Hungary

May 22, 2012, 3:15 pm
Source: CIA World Factbook
Content Cover Image

A view of the Danube River that splits Buda and Pest (which together are Budapest)

Hungary is a nation of ten million people in central Europe of ten million people, northwest of Romania and southeast of Austria.

Its major environmental issues include the upgrading of Hungary's standards in waste management, energy efficiency, and air, soil, and water pollution to meet European Union requirements which will require large investments

Landlocked, Hungary is strategic located astride main land routes between Western Europe and Balkan Peninsula as well as between Ukraine and Mediterranean basin.

The north-south flowing Duna (Danube) and Tisza Rivers divide the country into three large regions

Hungary became a Christian kingdom in A.D. 1000 and for many centuries served as a bulwark against Ottoman Turkish expansion in Europe.

The kingdom eventually became part of the polyglot Austro-Hungarian Empire, which collapsed during World War I.

The country fell under Communist rule following World War II. In 1956, a revolt and an announced withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact were met with a massive military intervention by Moscow.

Under the leadership of Janos Kadar in 1968, Hungary began liberalizing its economy, introducing so-called "Goulash Communism."

Hungary held its first multiparty elections in 1990 and initiated a free market economy.

It joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union five years later. In 2011, Hungary assumed the six-month rotating presidency of the EU for the first time. as a member state that forms part of the EU's external border, Hungary has implemented the strict Schengen border rules.

 

 

Geography

Location: Central Europe, northwest of Romania

Geographic Coordinates: 47 00 N, 20 00 E

Area: 93,028 sq km(land: 89,608 sq km; water: 3,420 sq km)

Land Boundaries: 2,185 km (Austria 366 km, Croatia 329 km, Romania 443 km, Serbia 166 km, Slovakia 676 km, Slovenia 102 km, Ukraine 103 km)

Terrain: mostly flat to rolling plains; hills and low mountains on the Slovakian border.  The highest point is Kekes (1,014 m) and the lowest point (Tisza River 78 m)

Climate: temperate; cold, cloudy, humid winters; warm summers

 

Satellite image showing the 7 main geographical regions of Hungary (in parenthesis: mayor region): 1., Great Alföld (Great Alföld);  2., Northern Medium Mountains (Northern Hills); 3., Transdanubian Medium Mountains (Transdanubia); 4., Transdanubian Hills (Transdanubia); 5., Mecsek Mountains (Transdanubia); 6., Little Alföld (Transdanubia); 7., Alpokalja (Transdanubia). Source: NASA/Wikimedia Commons.

Ecology and Biodiversity

Ecologically, Hungary covered by Pannonian mixed forests, an ecoregion which consists of the depression surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains, Alps, and Dinaric Mountains.

Avifauna diversity is high; there are fifty Important Bird Areas in this ecoregion.

Lake Neusiedel with Seewinkel National Park, and other important wetlands are renowned for their bird life. Resident mammals are of the widespread throughout Europe including the European rabbit, wolf, and the endangered European mink. There are a number of endangered reptiles including Orsini’s viper and Balkan wall lizard.

Recreation and tourism, unsustainable exploitation, development and fragmentation, agricultural abandonment, and disturbance of wildlife, are other important threats. There are a number of natural parks in this ecoregion, but much of the natural habitat has been lost to agriculture.


Map of Pannonnian mixed forests ecoregion. Source: World Wildlife Fund

 

See also: Caves of Aggtelek and Slovak Karst (World Heritage Site)

People and Society

Population: 9,958,453 (July 2012 est.)

Ethnic Groups: Hungarian 92.3%, Roma 1.9%, other or unknown 5.8% (2001 census)

Humgarian Parliment Building on the bank of the Danube river in Budapest. Source: Dirk Hartung


Satellite view of Lake Balaton in western Hungary, the largest lake in central Europe. Source: Eosnap/Chelys

Port of Fonyód and Lake Balaton. Source: Nobli/Wikimedia Commons.

The Hortobágy National Park is part of the Tisza plain in eastern Hungary, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Tisza river as it passes through Szeged in southern Hungary. Source: Váradi Zsolt/Wikimedia Commons

Age Structure:

0-14 years: 14.9% (male 767,824/female 721,242)
15-64 years: 68.2% (male 3,361,538/female 3,444,450)
65 years and over: 16.9% (male 622,426/female 1,058,582) (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate: -0.184% (2012 est.)

Birthrate: 9.49 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Death Rate: 12.7 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)

Net Migration Rate: 1.37 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)

Life Expectancy at Birth: 75.02 years (2012 est.)

Total Fertility Rate: 1.41 children born/woman (2012 est.)

Languages: Hungarian 93.6%, other or unspecified 6.4% (2001 census)

Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write)99.4% (2003 est.)

Urbanization: 68% of total population (2010) growing at an annual rate of change of 0.3%  (2010-15 est.)

History

Hungary has long been an integral part of Europe. It converted to Western Christianity before AD 1000. Although Hungary was a monarchy for nearly 1,000 years, its constitutional system preceded by several centuries the establishment of Western-style governments in other European countries.

Following the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy (1867-1918) at the end of World War I, Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory and one-third of its population. It experienced a brief but bloody communist dictatorship and counterrevolution in 1919, followed by a 25-year regency under Admiral Miklos Horthy. Although Hungary fought in most of World War II as a German ally, it fell under German military occupation on March 19, 1944 following an unsuccessful attempt to switch sides. Under Nazi occupation, the Hungarian Government executed or deported and seized the property of hundreds of thousands of its minority citizens, mostly members of the Jewish community. On January 20, 1945, a provisional government concluded an armistice with the Soviet Union and established the Allied Control Commission, under which Soviet, American, and British representatives held complete sovereignty over the country. The Commission's chairman was a member of Stalin's inner circle and exercised absolute control.

Communist Takeover
The provisional government, dominated by the Hungarian Communist Party (MKP), was replaced in November 1945 after elections which gave majority control of a coalition government to the Independent Smallholders' Party. The government instituted a radical land reform and gradually nationalized mines, electric plants, heavy industries, and some large banks. The communists ultimately undermined the coalition regime by discrediting leaders of rival parties and through terror, blackmail, and show trials. In elections tainted by fraud in 1947, the leftist bloc gained control of the government.

By February 1949, all opposition parties had been forced to merge with the MKP to form the Hungarian Workers' Party. In 1949, the communists held a single-list election and adopted a Soviet-style constitution, which created the Hungarian People's Republic. Between 1948 and 1953, the Hungarian economy was reorganized according to the Soviet model. In 1949, the country joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA, or Comecon.) All private industrial firms with more than 10 employees were nationalized. Freedom of the press, religion, and assembly were strictly curtailed. The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Forced industrialization and land collectivization soon led to serious economic difficulties, which reached crisis proportions by mid-1953. Imre Nagy replaced Rakosi as prime minister in 1953 and repudiated much of Rakosi's economic program of forced collectivization and heavy industry. He also ended political purges and freed thousands of political prisoners. However, the economic situation continued to deteriorate, and Rakosi succeeded in disrupting the reforms and in forcing Nagy from power in 1955 for "right-wing revisionism." Hungary joined the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact Treaty Organization the same year.

1956 Revolution
Pressure for change reached a climax on October 23, 1956, when security forces fired on Budapest students marching in support of Poland's confrontation with the Soviet Union. The ensuing battle quickly grew into a massive popular uprising. Fighting did not abate until the Central Committee named Imre Nagy as prime minister on October 25. Nagy dissolved the state security police, abolished the one-party system, promised free elections, and negotiated with the U.S.S.R. to withdraw its troops.

Faced with reports of new Soviet troops pouring into Hungary, despite Soviet Ambassador Andropov's assurances to the contrary, on November 1 Nagy announced Hungary's neutrality and withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. In response, the Soviet Union launched a massive military attack on Hungary on November 3. Some 200,000 Hungarians fled to the West. Nagy and his colleagues took refuge in the Yugoslav Embassy. Party First Secretary Janos Kadar defected from the Nagy cabinet, fleeing to the Soviet Union. On November 4 he announced the formation of a new government. He returned to Budapest and, with Soviet support, carried out severe reprisals; thousands of people were executed or imprisoned. Despite a guarantee of safe conduct, Nagy was arrested and deported to Romania. In June 1958, Nagy was returned to Hungary, and, following a secret trial, was executed by the communist government.

Reform Under Kadar
In the early 1960s, Kadar announced a new policy under the motto of "He Who is Not Against Us is With Us," and introduced a relatively liberal cultural and economic course aimed at overcoming the post-1956 hostility toward him and his regime. In 1966, the Central Committee approved the "New Economic Mechanism," through which it sought to overcome the inefficiencies of central planning, increase productivity, make Hungary more competitive in world markets, and create prosperity to ensure political stability. By the early 1980s, it had achieved some lasting economic reforms and limited political liberalization and pursued a foreign policy which encouraged more trade with the West. Nevertheless, the New Economic Mechanism led to mounting foreign debt incurred to shore up unprofitable industries.

Transition to Democracy
Hungary's transition to a Western-style parliamentary democracy was the first and the smoothest among the former Soviet bloc. By 1987, activists within the party and bureaucracy and Budapest-based intellectuals were increasingly pressing for change. Young liberals formed the Federation of Young Democrats (Fidesz); a core from the so-called Democratic Opposition formed the Association of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), and the neo-populist national opposition established the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF). Civic activism intensified to a level not seen since the 1956 revolution.

In 1988, Kadar was replaced as General Secretary of the MSZMP (the Communist Party), and that same year, the Parliament adopted a "democracy package," which included trade union pluralism; freedom of association, assembly, and the press; a new electoral law; and a radical revision of the constitution, among others. The Soviet Union reduced its involvement by signing an agreement in April 1989 to withdraw Soviet forces by June 1991.

National unity culminated in June 1989 as the country reburied Imre Nagy, his associates, and, symbolically, all other victims of the 1956 revolution. A national roundtable, comprising representatives of the new parties and some recreated old parties--such as the Smallholders and Social Democrats--the Communist Party, and different social groups, met in the late summer of 1989 to discuss major changes to the Hungarian constitution in preparation for free elections and the transition to a fully free and democratic political system.

Free Elections and a Democratic Hungary
The first free parliamentary election, held in March-April 1990, was a plebiscite of sorts on the communist past with the Democratic Forum (MDF) winning 43% of the vote and the Free Democrats (SZDSZ) capturing 24%. Under Prime Minister Jozsef Antall, the MDF formed a center-right coalition government with the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP) and the Christian Democratic People's Party (KDNP) to command a 60% majority in the Parliament. Parliamentary opposition parties included SZDSZ, the Socialists (MSZP--successors to the Communist Party), and the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fidesz). Peter Boross succeeded as Prime Minister after Antall died and the Antall/Boross coalition governments achieved a reasonably well-functioning parliamentary democracy and laid the foundation for a free market economy.

In May 1994, the Socialists came back to win a plurality of votes and 54% of the seats after an election campaign focused largely on economic issues and the substantial decline in living standards since 1990. A heavy turnout of voters swept away the right-of-center coalition but soundly rejected extremists on both right and left. The MSZP continued economic reforms and privatization, adopting a painful, but necessary, policy of fiscal austerity (the "Bokros plan") in 1995. However, dissatisfaction with the pace of economic recovery, rising crime, and cases of government corruption convinced voters to propel center-right parties into power following national elections in May 1998. Fidesz captured a plurality of parliamentary seats and forged a coalition with the Smallholders and the Democratic Forum. The new government, headed by 35-year-old Prime Minister Viktor Orban, promised to stimulate faster growth, curb inflation, and lower taxes. Although the Orban administration also pledged continuity in foreign policy, and continued to pursue Euro-Atlantic integration as its first priority, it was a more vocal advocate of minority rights for ethnic Hungarians abroad than the previous government. During Orban’s tenure, Hungary acceded to NATO on March 12, 1999.

In April 2002, the country voted to return the MSZP-Free Democrat coalition to power with Peter Medgyessy as Prime Minister. The Medgyessy government placed special emphasis on solidifying Hungary's Euro-Atlantic course, which culminated in Hungary’s accession to the European Union on May 1, 2004. Prime Minister Medgyessy resigned in August 2004 after losing coalition support following an attempted cabinet reshuffle. Ferenc Gyurcsany succeeded Medgyessy as Prime Minister in September 29, 2004.

In the April 2006 election, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany and his Socialist-liberal coalition were re-elected, the first time since communism that a sitting government renewed its mandate. The SZDSZ pulled out of the coalition in April 2008, leaving the MSZP to govern alone.

The global economic crisis spilled over into Hungary in autumn 2008, and severely impacted the country. Prime Minister Gyurcsany resigned in March 2009 and was succeeded by a technocratic crisis management government led by Gordon Bajnai, the former Minister of Economy and National Development.

Parliamentary elections in April 2010 brought a Fidesz-KDNP coalition back to power with a two-thirds majority (262 seats). Viktor Orban became Prime Minister. Joining the MSZP in opposition were the newly elected far-right Jobbik party and the Green party, Politics Can Be Different (LMP). Today, Fidesz-KDNP has 263 seats. In the opposition, MSZP has 48 seats, Jobbik 46, and LMP 15; 10 Members of Parliament (MPs) have left MSZP to create a new party, the Democratic Coalition. There are four independent MPs. The Fidesz-dominated Parliament quickly launched an ambitious legislative agenda that has promised to reduce the overall number of seats in Parliament to 199 effective for the next election in 2014, cut by half the number of local representatives, and extended citizenship and voting rights to ethnic Hungarians living beyond the country’s present borders. In April 2011, Parliament adopted the country’s new constitution, which entered into effect January 1, 2012. Among other changes, the document makes reference to the role of Christianity in “preserving the nation” and sets the term of local government members at 5 years. Additionally, it mandated a process requiring the passage of several dozen so-called cardinal laws on issues such as religion, the media, the restructuring of the judiciary, elections, and the central bank. The majority of these laws were passed in 2011, and their future modification would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Government

Government Type: parliamentary democracy

Capital: Budapest 1.705 million (2009)

Administrative divisions: 19 counties (megyek, singular - megye), 23 urban counties (singular - megyei varos), and 1 capital city (fovaros)

counties: Bacs-Kiskun, Baranya, Bekes, Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen, Csongrad, Fejer, Gyor-Moson-Sopron, Hajdu-Bihar, Heves, Jasz-Nagykun-Szolnok, Komarom-Esztergom, Nograd, Pest, Somogy, Szabolcs-Szatmar-Bereg, Tolna, Vas, Veszprem, Zala
urban counties: Bekescsaba, Debrecen, Dunaujvaros, Eger, Erd, Gyor, Hodmezovasarhely, Kaposvar, Kecskemet, Miskolc, Nagykanizsa, Nyiregyhaza, Pecs, Salgotarjan, Sopron, Szeged, Szekesfehervar, Szekszard, Szolnok, Szombathely, Tatabanya, Veszprem, Zalaegerszeg
 
caption Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Independence Date: 16 November 1918 (republic proclaimed)

Notable earlier dates:

  • 25 December 1000 (crowning of King Stephen I, traditional founding date);
  • 30 March 1867 (Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy established)

Legal System: civil legal system influenced by the German model. Hungary accepts compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction with reservations; and accepts International criminal court (ICCt) jurisdiction.

Panorama of Budapest. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

International Environmental Agreements

is party to international agrements on: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, and Whaling.

Water

Total Renewable Water Resources: 120 cu km (2005)

Freshwater Withdrawal: 21.03 cu km/yr (% domestic, 59% industrial, 32% agricultural)

Per Capita Freshwater Withdrawal: 2,082 cu m/yr (2001)

Bilateral government, legal, technical and economic working group negotiations continue in 2006 with Slovakia over Hungary's failure to complete its portion of the Gabcikovo-Nagymaros hydroelectric dam project along the Danube.

 

The Danube Bend is a curve of the Danube near the city of Visegrád. The Transdanubian Mountains lie on the right bank (left side of the picture), while the North Hungarian Mountains on the left bank (right side of the picture). Source: Philipp Weigell/Wikimedia Commons.

Agriculture

Agricultural products: wheat, corn, sunflower seed, potatoes, sugar beets; pigs, cattle, poultry, dairy products

Irrigated Land: 1,400 sq km (2008)

The history of Hajdúböszörmény, Hungary, echoes across its name and over its outline on the land. Now a city of 32,000, Hajdúböszörmény was settled in prehistory. The term “böszörmény” refers to a Turkish-Bulgarian ethnic group who may have been its first settlers. “Hajdú” refers to the cattle-driving population of the plain who became soldiers in the 16th century. To reward the Hajdú (or Haiduk) soldiers for defeating the Hapsburg Emperor, the Prince of Transylvania allowed the soldiers to settle in Böszörmény with the freedom of self-government.

This history is reflected in the shape of modern Hajdúböszörmény, as shown in this image taken by the Landsat 7 satellite on August 19, 2002. The city is round, a shape easily defended on the flat North Pannonian Plain in northeastern Hungary. The livestock-based economy may also play a role in the shape of the city. The center is densely built, a concentrated ellipse of tan and white. Surrounding the center is a slightly less dense circle, marked by diagonal roads, which held stockyards and gardens. Even today, tiny spots of green indicate that this area contains more open garden space than the city center.

Agricultural fields radiate away from the well-defined outer boundaries of the town. Small fields near the town were traditionally plowed fields for crops or hay. Larger fields lie beyond, and these have historically been pastureland. Source: NASA. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory images created by Robert Simmon, using Landsat data provided by the United States Geological Survey. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

Resources

Natural Resources: bauxite, coal, natural gas, fertile soils, arable land

Land Use:

arable land: 49.58%
permanent crops: 2.06%
other: 48.36% (2005)

Economy

Hungary has made the transition from a centrally planned to a market economy, with a per capita income nearly two-thirds that of the EU-25 average.

The private sector accounts for more than 80% of GDP. Foreign ownership of and investment in Hungarian firms are widespread, with cumulative foreign direct investment worth more than $70 billion.

The government's austerity measures, imposed since late 2006, reduced the budget deficit from over 9% of GDP in 2006 to 4.2% in 2010 and 2.9% in 2011.

Hungary's impending inability to service its short-term debt - brought on by the global financial crisis in late 2008 - led Budapest to obtain an IMF/EU/World Bank-arranged financial assistance package worth over $25 billion.

The global economic downturn, declining exports, and low domestic consumption and fixed asset accumulation, dampened by government austerity measures, resulted in an economic contraction of 6.3% in 2009.

In 2010 the new government implemented a number of changes including cutting business and personal income taxes, but imposed "crisis taxes" on financial institutions, energy and telecom companies, and retailers. The economy began to recover in 2010 with a big boost from exports, especially to Germany, and achieved growth of approximately 1.8% in 2011. Unemployment remained high, at more than 11% in 2011. Ongoing economic weakness in Western Europe is likely to further constrain growth in 2012.

GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $195.9 billion (2011 est.)

GDP: (Official Exchange Rate): $147.9 billion (2011 est.)

GDP- per capita (PPP): $19,600 (2011 est.)

GDP- composition by sector:

agriculture: 2.4%
industry: 37.3%
services: 60.3% (2011 est.)

Industries: mining, metallurgy, construction materials, processed foods, textiles, chemicals (especially pharmaceuticals), motor vehicles

Currency: Forints (HUF)

Glossary

Citation

Administration, N., Agency, C., Fund, W., & Department, U. (2012). Hungary. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/172159

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