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Hungary Index

Since the mid-1970s, few countries in the world have experienced such rapid and extensive change as Hungary. The political system has moved from an authoritarian regime dominated by the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (HSWP) to a multiparty republic. The HSWP itself split, in October 1989, and most of its leaders organized a new party, the Hungarian Socialist Party. In the late 1980s, relations with Western countries improved dramatically, and the Hungarians also received significant support for their reform efforts from the Soviet Union. By contrast, until late 1989 tensions between Hungary and Romania were rising over the latter's treatment of its Hungarian minority, but, after the December 1989 revolution in Romania, the chances for the resolution of that problem improved. Although sporadic efforts had been undertaken since the late 1960s to introduce elements of a market economy into a socialist command economy, Hungarian leaders in 1989 declared their intention to create a full-fledged capitalist economy. The government has also reduced the defense budget, and it has taken steps to make the police apparatus accountable to the people and to their elected representatives. Yet, the discontent that emerged from pressures stemming from the economy's precipitous decline continued. This discontent, coupled with the regime's need to widen its support to sustain the transition from a state socialist to capitalist economy, led the Hungarian regime to undertake political reform efforts.

These changes have necessitated a new edition of Hungary: A Country Study, which supersedes the edition published in 1973. Virtually everything discussed in the previous edition has been overtaken by events. Like the earlier edition, this study attempts to present the dominant historical, social, economic, political, and national security aspects of Hungary. Sources of information included books and scholarly journals, official reports of governments and international organizations, foreign and domestic newspapers, and numerous periodicals. A brief annotated bibliographic note on sources recommended for further reading appears at the end of each chapter, and more detailed chapter bibliographies appear at the end of the book. Measurements are given in the metric system; a conversion table is provided to assist those readers who are unfamiliar with metric measurements (see table 1, Appendix). A glossary is also provided.

The Hungarian people are descendants of the Magyars, an Asiatic tribe whose origins lie in what is today central Russia. The word Hungary appears to derive from a Slavicized form of the Turkic words on ogur, meaning "ten arrows," which may have referred to the number of Magyar tribes. Unlike most Europeans, Hungarians do not speak an Indo-European language. Hungarian is a member of the Finno-Ugric language family, which also includes such languages as Estonian and Finnish.

The illustration on the cover and those that introduce each chapter merit a word of explanation. These drawings were adapted from Andre Kertesz's poignant photographs of his native land, which were published in Hungarian Memories: Nineteen Twelve to Nineteen Twenty-Five.

Data as of September 1989

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