish, and shad.

Hungary also has important forestry resources, although poor forestry management reduced Hungary's forestry resources under communism. The expansion of agriculture, a high rate of exploitation, and inadequate re-planting of trees contributed to a significant decline in the period following World War II. In response, the government reduced timber cutting and launched an extensive reforestation program in the 1960s. The timber cut in 1998 was 3.88 million cubic meters (137 million cubic feet).


Once a major component of the Hungarian economy under communist rule, industrial enterprises struggled in the early 1990s to come to terms with operating in a free market. By the late 1990s, however, investments in many industries and the expertise and education of Hungarian workers contributed to a resurgence in the industrial sector. From 1999 to 2000 alone, industry expanded 18.3 percent, the third straight year of double-digit growth in this sector.


Manufacturing forms an important component of the Hungarian economy and was responsible for 84.6 percent of Hungary's exported commodities in 1998, even though most of Hungary's industries must import the raw materials used in the manufacturing process. The engineering industrywhich is dominated by automobile and automobile parts productionaccounts for roughly one-third of industrial output. Other leading manufactured products include steel (both crude and rolled), cement, aluminum, textiles, paper products, and shoes. The manufacture and processing of agricultural products is also an important contributor to Hungary's manufacturing output.


The chemical industry is an important component of the Hungarian economy. The plastic base materials and plastic processing industries were major components within this sector, contributing 2.1 and 2.6 percent of total industrial output, respectively. This sector is mainly concerned with producing goods for other companies within the industrial sector, and produces some goods for export. The pharmaceutical industry contributes 2.4 percent of industrial output and is primarily oriented toward producing human and veterinary medicines, fine chemicals, pesticides and insecticides, and other pharmaceuticals.


Mining was an important component of Hungary's industry during the communist period but has declined considerably since the collapse of the communist regime in 1989. Under communism, the government owned all subsurface resources and held exclusive rights to extract and use them. The only exception was uranium ore, which was mined by an agency of the Soviet Union. In the mid-1990s Hungary's chief mineral products were hard coal, lignite, bauxite, petroleum, and natural gas.



Tourism is an important and growing contributor to Hungary's economy. Not only does it directly fuel economic activity, but it has also in the past provided an important source of foreign currency. After agriculture, Hungary's second largest net foreign exchange earning source is tourism. The capital, Budapest, is a strong attraction for many tourists, with its many museums, churches, castles, and cultural events, including an annual spring festival of music and drama. In all, Hungary maintains more than 100 public museums throughout the country. Lake Balaton is also a popular vacation spot for summer recreation activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming. In 2000, according to the Hungarian Statistical Office, 31,141 foreigners visited Hungary, generating a total balance of revenues and expenditures of 2.5 billion euros.


Retail commerce forms an important and growing part of Hungary's economy. At the end of 1999 some 103,000 economic associations and more than 150,000 retail businesses were in operation. This represents 149 retail stores for every 10,000 inhabitants. Nationwide, the most important players in the retail sector are involved in the sale of food and groceries, accounting for 35 percent of the retail trade. Leisure and other items come next at 24 percent, followed by textile and clothing retail at 17 percent. Total retail revenues have been steadily rising, at 4.3 trillion forints in 1999, compared to 3.8 trillion in 1998.


Financial services are provided by a competitive and largely privatized banking sector. The largest bank, the National Savings Bank or OTP, has branches nationwide and provides a full range of personal and business banking services. Many other banks exist, most private and wholly or partially foreign-owned. Bank services include personal accounts, credit and debit card accounts, mortgage and personal loans, business accounts and business loans, foreign currency accounts and currency exchange, insurance services, and safety deposits. Customer service in Hungarian banks lags behind United States standards but has been steadily improving as the sector becomes more competitive. Most banks now offer Internet and mobile phone account access, and all provide

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Hungary
exports Imports
1975 4.519 5.400
1980 8.638 9.219
1985 8.472 8.183
1990 9.550 8.621
1995 12.540 15.073
1998 N/A N/A
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

an extensive national network of automated teller machines.


Hungary's international trade made an important shift following the change of regime in 1990. Under the communist system, nearly half of Hungary's annual foreign trade was with the Soviet Union and other communist nations of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA). Since the late 1980s and the collapse of the CMEA shortly thereafter, however, most of Hungary's international trade has taken place with western countries. Hungary's leading trade partners today are Germany, Italy, Austria, Russia, and the United States. In 1998 Hungary's exports went to Germany (37 percent), Austria (11 percent), Italy (6 percent), and the Netherlands (5 percent). The country's imports came mostly from Germany (28 percent), Austria (10 percent), Italy (8 percent), and Russia (7 percent). Exports in 1999 amounted to US$22.6 billion, and imports were valued at US$25.1 billion. Hungary's main exports are machinery and transport equipment, consumer goods, agricultural products, chemicals, apparel, textiles, iron and steel, and wine. Its main imports are machinery and transport equipment, crude petroleum, chemicals, metal ores, consumer goods, and agricultural products.


Hungary's currency is currently linked to an exchange rate control mechanism known as the crawling peg , a mechanism used by the Hungarian National Bank to slowly devalue the currency. The objective has been to gradually make the transition between the forint, historically a non-convertible currency, to a currency that is fully convertible on world markets. Under communism, the currency was not convertible outside the communist bloc countries and an artificial exchange rate applied within Hungary, set by the government. Western currencies sold on the black market during this period typically

Exchange rates: Hungary
forints per US$1
Jan 2001 282.240
2000 282.179
1999 237.146
1998 214.402
1997 186.789
1996 152.647
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

fetched a much higher conversion rate than the official government rate, and such activities were difficult for the government to control. The National Bank, therefore, sets and publishes a daily rate of exchange between the forint and the world's major currencies. This rate is determined by a combination of the market value of other currencies, the inflation rate of the forint, and decisions by the National Bank to change the value of the forint.

As in most economies emerging from communism, inflation in Hungary has been high relative to western economies. Despite concerted efforts by the government to bring inflation into single digits, inflation in 2000 was 10.1 percent. Hungary's inflation during the post-communist transition period, however, has remained much lower than in many other Eastern European countries where rates often rose into the triple digits.

The country's central bank is the National Bank of Hungary, which issues currency and maintains checking and savings accounts. Other financial institutions include the Foreign Trade Bank, which serves businesses trading outside of Hungary, and the State Development Institution, which finances large-scale investment projects. The Budapest Stock Exchange opened in 1990 and is today the most heavily capitalized exchange in the East European region.


Despite the official ideology of equality during the communist period, incomes in Hungary during this period were far from equal. Incomes varied according to social class and place of residence, with incomes in Budapest typically higher than in villages. The situation was much worse during the period between World War I and World War II, however, when average per capita income was very low and income inequality very high. One measure often used to measure income inequality is the ratio of the richest 10 percent of the population to the poorest 10 percent. A survey taken in 1992 suggests that the ratio of incomes of the highest to lowest 10 percent was

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Hungary 3,581 4,199 4,637 4,857 4,920
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Germany N/A N/A N/A N/A 31,141
Austria 18,857 22,200 23,828 27,261 30,869
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

more than 6, making it similar to the income distribution in France and Germany. This level rose to 7.5 in 1996, according to one source, although the official figures from the World Bank place it at 6.3. The differences between social and employment categories has also widened. The social groups who were more affluent before the change in regime were able to increase their incomes in the 1990s faster than inflation, while the poorer groups had incomes that generally lagged behind inflation. In addition, the poorer segments of society were those where unemployment struck the hardest.

A large portion of Hungarian society, about 30-40 percent, suffered a loss in income after 1989. About 30-40 percent, on the other hand, were able to maintain their income, while a smaller percentage, around 10 percent, were able to increase their incomes. This small category included the managers of state and private enterprises, former government officials, and some of the intellectual elite.

Poverty is a problem in Hungary, and one which has worsened since the transition in 1989. According to estimates based on the subsistence level calculated by the Hungarian Statistical Office, in 1996 the proportion of those living under the subsistence level was at least 35 percent. Using the European definition of poverty as being 50 percent lower than the per capita average wage, then 14 percent of the population was poor in 1996.

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Hungary
Lowest 10% 3.9
Lowest 20% 8.8
Second 20% 12.5
Third 20% 16.6
Fourth 20% 22.3
Highest 20% 39.9
Highest 10% 24.8
Survey year: 1996
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

Poverty in Hungary is disproportionately high among children, peasants and agricultural workers, housewives, and the handicapped. Geographically, poverty is higher in villages than in urban areas, with approximately 28 percent of the village population living in poverty, but only 18-19 percent of the city-based population and 5 percent of Budapest living in poverty. One social group where poverty is particularly high is the Gypsy ethnic grouping. The Gypsy population has been among the worst off in the transition to a market economy. Some 80 percent of Gypsies lived in poverty, compared to just 15 percent of non-Gypsies in 1996.


The single most significant factor affecting employment in Hungary has been the change in the early 1990s from a communist economy to a free market economy. The collapse of the communist system and the wide-scale privatization of the means of production led to a huge displacement of Hungarian workers, causing unemployment to reach 13 percent in 1993. But as the economy has continued to improve since the mid-1990s, employment has improved. Unemployment in 2000 was 6.4 percent, a respectable figure even lower than in many West

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Hungary 25 5 17 6 20 12 15
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Germany 14 6 7 2 10 7 53
Austria 20 10 11 4 9 9 38
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

European countries such as France or Germany. This rate is down from approximately 10 percent in 1999. Unemployment varies regionally, being the highest in the eastern and rural areas. Most Hungarian employment is in the service industry, which accounted for 65 percent in 1996. Another 27 percent was employed in industry, and some 8 percent in agriculture.

Throughout the 20th century, Hungary has seen a net migration from rural to urban areas. Urbanization in Hungary's 5 major cities accelerated this process, even though, after Budapest, the 5 major cities have populations only between 127,000 and 210,000. Currently many workers commute to urban workplaces from rural areas. In 1996, some 25 percent of the nation's workforce commuted to and from their jobs in this manner.

A labor code was passed in 1992 which recognized the collective rights of workers, including the right to organize into unions and bargain collectively. This code includes the right to strike, extended to all workers except the police and the military. Following the passage of this code the number of strikes in Hungary increased dramatically, although most lasted for only a short time. The largest union is the National Confederation of Hungarian Trade Unions, with approximately 1 million members in 1993 (from a total labor force of 4.3 million). A number of other union federations also exist.


1000. King Stephen of the Árpad dynasty rules the country. He is converted to Christianity and establishes Hungary as a Christian state.

1241. The Mongolian Tatars invade Hungary and occupy the territory for the year.

1526. Hungary is invaded by the Turks and the last Hungarian battle is lost in the southern town of Mohács. The Turkish occupation lasts for 150 years.

1686. Buda, the traditional seat of power on the western side of the Danube river dividing the cities of Buda and Pest, is recaptured from the Turks.

1703-11. Ferenc Rákóczi II, prince of Transylvania, leads a rebellion against the Habsburg Imperial army. The rebellion fails.

1848. A revolution against the Habsburg rule starting in Pest spreads to the whole country. Lajos Kossuth is elected governor after the Habsburg emperor is dethroned following several important Hungarian victories. The Hungarian revolutionary forces are defeated in 1849 by the Habsburgs, the ruling royal family of Austria, with the help of the Russian Army.

1867. A dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy begins following a compromise with the Habsburgs. A spectacular phase of industrial development begins.

1873. Pest, Buda, and Obuda are unified, and Budapest becomes a European metropolis, with the building of the Opera House, the National Gallery, and the Parliament. The first underground railway in continental Europe is put into operation.

1918. The Austro-Hungarian monarchy disintegrates following its defeat, along with Germany and its other allies, during World War I.

1920. The Treaty of Trianon is signed, redrawing the borders of Hungary. The new borders place one-third of Hungary's former population in other states and reduce its territory by two-thirds.

1944. The Nazis occupy Hungary in March during World War II. At the end of the war, fascists take over the country. In October, the Soviet Army liberates Hungary from fascist rule and occupies the country.

1947. The last relatively free election is followed by years of communist control, including show trials, executions, forced resettlements, forced industrial development, and a drop in living standards.

1956. Following the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, a revolution against Soviet rule takes place in Hungary. The uprising is defeated by Soviet troops. János Kádár assumes power with Soviet assistance. Hundreds of Hungarians are executed, thousands more imprisoned, and about 200,000 flee the country.

1965. Cautious economic reforms are launched, causing a rise in living standards and a loosening of some of the more harsh measures of the communist system. In 1968 the New Economic Mechanism is introduced, reducing central control of the economy and allowing for greater freedom among individual business managers.

1982. Hungary becomes a member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

1988. A transition to democracy begins in Hungary, led by opposition parties demanding new institutions and the right to compete in legislative elections scheduled for 1990.

1989. The Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party agrees with opposition parties to end one-party rule and hold free elections in 1990.

1990. The Soviet Army leaves Hungary and the opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum wins the legislative elections held in March and April, ending 45 years of communist rule. Hungary also gains accession to the Council of Europe.

1991. Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia sign the Visegrad Cooperation Agreement, a declaration to cooperate in preparation for accession to the European Union. Hungary also signs an agreement on cooperation with the European Union.

1992. Central European Free Trade Agreement pledging open and cooperative trade is signed by Hungary, Poland, and the Czechoslovak Customs Union.

1994. The Hungarian Socialist Party wins a legislative majority in elections held in May. Hungary joins the Partnership for Peace Program.

1996. Hungary joins the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

1997. Hungary is formally invited by the European Union to begin accession talks.

1998. Hungary pays off its debts to the International Monetary Fund.The Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Party assumes power following elections held in May.

1999. Hungary becomes a full member of NATO.


The future looks positive for Hungary's economy, given the trend since the end of the communist system. Growth has been steadily increasing, inflation has been declining, and unemployment has stabilized. Relative to other countries in the region, Hungary's economic conditions have proved quite favorable. The key economic event in the near future affecting Hungary will be accession to the European Union, something Hungary hopes will happen between 2004 and 2008. This event will bring about a significant restructuring of trade, employment, agriculture, and financial services. Hungary has already begun to introduce major fiscal and financial changes in preparation for accession, following the detailed guidelines issued by the European Union. Among other changes that accession would bring, Hungary intends to join the euro states adopting a single European currency. Doing so would link Hungary's inflation and interest rates to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt and remove the independence currently enjoyed by the Hungarian National Bank.

Hungary's main challenges for the future will be to manage its workforce, including some structural sectors where unemployment remains significantly high. There are also regions, especially in the eastern portion of the country, where unemployment and poverty remain significantly higher than the national average. In addition, Hungary in 2000 and 2001 has experienced problems with flooding that have caused significant disruption to people and to agriculture. These problems and more will have to managed in the future to enable Hungary's economy to grow and develop further.


Hungary has no territories or colonies.


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Ministry of Economic Affairs. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Molnár, Éva, ed. Hungary: Essential Facts, Figures, and Pictures. Budapest: Media Data Bank, MTI Corporation, 1997.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2001 Country Commercial Guide: Hungary. <>. Accessed September 2001.

U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy. An Energy Overview of the Republic of Hungary. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Welcome to the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Kenneth Benoit




Hungarian forint (Ft). One forint equals 100 fillérs. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 fillérs and 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 forints, and notes of 200, 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000 forints.


Machinery and equipment, other manufactures, agriculture and food products, raw materials, fuels and electricity.


Machinery and equipment, other manufactures, fuels and electricity, agricultural and food products, raw materials.


US$79.4 billion (purchasing power parity, 1999 est.).


Exports: US$22.6 billion (f.o.b., 1999). Imports: US$25.1 billion (f.o.b., 1999).

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Hungary, Hung. Magyarország, republic (2005 est. pop. 10,007,000), 35,919 sq mi (93,030 sq km), central Europe. Hungary borders on Slovakia in the north, on Ukraine in the northeast, on Romania in the east, on Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia in the south, and on Austria in the west. The Danube River forms the Slovak-Hungarian border from a point near Bratislava to another near Esztergom, then turns sharply south and bisects the country. Budapest is Hungary's capital and its largest city.

Land and People

To the east of the Danube, the Great Hungarian Plain (Hung. Alföld) extends beyond the Hungarian boundaries to the Carpathians and the Transylvanian Alps. The Dráva and Tisza rivers are also important waterways. To the west of the Danube is the Little Alföld and the Transdanubian region, which are separated by the Bakony and Vértes mts. The Mátra Mts. in the north reach a height of 3,330 ft (1,015 m) at Kékes, the highest peak in Hungary. Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Hungary and in central Europe, is a leading resort area. Hungary has cold winters and hot summers; springs and autumns are short.

Situated on a plain near the geographic center of Europe, Hungary has been the meeting place and battleground of many peoples, and its heterogeneous population was often the cause of social upheaval before 1919. However, as a result of the separation of non-Hungarian territories after World War I, the great slaughter of the Jews in World War II, and the exchange after the war of Slavic and Romanian minorities for their Magyar counterparts, Hungary is today essentially homogeneous. The Magyars constitute more than 90% of the population. There are small minorities of Romani (Gypsies), Germans, Serbs, and other groups. Hungarian is spoken by most people. Over half of the people are Roman Catholic, but there is a large Calvinist minority. Hungary still has the largest Jewish population in Central and Eastern Europe (100,000–120,000).


Hungary has long been an agricultural country, but since World War II it has become heavily industrialized. Through the 1980s, industry was largely nationally owned and two thirds of agricultural output came from collective and state farms. Hungary's economy underwent difficult readjustment in the 1990s, as it moved from producing goods chiefly for export to the USSR to developing a market-based economy and finding new trading partners. By the end of 1995, almost all retail trade had been privatized and less than half of all economic output originated from state-owned enterprises. Economic reforms also brought high unemployment and rising inflation, but today Hungary's economy is one of the most prosperous in Eastern Europe.

About half of Hungary's land is arable. With highly diversified crop and livestock production, the country is self-sufficient in food. Wheat, corn, sunflower seeds, potatoes, sugar beets, and grapes are the major crops. Pigs, cattle, sheep, and poultry are raised.

Hungary has been an important producer of bauxite, and deposits of coal, copper, natural gas, oil, and uranium have been exploited as well. Mining was curtailed in the 1990s as the country moved to a market economy and found it was not cost-effective to exploit the country's minerals at world prices. There has also been a decline in gas and oil production due to the exhaustion of reserves. However, mining and metallurgy are still important, as is food processing and the manufacture of construction materials, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, steel, and motor vehicles. About one third of Hungarian industry is located in or near Budapest. Other industrial centers are Győr, Miskolc, Pécs, Debrecen, Szeged, and Dunapentele. The tourism industry is also an important source of foreign capital. Machinery, equipment, and food products are the most important exports; machinery and equipment, manufactured goods, fuels, and electricity are imported. Germany is the country's largest trading partner by far, followed by Austria, Italy, and France.


Hungary is governed under the constitution adopted in 2011. The president, who is the head of state, is elected by the legislature for a five-year term and is eligible for a second term. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is nominated by the president and elected by the legislature. The unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, has 386 members who are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. Administratively the country is divided into 19 counties, 23 urban counties, and the capital district.


Growth of a State

The Roman provinces of Pannonia and Dacia, conquered under Tiberius and Trajan (1st cent. AD), embraced part of what was to become Hungary. The Huns and later the Ostrogoths and the Avars settled there for brief periods. In the late 9th cent. the Magyars, a Finno-Ugric people from beyond the Urals, conquered all or most of Hungary and Transylvania. The semilegendary leader, Arpad, founded their first dynasty. The Magyars apparently merged with the earlier settlers, but they also continued to press westward until defeated by King (later Holy Roman Emperor) Otto I, at the Lechfeld (955).

Halted in its expansion, the Hungarian state began to solidify. Its first king, St. Stephen (reigned 1001–38), completed the Christianization of the Magyars and built the authority of his crown—which has remained the symbol of national existence—on the strength of the Roman Catholic Church. Under Bela III (reigned 1172–1196), Hungary came into close contact with Western European, particularly French, culture. Through the favor of succeeding kings, a few very powerful nobles—the magnates—won ever-widening privileges at the expense of the lesser nobles, the peasants, and the towns. In 1222 the lesser nobles forced the extravagant Andrew II to grant the Golden Bull (the "Magna Carta of Hungary" ), which limited the king's power to alienate his authority to the magnates and established the beginnings of a parliament.

Under Andrew's son, Bela IV, the kingdom barely escaped annihilation: Mongol invaders, defeating Bela at Muhi (1241), occupied the country for a year, and Ottocar II of Bohemia also defeated Bela, who was further threatened by his own rebellious son Stephen V. Under Stephen's son, Ladislaus IV, Hungary fell into anarchy, and when the royal line of Arpad died out (1301) with Andrew III, the magnates seized the opportunity to increase their authority.

In 1308, Charles Robert of Anjou was elected king of Hungary as Charles I, the first of the Angevin line. His autocratic rule checked the magnates somewhat and furthered the growth of the towns. Under his son, Louis I (Louis the Great), Hungary reached its greatest territorial extension, with power extending into Dalmatia, the Balkans, and Poland.

Foreign Domination

After the death of Louis I, a series of foreign rulers succeeded: Sigismund (later Holy Roman Emperor), son-in-law of Louis; Albert II of Austria, son-in-law of Sigismund; and Ladislaus III of Poland (Uladislaus I of Hungary). During their reigns the Turks began to advance through the Balkans, defeating the Hungarians and their allies at Kosovo Field (1389), Nikopol (1396), and Varna (1444). John Hunyadi, acting after 1444 as regent for Albert II's son, Ladislaus V, gave Hungary a brief respite through his victory at Belgrade (1456).

The reign of Hunyadi's son, Matthias Corvinus, elected king in 1458, was a glorious period in Hungarian history. Matthias maintained a splendid court at Buda, kept the magnates subject to royal authority, and improved the central administration. But under his successors Uladislaus II and Louis II, the nobles regained their power. Transylvania became virtually independent under the Zapolya family. The peasants, rising in revolt, were crushed (1514) by John Zapolya. Louis II was defeated and killed by the Turks under Sulayman the Magnificent in the battle of Mohács in 1526. The date is commonly taken to mark the beginning of Ottoman domination over Hungary. Ferdinand of Austria (later Emperor Ferdinand I), as brother-in-law of Louis II, claimed the Hungarian throne and was elected king by a faction of nobles, while another faction chose Zapolya as John I.

In the long wars that followed, Hungary was split into three parts: the western section, where Ferdinand and his successor, Rudolf II, maintained a precarious rule, challenged by such Hungarian leaders as Stephen Bocskay and Gabriel Bethlen; the central plains, which were completely under Turkish domination; and Transylvania, ruled by noble families (see Báthory and Rákóczy).

The Protestant Reformation, supported by the nobles and well-established in Transylvania, nearly succeeded throughout Hungary. Cardinal Pázmány was a leader of the Counter Reformation in Hungary. In 1557 religious freedom was proclaimed by the diet of Transylvania, and the principle of toleration was generally maintained throughout the following centuries.

Hungarian opposition to Austrian domination included such extreme efforts as the assistance Thököly gave to the Turks during the siege of Vienna (1683). Emperor Leopold I, however, through his able generals Prince Eugene of Savoy and Duke Charles V of Lorraine, soon regained his lost ground. Budapest was liberated from the Turks in 1686. In 1687, Hungarian nobles recognized the Hapsburg claim to the Hungarian throne. By the Peace of Kalowitz (1699), Turkey ceded to Austria most of Hungary proper and Transylvania. Transylvania continued to fight the Hapsburgs, but in 1711, with the defeat of Francis II Rákóczy (see under Rákóczy, family), Austrian control was definitely established. In 1718 the Austrians took the Banat from Turkey.

Hungary and Austria

The Austrians brought in Germans and Slavs to settle the newly freed territory, destroying Hungary's ethnic homogeneity. Hapsburg rule was uneasy. The Hungarians were loyal to Maria Theresa in her wars, but many of the unpopular centralizing reforms of Joseph II, who had wanted to make German the sole language of administration and to abolish the Hungarian counties, had to be withdrawn.

In the second quarter of the 19th cent. a movement that combined Hungarian nationalism with constitutional liberalism gained strength. Among its leaders were Count Szechenyi, Louis Kossuth, Baron Eötvös, Sándor Petőfi, and Francis Deak. Inspired by the French Revolution of 1848, the Hungarian diet passed the March Laws (1848), which established a liberal constitutional monarchy for Hungary under the Hapsburgs. But the reforms did not deal with the national minorities problem. Several minority groups revolted, and, after Francis Joseph replaced Ferdinand VII as emperor, the Austrians waged war against Hungary (Dec., 1848).

In Apr., 1849, Kossuth declared Hungary an independent republic. Russian troops came to the aid of the emperor, and the republic collapsed. The Hungarian surrender at Vilagos (Aug., 1849) was followed by ruthless reprisals. But after its defeat in the Austro-Prussian War (1866), Austria was obliged to compromise with Magyar national aspirations. The Ausgleich of 1867 (largely the work of Francis Deak) set up the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, in which Austria and Hungary were nearly equal partners. Emperor Francis Joseph was crowned (1867) king of Hungary, which at that time also included Transylvania, Slovakia, Ruthenia, Croatia and Slovenia, and the Banat. The minorities problem persisted, the Serbs, Croats, and Romanians being particularly restive under Hungarian rule.

During this period industrialization began in Hungary, while the condition of the peasantry deteriorated to the profit of landowners. By a law of 1874 only about 6% of the population could vote. Until World War I, when republican and socialist agitation began to threaten the established order, Hungary was one of the most aristocratic countries in Europe. As the military position of Austria-Hungary in World War I deteriorated, the situation in Hungary grew more unstable. Hungarian nationalists wanted independence and withdrawal from the war; the political left was inspired by the 1917 revolutions in Russia; and the minorities were receptive to the Allies' promises of self-determination.

In Oct., 1918, Emperor Charles I (King of Hungary as Charles IV) appointed Count Michael Károlyi premier. Károlyi advocated independence and peace and was prepared to negotiate with the minorities. His cabinet included socialists and radicals. In November the emperor abdicated, and the Dual Monarchy collapsed.


Károlyi proclaimed Hungary an independent republic. However, the minorities would not deal with him, and the Allies forced upon him very unfavorable armistice terms. The government resigned, and the Communists under Béla Kun seized power (Mar., 1919). The subsequent Red terror was followed by a Romanian invasion and the defeat (July, 1919) of Kun's forces. After the Romanians withdrew, Admiral Horthy de Nagybanya established a government and in 1920 was made regent, since there was no king. Reactionaries, known as White terrorists, conducted a brutal campaign of terror against the Communists and anyone associated with Károlyi or Kun.

The Treaty of Trianon (see Trianon, Treaty of), signed in 1920, reduced the size and population of Hungary by about two thirds, depriving Hungary of valuable natural resources and removing virtually all non-Magyar areas, although Budapest retained a large German-speaking population. The next twenty-five years saw continual attempts by the Magyar government to recover the lost territories. Early endeavors were frustrated by the Little Entente and France, and Hungary turned to a friendship with Fascist Italy and, ultimately, to an alliance (1941) with Nazi Germany. The authoritarian domestic policies of the premiers Stephen Bethlen and Julius Gombos and their successors safeguarded the power of the upper classes, ignored the demand for meaningful land reform, and encouraged anti-Semitism.

Between 1938 and 1944, Hungary regained, with the aid of Germany and Italy, territories from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Romania. It declared war on the USSR (June, 1941) and on the United States (Dec., 1941). When the Hungarian government took steps to withdraw from the war and protect its Jewish population, German troops occupied the country (Mar., 1944). The Germans were driven out by Soviet forces (Oct., 1944–Apr., 1945). The Soviet campaign caused much devastation.

National elections were held in 1945 (in which the Communist party received less than one fifth of the vote), and a republican constitution was adopted in 1946. The peace treaty signed at Paris in 1947 restored the bulk of the Trianon boundaries and required Hungary to pay $300 million in reparations to the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. A new coalition regime instituted long-needed land reforms.

Communist Rule

Early in 1948 the Communist party, through its control of the ministry of the interior, arrested leading politicians, forced the resignation of Premier Ferenc Nagy, and gained full control of the state. Hungary was proclaimed a People's Republic in 1949, after parliamentary elections in which there was only a single slate of candidates. Radical purges in the national Communist party made it thoroughly subservient to that of the USSR. Industry was nationalized and land was collectivized. The trial of Cardinal Mindszenty aroused protest throughout the Western world.

By 1953 continuous purges of Communist leaders, constant economic difficulties, and peasant resentment of collectivization had led to profound crisis in Hungary. Premier Mátyás Rákosi, the Stalinist in control since 1948, was removed in July, 1953, and Imre Nagy became premier. He slowed down collectivization and emphasized production of consumer goods, but he was removed in 1955, and the emphasis on farm collectivization was restored. In 1955, Hungary joined the Warsaw Treaty Organization and was admitted to the United Nations.

On Oct. 23, 1956, a popular anti-Communist revolution, centered in Budapest, broke out in Hungary. A new coalition government under Imre Nagy declared Hungary neutral, withdrew it from the Warsaw Treaty, and appealed to the United Nations for aid. However, János Kádár, one of Nagy's ministers, formed a counter-government and asked the USSR for military support. Some 500,000 Soviet troops were sent to Hungary, and in severe and brutal fighting they suppressed the revolution. Nagy and some of his ministers were abducted and were later executed, and thousands of other Hungarians, many of them teenagers, were imprisoned or executed. In addition, about 190,000 refugees fled the country. Kádár became premier and sought to win popular support for Communist rule and to improve Hungary's relations with Yugoslavia and other countries. He carried out a drastic purge (1962) of former Stalinists (including Mátyás Rákosi), accusing them of the harsh policies responsible for the 1956 revolt. Collectivization, which had been stopped after 1956, was again resumed in 1958–59.

Kádár's regime gained a degree of popularity as it brought increasing liberalization to Hungarian political, cultural, and economic life. Economic reforms introduced in 1968 brought a measure of decentralization to the economy and allowed for supply and demand factors; Hungary achieved substantial improvements in its standard of living. Hungary aided the USSR in the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The departure (1971) of Cardinal Mindszenty from Budapest after 15 years of asylum in the U.S. legation and his removal (1974) from the position of primate of Hungary improved relations with the Catholic church. Due to Soviet criticism, many of the economic reforms were subverted during the mid-1970s only to be reinstituted at the end of the decade.

During the 1980s, Hungary began to increasingly turn to the West for trade and assistance in the modernization of its economic system. The economy continued to decline and the high foreign debt became unpayable. Premier Károly Grósz gave up the premiership in 1988, and in 1989 the Communist party congress voted to dissolve itself. That same year Hungary opened its borders with Austria, allowing thousands of East Germans to cross to the West.

A Democratic Hungary

By 1990, a multiparty political system with free elections had been established; legislation was passed granting new political and economic reforms such as a free press, freedom of assembly, and the right to own a private business. The new prime minister, József Antall, a member of the conservative Hungarian Democratic Forum who was elected in 1990, vowed to continue the drive toward a free-market economy. The Soviet military presence in Hungary ended in the summer of 1991 with the departure of the final Soviet troops. Meanwhile, the government embarked on the privatization of Hungary's state enterprises.

Antall died in 1993 and was succeeded as prime minister by Péter Boross. Parliamentary elections in 1994 returned the Socialists (former Communists) to power. They formed a coalition government with the liberal Free Democrats, and Socialist leader Gyula Horn became prime minister. Árpád Göncz was elected president of Hungary in 1990 and reelected in 1995.

In 1998, Viktor Orbán of the conservative Fidesz–Hungarian Civic Union became prime minister as head of a coalition government. Hungary became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1999. Ference Mádl succeeded Göncz as president in Aug., 2000. A 2001 law giving ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries (but not worldwide) social and economic rights in Hungary was criticized by Romania and Slovakia as an unacceptable extraterritorial exercise of power. The following year, negotiations with Romania extended the rights to all Romanian citizens, and in 2003 the benefits under the law were reduced. The 2002 elections brought the Socialists and the allies, the Free Democrats, back into power; former finance minister Péter Medgyessy became prime minister.

In August, 2004, Medgyssey fired several cabinet members, angering the Free Democrats and leading the Socialists to replace him. The following month Ferenc Gyurcsány, the sports minister, became prime minister. Hungary became a member of the European Union earlier in the year. A Dec., 2004, referendum on granting citizenship to ethnic Hungarians in other countries passed, but it was not legally binding because less than 25% of the Hungarian electorate voted for it. László Sólyom was elected president of Hungary in June, 2005. In Apr., 2006, Gyurcsány's Socialist-led coalition won a majority of seats in the parliamentary elections, marking the first time a government had won a second consecutive term in office since the establishment of free elections in 1990.

In September, however, the prime minister suffered a setback when a recording of a May, 2006, Socialist party meeting was leaked and he was heard criticizing the government's past performance and saying that the party had lied to win the 2006 election. The tape sparked opposition demonstrations and riots, which were encouraged by the opposition Fidesz, and led to calls for the government to resign. Gyurcsány apologized for not having campaigned honestly, and the coalition was trounced in local elections in early October, but he retained the support of his parliamentary coalition and the government remained in power.

In Apr., 2008, the Alliance of Free Democrats left the governing coalition, and the Socialists formed a minority government. The 2008 global financial crisis led to a sharp drop in the value of the Hungarian currency in October, forcing Hungary to seek a €20 billion rescue package. Economic woes forced the increasingly unpopular prime minister to resign, and Gordon Bajnai, the economy minister, succeeded Gyurcsány in Apr., 2009.

In parliamentary elections a year later, Orbán and Fidesz defeated the Socialists in a landslide, winning more than two thirds of the seats, but the voting also produced a surge for the far right Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik), which appealed to anti-Semitic and anti-Romani sentiments and won nearly 17% of the vote in the first round. Fidesz subsequently passed a law enabling ethnic Hungarians in Central Europe to more easily acquire Hungarian citizenship; the legislation provoked Slovakia, which passed a bill that would generally strip Slovakian citizenship from Hungarians who did so. The government also reduced the powers of the constitutional court, ending its right to rule on budget matters; forced the nationalization of pension plans to cut the budget deficit; and enacted a media law that was denounced as stifling free expression and drew criticism from the European Union. Other measures adopted to avoid the austerities used elsewhere in the EU to combat recession-induced government deficits included higher taxes on economic sectors dominated by foreign firms.

In June, 2010, Pál Schmitt, the speaker of the National Assembly and a member of Fidesz, was elected to succeed Sólyom as Hungarian president. The failure of an alumina plant sludge pond in Oct., 2010, resulted in an ecological disaster in W Hungary that covered 6 villages and 16 sq mi (40 sq km) with toxic mud and also poisoned local rivers. A new constitution, enacted by Fidesz in Apr., 2011, and effective in 2012, was criticized in a number of quarters for attempting to bind future Hungarian governments to Fidesz's conservative political program. By late 2011, legal changes that reduced the independence of the central bank had led to conflict with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Schmitt resigned as president in Apr., 2012, after it was discovered that he had plagiarized parts of his doctoral thesis. János Áder, a member of Fidesz and former National Assembly speaker, was elected to succeed Schmitt in May. In Jan., 2013, the constitutional court struck down a new election law that had been passed in late 2012; the court ruled that the law unjustifiably restricted voter rights. The opposition had criticized the law as intentionally designed to favor Fidesz. The appointment in Mar., 2013, of a new governor for the central bank gave Orbán greater influence over the bank, and the bank subsequently adopted economic stimulus measures. In September the parliament approved a number of constitutional amendments that partially reversed provisions that had been criticized by the European Union. The Apr., 2014, parliamentary elections gave Orbán and Fidesz a new term in power; the party won 45% of the vote and two thirds of the seats (Fidesz lost its two thirds majority in 2015 after a by-election loss). Jobbik won 21% of the vote which, though less than the share of the Socialist-led coalition (25%), placed it second among all the parties.


See P. Teleki, The Evolution of Hungary (1923); D. G. Kosary, A History of Hungary (1941, repr. 1971); C. A. McCartney, A History of Hungary, 1929–1945 (1957, repr. 1962); F. A. Vali, Rift and Revolt in Hungary (1961); N. M. Nagy-Talavera, The Green Shirts and Others (1970); H. G. Heinrich, Hungary (1986); C. M. Hann, ed., Market Economy and Civil Society in Hungary (1990); P. F. Sugar, A History of Hungary (1991); C. Gati, Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt (2006); V. Sebestyen, Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution (2006). See also bibliography under Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

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Pörkölt (National Hungarian Stew) .............................. 51
Gulyás (Hungarian Goulash)........................................ 51
Paprika Chicken .......................................................... 52
Stuffed Green Peppers................................................. 52
Pork Cutlets with Potatoes........................................... 53
Hungarian Butter Cookies ........................................... 54
Almond Kisses ............................................................. 55
Hungarian Cold Plate .................................................. 56
Small Dumplings......................................................... 56
Noodle Pudding.......................................................... 57
Summer Cucumber Soup............................................ 57


Hungary is a landlocked country in the middle of Europe. It is a little smaller than Indiana, and is a land with fertile soil. Hungarian farmers grow enough wheat, corn, rye, potatoes, and some fruits, to feed its population. Even though many Hungarian farmers raise livestock, the quality of the animals they raise (and the meat they produce) is below the standard of Hungary's neighbors, mostly because there is not enough quality animal food available.

One of the largest challenges facing Hungary is the preservation of its environment. Hungary has huge problems with air and water pollution, but the government does not have enough money or technology to minimize pollution from factories.

Hungary's principal rivers are the Danube and Tisza, and the largest lake is Balaton. All three provide good fishing areas for Hungary's sport and commercial fishers.


The first people to live in present-day Hungary were nomads called the Magyars, who arrived in around A.D. 800. Hungary's national dish, a meat stew called goulash, can be traced to the Magyars' eating habits. They traveled with dried cubes of meat cooked with onions, and water could be added to make a stew.

The reign of King Matthias (145890) was a high point in Hungarian history, for both culture and food. Through his Italian wife, Queen Beatrice, King Matthias brought Italian cooking to Hungary. During this period, cooking was raised to a fine art.

When the Turks invaded Hungary in the sixteenth century, they brought their cooking customs with them. These included the use of the spice paprika and a thin, flaky pastry called filo (or phyllo ) dough. They also taught the Hungarians how to cook stuffed peppers and eggplants. The Turks introduced coffee to Hungary.

Austria's Hapsburg monarchy gained control over Hungary from the seventeenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century. Under Austrian rule, German and Austrian cooking styles influenced Hungarian eating habits. During this period, Hungary became famous for its cakes and pastries.


The best-known ingredient in Hungarian food is the red-powdered spice called paprika. It is used to flavor many dishes. Other staples of Hungarian cooking include onions, cabbage, potatoes, noodles, and caraway seeds. Both cream and sour cream are used heavily in Hungarian food. Dumplings (dough wrapped around different kinds of fillings) are very popular as are cabbages or green peppers stuffed with meat and rice. Another favorite is the pancake called a palacsinta. It is often rolled or wrapped around different kinds of fillings.

Hungarians eat a lot of meat, mostly pork or beef. Many meat dishes are dipped in bread and then baked or fried. Hungarians also prepare many different kinds of sausages. The Hungarian national dish is meat stew. People outside Hungary call it "goulash," but the Hungarians have several different names for it, including pörkölt and tokány. The dish they call goulash, or gulyás, is actually a soup made with meat and paprika. Paprika is also a key ingredient in another national dish; a fish soup called halaszle.

The Hungarians are known throughout the world for their elegant pastries and cakes. The flaky pastry dough called filo or phyllo was brought to Hungary by the Turks in the seventeenth century. Instead of the honey and nuts used in Turkish pastry, the Hungarians filled phyllo dough with their own ingredients to make a dessert known as strudel. Strudel fillings include apples, cherries, and poppy seeds. Hungary is known for its wines, especially the sweet wines of the Tokay region.

Pörkölt (National Hungarian Stew)


  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 3 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 pound lean beef stew meat
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (½ teaspoon each is suggested)
  • 2 to 4 Tablespoons paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup sour cream


  1. Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot.
  2. Add onions and beef, and cook until beef is browned on all sides and onions are softened.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, except sour cream, and stir gently with a wooden spoon.
  4. Heat until liquid begins to bubble.
  5. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer stew 1½ to 2 hours.
  6. Stir in sour cream and simmer about 15 more minutes.
  7. Serve with crusty bread.

Serves 6.

Gulyás (Hungarian Goulash)


  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1½ pounds beef (round steak or boneless chuck), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried garlic
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups beef broth, homemade or canned
  • 1 cup canned stewed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 carrots, cut into ½-inch slices
  • 2 green peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Caraway seeds


  1. Heat oil in skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, add beef, and cook, stirring continually, until brown (about 5 minutes).
  2. Reduce heat to medium, add onions and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes more until onions are soft. Stir frequently.
  3. Add water, beef broth, tomatoes, paprika, caraway seeds, and bay leaves, reduce to simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour.
  4. Add potatoes, carrots, green peppers, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes more or until vegetables are tender.
  5. Before serving, remove bay leaves and discard.
  6. Serve in individual bowls with chunks of crusty bread for dunking. Both a fork and spoon are needed to eat gulyás.

Serves 6 to 8.

Paprika Chicken


  • 1 large onion, sliced in rings
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1½ Tablespoons Hungarian paprika
  • 1½ pound chicken, washed, cut up and salted
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • ¼ pound mushrooms (optional)
  • ½ cup sour cream (optional)


  1. Sauté onion rings in butter in a medium pot or a Dutch oven until you can see through them.
  2. Remove from heat and add paprika, chicken, half of the green pepper and half of the tomato.
  3. Cover tightly with a lid and simmer slowly for 1½ hours.
  4. Occasionally turn pieces over so they will cook evenly.
  5. If necessary, add small amounts of water.
  6. If mushrooms are used, add during last 15 minutes of cooking time.
  7. When meat is tender, transfer to a baking dish.
  8. Make pan gravy, scraping onion from the pan and adding a little water.
  9. Pour over chicken.
  10. Garnish with remaining green pepper and tomato.
  11. Cover with foil and keep warm in the oven at a low temperature until ready to serve.
  12. Sour cream can be added to the gravy.

Serves 4.

Stuffed Green Peppers


  • 3 Tablespoons rice
  • 6 green peppers
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely-chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 pound ground meat
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2½ cups tomato sauce


  1. Simmer rice in 5 Tablespoons water for 10 minutes.
  2. Cut off the top of the peppers at the stem and scoop out the seeds.
  3. Sauté onion in butter until transparent.
  4. Remove from pan and mix with meat, rice, egg, salt, and pepper.
  5. Fill green peppers with meat mixture.
  6. Bring tomato sauce to a boil, add peppers and simmer well covered 1 hours or until peppers are tender.

Serves 6.

Pork Cutlets with Potatoes


  • 2 pounds (about 8 medium) potatoes
  • 1½ pounds pork cutlets, or thinly-sliced, boned pork chops
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Flour, sifted or granular, in a shaker
  • ¼ cup cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch of caraway seeds, crushed with the back of a spoon
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and stuck on toothpicks
  • 1 medium green pepper, cored and cut in ½-inch strips
  • 2 small peeled tomatoes, preferably canned


  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into ¼-inch slices. Cover them with cold water and set them aside until ready to use.
  2. Pat the cutlets dry and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and flour.
  3. Shake off any excess, the brown them quickly in hot oil in a pot large enough to hold them and the potatoes. After browning, remove the cutlets and set them aside.
  4. Sauté the onion slices in the skillet until they go limp. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove the onions from the skillet and set them aside with the cutlets.
  5. Pour ½ cup of water into the skillet, loosen up the pan juices with a wooden spoon, and then stir in 1 teaspoon of salt, the paprika, and caraway seeds.
  6. Return the meat and onions to the skillet.
  7. Add the garlic, green pepper, and tomatoes plus enough water to just cover the meat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  8. Add the potatoes, 1 more teaspoon of salt, and enough water to cover.
  9. Simmer 25 minutes or until the potatoes are done.
  10. Throw out the garlic, skim the grease off the sauce, and add more salt if needed.

Serves 6 to 8.


Christmas and New Year's are often celebrated with a roasted stuffed turkey or roasted pig. The turkey is usually stuffed with chestnut dressing. Eating roast pig on New Year's Day is supposed to bring good luck. On New Year's Eve, a spicy punch called Krambambuli is served. It is made from chopped fruit, candied orange peel, walnuts, sugar, rum, and brandy, to which even more ingredients are added.

Hungarian Butter Cookies


  • 2¾ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, at room temperature
  • 1 egg
  • cup sour cream


  1. Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in large mixing bowl.
  2. Add butter or margarine, and, using clean hands, blend until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. Add egg and sour cream and mix until dough holds together. Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  5. Pinch off small egg-size pieces of dough and form into balls.
  6. Place on buttered or nonstick cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Use fingers to press to about ½-inch thick.
  7. Make a crosshatch design by pressing the back of fork tines on top of each cookie.
  8. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes or until pale golden. Continue baking in batches.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen cookies.

Ham and lamb are popular Easter dishes. Easter ham, boiled together with the Easter eggs, is served smoked, spiced, or pickled. Lamb may be served as chops or cutlets or be cooked in a stew with paprika. Pastries sprinkled with poppy seeds or walnuts and called horseshoe cakes are served for dessert. Breaded chicken is traditionally eaten on the Monday after the Easter. Chicken is often eaten on Sundays.

Almond Kisses


  • 3 egg whites
  • 3½-ounce package walnuts, ground
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 3½-ounce package slivered almonds


  1. Put egg whites, walnuts, and sugar in a double boiler and heat, stirring constantly, until ingredients are hot and melted together.
  2. Remove from heat and mix in flour, vanilla, lemon rind, and almond extract.
  3. Set side until mixture cools and thickens.
  4. Grease two or three baking sheets and line them with waxed paper. Lightly grease the waxed paper.
  5. Wet your hands and shape dough into little balls; roll in slivered almonds.
  6. Place the cookies several inches apart on the baking sheets.
  7. Let stand for several hours.
  8. Preheat oven to 250°F; reduce heat to 200°F and bake for 30 minutes, or until easily removed from waxed paper.


Most people who live in the country eat a big breakfast. It may consist of eggs, ham or sausage, cheese, green peppers and tomatoes, and rolls and butter. Adults drink tea or coffee; children drink milk or cocoa. In the city, some people eat a lighter breakfast consisting of a beverage and rolls with honey or jam.

Sunday Dinner Menu

Hard-boiled eggs and cold vegetable appetizer

Chicken vegetable soup

Paprika chicken with dumplings

Cucumber salad



Lunch, eaten between noon and 2:30 p.m., is the main meal of the day. Soup, vegetables, and dessert usually accompany a main meat dish. A light supper is eaten in the evening, between 5:30 and 8:00 P.M. Usually this is a one-course meal, consisting of soup, a vegetable dish, or a "Hungarian cold plate." This is a plate of cold meats, cheeses, vegetables, and hard-boiled eggs. It can be eaten for supper, as a snack, or even for breakfast. Hungarians eat salad as a side dish with the main part of the meal, not before or after. Most Hungarian meals end with something sweet, such as sweet noodles, pancakes, dumplings, or a dessert like strudel or cake. In addition to cold meat, popular snacks include dumplings, noodle dishes, and baked goods such as lángos, or fried dough.

Before each meal, Hungarians wish their friends or relatives a good appetite, saying Jó étvágyat kivánok (YO ATE-vah-dyat KEE-vah-nok). At the end of a meal, they express thanks to their host or hostess, saying Köszönöm (KOH-soh-nohm). The host responds, Váljék kedves egészségére (VAH-lyake KEHD-vesh EH-gase-shay-reh). This means "I wish you good health." Music is commonly played in Hungarian restaurants.

Hungarian Cold Plate


  • ½ pound smoked sausage, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • ½ pound salami, sliced
  • 4 to 6 slices ham
  • 2 to 3 hard-cooked eggs, shelled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 medium red peppers, seeded and cut into strips
  • 2 medium green peppers, seeded and cut into strips
  • 4 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • Assorted cheeses
  • Pickles
  • Radishes
  • Scallions


  1. Arrange all ingredients on a large plate and serve with rolls and butter.

Small Dumplings


  • 2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 12 cups (3 quarts) water


  1. In a medium bowl, cream 1 Tablespoon butter and stir in egg, milk, and 1 teaspoon salt.
  2. Add flour, a little at a time, stirring well after each addition, until mixture is the consistency of cookie dough.
  3. If dough is too stiff, add 2 Tablespoons milk or water.
  4. In a kettle, bring water and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil over medium-high heat.
  5. Dip a teaspoon in hot water, scoop up small pieces of dough (about ¼ teaspoon each), and drop carefully into boiling water.
  6. Dip spoon in hot water again if dough starts to stick.
  7. Boil dumplings 2 to 3 minutes or until they rise to the surface.
  8. Drain in a colander.
  9. Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan.
  10. Add dumplings and stir gently until well coated.
  11. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Noodle Pudding


  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons bread crumbs
  • ½ pound egg noodles, ½-inch wide
  • cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • Rind of ½ lemon, grated
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup yellow seedless raisins
  • ½ cup nuts, chopped (optional)
  • ½ cup apricot jam (optional)
  • Vanilla confectioners' sugar


  1. Lightly grease a 1½-quart rectangle-shaped baking dish with some of the butter and sprinkle the bottom and sides with bread crumbs, shaking out the excess.
  2. Cook the noodles according to the package directions, drain them, and toss them with the rest of the butter.
  3. Beat the sugar and egg yolks together and add the lemon rind.
  4. Stir in the sour cream, then the raisins and the nuts if you wish.
  5. Add the noodles and turn them carefully so all are coated.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  7. Beat the egg whites until stiff, and fold them into the noodles.
  8. Pour them into the baking dish.
  9. If you want to add jam, pour only half the noodles in, spread the layer with jam, then pour the rest on top.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pudding is set and the top is golden brown.
  11. Dust with vanilla confectioners' sugar and serve hot from the casserole.

Summer Cucumber Soup


  • 3 Tablespoons sweet butter
  • 6 shallots, diced
  • 4 leeks, white part only, sliced
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced (chopped very fine)
  • 4 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 4 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 8 cups soup stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika, for topping
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh dill, minced


  1. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat and lightly sauté the shallots, leeks, and parsley. Do not let them get dark.
  2. Bring the cucumbers and potatoes to a boil in the stock.
  3. Lower heat, add salt and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in leek mixture and remove from heat.
  5. In a blender or food processor, process the soup to a coarse purée (mash or paste). Return to the soup pot and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Place in a tureen or covered bowl and refrigerate overnight or until chilled through.
  7. Stir in yogurt and garnish with paprika and dill.

Makes 8 servings.


Almost all Hungarians receive adequate nutrition. There is little scarcity of food, and, except for occasional years when there is not enough rainfall, Hungarian farms produce enough food to feed the people.



Albyn, Carole Lisa, and Lois Webb. The Multicultural Cookbook for Students. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1993.

Biro, Charlotte Slovak. Flavors of Hungary. San Ramon, Calif.: Ortho Information Services, 1989.

Chamberlain, Lesley. The Food and Cooking of Eastern Europe. New York: Penguin, 1989.

Davidson, Alan. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Derecskey, Susan. The Hungarian Cookbook. New York: Harper & Row, 1987.

Halvorsen, Francine. Eating Around the World in Your Neighborhood. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.

Hargittai, Magdolna. Cooking the Hungarian Way. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1986.

Segal, Ulrike, and Heinz Vestner. Insight Guides: Hungary. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

Webb, Lois Sinaiko. Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1995.

Web Sites

Epicurious. [Online] Available (accessed February 7, 2001).

SOAR (online recipe archive). [Online] Available (accessed February 7, 2001).

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HUNGARY. Hungary's history from 1450 through 1790 can be divided into three periods. The century from 1450 was the last phase of the independent Hungarian Kingdom, whose major political concern was the Ottoman advance. Hungary lost her long struggle at the battle of Mohács in 1526 and was divided into three parts by the mid-sixteenth century. The second period (15411699) is often labeled as the era of the tripartite division of the country. Royal Hungary in the west was under Habsburg rule and Ottoman Hungary in the middle was ruled, at least partly, from Constantinople (Istanbul), whereas the Principality of Transylvania in the east, although an Ottoman satellite state, had considerable autonomy, especially in its domestic affairs. While hostilities and rivalries often divided the Hungarian political elite, with regard to socioeconomic, religious, cultural, and even political developments, the three parts were connected on many levels. The next era can be described as the integration of Hungary into the Habsburg Monarchy that reconquered the country from the Ottomans by the end of the 17th century. This period witnessed a new political compromise between Vienna and the Hungarian estates, as well as visible economic and demographic growth and cultural flourishing.

In the mid-fifteenth century, the Kingdom of Hungary was a regional power in Central Europe. It had an estimated territory of 300,000 square kilometers, a population of 3.13.5 million, and annual revenues of 500,000 gold florins under King Matthias (Mátyás) Corvinus of the Hunyadi family (14581490). Protected by the natural boundaries of the Carpathian Mountains in the north and in the east, Hungary was bordered by Poland in the north, Bohemia in the northwest, and Habsburg Austria in the west. In the south, the Danube and Sava Riversand the southern border defense system built along those riversseparated the country from the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman threat fostered military reforms and centralization in Hungary. Relying on the towns and the lesser nobility, a reformed tax system, a secular bureaucracy, and a mercenary army of thirty thousand strong, King Matthias curtailed the influence of the aristocracy. Although the king strengthened and reorganized the country's southern defenses, vast resources were spent on his wars against Austria and Bohemia in pursuit of a Danubian monarchy, as well as on the king's lavish court and patronage of the arts and sciences.

During the rules of King Matthias's Jagiello successors (14901526), the power-hungry nobility strengthened its position vis-à-vis both the crown and the rest of the society. An influential compilation of Hungarian customary law, called the Tripartitum (1514), codified the rights and privileges of the nobility, including the right to resist the king. The book perceived the nobility, whose members supposedly enjoyed equal rights (una et aedem nobilitas), as "the mystical body" of the "holy crown" that is, the sole representatives of the "political nation." Following the rebellion of 1514, the nobility subjected the peasants to "eternal servitude." Although the Tripartitum was never promulgated and the decrees of the Diet of 1514 were often suspended, they provided the nobility with a legal framework until 1848 and were largely responsible for Hungary's unhealthy social structure.

The annihilation of the Hungarian army at the battle of Mohács (1526) not only meant the end of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary but also marked the beginning of Habsburg-Ottoman military confrontation in Central Europe. Following the Ottomans' withdrawal from Hungary in 1526, competing factions of the nobility elected two kings, János Szapolyai (John Zapolya, 15261540), the royal Hungarian governor (or vajda ) of Transylvania, and Ferdinand of Habsburg (15261564). With Ottoman military assistance, Szapolyai controlled the eastern parts of the country, while Ferdinand ruled the northern and western parts of Hungary. When the death of Szapolyai (1540) upset the military equilibrium between the Habsburgs and Ottomans, Sultan Suleiman I annexed central Hungary to his empire (1541). Hungary's strategically less significant eastern territories were left in the hands of Szapolyai's widow and were soon to become the Principality of Transylvania, an Ottoman vassal state. Throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Habsburgs, who remained on the Hungarian throne until 1918, had to content themselves with northern and western Hungary, known as Royal Hungary.

Although the Ottomans launched multiple campaigns against Hungary and the Habsburgs (1529, 1532, 1541, 1543, 15511552, 1566, 16631564) and the two empires waged two exhausting wars in Hungary (15931606 and 16831699), the buffer-zone-turned-country saved Habsburg central Europe from Ottoman conquest. Successive peace treaties (1547, 1568, 1606, and 1664) maintained the tripartite division of the country, which ended only in 1699, when, in the treaty of Karlowitz, the Ottomans ceded most of Hungary and Transylvania to the Habsburgs. The country's unity was only partially restored, however, for Vienna administered Transylvania as a separate imperial territory until 1848.

The price of being the "bastion of Christendom" was the dismemberment of the country and constant warfare along the Muslim-Christian divide with severe economic and social consequences. However, the endurance of Hungarian society and its economy proved to be much stronger than expected. Despite continuous skirmishes and protracted wars, famine, and epidemics, Hungary's population had increased from 3.1 million in the 1490s to 4 million by the early 1680s. In spite of double taxation (Hungarian and Ottoman), many towns in the Great Plain (Alföld) under Ottoman rule profited from the Hungaro-Ottoman condominium and succeeded in strengthening their privileges and self-government. The sixteenth century was the golden age of manorial agriculture and cattle trade. From the 1570s, Hungary exported some eighty thousand to one hundred thousand head of cattle annually to Vienna and to the German and Italian cities through an elaborate chain of cattle keepers and merchants. While defending the border was a major burden on the society, many profited from feeding and supplying imperial armies and Ottoman and Hungarian garrisons.

The tripartite division of the country and the limits of Habsburg authority also fostered the spread of Protestant Reformation. In Transylvania, Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Unitarianism were declared accepted denominations (recepta religio) in 1568. In the 1580s, half of Hungary's population was Calvinist, another quarter followed the Augsburg Confession, and the remaining 25 percent belonged to the Unitarian, Catholic, and Orthodox churches.

Angered by Vienna's lukewarm Turkish policy and aggressive Counter-Reformation, Protestant Magyar nobles rebelled repeatedly against the Catholic Habsburgs in the seventeenth century. They were aided by the princes of Transylvania, which, under the able rule of Gábor Bethlen (16131629) and György Rákóczi I (16301648) flourished economically and culturally. Allied with the Protestant states in the Thirty Years' War (16181648), the princes launched several campaigns against the Habsburgs and extended the principality's territories at the expense of Royal Hungary. When the Habsburgs conceded further Hungarian territories to the Ottomans in the treaty of Vasvár in 1664 in spite of the former's victory at St. Gotthard, even the loyal Catholic magnates of Royal Hungary were outraged and many joined the anti-Austrian "magnate conspiracy" of 16701671. The severe punishment of the members of the plot and Emperor Leopold's "confessional absolutism" triggered new waves of anti-Habsburg rebellions, of which the most serious was the revolt of Imre Thököly's kurucs (a group of Hungarian "national crusaders" or insurgents) in 16811683. Thököly's war led to the creation of yet another pro-Ottoman vassal state in Upper Hungary at a critical moment when the Ottomans' failed siege of Vienna (1683) set off an international counteroffensive, which, by the end of the century, had reconquered most of Hungary from the Ottomans.

After 1699, the Habsburgs treated Hungary as a conquered and subjugated province, thus provoking another revolt of the Magyars. The peace treaty of Szatmár (1711), which ended Ferenc Rákóczi's defeated War of Independence (17031711), was a wise compromise for both parties. It altered initial Habsburg designs regarding Hungary's incorporation into the monarchy, leaving the county-level administration and jurisdiction in the hands of the Hungarian nobility, which also retained many of its former privileges including tax exemption. On the other hand, Charles VI (Charles III as king of Hungary, 17111740) restored Habsburg rule over Hungary, whose Estates recognized his daughter's succession (the Pragmatic Sanction) in the Diet of 1722/23, making Hungary a hereditary Habsburg kingdom.

Within two generations, the population of the country (including Croatia and Transylvania) had doubled, reaching nine million by the late 1780s. This was partly due to voluntary immigration and state-organized settlement policy through which hundreds of thousands of Romanians, Croatians, Slovaks, and Germans arrived in Hungary. This significantly changed the ethnic composition of the country, where the Hungarians lost their absolute majority and comprised less than 40 percent of the inhabitants in the end of the century.

Led by ideas reflecting the Enlightenment and by absolutistic and physiocratic principles, Maria Theresa (ruled 17401780) and Joseph II (ruled 17801790) initiated important administrative, economic, legal, and cultural reforms, issued as royal patents and carried out by royal commissioners to avoid their blocking by the Estates in the Diet. Many of these reforms were beneficial for Hungary. The Urbarial Patent of 1767 regulated the size of peasant holdings and obligations in order to eliminate inequalities and overtaxation, whereas the Ratio educationis of 1777 reformed the educational system. Joseph II's Edict of Tolerance (1781) permitted the "free practice" of religion for all denominations, enabling their members to become guild masters, earn university diplomas in Hungary, and serve in state offices. However, Maria Theresa's discriminatory tariff regulations (1754), which separated Hungary from the rest of the monarchy and its traditional German and Italian markets, negatively affected Hungary, reinforcing the country's agrarian supplier status and hindering the development of domestic industries. Joseph II's decision to replace Latin with German as the official language of administration was perceived as "Germanization" and, along with his patents that abolished Hungary's old administrative structure, infuriated the Estates. By the end of Joseph II's rule, the country, which was feeling overwhelmed by the severe burden of a new Turkish war (17871790), was again on the brink of an insurrection. Facing possible armed rebellion in Hungary, growing Prussian pressure, a changing international order because of the French Revolution, and military defeat in his Turkish war, Joseph II decided to appease his Magyar nobility. In January 1790, the emperor revoked all his reforms, except for his Edict of Toleration and his decrees that benefited the peasantry and parishes.

After the compromise in 1711, loyal Hungarian magnates and the Catholic hierarchy were among the richest people in the monarchy. They were also instrumental in the cultural life of the country. The palaces built by the Esterházy, Károlyi, Pálffy, and Festetics families at Fertõd, Erdõd, Királyfalva, and Keszthely respectively are, along with magnificent churches, the best examples of Hungarian baroque. Many of the magnates were not only patrons of the arts and of literature, but were themselves active writers spreading the ideas of Enlightenment, the most radical of which were discussed in the twenty-some lodges of the Freemasons. While the eighteenth century saw spectacular population growth, solid, though uneven, economic development, and cultural revival, it also witnessed the preservation of the country's medieval and anachronistic "constitution" and social structure. All this, along with the radically changed ethnic composition of Hungary, would considerably complicate the country's history in the nineteenth century.

See also Habsburg Dynasty: Austria ; Hungarian Literature and Language ; Joseph II (Holy Roman Empire) ; Maria Theresa (Holy Roman Empire) ; Ottoman Empire ; Rákóczi Revolt ; Suleiman I .


Balázs, Éva H. Hungary and the Habsburgs, 17651800. Budapest, 1997.

Ingrao, Charles. The Habsburg Monarchy, 16181815. Cambridge, 1994.

Köpeczi, Béla, ed. History of Transylvania. Budapest, 1994.

Lendvai, Paul. The Hungarians. Princeton, 2003.

Sugar, Peter F., et al., eds. A History of Hungary. Bloomington, Ind., 1994.

GÁbor Ágoston

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Early marriages, a relatively small proportion of single men and women, and a high level of fertility have historically characterized the Hungarian population. The family has traditionally played an important role in Hungarian society. The sociological and demographic analyses carried out during the 1990s have shown that the family is more important for people than other areas of life (e.g., work, recreation, and other social contact). The notion of family had a positive connotation in general; married people were considered happier than others; and public opinion held that the family was and remained the most important point of stability (Szalai 1991). The Hungarian people see the ideal family as a married couple bringing up one or two children.

Certain signs indicate a change in the generally positive view of the family and marriage, and the family as a social institution is struggling with a number of crises. The crises are evident in such trends as the decreasing ratio of those who live in a traditionally ideal family. The decreasing number of new marriages, the high ratio of divorces, and the decreasing fertility rate are other indicators, as is the increasing number of children born outside marriage. Beyond these, other phenomena, such as the high numbers of alcoholics, people suffering from psychiatric illnesses, neglected children, children living in poverty, and suicides are all closely linked with the crisis of family life.


The high value that Hungarians put on marriage showed in the marriage data until 1989 (when the political system changed); until then, the proportion of people who had not married by the age of fifty remained below 5 percent. At the same time, the gradual decrease in the number of marriages began in the early 1980s (Tóth 1999). In the 1970s there were 9.2 marriages per 1,000 inhabitants, a figure that had dropped to only 4.5 by 1999. Demographics explain the higher rate of marriage in the 1970s; by this time the many people born in the 1950s reached the age of marriage. Young people in large numbers were encouraged to marry early because of their financial interests, the dominant ideology, and the norms of their families.

From the beginning of the 1980s, however, the marriage trend reversed, and the number of marriages started to decrease. As a result, fewer marriages have taken place since 1980—that is, every year more marriages ended than began. Many factors acting together explain this trend and the low rate of marriages. Of these, first is the change in the timing of marriage. In 1975 men first married, on average, at the age of 23.4, while women did so at the age of 21.3. In this time 40 percent of the women married before reaching their twentieth year. By 1999 the mean age at first marriage was 26.8 for men and 24.2 for women. That women are marrying later is connected to the rise of their educational level. In the middle of the 1990s, more women than men were enrolled in secondary and postsecondary education. Education improves women's chances in the labor market, increases their choices, and even makes it possible for them eventually not to accept the traditional form of marriage.

During the 1990s, the number of those remarrying also decreased in Hungary. In the 1970s there were 129 marriages per 1,000 divorced men; by 1999 this ratio had dropped to 27.4. The number of marriages per 1,000 divorced women decreased from 115 in the 1970s to 18.6 by 1999. This means, first, that men and women have more equal chances for remarrying. Second, those divorced show much less willingness to remarry, compared to several decades earlier.

The decline of marriage as a preferred partner relationship can also be related to economic factors. First, those that have benefited most from the 1989 political changes may choose to remain unmarried. In its lifestyle, this group resembles the young middle class in Western countries; members of this group earn good incomes. The delay or eventual failure to marry at all has another economic cause at the other end of society: those who are poor and getting poorer. Unemployment burdens those beginning their careers at a much higher rate than the average; thus, because these young people lack an income, the founding of a family is uncertain.


The decline in the popularity of marriage is also related to major changes in beliefs about and acceptance of cohabitation. The number of people living together without being married and the share of lasting partner relationships that they represent is still lower in Hungary compared to Western European countries, but this was especially true in previous decades. For a long time, this type of partner relationship belonged to the lower levels of the society. The number of people cohabiting was negatively affected by economic factors (first of all, the possibilities of getting a place to live), legal factors, and social factors—society still did not accept non-marital cohabitation in lieu of marriage. However, during the years since the 1989 political changes, the effect of these factors weakened. Cohabitation gradually became an accepted partner relationship in the case of young people who had not yet married. According 1996 data from the Microcensus, the number of unmarried couples living together grew from 125,000 in 1990 to 180,000 in 1996—a figure that represents 7 percent of the marriage-type partner relationships. In the 1990s, the ratio of cohabitation increased in the younger age groups. In 1994, among women between the ages of fifteen and nineteen who lived with partners, one-third were not married to their partner; in 1980, this figure in the same type of group was 3 percent. In the same year, among women between the ages of twenty and twenty-four who lived with partners, 15 percent were not married; this figure was 1 percent in 1980 (Klinger 1996).


The number of divorces has been relatively stable over the past three decades. It peaked in the 1980s, when an average of 28,000 marriages were dissolved each year. This figure shows that in the 1980s, there was a kind of dualism in the way society looked at the family. On the one hand, society expected young people to marry, but on the other it accepted that a significant proportion of the marriages ended in divorce.

The 1989 changes in the political system coincided with smaller changes in the number of divorces. Until 1992, the number of divorces decreased, and then the yearly absolute number of divorces fell below 22,000. After 1992, the trend again shifted, and in 1999 the number of divorces rose to 25,600 (563 per 1,000 new marriages). If the divorce rates remain steady, it would be expected that close to one-third of the marriages contracted in the end of the 1990s will end in divorce. In three-quarters of the marriages that end in divorce, the couples have children.

Thus, the political changes, at least temporarily, increased the stability of existing marriages. During this time of change in family life, several contradictory factors were affecting the situation. The social and economic processes that began in 1989 supposedly increased solidarity and kept individuals in families. These included, first, unemployment and impoverishment. The same trend is visible in the increasing number of family-run small businesses as a means to escape unemployment. At the same time, the increased educational level of women pushed the indicators toward what has remained a high divorce rate.


The Hungarian society kept its traditional character in the area of marriage until the end of the 1980s. Trends in childbirth, however, showed radical changes much earlier. Compared to the fertility situation in the 1970s, when the age group born in the middle of the 1950s was at peak child-bearing years, a gradual decline can be found. The turning point was in 1981, when the number of deaths exceeded the number of birth each year. However, the proportion of women who were childless at age fifty-one remained below 10 percent in different age cohorts. The total fertility rate was 1.29 in 1999. These trends mean that, concerning fertility, Hungary does not show the signs of a non-European marriage type (in which the age at first marriage is low, few people remain unmarried, and a high fertility rate exists). A new phenomenon is that the proportion of live births outside marriage is rapidly increasing. In 1990 13.1 percent of children were born out of wedlock. In 1999 this proportion reached 28 percent.

Encouraging families to have more children was one of the key issues of the prevailing Hungarian policy-makers. Different financial incentives and moral-ideological pressure were used in past decades to encourage Hungarian families to have more children. These efforts had little or only temporary success. The majority of Hungarian families have one or two children. As the number of the families without a child was low, so was the number of families with three or more children.


In Hungarian society in the 1990s, behavior moved away from the traditional family forms. Attitudes, in contrast, moved in the opposite direction in some areas (Tóth 2000). In 1994, the adult population valued the advantages of marriage more than they did in 1988. Significantly more adults found that the most important function of marriage was to ensure financial security. Significantly more men than women believe that married people are happier. What is becoming more important for women is that marriage serve as a secure framework for raising children. At the same time, however, young, highly qualified women believe substantially less both in the ability of marriages to create happiness automatically and in their function of childrearing. This is in comparison with men with similar qualifications, as well as compared with other women or with the 1988 data.

Given that Hungary lacks services and institutions to help couples resolve disputes, divorce is the most accepted way of treating martial conflict. Women—as the divorce statistics also show—are willing to accept divorce at a higher rate than are men. After the divorce, children usually stay with the mother; thus the role of the parent raising her child alone is known and accepted for women. Maintaining a deteriorated marriage relationship is not appealing to women, not even in the (eventual) interest of the child. In this area, attitudes and real demographic behavior are moving into the same direction.

The decrease in the number of children per family started decades ago in Hungarian society. In sharp contrast with their numbers, children held a high position in the society's value system, and their importance increased during the 1990s. Nevertheless, the stated love for children, documented by various surveys (Pongrácz and Molnár 1999), is contrary to other evidence. The adult population spends much time working, so they cannot interact with their children as much as they would like to. Parent-child relationships involve a lot of tension, and force and thrashing are accepted tools of raising children. An exception to this is the case of the youngest, most educated male and female classes; this group is less likely than average to place the raising of children above all other values. The temporary or permanent decision not to have children and the change of attitudes go together in the case of this group.


hajnal, j. (1965). "european marriage patterns in perspective." in population in history, ed. d. v. glass and d. e. c. eversley. london: arnold.

klinger, a. (1996). "magyarország népesedésfejlodése"(population growth in hungary). statisztikai szemle 8–9:325–348

mikrocenzus. (1996). "a népesség és a lakások jellemzoi"(characteristics of the population and homes). budapest: central statistics office.

pongrácz, t., and molnár, e. s. (1999). "changes in attitudes towards having children." in the changing role of women, ed. k. lévai and i. g. y. tóth. budapest: social research informatics center.

szalai, j. (1991). "some aspects of the changing situation of women in hungary." signs 1:152–170.

tóth, o. (1999). "marriage, divorce and fertility in hungary today. tensions between facts and attitudes." in construction. reconstruction. women, family and politics in central europe. 1945-1998, ed. a. peto and b. rásky. budapest: open society institute— central european university.

other resource

tóth, o. (2000). "marriage and child: attitudes and behaviour in comparative perspective." the tokyo woman's christian university, cross cultural study on women in the world program. available from

olga tÓth

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Hungary, a country that was primarily agricultural until the mid-nineteenth century, entered the modern era in 1867 with the creation of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. At the start of the twentieth century, in Budapest, which had become a center of cultural life, a group of radical intellectuals demanded the democratization of a country that had remained semi-feudal. Unable to compete in the political sphere, they created institutions like the Free School of Social Science, reviews like Huszadik Szàzad (Twentieth Century) and Nyugat (Occident), to achieve their goal by means of education. For psychoanalysis the Hungarian intelligentsia was fertile terrain, for it held that the liberation of the individual and the liberation of society went hand in hand.

Psychoanalysis was introduced to Hungary by Sándor Ferenczi, who was its leading exponent. A young neurologist, Ferenczi encountered Freudian theory through Carl Gustav Jung's word association test and through the literature of analysis. After his first visit to Freud in February 1908, he quickly became an integral part of the Vienna group and assumed the responsibility of bringing psychoanalysis to Hungary. His efforts were well received in literary and artistic circles, as shown in the writings of Géza Csáth, Dezsö Kosztolànyi, Mihály Babits, and Frigyes Karinthy, while most physicians remained reticent.

The Hungarian Psychoanalytic Association was founded by Ferenczi in 1913. In addition to Ferenczi, its members included the psychiatrist István Hollós, the physician Lajos Lévy, the medical student Sándor Radó, and the journalist and writer Hugó Ignotus (Hugó Veigelsberg), the editor-in-chief of Nyugat.

During World War I, Ferenczi, who had been mobilized, cared for soldiers who had suffered trauma during combat. The psychoanalytic treatment of war neuroses drew the attention of Hungarian officials, with the result that the Fifth Congress of Psychoanalysis, organized in Budapest on September 28 and 29, 1918, was held at the Academy of Sciences in the presence of government representatives. During the congress, Antal (Anton) von Freund, who ran a large beer hall, but also had a PhD in philosophy, a patient and friend of Freud, provided funding for the creation of a psychoanalytic clinic and publishing house. Ferenczi was elected president of the International Psychoanalytic Association, but the political upheavals that shook the country, especially Hungary's independence from Austria, the democratic revolution, the Bolshevik revolution in Budapest in 1919 and its brutal repression, forced him to yield the presidency to the Briton, Ernest Jones.

During the democratic government of Mihály Károlyi, students and progressives demanded that psychoanalysis be officially recognized. Their demand reached the Commune and Ferenczi was appointed professor of psychoanalysis at the university, the first in the world. When the right-wing government of Miklós Horthy came to power, the position was eliminated and, in 1920, Ferenczi was excluded from the Hungarian medical association.

The 1920s turned out to be a phase of expansion for psychoanalysis in Hungary. At the end of the war, Géza Róheim, Imre Hermann, Zsigmond Pfeifer, and other leading figures joined the Hungarian Psychoanalytic Association. Cut off from playing a role in Hungarian public life, psychoanalysts consulted, taught, and published. Róheim developed the notion of psychoanalytic anthropology, Hermann worked on the psychology of creativity, Pfeifer on children's games. This was also the period of the first wave of emigration. Sándor Radó and Jenö Hárnik moved to Berlin and participated in the creation of the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training. During the twenties, József Eisler, Sándor Feldmann, Erzsébet Révész, Béla Felszeghy, Vilma Kovács, and Alice and Mihály Bálint joined the association.

Efforts were made to organize the teaching of psychoanalysis. Seminars on theory were established in 1919, and in 1925 a training method specific to Hungary was developed by Ferenczi and Vilma Kovács.

In 1925, István Hollós was fired from his position as head physician at the psychiatric hospital of Lipótmezö because of his Jewish background. Two years later he published My Farewell from the Yellow House, in which he investigated psychosis from a new and innovative point of view.

In 1928, Géza Róheim traveled to central Australia, Normanby Island, and America. During his research, financed by Marie Bonaparte, he combined anthropological research with psychoanalytic theory.

In 1930, a psychoanalytic clinic for children was created under the direction of Margit Dubowitz. That same year Lilian Rotter and Fanny Hann joined the association. In 1931, in spite of several administrative problems, a polyclinic was opened at 12 Mészáros Street, with Ferenczi as director. The building and funding were provided by Vilma Kovács and her family; analysts from the association provided free consultations.

Ferenczi's students prepared Psychoanalytic Studies for his sixtieth birthday, but the book wasn't published until after his death in 1933. István Hollós then became president of the association and Mihály Bálint director of the polyclinic.

In 1935 and 1937 two meetings, known as the Four Nations, were organized by the psychoanalytic associations of Vienna, Prague, Italy, and Hungary, the first in Vienna, the second in Budapest, and devoted to the problems of psychoanalytic training. At the second meeting, Vilma Kovács detailed the characteristics of the Hungarian method and Anna Freud read a paper by Helene Deutsch criticizing the method.

Hungarian analysts also began a program to develop public awareness of psychoanalysis. Kata Lévy organized seminars with teachers, Alice Bálint with mothers, and Mihály Bálint held discussion groups with general practitioners. In 1933, Lilly Hajdu, a psychiatrist, joined the association.

During the late thirties, threatened by the rise of anti-Semitism and fascism, a number of analysts decided to emigrate. Among them were the Bálints, Géza Róheim, Sándor Feldmann, and Edit Gyömröi. The association continued to function under police surveillance and under the direction of its non-Jewish members, Endre Almássy and Tibor Rajka. In 1944, when German troops invaded Hungary and put Hungarian Nazis in power, several analysts, including Zsigmond Pfeifer, Géza Dukes, László Révész, Miklós Gimes, and József Eisler, became victims of persecution. Imre Hermann and István Hollós barely escaped with their lives.

After 1945, psychoanalysts in Hungary resumed their activities. They participated in the creation of a mental health institute and worked in dispensaries. But the Stalinist government, which came to power in 1948, forced the association to dissolve. From then on psychoanalysis survived in a semi-clandestine fashion, primarily through the help of Imre Hermann, who trained the new generation of analysts: György Vikár, Livia Nemes, Agnes Binét, Teréz Virág. The dark years after 1956 were marked by the suicide of Lilly Hajdu, whose husband was murdered by the Nazis and whose son, a friend of Imre Nagy, had been executed along with the prime minister. During the sixties, the Kádar government became more tolerant of psychoanalysis. István Székács, a member of the Hungarian Psychoanalytic Association since 1939, also began to train psychoanalysts, although not initially a member of Hermann's group.

During the seventies, Hungarian analysts still did not have an officially recognized association, but some public manifestations of recognition took place. In 1969, for example, Imre Hermann was decorated on his eightieth birthday and, in 1974, a commemorative celebration was organized for the Ferenczi centenary. In 1987 an international congress of psychoanalysis was held in Budapest.

After democracy was restored in 1989, the Hungarian Psychoanalytic Association was reconstituted and affiliated itself with the International Psychoanalytic Association. A new generation of analysts was able to practice, teach, and publish openly.

The Ferenczi Society, a broad-based group of people interested in psychoanalysis, began to publish the review Thalassa. While the first generation of analysts trained by Imre Hermann was affected primarily by his ideas, contemporary psychoanalysts were reevaluating the ideas of Ferenczi, which they were forced to read in foreign editions since his complete works had not yet been published in Hungarian because of a lack of funding. They also served as an inspiration for Otto Kernberg.

Hungarian psychoanalysts of the 1930s developed a number of specific ideas that justify referring to them collectively as the Budapest School. These include the importance of trauma in the etiology of mental pathology, the attention given to object relations, consideration of dyadic relations and regression, and insistence on the importance of experience in therapy. Hungarian training methods differed from other methods in that the candidate's first control analysis was undertaken by his own analyst to further an understanding of the counter-transference and better understand his own transference to the analyst.

Ferenczi's students demonstrated considerable creativity. Imre Hermann developed the theory of clinging, Géza Róheim the ontogenetic theory of culture, and Mihály Bálint the theory of primal love (and several others after his emigration). Lilian Rotter developed a body of original work on female sexuality and Alice Bálint on the mother-child relationship. István Hollós and Lilly Hajdu examined psychoses from a psychoanalytic point of view.

Éva Brabant-GerÖ


Bálint, Michael. (1968). The basic fault: Therapeutic aspects of regression. London: Tavistock Publications.

Brabant-Gerö,Éva. (1993). Ferenczi et L'école hongroise de psychanalyse. Paris: L'Harmattan.

Ferenczi, Sandor. (1955). Selected Papers of Sandor Ferenczi. (Vol. 3, Michael Bálint, Ed.). New York: Basic Books.

Haynal, André. (1988). The technique at issue: Controversies in psychoanalysis from Freud and Ferenczi to Michael Bálint. (Elizabeth Holder, Trans.). London: Karnac. (Original work published 1986)

Hermann, Imre. (1972). L'instinct filial. (G. Kassai, Trans.). Paris: Denoël.

Hungarian Psychoanalytic Association. (1933).Lélekelemzési Tanulmànyok (Psychoanalytic Studies). Budapest: Somló.

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Official name: Republic of Hungary

Area: 93,030 square kilometers (35,919 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Kékes (1,014 meters/3,327 feet)

Lowest point on land: Tisza River (78 meters/256 feet)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 2 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 528 kilometers (328 miles) from east to west; 268 kilometers (167 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: 2,009 kilometers (1,248 miles) total boundary length; Austria 366 kilometers (227 miles); Croatia 329 kilometers (204 miles); Romania 443 kilometers (275 miles); Serbia and Montenegro 151 kilometers (94 miles); Slovakia 515 kilometers (320 miles); Slovenia 102 kilometers (63 miles); Ukraine 103 kilometers (64 miles)

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None


Located in the Carpathian Basin, in the heart of Central Europe, Hungary occupies one-third of the territory of the preWorld War I Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hungary is a landlocked, predominantly flat country, with more than four-fifths of its terrain at elevations below 656 feet (200 meters). It covers an area of 93,030 square kilometers (35,919 square miles), or slightly less than the state of Indiana.


Hungary has no territories or dependencies.


Hungary has a continental climate, with Atlantic and Mediterranean influences. It has cold winters, warm summers, and abrupt seasonal transitions. The mean temperature ranges from -4°C to 0°C (25°F to 32°F) in January, and 18°C to 23°C (64°F to 73°F) in July. Temperatures as high as 43°C (109°F) have been recorded, however, while the record low is -34°C (-29°F). Rainfall decreases from west to east; the plains around the Tisza River depend on irrigation to prevent crop failure from summer drought. Average annual rainfall ranges from around 51 centimeters (20 inches) in the east to approximately 76 centimeters (30 inches) in the west.


Hungary can be divided into four major regions. To the north, a long system of low mountains and hills stretches across the country for 400 kilometers (250 miles) from southwest to northeast. East of the Danube River and south of this mountain system is the Great Alföld, Hungary's largest region and its agricultural heartland. The northern mountains divide the land west of the Danube into two regions. In the northeast corner of the country is the Little Alföld. To the south is the hilly region known as Transdanubia, between the mountains and the Danube.


Hungary is a landlocked country.


Lake Balaton, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of Budapest, is Hungary's largest lake; it is also the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe. About 72 kilometers (45 miles) long, its width varies, never exceeding 13 kilometers (8 miles). It averages a little more than 10 feet in depth. There are few other lakes in Hungary. Lake Fertõ (also known as Neusiedler See), on the northwestern border, is shared with Austria; Hungary's portion is only about one-fourth of the total. Lake Velence, between Lake Balaton and Budapest, is adjusted artificially to maintain water depths between 1 and 2 meters (3 and 6 feet). Hungary has many mineral springs, which are used for both health and recreational purposes.


Hungary's longest and most important river is the Danube (Duna), which enters the country in the northwest, where it forms the western portion of the border with Slovakia. It flows eastward until it bends north of Budapest and then flows south, roughly at the center of the country, until it crosses the border with Serbia and Montenegro. Altogether, about 386 kilometers (240 miles) of the Danube's total length of 2,776 kilometers (1,725 miles) border or flow through Hungary. The Rába River flows into the Danube on the Slovakian border, and the Drava joins it much farther south. The Tisza River, which drains much of eastern Hungary, is a tributary of the Danube. It rises in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine, enters Hungary in the northeast, and flows southward through the Great Plain, joining the Danube farther south in Serbia and Montenegro. Other notable rivers in Hungary include the Mura River, the Kapos River, the Sió River, and the Marcal River.


There are no desert regions in Hungary.


Hungary has two distinct plains regions. The larger and more important one is the Great Alföld, which spreads across central and eastern Hungary, occupying all of the land south of the northern mountain system. It is a fertile basin with average elevations of slightly more than 91 meters (300 feet). The Danube forms its western boundary, and it is traversed from north to south by the Tisza River.

In the northwest corner of the country is the Little Alföld, whose composition and elevation are similar to those of the larger plain to the south.

The hills of Hungary's northern uplands rise to elevations of 244 to 305 meters (800 to 1,000 feet). A few isolated parts of the Alpine foothills on the Austrian border rise to nearly 914 meters (3,000 feet). Farther south, the Transdanubia region is composed of rolling, hilly land that rises to elevations of 610 meters (2,000 feet).


Reaching elevations of 400 to 700 meters (1,300 to 2,300 feet), the Bakony Mountains constitute the major geographical feature west of the Danube River. Farther east, the Pilis Mountains rise between the Bakony range and the Danube. The hills and mountains east of the Danube account for 4,988 square kilometers (3,100 square miles) of the country's area. They are the only uplands in the country that are part of the Carpathian system. The individual ranges in the group extend northeastward from the gorge of the Danube River near Esztergom for about 225 kilometers (140 miles). Their highest pointand the highest point in Hungaryis Mount Kékes (1,014 meters/ 3,327 feet) in the Mátra range.


The caverns of Aggteleki Park are small but fascinating.


There are no significant plateaus or monoliths in Hungary.


An extensive series of levees have been built on Hungary's plains to prevent disastrous flooding of the Tisza and Danube Rivers. In the nineteenth century, floods around these rivers came close to destroying the two cities that currently combine to make up Budapest. The city is located on both banks of the Danube, and eight bridges across the river link its two sectors.


Geothermal aquifers underlie nearly all of Hungary, sending large volumes of water between 40°C (104°F) and 70°C (158°F) to the earth's surface. Much of this water is used to heat greenhouses.



Dent, Bob. Hungary. 2nd ed. Blue Guides. New York: W.W. Norton, 1998.

Ivory, Michael. Essential Hungary. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1998.

Richardson, Dan, and Charles Hebbert. Hungary: The Rough Guide. 3rd ed. London: Rough Guides, 1995.

Web Sites

Hungarian Home Page. (accessed April 3, 2003).

Hungary: Introduction. (accessed April 3, 2003)

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93,030sq km (35,919sq mi)



capital (population):

Budapest (1,775,200)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Magyar (Hungarian) 98%, Gypsy, German, Croat, Romanian, Slovak


Hungarian (official)


Christianity (Roman Catholic 64%, Protestant 23%, Orthodox 1%), Judaism 1%


Forint = 100 filler

Republic in central Europe. Hungary is a mostly low-lying, landlocked country in central Europe. The River Danube forms much of its n border with the Slovak Republic. The capital, Budapest, lies on the banks of the river. To the e of the Danube is the Great Hungarian Plain (Nagyalföld), drained by the River Tisza and including Hungary's second-largest city, Debrecen. To the w lies the Little Plain (Kisalföld) and the region of Transdanubia, which includes central Europe's largest lake, Lake Balaton. In the ne, the Mátra Mountains rise to the Kékes peak, at 1015m (3330ft).

Climate and Vegetation

Hungary has a continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. Autumn and spring are short seasons. Much of Hungary's original vegetation has been cleared. Large forests remain in the scenic ne highlands.

History and Politics

Magyars first arrived in the 9th century. In the 11th century, Hungary's first king, Saint Stephen, made Roman Catholicism the official religion. In 1222, the Golden Bull established a parliament. In the 14th century, the Angevin dynasty extended the Empire. In the Battle of Mohács (1526), the Ottoman Turks defeated the Hungarians. In 1699, Leopold I expelled the Turks and established Habsburg control. Lajos Kossuth declared Hungarian independence in 1848, but Emperor Franz Joseph reasserted control in 1849. Austrian defeat in the Austro-Prussian War (1866) led to the compromise solution of the ‘dual monachy’ or Austro-Hungarian Empire. As defeat loomed in World War I, nationalist demands intensified. In 1918, Hungary declared independence. In 1919 communists, led by Béla Kun, briefly held power. In 1920, Miklós Horthy became regent. World War I peace terms saw the loss of all non-Magyar territory (66% of Hungarian land).

In 1941 Hungary allied with Nazi Germany, gaining much of its lost territory. Virulent anti-Semitism saw the extermination of many Hungarian Jews. Hungary's withdrawal from the war, led to German occupation in March 1944. The Soviet expulsion of German troops (October 1944–May 1945) devastated much of Hungary.

In 1946 Hungary became a republic, headed by Imre Nagy. In 1948 the Communist Party gained control, forcing Nagy's resignation, and declaring a People's Republic (1949). Hungary became a Stalinist state. Industry was nationalized, and agriculture collectivized. Economic crisis forced the brief reinstatement (1953–55) of Nagy. In 1955, Hungary joined the Warsaw Pact. In 1956, a nationwide revolution led to Nagy forming a government. János Kádár created a rival government, and called for Soviet military assistance. Soviet troops brutally suppressed the uprising. Nagy was executed and 200,000 people fled. Kádár's regime adopted a more liberal social policy. Relations with the Catholic Church were restored and a new economic policy (1968) relaxed restrictions on the private sector.

During the 1980s, Hungary sought Western aid to modernize its economy. In 1989, Kádár resigned and the Communist Party reformed itself as the Hungarian Socialist Party (HSP). The centre-right Democratic Forum won multiparty elections in 1990. Gyula Horn of the HSP became prime minister in 1994 elections. Viktor Orban led a centre-right coalition after 1998 elections. In 1999, Hungary joined NATO. In 2000, a leak at a cyanide plant in Romania contaminated the River Tisza. Peter Medgyessy of the HSP defeated Orban in 2002 elections.


Hungary adopted free-market reforms in the 1990s. The economy (2000 GDP per capita, US$11,200) suffered from the collapse of exports to the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The cost of transition to a mixed economy brought increased debt, unemployment, and inflation. The manufacture of machinery and transport is the most valuable sector. Hungary's resources include bauxite, coal, and natural gas. Agriculture remains important (14% of GDP). Major crops include grapes, maize, potatoes, sugar beet, and wheat. Tourism is a growing sector.

Political map

Physical map


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A kingdom of central Europe, established by the eastern nomads known as the Magyars in the tenth century. In the fourteenth century, Hungary was ruled by the foreign Anjou dynasty, whose kings presided over a time of peace and general prosperity. Silver and gold mines enriched the treasury, while the Anjou kings asserted effective control over Hungary's landowning nobles and allied Hungary with Naples and Poland through marriage. Under King Louis I, who ruled from 1342 until 1382, trade with the rest of Europe increased and the kingdom's artisans began forming craft guilds to standardize their production of goods and limit competition. Louis founded the first university in Hungary and also encouraged the work of scholars and manuscript copyists. The reign of Louis's son-in-law, Sigismund, turned out badly for the kingdom, however. Sigismund was opposed by many Hungarian nobles, who were angered by the king's arbitrary cruelty, his heavy taxes, his costly foreign wars, and his many absences from the kingdom after he was elected as the Holy Roman Emperor in 1410 and king of Bohemia in 1419.

In the meantime, Hungary was threatened from the east by the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Turks had conquered Bulgaria and Serbia in the late fourteenth century. Determined to stop their advance, Sigismund led an army against them and was routed at the Battle of Nicopolis, barely escaping the field with his life. The two kings who followed Sigismund, Albrecht V and Vladislav III, both died while campaigning in the Balkans. The nobles then elected Laszlo V, an infant, and selected Janos Hunyadi to rule the kingdom as regent. A brilliant military leader, Hunyadi defeated the Turks in Serbia and in 1456 lifted the siege of Belgrade, but soon died of the plague. Hunyadi's son, Matthias Corvinus, succeeded as the king in 1458. Seeking the title of Holy Roman Emperor, Matthias campaigned in Bohemia and Austria, and proclaimed his intention to forge a Christian alliance to oppose the Turks.

Matthias was a capable and enlightened ruler who reformed the old legal system of Hungary and established one of Europe's finest libraries, known as the Corvina, for which he hired a small army of copyists and illuminators to create original manuscripts. He promoted scholarship and book publishing, and established Hungary's second university. Latin translations of Hungarian writings circulated, and Latin remained an important language of administration, law courts, and education. Matthias hired an Italian architect, Chimenti de Leonardo Camicia, to rebuild the royal palace of Buda.

The reign of Matthias represented a brief golden age in Hungary's turbulent Renaissance history. His successor, Vladislav II, was a Polish heir who was incapable of standing up to the demands of the Hungarian nobles. Abolishing the taxes opposed by the nobles, Vladislav also disbanded Hungary's large mercenary army as the Ottoman Empire was threatening. His son Louis II succeeded to the throne in 1516, at a time when the treasury was empty and border defenses abandoned, with the king unable to maintain fortresses or pay his soldiers. At the Battle of Mohacs in 1526 the Hungarians were defeated by an Ottoman army and Louis himself died after being thrown from his horse. After several years of conflict over the succession, the Turks seized the capital of Buda and occupied much of the kingdom.

Hungary's political turmoil and military conquest by the Turks limited the spread of Renaissance art and ideas. The library of the Corvina was closed, and its books sent to his own capital by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman. Many Hungarian scholars fled the occupied provinces, while others joined the courts of the Habsburg dynasty, which under Ferdinand I came to control the parts of Hungary free of Turkish control. Hungarian writers began creating a new national literature in the vernacular language, and translating the works of ancient authors. Balint Balassi was renowned for his poetry, and Faustus Verantius, an author and inventor, created a dictionary of eleven languages.

See Also: Corvinus, Matthias; Habsburg dynasty; Ottoman Empire

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Culture Name


Alternative Names



Identification. Hungarian derives from Onogur, a Bulgarian-Turkish tribe's self-name. Between the sixth and eight centuries c.e., both the Hungarian tribes and the Onogurs lived just northeast of the Black Sea.

Location and Geography. Hungary is a landlocked country in central Europe. Covering an area of 35,934 square miles (93,030 square kilometers), the country is in the Carpathian Basin, surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, the Alps, and the Dinaric Alps. The Danube River divides Hungary and bisects the capital, Budapest. Hungary lies within the temperate zone and has four distinct seasons.

Demography. Hungary has lost population since the early 1980s. The population was 10,065,000 in 1999, 48,000 less than it had been a year earlier. As in several European countries, the population of the elderly is on the rise and that of children on the decrease.

The officially recognized minorities are Armenians, Bulgarians, Croats, Germans, Greeks, Poles, Romanians, Roma (Gypsy), Ruthenians, Serbs, Slovaks, Slovenes, and Ukrainians. The largest minority is the Roma, who make up about 5 percent of the population, numbering approximately 500,000. The second largest minority are the Germans, who number an estimated 170,000. There are 80,000 to 110,000 Slovaks as well as about 35,000 Croatians, 15,000 to 25,000 Romanians, 80,000 to 100,000 Jews, and 5,000 Serbs.

Linguistic Affiliation. Hungarian belongs to the Ugor branch of the Finno-Ugric language family. Before World War II, German was the most important and frequently used second language. During the socialist period, Russian was mandatory in schools and universities. English has become the most valued second language, particularly for younger people with entrepreneurial ambitions and in academia, the sciences, and various businesses and services.

Symbolism. The Hungarian language constitutes one of the most significant national symbols. History also has a central meaning in national awareness and identity. Related to history is the national coat of arms, which depicts the House of Árpád's Árpád led the Hungarian conquest in 896 c.e. and his offspring founded the state and ruled until the male line died out in the early fourteenth century. On this family crest is the crown that national tradition connects with the person of King István (9971038) (Saint Stephen), the country's first Christian king.

This crown, usually called Sacred Crown or Holy Crown, has always been endowed with a mystical and transcendent meaning. Historically, the crown validated and legitimated the ruler. Even though the kingdom of Hungary ceased to exist in 1918, the crown continues to hold deeply meaningful national significance.

The red, white, and green flag also is a powerful national symbol. The national anthem, written in 1823, is symbol of the eastern origins and history of the Hungarians in the form of a prayer that begs God to help the nation.

The gigantic painting entitled "The Arrival of the Hungarians" is another national symbol. Feszty originally painted it for the millennial celebration (1896).

The most significant manifestation of national unity is the sense of linguistic and cultural connection that includes the national language, literature, music, folk culture, folk literature, folk traditions, and history.

A deep, permeating consciousness is another integral element of national identity. It can be summarized as "we are all alone" and is based on historical reasons and the "otherness" of the language and the origins of Hungarians. While the consciousness of "we are all alone" was dormant during the socialist period (19481989), it still remained a recognizable and crucial part of the national identity.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. There is evidence that the Hungarian nation was a unit in the Middle Ages. In Latin chronicles dating back to the tenth century, there are colorful origin myths of the Hungarians "conquering" and occupying the Carpathian Basin and their conversion to Christianity under King Stephen. Many Hungarians consider their nation "the final fortress of Western Christianity and civilized Europe."

National Identity. In the Middle Ages, groups and nationalities that were not ethnically Hungarian lived in the nation. After the late Middle Ages, a dual national consciousness is demonstrable. On the one hand, there was a nationstate that ethnic Hungarians and non-Hungarians could share. On the other hand, there was a narrower sense of belonging to the Hungarian linguistic, cultural, and ethnic community.

In 1526, a young Hungarian king fell in a battle with the Ottoman Turks. On the basis of a marriage contract, the Habsburgs claimed the Hungarian throne. After conquering the Ottomans in 1686 and 1712, the Habsburgs ruled all of Hungary. The population accepted their right to rule but kept and observed their own laws, legislative powers, parliament, and administrative division. From time to time there were anti-Habsburg revolts, conspiracies, and political unrest.

In 1848, a revolution led by Lajos Kossuth demanded democratic reforms and more independence from Austria. However, Austria defeated the revolution. This was the first time that the general population, including the peasantry, experienced a sense of national unity. While some of the nationalities shared that experience, most turned against the Hungarians.

The Austrian tyranny that followed the revolution of 1848 ended with the 1867 Austrian-Hungarian Compromise. With this accord, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was established. The Austro-Hungarian monarchy ended after World War I. The Trianon Treaty of 1920 ended the territorial integrity of Hungary. Nearly 70 percent of its historical territory and 58 percent of its former population were ceded to neighboring countries. One-third of ethnic Hungarians came under foreign rule. With the assent of the Western powers, Hungary came under Soviet occupation after World War II. Under the leadership of Moscow and the Moscow-led Hungarian Communist Party, the "building of socialism" began. In 1956, the nation rose up against the Communist rule and occupation by the Soviet Union. The revolt was defeated and approximately two hundred thousand Hungarians, mostly young people, skilled workers, white-collar workers, professionals, and intellectuals, escaped to the West.

By 1968 Hungary had become the "happiest barrack in the lager" as a result of the economic reforms of the New Economic Mechanism and with some social and political liberalization. In 1989, Hungary was the first Socialist Bloc country to open the "Iron Curtain," providing a transit route for thousands people emigrating from East Germany to West Germany, precipitating the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.

The "softer" regime under János Kádár was successful in weakening traditional national consciousness, along with previously closely knit community networks and religious worldviews and values. After forty years of socialism, the general tendency among many in the population is to be individualistic, survival-oriented, and likely to work out strategies of compromise.

Ethnic Relations. After the 1989 change of regime, the Hungarian government assumed responsibility for the ethnic and linguistic maintenance of ethnic Hungarians living outside the nation's borders. The government tries to establish and maintain fair and friendly relations with the governments of neighboring countries. There are frequent complaints, however, that the Hungarian minorities' ethnic and cultural maintenance is made difficult by the host countries.

Hungary continues to strive for friendly relations with the surrounding countries. Ethnic and national minorities are encouraged to set up their own self-governing councils, and their cultural and educational institutions receive state support.

Among the minorities, the Roma are in an extremely difficult situation. Their high birth rate, disadvantageous economic position and social status, and the subjection to prejudice have worsened their economic circumstances and social integration.

Urbanism,Architecture, and the Use of Space

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, Hungary was a primarily rural agrarian society. Often Hungarian villages had large populations. The church was always in the center of the village. Many settlements were "two-church villages," indicating that two groups settled there at different periods.

On the Great Hungarian Plain instead of villages, there was a loose network of huge agrotowns that were located far from one another, each with a population from 20,000 to 100,000. Until recently, most Hungarians engaged in agriculture. The large agrotowns were administered as villages, with most of their inhabitants living like peasants. In the early eighteenth century, individual, isolated homesteads sprang up. Only seasonally occupied at first, they eventually became permanent residences of mostly extended families. However, even though about 50 percent of the people in the agrotowns lived and worked outside towns on these homesteads, they still considered themselves townspeople.

As a result of industrialization after the establishment of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1867, a number of industrial-commercial-merchant cities sprang up. Between 1867 and the beginning of World War I, Budapest grew into a huge metropolis with a population of over a million.

In the center of cities there are city halls and other public buildings as well as churches, shopping districts, and remnants of traditional marketplaces. Some churchyards still have small cemeteries.

Until recently, it was customary to have a tiszta szoba (clean room) in peasant houses that was used mainly for special visits and particular rituals and occasions such as births, christenings, weddings, and funerals. There were also "sacred corners" that were decorated with pictures of various saints and pictures and statues brought back from Catholic pilgrimages. In Protestant households, the walls of those rooms depicted religious reformers and the heroes of the 1848 revolution.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Magyar kenyér (Hungarian bread) remains very important in the rural and urban cuisine. For the last one hundred fifty years, wheat has been one of the most important crops both for domestic use and exportation. Pig breeding became the most important type of animal breeding in the 1870s, and since then the meat and byproducts of pigs have predominated in the national diet.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. The cuisine at most village weddings includes chicken soup with special csiga noodles that were traditionally believed to have fertility-inducing properties, gulyás, stuffed cabbage, sweetened millet, sweetened rice and other rice dishes, and butter-cream tortes and other baked goods.

According to the national self-image, Hungarians are wine drinkers, but beer drinking is more common. Since the early 1990s there has been an attempt to familiarize the population with regional wines.

Basic Economy. Before World War II, Hungary was an agricultural country. During the socialist regime, forced industrialization took place. However, more than half the population does some agricultural work for household use and supplemental income.

Major Industries. Tourism continues to be a great Hungarian success. The production of barley, corn, potatoes, wheat, sugar beets, and sunflower seeds, along with grapes and wine making, is important. Mines are no longer subsidized by the government, and many mines have closed.

Trade. Imports include metal ores and crude petroleum, while exports include agricultural products, consumer goods, leather shoes, machinery, transport equipment, chemicals, textiles, wines, iron, and steel.

Between 1948 and 1989, more than half of foreign trade was with the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. Since the early 1990s, foreign trading partners have been Germany, Italy, Austria, the United States, and some of the formerly socialist countries.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Early in the socialist period, the nationalization of industries, commerce, and most services, along with the forced collectivization of agrarian landholding, brought about the end of private property. Communist Party leaders, secretaries, and members lived better and had access to more goods than did the rest of the population. Privatization of industry, commerce, and some services took place after 1990 as Western capital flowed into Hungary. As a result of a complex and controversial system of property compensation, most arable land and real properties were reprivatized after more than four decades. The income gap then widened between the rich and the poor. It increased in 1998 as 38 percent of the population earned below the minimum annual wage. In contrast, the rich seem to have increased their wealth at a rapid rate.

Upward social mobility still depends on the channeling of students into educational institutes. A disproportionate number of students in high schools, colleges, and universities come from intellectual, upper management, or otherwise "elite" families.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Western-style clothes, especially American jeans, are worn by the bulk of the younger population in both urban and rural areas. New clothes are very expensive and brand names such as Levi-Strauss can be bought only by a small segment of the population. Shiny polyester or nylon leisure suits worn with expensive, name-brand sports shoes are signs of new and successful entrepreneurs. Many of the new rich drive expensive foreign cars. The number of cell phones and their frequent and public uses are striking. There are numerous luxurious new or elaborately remodeled villas in Budapest that are owned by the new economic elite. Foreign travel has become a flaunted symbol of wealth and status.

Political Life

Government. All levels of government were under the control of the Communist Party between 1948 and 1989. The change of regime in 1989 brought in a multiparty government and a parliamentary democracy with elected representatives. At the end of the twentieth century, there were 182 officially registered political parties.

Leadership and Political Officials. There is a president, who is the head of the state and may be elected for two five-year terms. The prime minister is the leader of the party with the most seats. The parliament is called the National Assembly, with 386 deputies who are elected for four-year terms. The Constitutional Court was established in 1990. There is a Judicial Supreme Court that is essentially a final court of appeal.

Social Problems and Control. Alcoholism is a widespread and significant problem. In addition, drug abuse has increased since the end of the socialist regime. After the outbreak of the war in the former Yugoslavia in 1991, Hungary became a favorite place for international organized crime organizations that engage in drug, weapons, and people smuggling; prostitution rings; and money laundering. The crime rate is rapidly increasing. The population worries about the lack of public safety and generally blames crimes on the Roma as well as refugees and other foreigners. Psychological problems, particularly depression, increased significantly between 1988 and 1996, and, although the number of suicides has been declining, Hungary continues to have the highest rate of suicide in the world.

Military Activity. Modernization of the army began in the early transition period (19901994) and has continued since the country has become part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). There is an ongoing process of integrating the Hungarian armed forces with NATO organizations and the filling of alliance posts. The army is being converted to a mixed structure that is composed of volunteers and conscripts. All males between ages 18 and 55 are required to serve in the armed forces, but conscription is selective. For example, students in universities serve for a very short time or not at all and conscientious objectors are given civilian jobs. There are 80,000 people serving in the army, air force, border guards, and the small fleet guarding the Danube River.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Men are expected to work, earn, and provide for their families, while women are expected to take care of the children and the domestic chores. These ideal roles are rarely achieved today. In the last couple of generations, the rate of divorce and remarriage has increased dramatically. Since the change of regime (in 1989), cohabitation of unmarried couples and the number of children born outside of marriage have grown. These patterns are more common among those with less formal education, money, and social prestige.

Most Hungarian men do not help with the housework, and few women object to this arrangement. Only among a small percentage of young, mostly urban couples and an even smaller segment of middle-aged intellectuals and professionals is there evidence of a changing pattern in the gendered division of labor in the domestic sphere.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. The images of the mother and motherland are expressed in the national literature and culture. Since the early nineteenth century, the centrality of the mother-son relationship has been idealized in literature and the public consciousness. The mother is often hailed as the core of the national identity, the guardian and cultivator of a "real" culture that is untouched by foreign influences.

Marriage,Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages are no longer arranged. Young people usually marry for love or to have children. The perpetual shortage of apartments is a problem for married couples. Young married couples frequently move into the small apartment of either set of parents. While traditionally a young married couple lived near the parents of the groom, today, if a couple cannot set up an independent new household, they move in with the set of parents who will welcome them and has the most room. Most households consist of a married or unmarried couple and their children.

Even when a couple lives in a separate household, great value is placed on having the help of a grandmother or grandfather.

Kin Groups. Kin groups are often large in villages and smaller in urban centers. Godparenthood is still much valued. Extended families living in the same household are very rare.


Infant Care. Traditionally, newborns were swaddled; today they are wrapped in warm blankets when they are very young, but swaddling is no longer practiced. Infants and toddlers are usually put into a separate space to sleep and play. Parents try to calm an active baby rather than stimulate it. There seems to be a growing child centeredness that is manifested in focusing on children and often giving them more material goods and privileges than the family can afford. Good children are obedient, mindful, diligent, respectful, industrious, quiet, and good students. In rural areas, more emphasis is placed on respect and industrious behavior. The actual behavior of children rarely approximates these expectations.

Child Rearing and Education. Formal education is compulsory between six and sixteen years of age. The rate of literacy is 98 percent. Traditionally, most people considered a high school diploma as the final formal educational goal.

Higher Education. Since the 1980s more value has been placed on college or university education. This is illustrated by a slightly increased enrollment in colleges and universities and in an expansion of educational opportunities in institutes of higher learning.


Hospitality entails an extraordinary effort to feed and care for guests. Guests are always encouraged to step into one's home first.

On the streets, it is customary for men to walk on the left side of women, ostensibly because in the past gentlemen kept their swords on the left side and women had to be on the opposite side of the sword. A Hungarian man enters first into a pub, restaurant, coffeehouse, or other public establishment.

Friends, family members, and close acquaintances who have not seen one another for a while greet and part from one another with pecks on both the left and right cheeks. Touching the hands, arms, and shoulders of partners in conversation is common. It is customary for a woman to offer her hand first both to men of all ages and to younger women and children.

Differentiated formal terms of address are seldom used among younger people. Informal styles of greeting and terms of address are used from the moment of initial meeting. Considerably less time is spent visiting and socializing in coffeehouses and on the streets than in the past.

Bodily contact is rather intimate on public transportation and in malls and shopping centers. In isolated rural settlements, villagers still stare at strangers.


Religious Beliefs. According to surveys in the early 1990s, 72 percent of Hungarians are Roman Catholic, 21 percent are Calvinist Reformed, 4 percent are Lutherans, nearly 1 percent are Jewish, and about 2 percent are "nondenominational" or "other."

After Russia, Hungary has the largest Jewish population in its region. About 80 percent of Hungarian Jews live in the capital city. About half the Jewish population is over the age of 65.

There was an official campaign against all religions during the socialist regime. Those who openly practiced a religion were discriminated against and often punished. The state closed most parochial schools and dissolved or disbanded religious orders and institutions. After 1989 and during the periods of privatization, many schools and other formerly parochial buildings were returned to the churches. As compensation for the confiscated properties, the state financially supports parochial schools and other religious institutions.

Among large segments of the population, religious indifference and often explicitly antireligious attitudes prevail. This is an outcome of the lax, individualist, atomizing policies of the last decade of socialism. Alongside the major denominations, there are an increasing number of small sects, religious movements, and Eastern religious practices, along with a growing number of followers of proselytizing Western missionaries.

Many Hungarians do not formally belong to or regularly practice any religion, but baptisms, weddings, and funerals tie them informally to churches.

Rituals and Holy Places. Among the sacred places of the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church are the city of Esztergom, where Saint Stephen was born; Pannonhalma, where the first Benedictine Order was founded in 996 c.e.; the city of Eger; and a number of provincial rural settlements and places of annual pilgrimage. Calvinists in eastern Hungary consider Debrecen the "Calvinist Rome." The religious centers for Lutherans are Budapest and Sopron. Budapest has the largest synagogue in Europe.

Death and the Afterlife. In addition to traditional in-ground burial, cremation with special places to put funerary urns has been practiced since before World War II. Because of a lack of cemetery space in the cities and the great expense of traditional funerals, cremation is widely practiced.

Medicine and Health Care

Western medicine is practiced, although many individuals have turned to alternative medicine such as acupuncture and herbal and homeopathic remedies. In addition to Western medical treatment, frequenting medicinal spas, getting professional deep tissue and other types of massage, and drinking mineral water continue to be very popular.

Secular Celebrations

Major national holidays include 20 August, commemorating the death of King Stephen. This day is also an ecclesiastical feast day. During the socialist regime (19481989), 20 August was renamed the Day of the Constitution and the Day of New Bread. Another major national holiday is 15 March, which commemorates the bloodless democratic civil revolution that broke out in 1848. Since the change of regime in 1989, 23 October has been a day of remembrance of the revolution of 1956, when Hungarians rose against the Soviet occupation. Though not an official holiday, the Day of the Martyrs of Arad (6 October) is a significant time of remembrance.

In addition, there are numerous local memorial celebrations, art festivals, and folk festivals. Among the many festivals and fairs are the southern Folklore Festival along the Danube, the northern region's annual Palóc Festival, and the annual Bridge Fair. In the annual Budapest Spring Festival, there are art exhibits and musical and theatrical events.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Support for the arts during the socialist period was provided primarily by the State. Since 1989, there has been much less governmental support and more private, individual, and corporate sponsors for artists.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The physical and social sciences are taught on sophisticated and advanced levels in universities, research facilities, and other institutes. State funding continues to be a key resource, but it has decreased in the last decade. There has been a "brain drain" as younger and middle-aged scientists leave temporarily or permanently for better wages and opportunities and more advanced laboratories and instruments in Western Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia.


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The people of Hungary are called Hungarians. The majority of the population are of Hungarian, or Magyar, descent. Minority groups include Gypsies (a little more than 1 percent); Germans, Slovaks, Croats, and Romanians (all less than 1 percent). About 2 million Magyars live outside Hungary in Romania, Slovakia, the former Yugoslavia, and the Ukraine.

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Hungarybeery, bleary, cheery, dearie, dreary, Dun Laoghaire, eerie, eyrie (US aerie), Kashmiri, leery, peri, praemunire, query, smeary, teary, theory, weary •Deirdre • incendiary • intermediary •subsidiary •auxiliary, ciliary, domiciliary •apiary • topiary • farriery • furriery •justiciary •bestiary, vestiary •breviary • aviary • hosiery •diary, enquiry, expiry, fiery, friary, inquiry, miry, priory, spiry, wiry •podiatry, psychiatry •dowry, floury, flowery, loury, showery, towery •brewery • jewellery (US jewelry) •curie, de jure, fioriture, fury, houri, Jewry, jury, Manipuri, Missouri, moory, Newry, tandoori, Urey •statuary • actuary • sanctuary •obituary • sumptuary • voluptuary •January • electuary • ossuary •mortuary •Bradbury, Cadbury •blackberry, hackberry •cranberry • waxberry •Barbary, barberry •Shaftesbury • raspberry •bayberry, blaeberry •Avebury • Aylesbury • Sainsbury •bilberry, tilbury •bribery •corroboree, jobbery, robbery, slobbery, snobbery •dogberry • Roddenberry • Fosbury •strawberry • Salisbury •crowberry, snowberry •chokeberry •Rosebery, Shrewsbury •blueberry, dewberry •Dewsbury • Bloomsbury • gooseberry •blubbery, rubbery, shrubbery •Sudbury • mulberry • huckleberry •Bunbury • husbandry • loganberry •Canterbury • Glastonbury •Burberry, turbary •hatchery • archery •lechery, treachery •stitchery, witchery •debauchery • butchery • camaraderie •cindery, tindery •industry • dromedary • lapidary •spidery • bindery • doddery •quandary • powdery • boundary •bouldery • embroidery •prudery, rudery •do-goodery • shuddery • thundery •prebendary • legendary • secondary •amphorae • wafery •midwifery, periphery •infantry • housewifery • spoofery •puffery • sulphury (US sulfury) •Calgary •beggary, Gregory •vagary •piggery, priggery, whiggery •brigandry • bigotry • allegory •vinegary • category • subcategory •hoggery, toggery •pettifoggery • demagoguery •roguery • sugary •buggery, skulduggery, snuggery, thuggery •Hungary • humbuggery •ironmongery • lingerie • treasury •usury • menagerie • pageantry •Marjorie • kedgeree • gingery •imagery • orangery • savagery •forgery • soldiery • drudgery •perjury, surgery •microsurgery •hackery, quackery, Thackeray, Zachary •mountebankery • knick-knackery •gimcrackery • peccary • grotesquerie •bakery, fakery, jacquerie •chickaree, chicory, hickory, Terpsichore, trickery •whiskery • apothecary •crockery, mockery, rockery •falconry • jiggery-pokery •cookery, crookery, rookery •brusquerie •puckery, succory •cuckoldry •calorie, gallery, Malory, salary, Valerie •saddlery • balladry • gallantry •kilocalorie • diablerie • chandlery •harlotry • celery • pedlary •exemplary •helotry, zealotry •nailery, raillery •Tuileries •ancillary, artillery, capillary, codicillary, distillery, fibrillary, fritillary, Hilary, maxillary, pillory •mamillary • tutelary • corollary •bardolatry, hagiolatry, iconolatry, idolatry •cajolery, drollery •foolery, tomfoolery •constabulary, vocabulary •scapulary • capitulary • formulary •scullery • jugglery • cutlery •chancellery • epistolary • burglary •mammary • fragmentary •passementerie • flimflammery •armory, armoury, gendarmerie •almonry •emery, memory •creamery • shimmery • primary •rosemary • yeomanry •parfumerie, perfumery •flummery, Montgomery, mummery, summary, summery •gossamery • customary • infirmary •cannery, granary, tannery •canonry •antennary, bimillenary, millenary, venery •tenantry • chicanery •beanery, bicentenary, catenary, centenary, deanery, greenery, machinery, plenary, scenery, senary, septenary •disciplinary, interdisciplinary •hymnary • missionary •ordinary, subordinary •valetudinary • imaginary • millinery •culinary • seminary • preliminary •luminary • urinary • veterinary •mercenary • sanguinary •binary, finery, pinery, quinary, vinery, winery •Connery • Conakry • ornery • joinery •buffoonery, poltroonery, sublunary, superlunary •gunnery, nunnery •consuetudinary • visionary •exclusionary • legionary • pulmonary •coronary • reactionary • expansionary •concessionary, confessionary, discretionary •confectionery, insurrectionary, lectionary •deflationary, inflationary, probationary, stationary, stationery •expeditionary, petitionary, prohibitionary, traditionary, transitionary •dictionary • cautionary •ablutionary, counter-revolutionary, devolutionary, elocutionary, evolutionary, revolutionary, substitutionary •functionary •diversionary, reversionary •fernery, quaternary, ternary •peppery • extempore • weaponry •apery, drapery, japery, napery, papery, vapoury (US vapory) •frippery, slippery •coppery, foppery •popery • dupery • trumpery •February • heraldry • knight-errantry •arbitrary • registrary • library •contrary • horary • supernumerary •itinerary • honorary • funerary •contemporary, extemporary, temporary •literary • brasserie • chancery •accessory, intercessory, pessary, possessory, tesserae •dispensary, incensory, ostensory, sensory, suspensory •tracery •pâtisserie, rotisserie •emissary • dimissory •commissary, promissory •janissary • necessary • derisory •glossary • responsory • sorcery •grocery • greengrocery •delusory, illusory •compulsory • vavasory • adversary •anniversary, bursary, cursory, mercery, nursery •haberdashery •evidentiary, penitentiary, plenipotentiary, residentiary •beneficiary, fishery, judiciary •noshery • gaucherie • fiduciary •luxury • tertiary •battery, cattery, chattery, flattery, tattery •factory, manufactory, olfactory, phylactery, refractory, satisfactory •artery, martyry, Tartary •mastery, plastery •directory, ex-directory, interjectory, rectory, refectory, trajectory •peremptory •alimentary, complementary, complimentary, documentary, elementary, parliamentary, rudimentary, sedimentary, supplementary, testamentary •investigatory •adulatory, aleatory, approbatory, celebratory, clarificatory, classificatory, commendatory, congratulatory, consecratory, denigratory, elevatory, gyratory, incantatory, incubatory, intimidatory, modificatory, participatory, placatory, pulsatory, purificatory, reificatory, revelatory, rotatory •natatory • elucidatory • castigatory •mitigatory • justificatory •imprecatory • equivocatory •flagellatory • execratory • innovatory •eatery, excretory •glittery, jittery, skittery, twittery •benedictory, contradictory, maledictory, valedictory, victory •printery, splintery •consistory, history, mystery •presbytery •inhibitory, prohibitory •hereditary • auditory • budgetary •military, paramilitary •solitary • cemetery • limitary •vomitory • dormitory • fumitory •interplanetary, planetary, sanitary •primogenitary • dignitary •admonitory, monitory •unitary • monetary • territory •secretary • undersecretary •plebiscitary • repository • baptistery •transitory •depositary, depository, expository, suppository •niterie •Godwottery, lottery, pottery, tottery •bottomry • watery • psaltery •coterie, notary, protonotary, rotary, votary •upholstery •bijouterie, charcuterie, circumlocutory •persecutory • statutory • salutary •executory •contributory, retributory, tributary •interlocutory •buttery, fluttery •introductory • adultery • effrontery •perfunctory • blustery • mediatory •retaliatory • conciliatory • expiatory •denunciatory, renunciatory •appreciatory, depreciatory •initiatory, propitiatory •dietary, proprietary •extenuatory •mandatary, mandatory •predatory • sedentary • laudatory •prefatory • offertory • negatory •obligatory •derogatory, interrogatory, supererogatory •nugatory •expurgatory, objurgatory, purgatory •precatory •explicatory, indicatory, vindicatory •confiscatory, piscatory •dedicatory • judicatory •qualificatory • pacificatory •supplicatory •communicatory, excommunicatory •masticatory • prognosticatory •invocatory • obfuscatory •revocatory • charlatanry •depilatory, dilatory, oscillatory •assimilatory • consolatory •voluntary • emasculatory •ejaculatory •ambulatory, circumambulatory, perambulatory •regulatory •articulatory, gesticulatory •manipulatory • copulatory •expostulatory • circulatory •amatory, declamatory, defamatory, exclamatory, inflammatory, proclamatory •crematory • segmentary •lachrymatory •commentary, promontory •informatory, reformatory •momentary •affirmatory, confirmatory •explanatory • damnatory •condemnatory •cosignatory, signatory •combinatory •discriminatory, eliminatory, incriminatory, recriminatory •comminatory • exterminatory •hallucinatory • procrastinatory •monastery • repertory •emancipatory • anticipatory •exculpatory, inculpatory •declaratory, preparatory •respiratory • perspiratory •vibratory •migratory, transmigratory •exploratory, laboratory, oratory •inauguratory • adjuratory •corroboratory • reverberatory •refrigeratory • compensatory •desultory • dysentery •exhortatory, hortatory •salutatory • gustatory • lavatory •inventory •conservatory, observatory •improvisatory •accusatory, excusatory •lathery •feathery, heathery, leathery •dithery, slithery •carvery •reverie, severy •Avery, bravery, knavery, quavery, Savery, savory, savoury, slavery, wavery •thievery •livery, quivery, shivery •silvery •ivory, salivary •ovary •discovery, recovery •servery • equerry • reliquary •antiquary • cassowary • stipendiary •colliery • pecuniary • chinoiserie •misery • wizardry • citizenry •advisory, provisory, revisory, supervisory •causerie, rosary

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