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Hungary Index


Square in downtown Szeged
Courtesy Scott Edelman

As a result of population transfers after World War II, Hungary became one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in Eastern Europe. Unlike most Europeans, Hungarians trace their lineage to the Finno-Ugric people--an Asiatic tribe. For this reason, Hungarians have long felt themselves to be distinct from the other peoples who live in their midst.

Ethnic discrimination--except toward the Gypsies--was almost nonexistent in Hungary in the 1980s. Particularly after the late 1960s, the government had made great efforts to ensure fair and equal treatment for minority nationalities. Foreign policy considerations partially explained this liberal policy toward minorities. The Romanian and, to a lesser extent, the Czechoslovak governments subjected Hungarians in their countries to many kinds of discrimination. To provide these governments with incentives to relax their pressure against Hungarian minorities, Budapest pursued very liberal policies toward its own national minorities and sought to make its minority policies a model for other countries in Eastern Europe.

Data as of September 1989

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