Publications of Sabrina P.Ramet

Bozóki A, Simon E. Two Faces of Hungary: From Democratization to Democratic Backsliding. In: P.Ramet S, Hassenstab C, editors. Central and Southeastern Europe Since 1989. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press ; 2019. p. 204-32.

Two Faces of Hungary: From Democratization to Democratic Backsliding

Located in East-Central Europe, Hungary has often found itself at a crossroads of political influences of greater powers as well as of different cultures. Although Hungary enjoyed independence for centuries in its early history, the experience of foreign domination over the last five centuries is one of the defining features of Hungarian public consciousness. Most notably, Hungary was under the control of the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Habsburgs in the eighteenth, nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries and the Soviet Union from 1945 until the regime change in 1989. Therefore, Hungarians had to master the techniques of survival under foreign domination. They learned how to operate informally, under and within formal, rigid rules, which represented the interests of the dominant foreign power. Nonetheless, during its twentieth-century history, Hungary made some genuine albeit short-lived attempts to achieve democracy. First, there was the brief liberal-democratic government of Count Mihály Károlyi in late 1918. A second attempt was made during the semi-democratic coalition government between 1945 and 1947. Finally, Hungary operated as a democracy for twelve remarkable days during the anti-totalitarian revolution of October 1956. The Hungarian revolution was internally successful but was crushed by the intervention of the Soviet Red Army. These shining moments of recent Hungarian history cannot hide the fact that throughout the twentieth century Hungary enjoyed democracy for one decade only, the 1990s.