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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe



FeatureThe territory which later came to be called Hungary was generally Roman-occupied from 15 BC to circa AD 378. Prior to that it had provided a home to various groups of barbarians, many of whom used it as a corridor the travel from the Black Sea coast towards the headwaters of the Danube and the Alpine region. This certainly seems to have happened during the ninth to seventh centuries BC as the Thraco-Cimmerian influence on Indo-European migratory groups eventually influenced the Celts to the west (see feature link). It seems also to have provided a corridor of advance for millennia before that, possibly as far back as the earliest modern humans of the Aurignacian culture, and right down to the great Indo-European migrations of the fourth and third millennia BC.

Once the aforementioned Celts had expanded from their Alpine homeland, areas of Hungary also contained Celtic tribes such as the Hercuniates, Eravisci, and Anarti. Large areas of what is now Hungary formed the Roman province of Pannonia. In the late third and early fourth century AD various other tribes infiltrated it, including the Germanic Rugii. Then the Huns swept through Eastern Europe and dominated this area until AD 427. The Western Roman empire briefly recaptured it until the Huns once more took control circa 445. They were followed by the new power in Europe, both southern and eastern, the Ostrogoths, around 460, but as they migrated into the Balkans the area became tribal from about 488-558.

Elements of the surviving Huns had settled nearby, and until relatively recently it was generally thought that it was their name that was applied to the region in the form of Hungary (but see the kingdom of Hungary, below, for a more detailed investigation), while Germanic tribes such as the Gepids also occupied northern and eastern areas of it, close to the Carpathians. The Avars swept in from the steppe to control the region from 558-803, but there was a break in their rule in the seventh century. Eventually they were superseded by another wave of Asiatic horsemen called the Magyars, and their arrival signalled the creation of a state that became modern Hungary.

Slovakia was never a kingdom or state in its own right. For most of its history (906-1918) it was part of Hungary. Then it was attached to former Bohemia-Moravia to form the republic of Czechoslovakia. In-depth study of Hungarian history is often difficult as the most detailed literature is only available in the Hungarian language and remains practically unknown outside the country's borders.

(Additional information from Journal of World History 4(3), 513-540: The Outlines of Hungarian Prehistory, Denis Sinor, from Who were the Cimmerians, and where did they come from? Anne Katrine Gade Kristensen (Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Hist-fil. Medd 57), from Celts and the Classical World, David Rankin (1996), from The Civilisation of the East, Fritz Hommel (Translated by J H Loewe, Elibron Classic Series, 2005), from Europe Before History, Kristian Kristiansen, and from External Link: The Outlines of Hungarian Prehistory.)


The nomadic Avars assume control of Hungary.


The Avars incur into Austrasia, forcing the king to move his capital. This attack is repelled, as is another in about 568.

c.625 - c.660

The local Slavs form a kingdom of their own with the intention of expelling the Avars. The Slav Kingdom achieves its aim, but is short-lived.

c.660 - 803

The Avars resume their control of Hungary.

Kingdom of Hungary (Magyars)
AD 896 - 1097

The Magyars were defeated by the Pechenegs (Patzinaks) in 892 and were forced to migrate for the second time in their recent history. Again they headed westwards, this time to reach the Dacian lands which had most recently been controlled by the Avars, sweeping into the Carpathian basin in 895 and founding their kingdom in the following year. Perhaps only the principality of Balaton survived in western hands from the original Avar lands. For half a century the Magyars plagued Western Europe until defeated by the Germans. Christianity followed soon after, and Magyar-controlled Hungary evolved into an important feudal state.

As for Pannonia, the new land of the Magyars, becoming Hungary, the traditional view is that the people of this region simply inherited the word from the Huns who had previously controlled it. With the Magyars being linked to Turks themselves, this may be seen as a reasonable move, but it ignores complexities which are too extensive to cover here anything more than briefly. In western languages the Magyars went by names such as Hungarians, Hongrois, Ungar, etc, all of which could be traced back to the Latin plural 'Ungri' which was first attested in AD 862, and the Greek 'Ungroi' in use by the Byzantine empire from the tenth century onwards. It is generally thought that all these forms derive from the name of a Turkish tribe, the Onogur, known since the middle of the fifth century and linked with the early Bulgars and also, tentatively, to the Venedi.

The general theory is that the Onogur name passed through Slavic to reach European ears where it was applied to the Magyars simply because they came from roughly the same region as the Onogur. However, the name 'Ugria' was also applied by the Rus of the eleventh century to all Finno-Ugric peoples, and this seems much more to be the most likely source of the name given to the Magyars and their newly settled lands. If Pannonia had been renamed after the Huns it would be called Hunia, not Hungaria. It's quite possible that there is some influence from the Huns in this, despite no direct responsibility, in that the 'h' and 'n' were added either side of the 'u' in Ugaria either as some form of respect to the Huns or, more likely, ignorance of history and confusion created thanks to that lack of knowledge. Generally, though, the core name is an adaptation of Ugrian, the ethnic origin of the Magyars themselves.

(Additional information from Journal of World History 4(3), 513-540: The Outlines of Hungarian Prehistory, Denis Sinor, from Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: An Introduction to Early Hungarian History, András Róna-Tas (Central European University Press, 1999), and from External Link: The Outlines of Hungarian Prehistory, and The genocide of the Old Scythian writing, Alex Imreh, 2011.)

896 - 907

Árpád / Arpad

Dynasty founder. Led Magyars into Eastern Europe.

899 - 901

As part of their initial invasion of Europe, the Magyars quickly subsume the Avars and invade Italy, possibly at the prompting of Arnulf, king of Germany. Berengar refuses a request by them for an armistice but his army is surprised and routed at the Battle of the Brenta on 24 September 899.

The Magyar invasion is subsequently blocked by the Venetians at Pellestrina in 900, but they still ravage Carinthia in the following year.

Berengar of Friuli
The determined Berengar of Friuli not only controlled the march territory between Italy proper and the Avars and Magyars to the east, but also claimed the Italian throne no less than three times during his eventful life


Urged on by the Eastern Franconian emperor, Arnulf, the Magyars destroy the kingdom of Great Moravia. This victory consolidates their hold on the Carpathian Basin. They then turn on Western Europe, and for half a century add to the misery of the so-called Second Dark Age.

907 - 946


907 - 955

Hungary controls the territory of Austria.


The Magyars suffer a setback when the Saxon king, Henry I, defeats them at Riade.

By the 930s some Magyar groups are further incurring into the Bulgarian empire but, after some initial disturbance, Tsar Peter is able to accept them and even employ them against the Serbs and Eastern Romans. These groups are allowed to settle in Bulgarian territory on the northern side of the Danube, where they initially remain outside Árpád dynasty control.

946 - 952



952 - 972



The Magyars are defeated at Lechfield by the Germans, under the Saxon Otto I. They also effectively lose control of the March of Austria.


With the accession of the Saxon king, Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed. Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders. The county of Ardennes under Sigfried gains the stronghold of Lucilinburhuc (the later Luxemburg), Arnulf I the Elder is restored in Flanders, and the March of Austria is formed (or confirmed) from territory already captured from Hungary.

Map of Germany AD 962
Germany in AD 962 may have had its new emperor to govern the territories shown within the dark black line, but it was still a patchwork of competing interests and power bases, most notably in the five great stem duchies, many of which were attempting to expand their own territories outside the empire, creating the various march or border regions to the east and south (click or tap on map to view full sized)

At the same time, Saxony gains Hermann Billung as its duke, charged with maintaining the duchy's eastern borders and expanding them further to the east, alongside the recently-created North March. Perhaps as a reaction to this or as the culmination of a process that is already heading that way, the duchy of Poland is formed around the same time.

972 - 997

Geza I

Christianised (975).


References to Vnnd.r and N.nd.r. in 982 and 1094 respectively remark upon a Christian 'nation' of Rum which is located between the lands of the 'Madjgharî' and the MIRV (M.rdât). The Pechenegs lie to the east (around the north-west corner of the Black Sea coast), while above them and leading north-eastwards are the Kievan Rus and the Volga Bulgars respectively.

The Madjgharî are the Magyars, the former Asiatic horsemen who now control the Dacian lands and early Hungary. Rum is Rome, although the people are not specifically being labelled as Romans - they are simply more civilised than their neighbours in terms of being settled farmers with an element of presumed sophistication. The MIRV are Moravians, living to the north, but seemingly not yet having fully migrated far enough to settle next to the more westerly Bohemians, although their territory has already been annexed to Bohemia. The Vnnd.r are tentatively linked to the Venedi.

Map of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Bulgaria, and Greece AD 1000
The (First) Bulgarian empire had controlled a great swathe of the Balkans during its existence, but its termination in 971 resulted in only its western territories remaining independent (within the dashed line), governed by the cometopuli (click or tap on map to view full sized)

997 - 1038

St Stephen I

First king of Hungary (1001-1038).

1038 - 1041

Peter Urseolo


1041 - 1044

Samuel Aba

Non-dynastic. d.1046.

1044 - 1046

Peter Urseolo


1046 - 1061

Andrew I

Arpads Restored.


Edward the Exile, the son of Saxon King Edmund Ironsides, an atheling (a noble of royal descent) with the best claim to the throne after Edward, has been living in Hungary. The childless Edward the Confessor sees him as a possible heir to the throne, so in 1056 he is persuaded to return, along with his two sons, but dies on the way in 1057, in the hall of a Saxon thegn. One of those sons, Edgar, presses his own claim to the English throne in 1066.

Some texts claim that Edward the Exile has been enjoying the hospitality of Malesclot, king of the Rugians, based on this Germanic tribe's settlement in Lower Austria in the fifth century. However, this tribe has long since been absorbed into the Bavarii confederation of the sixth century, making this either an invention, or perhaps confusing a minor Hungarian lord with his regional antecedents.

1061 - 1063

Bela I

His dau. married king of Croatia.

1063 - 1074


1074 - 1077

Geza II

1077 - 1095

St Ladislas I

Son of Bela. Conceded the Croatian crown.

1095 - 1097

Coloman / Kalman the Learned

King of Hungary, & Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia (1097).


Kalman defeats Croatian opposition and secures the Croatian crown. The title is confirmed in 1102 when Kalman is crowned in Biograd, on the Dalmatian coast. In principle, Croatia is always governed as a separate kingdom, rather than a territory belonging to Hungary.

Kingdom of Hungary & Croatia
AD 1097 - 1564

Rather than taking over Croatia as a dominion, the two crowns were seen as being separate. Croatia maintained its own autonomy.

(Additional information from The Annals of Jan Długosz (English abridged version by Maurice Michael, with commentary by Paul Smith, IM Publications, 1997), from A History of Poland from its Foundation, M Ross, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), and from External Link: The Alans (Marres Education).)

1097 - 1114

Coloman / Kálmán 'the Learned'

1114 - 1131

Stephen II


War against the Hungarians sees the Venetian doge, Ordelaf Falier, killed at the Battle of Zara.

1131 - 1141

Bela II

1141 - 1161

Geza III

1161 - 1162

Stephen III

1162 - 1163

Ladislas II


Stephen IV

1163 - 1172

Stephen III


1170 - 1171

Zara rebels and switches allegiance to the Hungarians, but is re-conquered by Venice the following year.

1172 - 1196

Bela III

Controlled Bosnia (1180).

1196 - 1204


1204 - 1205

Ladislas III

1205 - 1235

Andrew II

1205 - 1214

Andrew II defeats Roman Mstislavich 'the Great' of Novgorod, Volodymyr, Halych, and Kyiv, and claims the title king of Galicia and Lodomeria (Halychyna and Volodymyr). He hands command of the region to his son, Kálmán II.

King Andrew II of Hungary
Founded in 1179, the remains of Egres Cistercian Monastery are located just a few kilometres from the modern Hungarian border, in Romania's Temes County, which is where Andrew II and his wife Yolanda were buried

1235 - 1270

Bela IV

1241 - 1242

The Mongols of Batu Khan's Golden Horde, aided by Subedei, turn their attention to Poland and Hungary, primarily because, during the Mongol invasion of the Rus lands, Cumans, Kipchaks, and other nomadic groups had fled to Hungary at the western end of the great Pontic-Caspian steppe to seek refuge there. During the same period, around the mid-thirteenth century, a tribe of nomads who speak a Sarmatian-Alanic language which resembles Ossetian and who call themselves Alani is permitted by King Bela IV Arpad to enter Hungary. They have to fight the Mongols and they do that successfully.

Despite the resistance, both Poland and Hungary are conquered by the Mongols, with European defeats at Liegnitz and the River Sajo (the Battle of Mohi). Austria, Dalmatia, and Moravia also fall under Mongol domination, and the tide seems unstoppable. However, the death of Ogedei Khan causes the Mongols to withdraw, with Batu Khan intent on securing his conquests in the lands of the Rus.

As for the Alani, they are referred to as Jasz by the Hungarian locals, probably in memory of the Sarmatian Jazygians who formerly had a similar language and lifestyle. These Alani settle in the central part of the Pannonian plain in a region that is now known as Jászság with Jászberény its most important city. Over subsequent centuries they blend into the population, their language disappearing - although a dictionary of their language has been preserved.

Kipchak mounted warrior
An illustration of a mounted Kipchack warrior, typical of the waves of westward migrants who swept in from the Kazak steppe during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, largely pushed that way by the sudden creation of the Mongol empire


Peace is agreed with Venice, and Bela IV releases the city of Zara back to them.

1270 - 1272

Stephen V


Ottokar of Bohemia and King Stephen sign the First Peace of Pressburg (Pozny to the Hungarians, modern Bratislava in Slovakia). This follows another battle between the two over Hungarian claims to areas of Austria and Slovakia (to the east of Moravia, sandwiched between that and Hungary), and Bohemian-captured territory in Hungary itself. Each claim is dropped so that Bohemia unquestionably rules Austria and Slovakia, and Hungary is fully restored to its rulers.

1272 - 1290

Ladislas IV

1290 - 1301

Andrew III

Last Arpad.

1301 - 1305


Wenceslas II of Bohemia.

1305 - 1307


Otto III of Bavaria.

1308 - 1342

Charles I of Anjou

Senator of Rome (1263-1284). King of Sicily (1266-1285).

1342 - 1382

Louis / Ludwik I the Great

King of Poland (1370-1382).


Another war is fought against Venice for the rebel city of Zara.


King Kasimierz of Poland dies leaving only female issue and a grandson in the form of Louis the Great. The transfer of power to Louis is peaceful, with the succession having been agreed upon in advance. Kasimierz' sister is Elizabeth of Poland, mother of Louis, which virtually guarantees his unopposed succession anyway.


Like his late father-in-law, Louis has no sons to succeed him. Instead he issues the 'Privilege of Koszyce' which spells out the liberties of Polish noblemen, as part of his strategy to enforce the recognition of the right of his daughters to succeed him. Even without this, his rule remains unpopular in Poland.


Upon the death of Louis, his daughter Jadwiga succeeds him in Poland while Mary does the same in Hungary.

1382 - 1385

Mary / Maria of Anjou

Dau. Married Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund.

1385 - 1386

Charles II of Anjou

Charles III of Naples (1382-1386).

1386 - 1395

Mary / Maria of Anjou

Restored. Ruled jointly with her husband.

1386 - 1437

Sigismund of Luxembourg

Holy Roman Emperor. King of Bohemia (1419-1437).


At least from this time onwards, the Hungarian territory of Transylvania is ruled by local princes under Hungarian overlordship.

1437 - 1439

Albert of Austria

Archduke of Austria & king of Bohemia (1437-1439).

1439 - 1440

Interregnum. The title is claimed by Ladislas of Bohemia, but contested by Vladislav of Poland.

1440 - 1444

Vladislav I Jagiello

Wladyslav VI King of Poland (1434-1444).

1444 - 1457

Ladislas V

Lasislas I Posthumus, king of Bohemia (1439-1457).

1458 - 1490

Matthais Corvinus


1461 - 1463

Foreseeing an imminent invasion of Bosnia by the ever more forceful Ottoman Turks, one of King Stephen's first acts is to acknowledge the overlordship of Matthais Corvinus. In 1462 he cancels the tribute payment to the Ottoman sultan and warns the Venetians that when Bosnia falls, Venice's territories in Dalmatia will be next.

King Stephen Tomasevic of Bosnia
King Stephen Tomasevic, reigned for just two years over an independent Bosnian kingdom that was living on borrowed time, faced by a near-tidal wave of Ottoman attacks which it was ill-equipped to stave off, and a final attack in 1463 that it had no hope of defeating

FeatureIn 1463 Sultan Mehmed II leads a huge army against Bosnia. King Stephen is forced to abandon the town of Bobovac, which surrenders on 20 May 1463 without resisting. He falls back to Jajce and then the fortified town of Ključ na Sani where he surrenders. Despite a pledge by a local commander that his life will be spared, the sultan declares that pledge invalid. Stephen is executed in his own capital, along with his uncle and many other members of the Bosnian nobility (see feature link). The kingdom is extinguished, becoming the Turkish Bosnian Sandžak until the early years of the twentieth century.


The Lithuanian Jagiello dynasty, which already rules in Poland and Bohemia, expands its influence even further when Ladislas II of Bohemia gains the Hungarian throne. His successor is a member of the same dynasty, his son, Louis.

1490 - 1516

Ladislas VI

Ladislas II Vladimir Jagiello, king of Bohemia (1471-1516).


The League of Cambrai is formed with France, Castile, Hungary, the Papal States, the Holy Roman empire, and Ferrara against Venice. Venice is defeated at Agnadello.

1516 - 1526

Louis II

Son. Louis, king of Bohemia (1516-1526). Killed by Turks.


Following devastating defeat by the Ottomans at the Battle of Mohács and the death of Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia, Hungary loses the principality of Transylvania to the kingdom of John Zápolya. The Habsburgs inherit Hungary itself from the Lithuanian Jagiellos, but are opposed by the Zápolyas. It is unclear how much power the latter actually hold.

1526 - 1540

John I Zápolya

1540 - 1571

John II Zápolya

1526 - 1564

Ferdinand of Austria

King of Bohemia (1526-1564).

1564 - 1918

Control of Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary and Croatia is taken fully by the Habsburgs as Holy Roman emperors. In 1711, the principality of Transylvania is added to Hungary. The 'Austro-Hungarian Compromise' of 1867 sets in place a dual structure for what henceforth will be the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Modern Hungary
AD 1918 - Present Day
Incorporating Heads of State (1918-2024), Hungarian First Republic (1918-1920), Kingdom of Hungary (1920-1944), Carpatho-Ukraine (1939), Hungarian State (1944-1945), Hungarian Second Republic (1945-1949), Hungarian People's Republic (1949-1989), & Hungarian Third Republic (1989-On)

Modern Hungary was formed from a mix of various historical groups and cultures, including Celts and Germanics, Avars and Magyars. It is neighboured to the north by Slovakia, to the north-east by the westernmost section of Ukraine, to the south-east by Romania, to the south by Serbia and Croatia, and to the west by Slovenia, and by an Austria with which it had a long and intertwined relationship until the end of the First World War.

The country's territory was generally Roman-occupied for the first four hundred years of the first millennium AD. Prior to that it had provided a home to various barbarian tribes from across Europe, notably the Celts whose Indo-European ancestors seem to have used the Danube as a travel corridor during their westward migrations. In the late third and early fourth century AD various other tribes infiltrated it, including the Germanic Rugii.

Then the Huns swept through Eastern Europe and dominated this area until AD 427, followed by the Ostrogoths. Until relatively recently it was generally thought that it was the Hun name which was applied to the region in the form of 'Hungary' (but see the kingdom of Hungary, above, for a more detailed investigation). The Avars swept in from the steppe to control the region from 558-803 and, eventually, they were superseded by another wave of horsemen, the Magyars. Their arrival signalled the creation of a state which became modern Hungary.

Neighbouring Slovakia was never a kingdom in its own right. For almost the entirety of the second millennium AD it was part of Hungary. Then it was attached to what had been the regions of Bohemia and Moravia to form the republic of Czechoslovakia. In-depth study of Hungarian history is often difficult as the most detailed literature is only available in the Hungarian language and remains practically unknown outside the country's borders.

Hungary itself became joined in union with the Habsburg-controlled Holy Roman empire in 1564 (and as an equal partner from 1867). It was only on 1 November 1918 that it was able to extract itself as an independent kingdom from the collapse of the former Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of the First World War. Since then the country has endured fascist rule (both of its own making and imported), the Second World War, communist rule and, since 1989, fully-restored independence and a strong role in the European Union between 2004-2010 until the re-election of the right-wing Viktor Orbán as prime minister.

Amongst its population, modern Hungary also has the descendants of a band of Alani who fled the north Caucasus amidst the Mongol invasion. Despite referring to themselves as Alani, they are called Jasz by the locals, probably in memory of the earlier Sarmatian Jazygians who had a similar language and lifestyle. These Alani settled in the central part of the Pannonian plain in a region which is now known as Jászság, with Jászberény its most important city. Over subsequent centuries they have blended into the general population, their language disappearing - although a dictionary of that language has been preserved.


(Information by Peter Kessler and the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information by Susan Healy, from Journal of World History 4(3), 513-540: The Outlines of Hungarian Prehistory, Denis Sinor, from Celts and the Classical World, David Rankin (1996), from The Civilisation of the East, Fritz Hommel (Translated by J H Loewe, Elibron Classic Series, 2005), from Europe Before History, Kristian Kristiansen, and from External Links: The Outlines of Hungarian Prehistory, and The Alans (Marres Education), and BBC Country Profiles, and The world must not let Viktor Orbán get away with his pandemic power-grab (The Guardian), and Refugees stuck in Serbia (The Guardian), and Tens of thousands migrate through Balkans (The Guardian), and the Hungarian Revolution (Britannica.com), and Hungary is no longer a full democracy (The Guardian), and The Accession of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to NATO (Warsaw Institute), and Hungary’s president resigns (The Guardian).)


The empire of Austro-Hungary is fast failing. Its loyal subjects are tired of the First World War and its many non-German and non-Hungarian peoples are becoming increasingly nationalist in thought and deed. Realising the inevitability of the break-up of the empire, on 16 October 1918 the emperor issues a manifesto to his people which, in effect, transfers the state into a federation of nationalities. He is too late.

Vienna in 1918
With the various peoples who made up its ethnically-diverse population pulling apart from it in 1918, Vienna was left with a rump state which greatly reduced its power and significance in post-Austro-Hungarian empire Europe

On 6 October, Yugoslavia has already formed a provisional government. The day after, the Habsburg Poles unite with the former Russian and German-ruled Poles to declare a free and independent Poland, while on 28 October a Czecho-Slovak republic is declared in Prague.

On 30 October, the emperor's most loyal German subjects claim in a constituent assembly the right to govern themselves, effectively dismissing their former ruler from office. On 1 November, Hungary re-establishes itself as an independent kingdom (which, constitutionally, it already is).

The troops of the empire begin to disarm themselves and head home and a ceasefire is agreed on 3 November 1918. The Austrian empire has ceased to exist and Germany now stands alone. The Hungarian 'First Republic' is formed on 16 November 1918.


János Hock

Chairman of the national council (13-16 Nov).

1918 - 1919

Count Mihály Károlyi

Provisional president (16 Nov-Mar 1919).


The 'Aster Revolution' of 1918 has produced an unstable 'First Republic' government in Hungary which is beset by problems, not least of which is the promised loss of large swathes of territory. The communists are very quickly able to gain ascendancy thanks to national outrage at the promised border changes, under the leadership of Béla Kun.

The Aster Revolution of 1919
The populist 'Aster Revolution' of October 1918 was a key component of Hungary's scrappy withdrawal from Austria-Hungary


Béla Kun

Communist leader of the Hungarian Soviet republic.


An attempted anti-communist coup is ruthless dealt with under the 'Red Terror'. A strong nationalist counter-regime centres on the city of Szeged under the domination of Rear-Admiral Miklós Horthy. The 'White Terror' which it initiates there against the peasantry (strong supporters of the communists) is equally as brutal.

Kun wages war against Czechoslovakia and Rumania, both of whom are backed by France which wants to implement the border changes. The Hungarian Red Army is defeated continuously by the Rumanians so that they soon occupy Budapest and hand power to Admiral Horthy.


Gyula Peidl

Acting head of state (1-6 Aug only).


A government of social democrats now rules the country which loses its Slovak territory to Czechoslovakia. Transylvania and several counties along the north bank of the Danube, which include Krassó-Szörény and much of the Banat, are reassigned to Rumania in 1920. A third of Hungarian-speakers now live outside the country's borders.

Rumanian troops enter Budapest 1919
Hungary's 1919 war against its neighbours so that it could retain its pre-war borders proved entirely unsuccessful, with Rumanian troops entering Budapest later in the same year


Archduke & Royal Duke Joseph

Austrian governor (regent) of 'Hungarian State' (to Oct).


István Friedrich

Acting head of state (Oct-Nov 1919).

1919 - 1920

Károly Huszár

Acting head of state (Nov-Mar).


On 1 March 1920 Rear-Admiral Miklós Horthy becomes Hungary's ruler. He takes the same title of governor (which is always referred to as 'regent') as had Archduke & Royal Duke Joseph during his brief period of governorship between 6 August 1919 and October 1919.

1920 - 1944

Miklós Horthy

Governor (regent) of Hungary (Mar-Nov).

1920 - 1930s

On 21 March 1920, Horthy re-establishes the 'Kingdom of Hungary'. Briefly between 20-26 October 1921, the former king of Hungary and Austrian emperor, Charles IV, is king in dissidence (existing in a state of protest against official policy) of this 'Kingdom of Hungary'.

Horthy's Hungary becomes ever more bitter about the massive and seemingly unjust loss of Hungarian territory. It drifts ever closer to the emerging power of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, drawn at least in part by Prime Minister Gyula Gömbös, effective dictator of Hungary between 1932-1936.

Miklós Horthy
Rear-Admiral Miklós Horthy was Hungary's governor (referred to as the regent) during the inter-war years and across much of the Second World War, where he saw an alliance with Nazi Germany as the country's only immediately viable option in the war's early years


Adolf Hitler uses the excuse of 'protecting' the German Sudetenland minority from Czechoslovakians to force the state to cede these lands to Germany. This takes place on 1 October 1938 as part of the Munich Agreement. Southern areas of Slovakia and Sub-Carpathian Rus are also ceded to Hungary.

1939 - 1944

Nazi Germany invades Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939, replacing its republic with the German Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia. Slovakia is separated as the Slovak republic. On the day of the invasion, Sub-Carpathian Rus declares independence as Carpatho-Ukraine. Within three days it is occupied by its old master, Hungary, and remains so until Germany itself occupies Hungary in 1944, following Hungarian attempts to secure an armistice.


Ferenc Szálasi

German-appointed 'leader of the nation'.

1944 - 1945

Hungary fights on the side of Nazi Germany in the remaining months of 1944, losing a large part of its Second World War army in Soviet Russia. The Germans also ensure that hundreds of thousands of members of the Jewish Diaspora and gypsies are deported from Hungary to death camps.

In November 1944 the Soviets advance far enough to seize Hungary. They replace the kingdom with a renewed 'Hungarian State' on 21 December 1944, although remnants of the kingdom cling to power in some areas until March 1945.

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler at the height of his rule over Nazi Germany envisioned a 'Greater Germany' covering a vast swathe of Central Europe with 'living room' for Germans and a subservient Slavic population in the east to handle manual work

1945 - 1949

Germany's defeat in 1945 allows the Soviet Russians to secure control of large areas of Eastern Europe. The Hungarian 'Second Republic' is a Soviet-controlled one. In 1947-1949 communists in Hungary consolidate power under the Soviet occupation, with a new constitution, the nationalisation of industry, collectivised agriculture, and mass terror all being ingredients.

1946 - 1948

Zoltán Tildy

President of the Soviet-controlled 'Hungarian Republic'.


The Hungarian communist party changes its name to the 'Hungarian Workers Party' by merging with the 'Social Democratic Party'. Mátyás Rákosi, general secretary of the Hungarian communist party, remains general secretary of the new workers party.

1948 - 1949

Árpád Szákasits

Soviet-selected president. Hungarian Workers Party (MDP).


The rapid reorganisation of the new Soviet empire in Eastern Europe means more changes. On 20 August 1949, the Hungarian republic becomes the 'Hungarian People's Republic'. Along with that change, the title for the country's head of state is changed from president to chairman of the presidential council.

1949 - 1950

Árpád Szákasits

Chairman of the presidential council. MDP.

1950 - 1952

Sándor Rónai

Chairman of the presidential council. MDP.

1952 - 1967

István Dobi

Chairman of the presidential council. MDP / MSzMP.


The USSR forms the Warsaw Pact in direct response to the admission of the 'Federal Republic of Germany' (West Germany) into Nato whilst itself being barred from joining. The states involved in the founding of this eastern alliance are Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Russia.

Warsaw Pact meeting
Russia, plus its seven Warsaw Pact allies, signed the treaty of establishment in the Polish capital, Warsaw, on 14 May 1955, with the location of signing giving the pact its name


The Hungarian Revolution is sparked somewhat obliquely by Nikita Khrushchev, first secretary and premier of the Soviet communist party. Taking his open criticism of Josef Stalin's rule as a green light to embrace freedom of speech, rising discontent in Hungary breaks out into open fighting.

The first stage of the battle is won, and Imre Nagy becomes premiere, agreeing to a multiparty system of governance and declaring Hungarian neutrality. Western powers are unwilling to risk a wider war, though, and fail to support or even recognise his government.

On 4 November, Soviet forces invade Hungary and crush the revolt with stark brutality. Nagy is executed for treason in 1958. Repressive governance does not return, however, allowing for a gradual adoption of progressive ideas and practices.

1967 - 1987

Pál Losonczi

Chairman of the presidential council. MSzMP.


The death of Soviet General Secretary Konstantin Chernenko allows a 'new guard' to take over supreme power. The era of reforms which is launched throughout in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Gorbachev has a major impact on Hungary, inspiring greater demands for openness and democratisation.

Russians in the 1950s
Despite the increasing frostiness of the Cold War and the slow recovery from the worst of Stalin's repressions, the post-war period behind the Iron Curtain saw a steady improvement in living conditions, and relative safety and security at home

1987 - 1988

Károly Németh

Chairman of the presidential council. MSzMP.

1988 - 1989

Brunö F Straub

Chairman of the presidential council. MSzMP.

1989 - 1990

Mátyás Szürös

Interim president. Hungarian Socialist Party (MSzP).

1989 - 1990

Soviet influence over Eastern Europe collapses. Communism in Hungary is ended following the opening of the border with Austria to allow thousands of East Germans to escape to the west. It has already been fading anyway, under Straub's chairmanship, but it is Mátyás Szürös who declares Hungary to be free from communism.

Democratic elections are held and Soviet forces withdraw from Hungary. The Hungarian 'Third Republic' effectively begins in October 1989.

1990 - 2000

Árpád Göncz

President (interim May-Aug 1990). Free Democrats Alliance.


Parliamentary elections are held on 8 May and 29 May. The Hungarian Socialist Party (the rebadged communist party) returns to power under the leadership of Gyula Horn. He becomes prime minister after forming a coalition with the Free Democrats which gives him a powerful two-thirds majority. The idea is to dampen public concerns about former communists being in charge and to get a reform package through his own party's left wing.

Hungarian President Árpád Göncz
Hungarian writer, translator, agronomist, and liberal politician Árpád Göncz served as president of Hungary between 2 May 1990 and 4 August 2000


A referendum endorses the country joining Nato (which happens in 1999). The European Union decides to open membership talks with Hungary, which begin in 1998.

2000 - 2005

Ferenc Mádl

President. No Party.

2001 - 2002

In June the parliament backs a controversial status law which entitles Hungarians who are living in Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, and Slovenia to a special identity document which allows them temporarily to work, study, and claim healthcare in Hungary.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's first term of office ends the following year in election defeat. He loses another election in 2006 and later vows never to lose another. He returns to power in 2010.

2003 - 2004

Another referendum, this time in April 2003, overwhelmingly approves Hungary's membership of an enlarged European Union. However, turnout is only forty-six per cent. In May 2004 the country is one of ten new states to join the EU.

Czechia, Hungary, and Poland join Nato in 1999
On 6 May 1992, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia (the Visegrád Triangle) signed a declaration in which they announced joint efforts to become members of Nato, and on 12 March 1999, the three countries officially entered the organisation to complete the first stage of Nato's enlargement following the end of the Cold War

2005 - 2010

László Sólyom

President. No Party.


Great and lasting damage is done to the country's left wing parties when it becomes apparent that Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány has admitted that his left-wing party has lied in order to win the most recent elections. Street protests erupt against the government, and the path is left open for a strong right-wing resurgence, which it uses by winning the 2010 elections.

2010 - 2012

Pál Schmitt

President (to Apr 2012). Fedesz-MPSz.


László Kövér

Acting president (Apr-May). Fedesz-MPSz.

2012 - 2022

János Áder

President (from May 2012). Fedesz-MPSz.


In mid-October Hungary fences off its border with Croatia in an attempt to halt the flow of refugees heading into Europe from the military conflict zones in Syria and Afghanistan. The effort pushes the flow westwards so that it cuts directly through tiny Slovenia. In November it too is forced to fence off the migration path on the Croatian border.

The Balkans migration trail subsequently sees a large drop in numbers, with smugglers and other routes becoming preferred instead. Germany voluntarily takes a large number of migrants, although the decision backfires somewhat in subsequent years.

Hungary's 2015 border fence
In 2015 Hungary's government announced that its new anti-immigration border fence was ninety-nine per cent complete, having directly accused neighbouring Croatia of purposefully directing refugees towards the Hungarian border


Via his party's grip on the Hungarian parliament, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán grants himself indefinite power to rule by decree in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. There is no sunset clause to the act, so the country's state of emergency remains in force until the government says so (an effective route towards dictatorship).

Changes to the criminal code mean that the publication of facts which interfere with the 'successful protection' of the public could be punished by five years in prison - a clear threat to journalists and free journalism. Orbán now also wants to control the running of local municipalities through a process of supervising the decisions of directly-elected leaders.

2022 - 2024

Katalin Novák

First female president. Fedesz-MPSz. Resigned.


On 15 September the European parliament states that Hungary can no longer be considered a full democracy. The statement is a powerful - albeit symbolic - vote against Viktor Orbán's government. He is battling to persuade the European Commission to release 4.64 billion euros in Covid recovery funds, which have been frozen for more than a year due to his own rowing back from democratic norms.

Viktor Orban of Hungary
Second-time prime minister of Hungary, from 2010 Viktor Orbán led an authoritarian right-wing government which rolled back the clock on post-Soviet era reforms in the country, concentrating power in his own hands


In an unusual defeat for Viktor Orbán's government, his Fedesz-MPSz president, Katalin Novák, announces her resignation from office on 10 February 2024. Controversy has erupted in regard to her decision to pardon a man who had been convicted of helping to cover up a sex abuse case at a children’s home. She apologises and steps down.

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