Background of Hungarian democracy

This list is intended to accompany Democracy: The ultimate mulligan, April 15, 2011

  • 1941: Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Hungary, allied with Germany, Italy and Japan, declared war first on the Soviet Union and then on the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • 1945: Soviet troops drove the Germans out of Hungary.
  • 1956: Protesters demanded the withdrawal of Soviet troops. Imre Nagy became prime minister and announced plans for Hungarian withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact. Nagy wanted Hungary to become a neutral nation. Thousands died when Soviet forces crushed the rebellion. Nagy was promised safe refuge in the Yugoslav embassy, but was abducted by Soviet secret agents.
  • 1958: Nagy was hanged by the Soviets as an example to other restless parts of the Soviet empire.
  • 1961: The Berlin Wall went up and for Hungarians and others behind the Iron Curtain, history seemed to slow down.
  • 1989: Finally, in May, the Iron Curtain was breached when Hungary’s border with Austria opened. Thousands of East Germans used the border opening to escape to the West. The communist-led oligarchy was replaced with a faltering but enthusiastic multi-party democracy.
  • 1989: In November, Czechoslovakia opened its border with West Germany and thousands more poured into the West.
  • 1989: A few days later, East German authorities opened the Berlin Wall.
  • 1990: In June, Hungary withdrew from the Warsaw Pact.
  • 1990: In October, East and West Germany merged in what rivals the Marshall Plan as the largest transfer of wealth by any government to people currently or formerly part of another government.
  • 1990: In November, the International Association of Political Consultants, a pro-democracy organization, met in Budapest. Because the group meets only in countries with Democratic governments, the selection of Budapest was seen as symbolic and optimistic for the formerly subjugated nations of Eastern Europe.
  • 1991: Soviet forces left Hungary as the Warsaw Pact dissolved. On December 31, the Soviet Union dissolved.
  • 1994: Former communists and liberals formed a coalition government following elections, pledging to continue free-market policies.
  • 1999: Hungary joined NATO. 
  • 2004: Hungary joined the European Union along with nine other new states.
  • 2009: Hungary and Russia signed an agreement to permit a huge natural gas pipeline to cross Hungarian territory. The two countries agreed to build an underground storage facility in Hungary that would make Hungary a major hub for Russian gas supplies to Western European countries.
  • 2011: The new year brought a restrictive media law to Hungary, the product of a center-right government. By March, the EU had coerced changes to the law but not all Hungarian citizens and left-wing groups throughout Europe were satisfied. Demonstrations filled public squares in Budapest and other cities. The flak will bring additional changes and the proof that Hungary has a living democracy, capable of withstanding heavy-handed and ill-advised decisions by those currently in power.
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About Radnor Reports

Ken Feltman is past-president of the International Association of Political Consultants and the American League of Lobbyists. He is chairman of Radnor Inc., a political consulting and government relations firm in Washington, D.C. Feltman founded the U.S. and European Conflict Indexes in 1988. The indexes have predicted the winner of every U.S. presidential election beginning in 1988, plus the outcome of several European elections. In May of 2010, the Conflict Index was used by university students in Egypt. The Index predicted the fall of the Mubarak government within the next year.
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