Although art, science, book publishing and
other cultural expressions were governed by the state
during the communist regime (1949–1989), the cultural
climate in Hungary was freer than in most other
Although Hungarian is a small language, classical
Hungarian literature has gained international
reputation. The oldest preserved literary works are from
the 13th century, but only in the beginning of the 19th
century did a more extensive literature in Hungarian
emerge. The fallen revolutionary Sándor Petőfi
(1823-1849) is counted for his poetry of nature and love
in folk style as Hungary's national bald and foremost
romantic lyricist. Other great writers are János Arany
(1817–1882) and Mór Jókai (1825–1904).
Latest population statistics of Hungary, including religious profiles and major languages spoken as well as population growth rates in next three decades.
Some twentieth-century writers who have become known
around the world are László Németh, Gyula Illyés, Sándor
Weöres, Tibor Déry, György Konrád, Péter Esterházy and
Péter Nádas. Hungarian-Jewish author Imre Kertész (dead
2016) received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002.
Several of his books have been translated into Swedish.
László Krasznahorkai was awarded the prestigious Man
Booker International Literature Prize in 2015 for his
authorship; works by him are also in Swedish
There are about forty permanent theater scenes, half
of which are in Budapest. The 19th century play Bánk bán,
written by József Katona and composed by Ferenc Erkel,
is regarded as Hungary's national drama and is still
being played. Hungary has had a significant film
industry that grew during the interwar period. The
internationally best known director is István Szabó, but
Béla Tarr, Miklós Jancsó, Pál Gábor and Károly Makk have
also had international success.
The composer and pianist Franz Liszt (1811-1886) made
Hungarian music world famous. Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
and Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) are leading 20th century
composers. Among operetta composers, Emmerich (Imre)
Kálmán (1882–1953, among others Czardasfurstinnan) and
Franz Lehár (1870–1948, among others Glada the widow)
are best known.
Budapest, also known for its bath houses, has plenty
of architectural gems and beautiful bridges. The
neo-Gothic Parliament, completed in 1902, is usually
mentioned as the most famous. Szentendre (St. Andreas),
which, like Budapest, lies on the Danube but upstream,
is a small city with active artists, galleries and
museums, among them one over the ceramicist Margit
Kovács (1902-1977). There is also an open-air museum
after the Swedish model called Skanzen.
Since the Fidesz National Conservative Party came to
power in 2010, the Hungarian cultural climate has
significantly hardened. State cultural support has been
reduced or withdrawn and changes to a number of
executive positions at cultural institutions have been
interpreted as attempts by the government to silence
liberal and socialist voices in cultural life. Among
other things, it has stormed around the New Theater in
Budapest, since the mayor of the city dismissed the
liberal theater manager and replaced him with a person
of ultranationalist appearance.
Anger against Orbán for moving of hero statue
A statue depicting Imre Nagy, who led the Hungarian revolt against the Soviet
Union in 1956, is lifted from a square near Parliament. The intention is that
the monument will eventually become less prominent. Nagy was executed after the
uprising, which was extinguished by force, and opposition parties are now
accusing Prime Minister Orbán of wanting to rewrite the story.
Hungarian no in the UN for refugee targets
Hungary and the United States are the only countries to vote against when the
UN General Assembly votes on a refugee reception target document. Better access
to healthcare and education for refugees are among the goals mentioned. On
December 19, when an international migration agreement recently adopted at a
meeting in Morocco is ratified by the UN General Assembly, Hungary is one of
five countries to vote against. Neither the agreement nor the target document is
binding on the member states, for example, they do not entail any allowance for
Deferred legislative proposals are approved
It gets messy when Parliament adopts two new laws that are very
controversial. The new administrative courts (see November 9)
will be directly subordinated to the government. In addition, a working time law
with new overtime rules that trade unions describe as "slave labor" is approved.
In vain, the opponent blocks the pulpit, whistles and lives to try to prevent
the polls. Street demonstrations are spreading, also outside Budapest. The
protests are also aimed at the government using publicly funded ethereal
channels as propaganda agencies. Dozens of protesters are arrested.
Soros University leaves Hungary
The Central European University (CEU) announces that it will close its
business in Budapest and move to Vienna. Behind the prestigious CEU, which was
founded after the fall of the Iron Curtain, stands the businessman and
philanthropist George Soros, who is the subject of a campaign by the Hungarian
government (see April 4, 2017 and June 20,
September 24 and October 13, 2018).
Erdoğan and Orbán see common enemy in Soros
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan acts as Prime Minister Orbán: he
targets a fierce attack on Hungarian-born Jewish businessman and philanthropist
George Soros. Erdoğan claims that Soros financed the now imprisoned Osman Kavala
(as well as Soro's businessman and philanthropist), who dared to challenge the
Turkish leadership (see October 8, September 24 and
Former prime minister on the run
20th of November
Former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski of Macedonia has moved to Hungary and
says he has been granted asylum. He is convicted of corruption in his home
country, but did not appear to serve the sentence. Gruevski was Prime Minister
from 2006 to 2006. Albania and Montenegro police say Gruevski was traveling
through both countries in a Hungarian diplomatic car.
UN visits to migrants are prevented
A UN working group has suspended a visit to Hungary, as authorities will not
allow them to visit two transit zones at the Serbian border where there are
migrants and asylum seekers. The border zones Röszke and Tompa are the only
places in Hungary where asylum can be sought, and UN officials criticize that
both places are managed as closed camps.
Proposals for new courts receive criticism
A proposal for a court system for administrative matters is submitted to
Parliament. The political opposition is critical: if the proposal is
implemented, the administrative courts will be governed by the government. In
that case, the politicians can intervene in the courts 'handling of, among other
things, tax issues, building permit cases, public procurement and citizens'
transparency in the work of the authorities. Eight regional administrative
courts and one supreme court can be introduced in 2020 if the proposal is
Review of cheating with EU grants is closed
Hungarian police announce that a corruption investigation related to Prime
Minister Viktor Orbán's son-in-law has been closed and crimes have not been
substantiated. The investigation was based on material from the EU's
anti-corruption authority Olaf. Ingeborg Grässle, chair of the European
Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control, says the decision strengthens fears
that Hungary's law enforcement agencies cannot work independently of political
pressure. Olaf questions large-scale contracts, partly financed by the EU, for
modernizing street lighting in 2011–2015.
Teams should stop uneven
Outsiders are no longer allowed to sleep outdoors. Since 2013, there has been
a wrongdoing that could result in fines, and now the law has been tightened so
that "settlement" in public place is considered a crime. An addition to the
Constitution, which was adopted on June 20, has come into force. This means that
the police can force out more and remove things they use as protection against
the weather and wind.
The government stops gender courses
A decree that stops gender studies will take effect. The decree, which was
signed by Prime Minister Orbán, means that gender science degrees are not
recognized or paid for. This also means that new courses may not be started,
although students can complete the studies. The Central European University
(CEU) in Budapest, one of two in Hungary that has offered courses in gender
science, says the decision restricts academic freedom. CEU was founded by the
liberal philanthropist and businessman George Soros, whom the Hungarian
Conservative government opposes in several ways.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is warmly welcomed during a state
visit. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán praises the "stability" of Turkey as crucial
to Europe's security, in particular the agreement with the EU that is slowing
down refugee flows. "It is nice for Erdoğan to visit an EU country where he is
not attacked for violating human rights," a critical economics professor, Tamás
Szigetvári, told AFP, aiming to make it difficult for both Hungary and Turkey to
be regime critics.
Resignation of Hungarian speakers in Ukraine
Ukraine calls on the Hungarian Consul in Berehove to leave the country. The
city consul, whom Hungarian speakers call Beregszász, is accused of issuing
passports to ethnic Hungarians who are Ukrainian citizens. Ukrainian law does
not allow dual citizenship. On the Hungarian side, it is claimed that extremists
in Ukraine threaten ethnic Hungarians, and that the Kiev government is acting to
Soros goes to court against 'stop laws'
The George Soros Foundation Open Society Foundations (OSF) appeals to the
European Court of Human Rights to support its demand that Hungary's "stop Soros
laws" have to be torn down. The law package violates European conventions on
freedom of expression and organization, OSF representatives point out. Victor
Orbán's government accuses Soros of the Hungarian-born billionaire of
encouraging migration and undermining Europe's "cultural and religious identity"
(see June 20).
Control of EU support is tightened
The Hungarian Government is requesting reimbursement of EU funds after making
substantial advance payments of aid for a number of projects. A source from the
European Commission tells Reuters it is not certain that the projects are
eligible for EU funding in all respects. The Commission will carry out careful
checks. Projects that have already received funding are hardly affected,
however, the consequence may be delays for, among other things, infrastructure
projects that are in turn.
The EU starts the review process
The European Parliament sends a request to the Council of Ministers to
trigger a so-called Article 7 process against Hungary to examine whether the
country has violated the fundamental freedoms and rights covered by the EU. 448
of Parliament's members vote in favor of the resolution and 196 against, while
48 members abstain. The vote takes place after a member presented a report
accusing the Hungarian government of restricting the freedom of the country's
judiciary, media and academics. The report also criticizes Hungary for how
migrants are treated and for widespread corruption. This is the first time that
the European Parliament has initiated an Article 7 process. In December 2017,
the European Commission did the same for Poland. If Hungary is found guilty of
posing a "systematic threat" to the EU's fundamental values, it may be deprived
of its right to vote; but such a decision requires unity and Poland and Hungary
protect each other in this regard. The day after the vote in the European
Parliament, Poland announced that if needed it would use its veto to stop
sanctions against Hungary.
New tax difficult to apply
The new law that taxes organizations that help asylum seekers comes into
force. But taxation is not so simple in practice: What activities affect an
organization? In November, after almost three months with the new rules, the
opposition newspaper Népszava reports that no organization has yet been notified
by the tax authority about changed tax requirements. The rule is that
organizations that receive foreign subsidies must leave a quarter (see
Parliament adopts "Stop Soros Law"
The Hungarian Parliament approves a new controversial law that makes it
punishable for individuals or organizations to support immigrants who are in the
country illegally. Anyone who is guilty of this can be sentenced to up to one
year in prison. The law has been renamed "Stop Soros" because it has been
perceived as a way to stop the billionaire and philanthropist Soros, an enemy of
Viktor Orban's government, and his support for immigration. In addition to the
new law, further six laws are being introduced. For example, the Minister of the
Interior has the right to ban non-governmental organizations that are deemed to
be a security threat because of their support for immigration.
The financier Soro's foundation moves to Berlin
15th of May
The multi-billionaire George Soro's foundation, The Open Society Foundations
(OSF), closes its office in Budapest and moves to Berlin. The reason is that the
Hungarian government has decided to further tighten the conditions for Hungarian
NGOs receiving support from abroad.
Viktor Orbán and Fidesz receive support from the electorate to govern for a
third term. Fidesz and the party's allied Christian Democratic People's Party
receive the same number of seats as in the 2014 election, that is 133, thus
retaining a two-thirds majority in parliament. The right-wing extreme Jobbik
comes in second place and increases from 23 to 26 seats.
Russian diplomat is expelled
Hungary expels a Russian diplomat as a result of a nerve poisoning attack on
a Russian former spy and his daughter in the UK in early March. It is taking
place in concerted action with some 20 countries, mainly in the EU, in
solidarity with the British government accusing Russia of being behind the
attack. In total, over 100 Russian diplomats are expelled, 60 of whom are from
the United States. Moscow denies all involvement in the poison attack and
threatens with countermeasures.
Fidesz loses local fill choices
An independent candidate who has the support of various opposition parties
wins a filling election in the important city of Hodmezovasarhely with 58
percent of the vote. The ruling party Fidesz's candidate receives 42 percent of
the vote. The results are considered by analysts to indicate that it is not
obvious that Viktor Orbán and Fidesz will prevail in the upcoming parliamentary
elections on April 8.
Team package against refugee organizations
The legislative proposals, which will be presented to Parliament, propose
that Hungarian individual organizations that "support illegal migration" should
be punished with high taxes and other penalties. Organizations that receive more
than half of their support from other countries must pay 25 percent of this in
tax. Organizations should also be required to register in court, while Hungarian
citizens who help refugees should be able to be stopped from staying too close
to the country's borders. The bill is part of the government's "Stop Soros"
campaign. Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros has been criticized by
Prime Minister Orban for helping "illegal migrants" enter Europe.