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Hungary Culture and Mass Media

Culture

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 communist countries.

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).

  • Countryaah: 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 translation.

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.

Culture of HungaryBudapest, 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.

2018

December

Anger against Orbán for moving of hero statue

December 28

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

December 17

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 refugee reception.

Deferred legislative proposals are approved

December 12

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

December 3

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).

November

Erdoğan and Orbán see common enemy in Soros

November 21st

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 June 20).

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

November 15

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

November 9

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 adopted.

Review of cheating with EU grants is closed

November 7

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.

October

Teams should stop uneven

15 October

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

October 13

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-Hungarian friendship

October 8

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

October 4th

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 create tensions.

September

Soros goes to court against 'stop laws'

September 24th

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

September 21

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

September 12

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.

August

New tax difficult to apply

August 25th

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 June 20).

June

Parliament adopts "Stop Soros Law"

June 20

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.

May

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.

April

Orban reign

April 8

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.

March

Russian diplomat is expelled

March 27th

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.

February

Fidesz loses local fill choices

February 25th

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.

January

Team package against refugee organizations

January 17

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.

 

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