Saturday, August 2, 2014

A brief background of Budapest, Hungary.

The more time we spend walking the streets of Budapest, the more intrigued we become in the fascinating history of the city.  For anyone that wants to dig a little to understand it’s past, you’re rewarded with a rich and sometimes violent history that continues to impact decisions even today.

  • The ‘golden years’ of Hungary -- until the present-day Renaissance of Fancy and I's arrival -- existed between the 1880s and 1914 (the beginning of WWI).  During this period, the Austrian-Hungarian empire (think Hapsburgs) was three times the size of it’s current size and included much of what is now Czech Republic, Slovakia Croatia and Hungary.  In that time period, it was all considered “Hungary”.  Unfortunately, choosing to back the losing side in WWI,  resulted in the Treaty of Trinion (1920) which had a devastating effect on what was considered Hungary.  Still today citizens will complain about it.
    • “The resulting "treaty" lost Hungary an unprecedented 2/3 of her territory, and 1/2 of her total population or 1/3 of her ethnic-Hungarian population. Add to this the loss of all her seaports, up to 90% of her vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure.” (AmericanHungarianFederation.Org).

Best maps I could find.  You're welcome.

  • As recently as 1956 the country was spilling its blood for independence.  There was a fierce, albeit unsuccessful revolt against Communist leadership that resulted in thousands dead but a losing in Communism strict grip that allowed for somewhat greater freedoms compared to other Communist countries.

Protestors tear down the statue of Stalin (
1956 rebellion)
  • USSR collapses in 1989. Yes, it was also the year the Energizer Bunny was released, but let's focus on the Berlin Wall and Hungary finally gaining it's independence from communist control.  To add perspective, the country still celebrates the 16th of June as a national holiday which indicates the final day in 1991 where Russian troops exited Hungary through the Ukranian border.
The sentiment of the older generation appears to straddle the line between “we know things are better without communism” and “but things might have been a little more stable and predictable with communism”.  Of course, modern scholars agree the 'forced stability' was unsustainable.   Yes, I just used "modern scholars" in our classy blog.

Observing the buildings, it's tempting to call some of them ugly and unmaintained.  However, if understood through the lense of Communism, you gain more perspective for what most of Eastern Europe countries endured for an entire generation.  Like many other countries, Hungary was entirely controlled by Communism’s “central-planning economy” where there was no emphasis on how ‘nice’ things might have looked, only functionality.  If you look past the exterior, there is much more to the story.  There existed an entire generation of the population where 'taking initiative', turning a profit, and in general, being capitalistic, was not supported or tolerated.  The exteriors of buildings were quite low on the list of priorities.  Many scholars agree that Budapest is just now able and beginning to invest in its infrastructure and it's aesthetics through the building of new entertainment districts, public parks, etc.

From talking to locals and other expats, you get an strong feeling that Budapest is on the precipice of being a new European juggernaut. While that opinion might be a bit inflated, it's definitely an interesting time to live in Budapest.

It's infrastructure can match most other European capitals with standard of living (constant power, drinkable water, great internet connectivity) but it is still cheap -- normally half the cost of other European countries.  Consequently, it has offices for large MNC like GE, IBM, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard to rattle off a few.

We are continuing to learn a lot of and we'll see what these modern scholars have in store for Budapest over the next few years.

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