One of the oldest countries in Europe, the Republic of Hungary is nestled within the heart of Central Europe, landlocked by seven other countries, Austria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. This small country of just over 93,000 square kilometers is home to over 20 million people, as of October 2011. It is a country divided into nineteen counties or “megyek,” 23 urban counties and one capital city or “favaros.” Its language, Hungarian is quite unique and its culture very distinct, spanning a development of almost 1,100 years. It is said the original settlers of Hungary are Magyars, who were also the ancestors of the Estonians and the Finns. They used to live in Asia, particularly in the area now occupied by Russia. Although part of its most recent past is very bloody, Hungary is now a peaceful nation, part of the Schengen area and noted for its hospitality. Hungary has hundreds of mineral springs that are sought after for their therapeutic benefits; where Lake Balaton, the largest freshwater lake in Central Europe is located and where you can find ancient Roman ruins standing side by side Turkish monuments. Hungary’s capital, Budapest, is considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and aptly called the Pearl of the Danube. A Christian nation, Hungary became a bulwark of the Turks, fell prey to the communist regime after the Second World War, endured a short-lived but very bloody civil uprising in 1956 that turned its history and now a member of the European Union.
In this Country Profile
:: Background of Hungary ::
Before the Magyars came to occupy the Carpathian Basin, there was already evidence of human settlement in the area some 350,000 years back. The Romans ruled vast regions in Europe since the first century BC and were there to wield their mighty power for over four centuries. A series of invasions by different tribes have either plundered or made contributions to the progress of the region that became the Hungary of today. Hungary even became the headquarters of Attila the Hun when he ruled over the Balkans, Gaul and Northern Italy until his death in 453.
Hungary came under the rule of different empires from mid-1200s up to the late 1800s. There were the Mongols, then the Turks and the Habsburgs. There were invasions, in-fighting and revolts during these periods in the history of Hungary, as well as divisions in the country. The autocratic rule exercised by these empires created unrest in the hearts of the Hungarians, including the revolt against the Habsburgs in 1848 to 1849, although they were defeated with the help of the Russian army. A compromise was reached with the Habsburgs in 1867, with the monarchy centered both in Vienna and in Pest-Buda, and an industrial revolution started to lift the economy of Hungary. By 1873 Obuda, Buda and Pest were united to form Budapest. It was also during this time that an underground railway in Hungary, the first in continental Europe, began operation.
Germany began to lose power by 1918 and from 1920 to 1940 began to return occupied territories back to Hungary but again occupied the country in 1944. The Russians liberated Hungary from the Nazis in 1945 but then took over the ruling of the country and Communism governed the nation from then until 1956. The citizens suffered different forms of abuse under the dictatorship of Josef Stalin.
What started as a mass student protest on October 23, 1956 became a full-fledged civil uprising against the government of Hungary and the policies imposed by the Soviets. Freedom fighters, members of the national army and ordinary citizens joined forces with the students. The revolution lasted for close to nine months but it became the turning point in Hungary’s history. It was doubly significant because the people toppled the 30-foot high bronze statue of Josef Stalin that was erected in an area where once stood a church. It was demolished just so the statue can be erected in its place. Only the boots of the statue remained, and became a constant reminder of what happened on that fateful day. There were thousands of casualties during the Hungarian Revolt but it created enough noise and international notice, even if the Hungarians were defeated initially and thousands fled the country.
The Communist Party gave up their rule voluntarily over Hungary in 1990 and a multi-party parliamentary democracy was put in place. The Soviet Army also left Hungary during this period and by 1999, Hungary was already a full member of NATO and the EU by 2004.
:: Geography of Hungary ::
Hungary is located in Central Europe, right in the middle of the Carpathian Basin and landlocked by its border countries. It covers the main land routes between the Mediterranean Basin and Ukraine and the route between the Balkan Peninsula and Western Europe, making its position very strategic. Geographically, its coordinates are 47° 00’ north and 20° 00’ east.
Hungary covers a total land mass of 93,028 square kilometers with about three percent or 3,420 square kilometers of water surface. Land comprises the rest of the area, for a total of 89,608 kilometers. The area Hungary occupies is only a bit smaller than the state of Indiana in the United States.
This landlocked country has a boundary that totals 2,185 kilometers shared with seven other European countries. Its longest border is shared with Slovakia, for 676 kilometers, followed by Romania, with 433 kilometers and with Austria for 366 kilometers. Hungary also shares border with Croatia for 329 kilometers and with Serbia for 166 kilometers. Its shorter borders are shared with Ukraine and Slovenia for 103 and 102 kilometers, respectively.
Hungary has a relatively even temperate climate characterized by winters that are cold, humid and cloudy. Summers in Hungary are normally tolerably warm.
Being located in the depression called the Carpathian Basin or the Pannonian Basin, Hungary is relatively flat, with gently rolling plains for over half of its total land area. The northern portion of the country has hills and low mountains of volcanic origin that are very fertile and suitable for wine growing.
While the lowest point, the Tisza River is still 78 meters above sea level, the Kékes, which is the highest point in the country rises to a height of about 1,015 meters. It is located in the northern region of Hungary and forms part of the Mátra mountain range. It got its name from its peculiar bluish tint, as “kék” in Hungarian means blue and “kékes” simply means bluish in the vernacular.
Hungary is blessed with a large expanse of arable land with fertile soils for viticulture and other forms of agriculture. It also has deposits of natural gas, coal and bauxite.
Nearly half of the land area in Hungary is arable and 2.06% of it is planted with permanent crops. The balance, including pastures and meadows is allocated for other uses, including organic farming.
There are no natural hazards that plague Hungary. The only one to look out for is the possible toxic contamination of some areas in Ajka as there was an aluminum waste spill in the area in October of 2010.
Current Environmental Issues
Hungary is bracing for some large expenses to meet the requirements imposed by the European Union to upgrade the country’s standards in air, soil and water pollution, as well as its energy efficiency and waste management systems.
International Environmental Agreements
Not one of the international environmental agreements that it had signed had been ratified by Hungary. It had entered agreements concerning air pollution and its derivatives – air pollution-nitrogen oxides, persistent organic pollutants, sulfur 85, sulfur 94, and volatile organic compounds. Hungary also signed agreements on biodiversity, climate change, including climate change-Kyoto protocol, Antarctic Treaty, hazardous wastes, law of the sea, ozone layer protection, wetlands, whaling, desertification, endangered species, marine dumping, ship pollution and environmental modification.
:: People of Hungary ::
Citizens of Hungary are called Hungarians, which can be used as a noun or as adjective. They are also called Magyars, from the Hungarian word “magyarok,” an ethnic group that is indigenous to Hungary. They have several sub-groups of ethnicity, distinguished by their cultural and linguistic characteristics. These include the Jassic, the Palóc, the Székely and the Csángó. The locals called themselves Magyars while foreigners call the people from Hungary by their nationality – Hungarians.
According to population estimates done in July 2011, there are 9,976,062 inhabitants in Hungary. As of the latest count (October 2011), the population is a little over 10 million. Population growth is estimated at -0.17% for 2011, with the fertility rate recording 1.4 births for every woman. Net migration is estimated to be 1.39 for every one thousand residents.
The majority of the population of Hungary belongs to the 15 to 64 age group, slightly skewed to the female side of the population at 3,444,450. The males account for 3,361,538, representing 68.2%. In the 0 to 14 age category, the males slightly outnumber the females with 767,824 versus 721,242. This is equivalent to 14.9% of the total population. For the elderly belonging to the 65 years and over age bracket, the female once again outnumber the males, with a total of 1,058,582 as against only 622,426 males. The total makes up 16.9% of the total population for 2011.
The median age for the whole of Hungary is 40.2 years, with the females averaging 42.8 years versus 38.1 years is the average for the males.
Birth and Death Rates
According to demographic estimates done in 2011, the birth rate per 1,000 members of the population is about 9.6 while the death rate is placed at 12.68 per one thousand residents.
For the total population is the sex ratio is slightly in favor of the males although it is not by much, at 0.91 male for every female. At birth and for those under 15 years of age, the ratio is 1.057 males and 1.06 males, respectively. The ratio becomes lower in the 15 to 64 years and for those 65 years and over, registering only 0.98 males and 0.57 males for each age group, respectively.
Despite being a developed country, there is still an average of 13 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births in Hungary, according to available data from 2008. Infant mortality rate averages 5.31 for every 1,000 live births for the whole country. Breaking it down by gender, there are 5.57 male infant deaths for every 1,000 live births while the estimate is about 5.04 female infant deaths for every 1,000 live births.
Life Expectancy at Birth
Life expectancy in Hungary is high, with an average of 74.79 for the total population. By gender, the women outlive the men by at least seven years, averaging 78.76 years as against the males whose average is only 71.04 years.
Adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Hungary is quite low a 0.1%, as of the 2009 estimates. There are about 3,000 people living with the disease in Hungary. From the same estimate, the number of deaths as a result of HIV/AIDS is less than 200.
According to the census done in 2001, the percentage of Hungarians living in the country is equivalent to about 92.3%. There are also some Roma that comprise about 1.9%. About 5.8% of the population is of unknown ethnicities.
The Roman Catholics dominate at 51.9%. Other denominations include Calvinist at 15.9% while 3% are of the Lutheran faith. Greek Catholics make up 2.6% while other citizens follow other Christian religions, representing 1%. Others or about 11.1% did not specify if they are following any religion while 14.5% of the population maintains that they are not affiliated with any religion.
The mother tongue for the majority of inhabitants is Hungarian, which comprises about 93.6% of the population while others or 6.4% speak other languages according to the 2001 census.
Hungary’s citizens are highly literate, with almost the whole population or 99.4% of the inhabitants aged 15 and over can read and write. Students stay in school for at least 15 years.
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