Hungary Country Profile – Budapest – Business Economy History Tourist Travel Information Guide

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Hungary Country Profile

Hungary Population The Capital of Hungary is Budapest is home to 1,196,000 people out of a national population of 10.1m. The indigenous people are 90% Hungarian, 4% Roma, 2.6% German, 2.0% Serb, 0.8% Slovak & 0.7% Romanian.

The Hungarian Language The official language of Hungary is Hungarian with a little German spoken in places.

Hungary Religions The Religious denominations are 68% Roman Catholic, 20% Calvinist, 5% Lutheran & 5% Jewish.

Hungary Currency The the unit of currency is the forint.

Hungary Currency Regulations Visitors entering or leaving Hungary with cash in any currency which exceeds 10,000€, must declare it to customs officials.

Hungary Tourism Hungary, in particular Budapest, has for several years had a thriving tourist industry. It has developed a efficient National Tourist Board and the Budapest Tourist Office is staffed by very helpful people. Hungary’s admission to the European Union has increased tourism to the country enabled in part by a significant increase in low cost airlines flying there.

Hungary Economy Business In the last decade inflation has fallen from a high of 28% to less than 7%. It has an annual growth rate of 4% with an unemployment rate of 8%. Hungarian work place skills are regarded as higher than its neighbours which has resulted in substantial international investment in the country coupled with a consistent increase in Hungarian exports – 75% of which go to the European Union. Its major industries are metals, construction components, food processing, textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and motor vehicles. Its major trading partners are Germany, Austria, Italy, France and Russia.


Travelling In Hungary

Public Demonstrations Please see Personal Safety

Under Hungarian law it is illegal to drive any vehicle with any alcolol in your blood

Roads are well maintained in Hungary and driving standards are for the most part good. Outside cities and towns headlights must be switched on at all times. All vehicles must when using the Hungarian motorways – M1, M3, M5 & M7 – pay a motorway. These are available from petrol stations and post offices. You must display the vignette in the windscreen. On the spot fines are payable for failure to display a vignette. Cautionary Note In Hungary there are problems with vehicle theft and the theft of items from vehicles. Some of the criminals involved in these crimes will go to great lengths to get what they want.This may involve staging accidents, breakdowns in order that they can wave you down -apparently in need of help. Generally these incidents occur in out of town areas on rural roads or motorways. Motorists using the motorway between Vienna & Budapest are favoured targets.

Driving in Winter In Hungary

Motorists travelling in Hungary during the winter are advised to check the weather forecast and road conditions before setting out. They are also advised to carry mobile phones for use in an emergency along with emergency supplies of food and warm drinks especially if they are going on a long journey.

Note For HGV Drivers & Haulage Vehicles Drivers with haulage vehicles transiting Hungary should carry all documentation appertaining to the vehicle. This must include the TIR carnet with a full inventory of the items or goods being transported. Hungarian law requires drivers of these vehicles when laden have to deposit a cash bond on entering Hungary. When you leave Hungry this deposit is refunded after the deduction of an administration fee. Full details of these charges and other info can be obtained from any Hungarian Consulate or Embassy

Rail Travel in Hungary

Rail travel in Hungary is cheap and services are reliable. Some inter city services can be surprisingly slow. . Cautionary Note: If you are travelling on overnight trains you are advised to avoid travelling alone if possible. If you hire a sleeping compartment keep you valuables with you and ensure that apartment is locked from the inside

Emergency Medical Treatment Healthcare In Hungary

Hungary has a good standard of health care and arrangements with several countries including the UK nationals for the provision of emergency medical treatment. If you are travelling from the UK you will need a European Health Card. More details

Bird – Avian Flu In Hungary In 2006 & 2007 there were in South Eastern Hungary confirmed incidents of the H5N1 (Avian Influenza) virus strain in dead geese in south-east Hungary. Similar cases were also reported in 2006.  No human infections or deaths have been reported. The risk to humans from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low.  You are advised not to visit markets selling live animals, caged or wild birds and poultry farms. All egg and poultry dishes should be cooked thoroughly.


Hungarian History After WW1 Until 1939

At the end of WW1 in 1918 the former Austrian Hungarian Empire disintegrated

On October 31st an aristocrat Mihaly Karlovi assumed power and declared Hungary an independent republic. Three weeks later the Romanian government announced if was forming an alliance with leaders in the Hungarian ruled territory of Transylvania. On December 1st Transylvania was proclaimed as part of the Kingdom of Romania. Mihaly Karlovi’s government failure to stem the loss of Hungarian terroritry to Romania were seen by many Hungarians as an indictment on the country’s dignity and his popularity waned. His premiership became untenable in March when Romania said it wanted land concessions from Hungary and on March 21st 1919 he resigned.

The power vacuum was filled by Bela Hun leader of the Communist Party of Hungary who were elected to power having promised to use the armed factions of his party to reestablish Hungary as a military power once again. The first Hungarian Soviet Republic was born. Initially Bela Hun military aspirations were successful and his forces reclaimed land occupied by Czechoslovakian troops in northern Hungary but his economic reforms the nationalisation and state ownership of estate proved very unpopular.

An attempt to oust him in a Coup d’etat failed and he sanctioned the arrest and execution without trial of nearly 600 dissenters in an operation known as ‘Red Terror’. an act which antagonised those that had supported him. His plans to reclaim land taken by the Romanians in 1918 back fired as Romania invaded Hungary in early August. Bela Hun who has been hoping for the unforthcoming support of the Soviet Red Army in taking on the advancing Romanians fled to Austria on August 6th.

The Romanian forces having rid Hungary of the immediate communist threat to their own adventures empowered a new government similar in class to that of Mihaly Karlovi to assume power. As the Romania Army withdrew from Hungary it plundered and robbed the indigenous people and destroyed public buildings etc

The new Hungarian regime, was led by Mikolos Horthy who had commanded the navy during the rule of Austrian Hungarian Empire and Istvan Bethlen a pro Romanian aristocrat from Transylvania. They underpinned their power by encouraging their supporters in what became known as ‘white power’ to hunt down former communists and execute them without trial. In January 1920 following elections were held in Hungary which Mikolos Horthy won. The victory was not convincing as many left wingers were denied the right to vote and those were given it abstained in protest. Horthy became the new Prince Regent and appointed Pal Teleki as Prime Minister.

The new regime was recognised internationally by June 1920 when it took part in the The Treaty Of Trianon. Under the Treaty Hungary relinquished over 60% of its pre WW1 territory. With this assignment went significant parts of Hungary’ s economic wealth. At the same time about three million Hungarians were displaced when they became reluctant citizens of other countries. This displacement remains an issue in and outside Hungary today.

The premiership of Teleki was to last ten years during which time he presided over the country’s entry into the League of Nations, and payed off the more radical elements of Hungarian politics. As Europe felt the consequences of the Great Depression in 1929 political opinion in Hungary became more right wing and in 1931 Horthy replaced Teleki with Gyula Gombos. The new prime minister marginalised ethnic minorities and orchestrated a trade agreement with Germany.

Though the agreement was economically good for Hungary, Hitler hijacked it as a means to lever and blackmail the Hungarian government to pursue anti-semitic policies. In 1936 Gombos was succeeded by Kalman Daranyi who tried to unsuccessfully to appease Hitler, the newly formed Hungarian fascist party – Arrows Cross and the liberals within Hungary . He resigned in May 1938 and was succeeded by the right wing finance minster Bela Imredy.

Imredy aware of the threat posed by Hitler at first tried to court the English and annoyed Hitler in the process. He revised Hungarian policy to appease Hitler and he drafted laws which would single out Jews as second class citizens.

In September 1938 he was succeeded by former prime minister Pal Teleki who implemented the anti-semitic laws. In return Hitler indicated that Germany would view Hungary as an ally and support any Hungarian attempt to reclaim the territory it lost as result of the The Treaty Of Trianon.

Hungary History 1939 – 1945

When WW2 began in September 1939 Hitler believed that his economic and political ties with Hungary over the previous eight years and his promises to support their claims to lost territory would stand him in good stead. The reality was that the he had manipulated successive Hungarian prime ministers into reluctantly appeasing him in what they perceived as Hungary’s national interest.

When the war broke out Hitler returned parts of Czechoslovakia and Transylvania to Hungary In return in November 1940 Hungary was persuaded by Germany to Tipartite Pact sign between the two counties and Italy. Less than a month later the Hungarian Prime Minister Pal Teleki also signed a Treaty of Eternal Friendship with the pro Hitler Yugoslavian government.

When the Yugoslavian government was overthrown by a coup Hitler asked Pal Teleki to invade Yugoslavia which he had wanted to use as springboard for attacking Russia. Pal Teleki who never had any intention of leading Hungary into a war with Yugoslavia committed suicide.

Hungary’s new prime minister Laszlo Bardossy who was a staunch anti communist decided that Hungary would support Hitler’s armies as this would enable Hungary to reclaim some of the land it had previously lost. The Hungarian Regent Admiral Horthy sanctioned this plan and on July 1st 1941 Hungarian troops under the guidance of Hitler advanced into Southern Russia. They destroyed 20 divisions of the Soviet Army.

Admiral Horty who was not comfortable with his country’s dependency on the military judgements of Hitler whilst his troops were in Russia decided that Hungary would ultimately be better off supporting the allies. He removed Bardossy who was not like minded from his premiership and replaced him with Miklos Kallay. Kallay ordered his troops to continue to fight the Soviets whilst at the same time he was in secret negotiations with the Allies.

In January 1943 the Hungarian 2nd Army was defeated by the Red Army at the Battle of Stalingrad. However Hungarian troops continued their action whilst Kallay talked to the Allies. By early 1944 Hitler had wind of the talks between Hungary and the Allies and in March he invaded Hungary. To placate the Nazis Admiral Horty replaced Kallay with a pro Nazis prime minister Dome Sztójay. In May and June Sztojay aided by SS Colonel Eichmann deported over 430,000 Jews to concentration camps in Poland (see Auschwitz & Birkenau).

By August the deportations had stopped as German troops had left Budapest as the Red Army advanced towards Hungary. Admiral Horty installed a anti-fascist government. In September Russian troops entered Hungary Eastern Hungary in mid October and Horty agreed an Armistice with the Soviets. The German response was to return to Budapest kidnap Horty’s son to force him to renounce the armistice. He was then made to install Ferenc Szalasi the founder of the Hungarian fascist party ‘the Arrows Cross as prime minister. Horty resigned as Prince Regent.

Under Szalasi the deportation of Jews was reinstated but thousands were also shot by his party members. The Red Army advance towards Budapest continued and on December 29th 1944 the Russians had surrounded the city. Outside Budapest the Hungarians had established a ‘provisional government’ led by Bela Miklos.

The German troops and Hungarian supporters of SzalasI that were trapped in Budapest resisted the Red Army advance into Budapest for just over six weeks. . During this battle nearly 40,000 civilians were killed on top of the 100,000 Jews who had been slaughtered by the Nazis in the previous year.

During this time the the Hungarian Provisional Government signed an armistice agreement with Russia. Russian forces finally defeated all the last of the remaining German troops in Hungary on April 4th 1945.

Hungary After WW2

At the end of the war Zoltan Tildy was the provisional prime minister. In National Elections held in November 1945 the Hungarian Smallholders Party received 57% support and the Communist Party 17%. The commander of the Soviet troops in Hungary refused to allow the winning party to form a government until they agreed to form a coalition with Communists. In the new government the Communist Party’s Laszlo Rajk became the Interior Minister. Rajk immediately established the ‘Security Police’ who in early 1946 started to arrest members of the coalitions majority party – the Smallholders Party.

Fresh elections were held in 1947 which were won by the Hungarian Workers Party – formed by the merger of the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party. Within in year the new party was controlled by the communists who had forced former leaders of the SDP to resign or leave Hungary. Those who refused were arrested on various charges and sent to prisons sometimes in Siberia.

On August 18th 1949, the Communist dominated Hungarian Parliament voted for a new Hungarian Constitution. The country was renamed People’s Republic of Hungary, “the country of the workers and peasants” where “every authority is held by the working people”. The constitution itself mirrored the 1936 Soviet Constitution and included a new Hungarian coat or arms showing classical symbols of Soviet communism -including a red star hammer and scythe.

Please See The 1956 Hungarian Uprising


Hungary After 1956

Under Kadors premiership it is thought that up to 35,000 Hungarians were imprisoned for their political activities In 1961 Kadar attempted to stabilise Hungarian society with a slightly more liberal stance before in 1968 introducing economic reforms which slowly improved living standards and Hungary’s status internationally. Throughout this period he maintained the Communist control on Hungarian life. He retired in 1988.

A year later communism collapsed. On the 23rd of October 1989 exactly 33 years to the day after the Hungarian Uprising the Republic of Hungary was declared. Since then Hungary has had several democratic elections. Hungary has worked at developing good relations with neighbouring countries and became a member of the European Union in 2004



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