The oldest preserved text in Hungarian is a burial date from about 1150, while the oldest poem dates from the 1290’s. In the 16th century, national literature was created, and the first complete Bible translation by Gáspár Károlyi became important for the Hungarian literary language. The soldier and Renaissance poet Bálint Balassi is still widely quoted today. Likewise, the Kuruc songs are still sung, a popular lyric from the Rákóczid dynasty’s freedom war in the 17th and 18th centuries.
- Countryaah: Population and demographics of Hungary, including population pyramid, density map, projection, data, and distribution.
During the Enlightenment, a linguistic renewal program was started, which developed into a nationwide movement in which writers and scientists participated. The result was the modern Hungarian language with countless new words. Mihály Csokonai Vitéz’s poetry is a synthesis of the old and modern Hungarian language. In 1821 József Katona published the historical play “Bánk Bán”. Since the 1830’s, this work has been the Hungarian national drama, and the opera version with Ferenc Erkel’s romantic composition is still played every year. In 1823, the poet Ferenc Kölcsey wrote the text of the Hungarian national anthem.
The romance of Hungarian literature coincided with a period of reform characterized by economic development, national freedom striving and political optimism. The great lyricist of romance was Mihály Vörösmarty. The novelist József Eötvös was a pioneer of realistic literature. Revolutionary poet Sándor Petőfi had a popular tone and strong political direction. János Arany was a quiet lyricist, whose later poems were among the most important precursors of modern poetry. The novelist Mór Jókai, with his romantic works, was the comforter of the nation after the War of Independence, and Kálmán Mikszáth prepared with ballad-like novels and realistic novels the modern prose that developed around the turn of the century.
In 1908 Nyugat (‘Väster’), a literary magazine, was founded, which until 1941 had a leading role in Hungarian literature. It stood for radical bourgeois humanism and was open to all new literary trends. Every significant writer during this period published in Nyugat. The novelist Zsigmond Móricz debuted in Nyugat, and his early naturalistic novels with peasant themes were followed by increasingly realistic and socially critical works. Significant impressionists were the poet and novelist Margit Kaffka as well as the poets Árpád Tóth, Mihály Babits and Dezső Kosztolányi. The loneliness of the big city was portrayed by Attila József and the lovely dreamy Budapest atmosphere of Gyula Krúdy. After his avant-garde period in Paris, Gyula Illyés represented a thought lyric with pure folk style and, like László Németh, the popular national ideas. After Nyugat several significant new magazines emerged. Magyar Csillag (‘Hungarian star’) continued Nyugat’s struggle for a broad anti-fascist front within the Hungarian intelligentsia.
After the communist takeover, the literature was also characterized by official dogmatic views and administrative political control. The best writers were not published or silenced by themselves. From the second half of the 1960’s, some liberalization took place, and poets such as Sándor Weöres, Ágnes Nemes Nagy, Gyula Illyés and János Pilinszky were re-published. This period was characterized by innovative thinking, diversity and abundance of high-level literature. The prose was particularly distinguished. Géza Ottlik, who already published himself in Nyugat, and Miklós Mészöly broke with the traditional novel construction. In their tracks a new generation followed, among others. Péter Nádas and Péter Esterházy. The older writers Tibor Déry, Gyula Illyés and István Örkény were very productive.
The most well-known author in today’s Hungary, Imre Kertész, has portrayed his life and experiences in concentration camps in powerful novels and autobiographical works. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002. Among writers at the beginning of the 21st century may be mentioned also the German-speaking Terézia Mora.
Drama and theater
National endeavors came under the influence of the enlightenment ideas in the theater area during the latter part of the 18th century. In 1790, a Hungarian theater group began appearing in various premises in Pest, mainly with German translated plays. In 1837 the National Theater was founded, which in 1840 was given the status of a national stage and which would play an important role in the reform efforts that set their mark on the era. Comedies with social tendencies were written by Ignác Nagy and Károly Obernyik.
At the turn of the 1900, the theater’s position was weak, but through Sándor Hevese’s care Ibsen, Strindberg, Shaw and several other modern playwrights were presented to the Hungarian audience. It provided a significant boost to the domestic drama, which flourished with names such as Ferenc Molnár and Ferenc Herczeg. Molnár’s witty, urban and technologically brilliant comedies became international successes.
The time after World War I encouraged the escape of reality. However, the so popular cabarets in Budapest gave room for some social criticism. The operettas have also remained a Hungarian specialty. After World War II, a large number of writers returned from the country in protest against fascism. Béla Balázs and Tibor Déry. But party dictation has long controlled the development of the theater, a trend that was first broken in the 1960’s, when Géza Páskándi’s and István Örkény’s absurdist plays and András Sütő’s historical plays signaled a new spirit.
The first Hungarian film company was probably Projectograph (1908), which, under the direction of cinema owner Mór Ungerleider (1872–1955), recorded journal films. Only with the addition of the company Hunnia in Budapest in 1911 did regular production of feature films come to fruition in Hungary. Among the directors of the 1910’s were Sándor (later Alexander) Korda and Mihály Kertész (later Michael Curtiz). In March – August 1919, Hungary gained the world’s first nationalized film industry; over a short communist regime, more than 30 films were produced.
The following regime under Admiral Horthy again privatized the film industry but exerted such strong political pressure that many filmmakers left Hungary. Korda, Kertész and Pál Fejős (later Paul Fejos), the film theorist Béla Balázs and actors like Bela Lugosi. The repression and an economic crisis drove many companies into bankruptcy and foreign companies bought a significant proportion of the cinemas.
During the 1930’s and 1940’s, a quota system favored the domestic film at the expense of imports. During World War II, the rapidly expanding film production was surrounded by strict political rules and anti-Semitic laws during the Nazi-friendly right-wing regime. Géza Radványis (1907–86) “Somewhere in Europe” (1947) became Hungary’s first international success in many years. In 1948, the Communist government reintroduced the state-run film industry.
The new Hungarian film generations presented themselves in two waves, the first in the mid-1950’s. Károly Makk (1925–2017) then became known for comedies such as “Lilomfi” (1954), later “My home is my brothel” (1977). Zoltán Fábri broke through in 1956 with “Magister Hannibal” and was twice Oscar nominated in the best foreign film class with “The Guys on Our Street” (1967) and “Maygarok” (1978). Other regina names include György Revesz (1927–2003), Imre Fehér (1926–75) and János Herskó.
The second and more experimental film wave came in the 1960’s. The foremost name was then Miklós Jancsó with internationally acclaimed films such as “Men Without Hope” (1965) and the Cannes Award Winner in 1972, “Red Hymn”. Péter Bacsó (1928–2009) became known for “The Witness” (1969), a political satire that was banned but circulated in pirate copies and was only released ten years later. Most notable, however, is István Szabó, who laid the groundwork for a long-standing international fame with the successful movie “Mefisto” (1981), followed by, among other things. “Hanussen” (1988) and the English-language “Being Julia” (2004). During the 1970’s, Márta Mészarós broke through with “Adoption” (1975) and continued success with “Marie and Julie” (1977) and “Nine Months (1979)”.
Other contemporary names include Pál Gábor (1932–87) with “Vera and Stalin” (1977) and Pál Sándor (born 1939), who won the Silver Bear in Berlin 1976 with “A Strange Role”. In recent decades, Béla Tarr (born 1955) has been noted for formally rigorous films, such as the more than seven hours long “Sátántangó” (1994), “Werkmeisterharmonierna” (2000), “The Man from London” (2007) and “The Turin Horse” who won the Silver Bear in Berlin 2011.
In a later generation there is György Pálfi (born 1974) with his festival-acclaimed “Taxidermia” (2006), but Nimród Antal (born 1973) is undoubtedly the best known name. He became a festival favorite in 2003 with the thriller comedy “Control”, which gave him a ticket to Hollywood. the horror films “Vacancy” (2007) and “Predators” (2010). László Nemes (born 1977) won an Oscar for best foreign film with “Saul’s son” (2015).
Hungary produces 15-20 feature films annually.
Hungary’s art history reaches beyond the limits of the current state formation. Several well-known medieval artists came for example. from Kolozsvár (Cluj in present Romania). Italian by Mattias In the court of Corvinus, Renaissance art was introduced north of the Alps. Among other things, the book painting was of a high class. At the beginning of the 16th century, in Hungary it seemed only to the initials, the Master knew MS (“The Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth”, Budapest), a contemporary of Dürer. After the national defeat in 1526, a long recession followed, which lasted for almost 200 years. A portrait painter with a European career during the first half of the 18th century was Ádám Mányoki.
Among the national renaissance of the 19th century was a magnificent historical painting of, among other things. Viktor Madarász, Bertalan Székely and Gyula Benczúr. Wide repertoire and great influence had the European reputation Mihály Munkácsy. Innovative landscape painter was László Paál, who in Paris was close to Carl Fredrik Hill. The 1896 Colony of Artists in Nagybánya (in present-day Romania) meant for the art of Hungary the definitive break from the academic tradition. Leading was the painter Károly Ferenczy. With their unique symbolist paintings, Kosztka Csontváry has gradually gained great fame.
The 1900’s and 2000’s
The Western European artistic endeavors at the turn of the 1900’s fertilized Hungarian art development. Among the circle of constructivists around the author and artist Lajos Kassák were among others. László Moholy-Nagy who was also active at Bauhaus in Germany and later in the USA. In the early 1900’s, many Hungarian artists achieved success outside the country: sculptors Étienne Béothy, Étienne Hajdu, Zoltán Kemény, painters Sigismond Kolos-Vary, Endre Nemes, Victor Vasarely, Nicolas Schöffer, Simon Hantaï, graphic artists Lajos Szalgy Buday.
During the interwar period, the painters portrayed everyday life in the metropolis and in the countryside with the help of powerfully imaginative design language. An independent abstract painting was born in the shadow of the Second World War (Dezsö Kornis, Lajos Vajda, Tamás Losonczy, Ferenc Martyn). From 1946 until the communist takeover of 1948, the abstract artists exhibited in their own gallery in Budapest.
Socialist realism then became the only officially permitted expression of the visual arts until the late 1960’s, when it became possible for politically unrelated artists to participate in prominent group events. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, several prominent Hungarian artists linked to international postmodernist ideals (Imre Bak, István Harasztÿ, Ilona Keserú, Miklós Erdély, István Nádler).
Parallel to the spread of Christianity in Hungary in the 11th century, churches and monasteries began to be erected around the country. A prominent example is the Romanesque cathedral in Pécs, at the end of the 11th century expanded to a three-tiered basilica with towers in all four corners, a five-tiered crypt and rich sculptural decor. The late Romanesque church in Ják, with its richly sculpted western portal, is also famous. During the first half of the 13th century many Gothic cathedrals were built, but most were later destroyed under the rule of the Turks or rebuilt in Baroque style. The medieval cities often revolved around castles, as in Esztergom, the archbishop’s seat from the 11th century.
The Renaissance reached Hungary already in the mid-14th century through the Italian artists and craftsmen who worked at the palace buildings in the royal residence towns of Buda and Visegrád. A prominent example of Hungary’s early Renaissance architecture is the Bakócz Chapel in Esztergom.
With the country’s tri-division in the 16th century, architecture was developed differently in the different parts of the country. In western and central Hungary, castles with square floor plan, corner towers and arcades were erected around the courtyard. The arcades also returned at the townhouses, such as in Sopron and Győr. Castles with crenellated walls were typical of northern Hungary. In Transylvania, a regional renaissance style emerged at the beginning of the 18th century with floral motifs such as wall and ceiling decoration.
Towards the end of the 17th century, a baroque church architecture was developed in western and northern Hungary, which also affected the profane construction. The country’s first baroque castle, in Ráckeve (1702, JL von Hildebrandt), became the role model for castle construction. A famous castle, often called “Hungary’s Versailles” is the genus Esterházy’s castle in Fertöd (1766). Around the middle of the century a more provincial and simplified baroque style with restrained plastic grew, characterized by festoons around the windows. Most examples of this so-called zopf architecture can be found in Eger.
At the beginning of the 19th century, town hall and county residence were erected in a simple classicism. In western Hungary, several castles were built in the same style. Reformed churches also had a classicist design. Following the advent of the double monarchy in 1867, an expansion period, especially noticeable in Budapest, began with a rich eclecticism represented by, among others, Imre Steindl and Miklós Ybl. As a protest against all “imported” architecture, Ödön Lechner created his own design world of oriental and folk elements, applied to eg. The postal savings bank in Budapest. His followers characterized several rural towns, including Kecskemét and Kiskunfélegyháza, with public buildings of the same style.
The post-war socialist realism characterized Hungary’s architecture for only a short period of time. The style derived its classic design language from domestic and Swedish models. Representative examples are several new industrial cities, such as Dunaújváros and Várpalota. Since the Million program with element-built housing areas was interrupted, a lively experimentation began in the 1970’s. Most notable was the so-called organic architecture, with Imre Makovecz as portal figure. After the regime change in 1989, many new churches and church schools are being built. Newly established banks often utilize existing splendor buildings.
The Hov culture in Budapest during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance included both popular tradition and connection to international designs by visiting musicians. A culmination was the music life of King Mattias I in the court of Corvinus during the latter part of the 14th century. With the Turkish conquest of 1526, the foundations of this culture were largely removed. Within the land-owning nobility there were still opportunities to grow dance music, marches etc. The noble house Esterházy is known through Haydn’s service there during the 18th century.
During the Habsburg era, mainly from the 18th century, Hungary’s focus on Viennese culture became stronger, although typical folk features also permeated art music. Towards the end of the century, the typical Hungarian verbun cosplay, a folk-style dance music, culminated in the mid-19th century. From this form of music csárdá music was developed. Hungary’s first internationally renowned composer was Franz (Ferenc) Liszt.
With Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály, Hungary acquired two musician personalities who, from the beginning of the 20th century, passed on the folk musical heritage and in their own works united it with a modern art-musical language. During the communist era, Kodály’s educational efforts were a guide to popular music practice and music creation.
More advanced composers such as György Ligeti and György Kurtág appear to be the foremost Hungarian composers in the post-war generation. A later generation of composers includes László Vidovszky (born 1944), László Sáry (born 1940) and Zoltán Jeney (1943–2019).
The high level of Hungarian music education is maintained through early education and solid conservatory culture, e.g. at the Budapest University College of Music bearing Liszt’s name.
Hungarian folk music is essentially unanimous and diatonic. Bartók and Kodály distinguished between two layers of folk music. An older layer has falling, richly ornamented melodies, which are built on a small pentatonic tone material and performed in relatively free rhythm. A younger layer has longer arcuate melodies in pentatonic scales or bar scales, performed in solid, dance-like rhythm, with a characteristic short-to-long punctuation.
One should also distinguish between the forms of folk music and the “gypsy music” (magyas nut) that emerged during the 19th century in restaurants and inns. This music, which is a combination of Baroque conducting practice and popular genres and styles, is performed by Roma in larger ensembles with several violins, viola, cello or bass, clarinet and the concert chopping board invented by the instrument maker József Schunda (1818-94) in the 1870’s. (cimbaloma); compare gypsy music.
In the countryside, dance music is performed by small ensembles with violin, viola, bass and small chopping board. The shepherds’ instruments were mainly bagpipes (duda) and flutes of various kinds. Citera (citra) is common, formerly also vevlira and clarinet. After a powerful wave of folk music in the 1970’s, the forms of omnipotence became once again a central part of Hungary’s music life.
At the beginning of the 20th century, popular music in Hungary consisted of operettas and the aforementioned “gypsy music” performed in cafes and restaurants. After the Second World War and Hungary’s inclusion in the communist sphere, the climate against popular music became harsher. Operas were still performed sporadically, but otherwise the music was dominated by patriotic songs. After 1956, the tone was somewhat softened and Hungarian jazz, introduced as early as the 20th century, began to spread.
Despite the regime’s resistance, rock music became popular in the early 1960’s. The largest rock groups in the 1960’s and early 1970’s were Illés, Metro and Omega. Increased political pressure against what the regime regarded as subversive cultural expressions hit rock music hard, and among other things. Illés and Metro ceased. Some of the members formed the band Locomotiv GT, which quickly won success and which became very influential in Hungarian rock music.
All songs that would be performed or recorded were inspected by a committee so that they did not contain any ideological deviations. Several rock and disco artists thus produced harmless, sanctioned music. In the 1980’s, however, punk and new wave bands like Beatrice, Bikini and Európa Kiadó came to appeal to the disillusioned youth. The punk band CPg became the first to be sentenced in court for anti-communist activities, and a couple of its members were sentenced to two years in prison.
After the fall of communism in 1989, electronica broke through seriously with groups such as Anima Sound System, Neo and Žagar and artists like Ákos Kovács (born 1968) and Yonderboi (really László Fogarasi, born 1980). Among the most famous in hip hop are Ganxsta Zolee (really Zana Zoltán, born 1966), FankaDeli (really Kőházy Ferenc, born 1983) and Dopeman (really Pityinger László, born 1974). Hip-hop has become especially popular with the Roma population in Hungary.
There are a lot of Hungarian groups playing heavy metal, whose dominant styles are the more extreme death metal and thrash metal. Some such groups, such as Dalriada, Ektomorph and Thy Catafalque, make music with elements of folk music.
The folk dances in Hungary are relatively few and similar. The oldest are ring dances and ring games, usually performed by girls (karikázó). During the Renaissance, soloist dances (legényes) were spread, among shepherds often performed with canes or swords (kanásztánc), and jump dances (ugrós). In the 18th and 19th centuries, recruitment dances (verbunk) and pair dances (csárdás) became popular. The dances all consist of a number of short motifs that combine improvisationally, in close interaction with the music.
After the Second World War, several major professional folk dance ensembles emerged, whose style and repertoire served as an example for ensembles in other countries. Stylized folk dances were grown and spread around the world by Hungarian professional dancers under the name of character dance.
The ballet gained a fixed stage through the opening of the National Theater in 1837. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, the ballet in Hungary achieved success through, among other things, choreographer Gyula Harangozó and dancer and ballet master Ferenc Nádasi. László Seregi and Antal Fodor belong to a later generation of prominent choreographers. Today there are ballet ensembles in Budapest. Pécs, Szeged and Győr.
Historic Hungary was a multicultural state, which influenced the development of Hungarian folk culture. In addition to interaction with the surrounding peoples, the immigration of Germans, Italians and others. has led to impulses that have left traces in the building arts, industries and folk poetry. In addition, there is some influence from the Ottoman dominions during the 16th and 16th centuries. The prevailing feudal system of life traits has favored the creation and preservation of regional distinctive cultures. The analysis of popular culture shows its position between east and west. It applies, among other things. in the settlement: urban structure of central European type in the west, solitary housing in the east; intensive agriculture in the west, extensively in the east. However, the plains of the shepherd’s shepherd culture have no connection to Hungarian ancient nomadism, but are a product of ecological conditions.
In folk music there are different historical layers, of which the gray songs and the pentatone melodies are the oldest. Eastern features are the shamanistic beliefs, the sago hero’s bath in horse’s milk, the goose-footed spinning castle, the witch with iron nose, etc. In the central parts of the country a high-profile late-medieval ballad art was preserved, which also contains Siberian epic elements. A Hungarian feature is the doubled settlement form, a conglomerate of male buildings encircled by barns and stables. Hungarian folk art is an integral part of the European. However, it shows features including in the shepherds’ wood carvings, in the Turkish-influenced embroidery and in the motif richness of ceramics. Special features are also the shepherd’s cape, “szür” and the wide linen trousers in the men’s suit.
For Hungarian food traditions, see Hungarian food.
Football is Hungary’s national sport and the country has proud achievements not least from the 1950’s. During that period, Hungary led developments in world football, partly thanks to big players such as Ferenc Puskás, Nándor Hidegkuti (1922–2002), Sándor Kocsis (1929–79) and József Bozsik (1925–78), and partly through innovative coaches. In the Hungarian national team, the lineup was introduced 3–3–4 with a withdrawn center forward and freer playing roles that preceded the 1970’s “total football”. Hungary was unbeaten during the period May 1950 to July 1954, when surprisingly lost the World Cup final against West Germany (2-3). In addition to the 1954 World Cup silver, Hungary has also taken the World Cup silver 1938 and the Olympic gold in 1952, 1964 and 1968.
Hungary has also achieved great success in swimming, water polo, canoeing, fencing, modern pentathlon, gymnastics, wrestling and boxing. The biggest sports profiles (besides the above mentioned football players) include the fencer Aladár Gerevich (seven Olympic golds 1932-60), boxer László Papp (three Olympic golds 1948-56) and the swimmers Tamás Darnyi (born 1967; four Olympic golds 1988-92) and Krisztina Egerszegi (born 1974; five Olympic golds 1988–96).
The most notable international event is the Hungary Grand Prix, one of the competitions in the Formula 1 World Cup, which is run annually at Hungaroring in Mogyoród just outside Budapest.