The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat

The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat

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Overview

The Hungarians is the most comprehensive, clear-sighted, and absorbing history ever of a legendarily proud and passionate but lonely people. Much of Europe once knew them as "child-devouring cannibals" and "bloodthirsty Huns." But it wasn't long before the Hungarians became steadfast defenders of the Christian West and fought heroic freedom struggles against the Tatars (1241), the Turks (16-18th centuries), and, among others, the Russians (1848-49 and 1956). Paul Lendvai tells the fascinating story of how the Hungarians, despite a string of catastrophes and their linguistic and cultural isolation, have survived as a nation-state for more than 1,000 years.

Lendvai, who fled Hungary in 1957, traces Hungarian politics, culture, economics, and emotions from the Magyars' dramatic entry into the Carpathian Basin in 896 to the brink of the post-Cold War era. Hungarians are ever pondering what being Hungarian means and where they came from. Yet, argues Lendvai, Hungarian national identity is not only about ancestry or language but also an emotional sense of belonging. Hungary's famous poet-patriot, Sándor Petofi, was of Slovak descent, and Franz Liszt felt deeply Hungarian though he spoke only a few words of Hungarian. Through colorful anecdotes of heroes and traitors, victors and victims, geniuses and imposters, based in part on original archival research, Lendvai conveys the multifaceted interplay, on the grand stage of Hungarian history, of progressivism and economic modernization versus intolerance and narrow-minded nationalism.

He movingly describes the national trauma inflicted by the transfer of the historic Hungarian heartland of Transylvania to Romania under the terms of the Treaty of Trianon in 1920—a trauma that the passing of years has by no means lessened. The horrors of Nazi and Soviet Communist domination were no less appalling, as Lendvai's restrained account makes clear, but are now part of history.

An unforgettable blend of eminent readability, vibrant humor, and meticulous scholarship, The Hungarians is a book without taboos or prejudices that at the same time offers an authoritative key to understanding how and why this isolated corner of Europe produced such a galaxy of great scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691119694
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 08/08/2004
Pages: 584
Sales rank: 849,368
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Paul Lendvai is a leading European journalist and a senior television commentator with ORF, the Austrian public broadcasting corporation. Since 1973 he has been editor in chief and copublisher of the Vienna-based international quarterly Europäische Rundschau. The recipient of numerous prizes for his writings and journalism, he is the author of ten books, including Blacklisted: A Journalist's Life in Central Europe (St. Martin's), Eagles in Cobwebs: Nationalism and Communism in the Balkans, and Anti-Semitism without the Jews: Communist Eastern Europe (both Doubleday).

Table of Contents

Foreword to the English Edition page xi
Introduction 1
1."Heathen Barbarians" overrun Europe: Evidence from St Gallen 7
2.Land Acquisition or Conquest? The Question of Hungarian Identity 12
3.From Magyar Mayhem to the Christian Kingdom of the rp ds 27
4.The Struggle for Continuity and Freedom 38
5.The Mongol Invasion of 1241 and its Consequences 49
6.Hungary's Rise to Great Power Status under Foreign Kings 62
7.The Heroic Age of the Hunyadis and the Turkish Danger 75
8.The Long Road to the Catastrophe of Moh cs 86
9.The Disaster of Ottoman Rule 94
10.Transylvania-the Stronghold of Hungarian Sovereignty 106
11.G bor Bethlen-Vassal, Patriot and European 114
12.Zrinyi or Zrinski? One Hero for Two Nations 126
13.The Kuruc Leader Th k ly: Adventurer or Traitor? 137
14.Ferenc R k czi's Fight for Freedom from the Habsburgs 145
15.Myth and Historiography: an Idol through the Ages 155
16.Hungary in the Habsburg Shadow 160
17.The Fight Against the "Hatted King" 177
18.Abbot Martinovics and the Jacobin Plot 183
19.Count Istv n Sz chenyi and the "Reform Era": the "Greatest Hungarian" 191
20.Lajos Kossuth and S ndor Pet fi: Symbols of 1848 206
21.Victories, Defeat and Collapse: the Lost War of Independence, 1849 222
22.Kossuth the Hero versus "Judas" G rgey: "Good" and "Bad" in Sacrificial Mythology 242
23.Who was Captain Gusev? Russian "Freedom Fighters" between Minsk and Budapest 260
24.Elisabeth, Andr ssy and Bismarck: Austria and Hungary on the Road to Reconciliation 266
25.Victory in Defeat: the Compromise and the Consequences of Dualism 281
26.Total Blindness: The Hungarian Sense of Mission and the Nationalities 299
27.The "Golden Age" of the Millennium: Modernization with Drawbacks 310
28."Magyar Jew or Jewish Magyars" A Unique Symbiosis 329
29."Will Hungary be German or Magyars" The Germans' Peculiar Role 348
30.From the Great War to the "Dictatorship of Despair": the Red Count and Lenin's Agent 356
31.The Admiral on a White Horse: Trianon and the Death Knell of St Stephen's Realm 373
32.Adventurers, Counterfeiters, Claimants to the Throne: Hungary as Troublemaker in the Danube Basin 389
33.Marching in Step with Hitler: Triumph and Fall. From the Persecution of Jews to Mob Rule 406
34.Victory in Defeat: 1945-1990 427
35."Everyone is a Hungarian": Geniuses and Artists 466
Summing-up 504
Notes 508
Chronology of Significant Events in Hungarian History 533
Index 557

What People are Saying About This

Istvan Deak

This brief narrative of Hungarian history, elegantly translated into English, is written with verve, humor, profound insights, and just the right degree of cynicism. It well explains the dilemma of a respectable old state squeezed between more powerful neighbors, the contradictions between individual genius and repeated national failure, and the recurring tragic conflicts between the defense of nationhood and messianic nationalism. It is supplemented with fascinating essays on, for instance, the complexities of Jewish and German assimilation into the Hungarian nation.
Istvan Deak, Columbia University

From the Publisher

"This brief narrative of Hungarian history, elegantly translated into English, is written with verve, humor, profound insights, and just the right degree of cynicism. It well explains the dilemma of a respectable old state squeezed between more powerful neighbors, the contradictions between individual genius and repeated national failure, and the recurring tragic conflicts between the defense of nationhood and messianic nationalism. It is supplemented with fascinating essays on, for instance, the complexities of Jewish and German assimilation into the Hungarian nation."—István Deák, Columbia University

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Lendvai has written a standard-setting work, always at the highest level of historical research yet so eminently readable, so entertaining—only a journalist out of passion with profound knowledge of history is able to write in this way. . . . Lendvai's presentation of the thousand years of Hungarian history in Europe is not only comprehensive, it is also just.

Der Spiegel

When Paul Lendvai, the indefatigable observer of Eastern Europe, writes a book, he has in general something exciting to relate. . . . Lendvai's book is a well-constructed mixture of historical facts, political judgments, and cultural anecdotes.

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