Hungary occupies an area about the size of Indiana and enjoys a temperate climate. The country was has been a Christian nation since 1100 AD, and was a monarchy for more than 1,000 years. Hungary fought alongside Germany during both world wars. During the Second World War, it lost hundreds of thousands of its citizens, including many Jews and Roma, who were killed or deported by the Nazis. In January 1945, Hungary formed an armistice with Russia and fell under the USSR’s control for the latter half of the 20th Century. In 1956, a nationalistic revolution tried to pave the way for democracy, in which a more liberal climate, along with freedoms of the press, assembly and association were relaxed. The Soviets crushed the effort, but eventually, Hungary became one of the more liberal countries in the Soviet Eastern Bloc. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the country has endured severe financial problems due to privatization. However, it has undergone far-reaching economic and political reforms to enable its 2004 accession to the European Union.
With roots as a “barbarian” tribe that settled the Danubian plain in the 900s, Hungary became a Christian nation with the conversion of King Steven in 1000. It endured lengthy and damaging invasions from the Tatars, the Ottoman Turks, and ultimately the Habsburgs; finally, after a bloody and unsuccessful revolution in 1848 during which Hungary’s national anthem was composed, the Habsburg Empire became a dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1867. During the 1890s, Budapest, the capital of Hungary, underwent a period of growth and moved towards becoming a center of European culture, art, and architecture. The Austro-Hungarian monarchy ended with World War I, when Hungary was declared a republic and, through the Treaty of Trianon in 1923, lost nearly two-thirds of its territory as well as over half of its population.
The first Hungarian to come to America, according to Hungarian traditions, was a man named Tyrker who traveled with the Viking Eric the Red on his epic journey to Newfoundland around the year 1000.
During 2003 to 2007, US imports from Hungary were dominated by computer accessories, averaging $650 million annually. Other top imports were electric apparatus and parts, which increased from $84 million to $173.5 million; measuring, testing and control instruments, increasing from $17.8 million to $106.8 million; telecommunications equipment, up from $36 million to $239 million; and passenger cars (new and used), increasing from $21 million (in 2006) to $177.3 million.
Blue Stream Pipeline Threatens to Derail Hungary’s Membership in EU
The State Department reports that Hungarian police used excessive force against suspects and charges of pro-government bias in state-owned media persisted. The perception of corruption in the executive and legislative branches increased as well. There continued to be manifestations of anti-Semitism, including vandalism. Violence against women and children as well as sexual harassment remained problems, as did trafficking in persons. Discrimination against Roma in education, housing, employment, and access to social services continued to be widespread.
An economist by trade with extensive experience in international finance and banking, György Szapáry took over as Hungary’s ambassador to the United States in January 2011. This marks the first diplomatic post of his career.
Sometimes a political contributor can give handsomely to the losing side and still come out a winner. Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis is one such example. Daughter of a real estate tycoon and California political player, Tsakopoulos Kounalakis raised more than $1 million for Hillary Clinton during her 2008 primary battle with Barack Obama. But once Obama had all but locked up his party’s nomination, the Greek-American millionaire switched camps and supported the man who now has made her ambassador to Hungary. She was sworn in on January 7, 2010.