Politics in Hungary

By Peter A. Toma; Ivan Volgyes | Go to book overview

1 The International and Domestic Environment Before 1949

Before invading the Danubian basin in the ninth century A.D., the ancestors of the Hungarian people were nomadic herdsmen and warriors who roamed the territory of the Khazar empire between the Don and Volga rivers near the Black Sea. They were organized in a loose confederation of archer tribes known collectively as the Turanian peoples of Asia, who mingled with a variety of cultures, plundering towns and villages in search of booty and territory to colonize. In the 870s, according to the legend, the chiefs of seven tribes chose the strongest tribe, the Megyer (later known as the Magyar), and its chief, Almos, to lead them to a new home. Hungarian historians have designated 896 A.D. as the year the Magyars, under the leadership of Arpad (son of Almos), conquered the territory roughly equivalent to the present area of Hungary. Under the rule of the Magyars, the seven tribes evolved from a pagan society of wandering raiders, mercenaries, and cattle breeders to a Christianized, feudal, agrarian society.

The princedom of Hungary became an apostolic kingdom in 1001 A.D. when (Saint) Stephen I, who had previously converted the "nation" to Christianity, received the royal crown from Pope Sylvester II. Subsequently, the kings of the House of Arpad consolidated the feudal order in Hungary. In 1241, the Mongol hordes of Batu Kahn devastated the country, which was later rebuilt under the leadership of the great King Bela IV. During the reign of King Matthias (Corvinus) of Hunyad ( 1458-1490), Hungary became one of the leading cultural centers in Europe.

Other highlights of Hungarian history include the year 1526 when invading Turkish armies from the Balkans won the battle at Mohacs. This defeat caused the disintegration of medieval Hungary. The country was thereafter divided in three: the largest subdivision fell under Turkish rule; the northern and western regions yielded to the German emperors from the Austrian House of Hapsburg, who became the recognized kings of Hungary; and Transylvania

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