The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat

Princeton University Press
2
Free sample

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.

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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).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Apr 3, 2014
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Pages
584
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ISBN
9781400851522
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Australia & New Zealand
History / Europe / Austria & Hungary
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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On October 23, 1956, a popular uprising against Soviet rule swept through Hungary like a force of nature, only to be mercilessly crushed by Soviet tanks twelve days later. Only now, fifty years after those harrowing events, can the full story be told. This book is a powerful eyewitness account and a gripping history of the uprising in Hungary that heralded the future liberation of Eastern Europe.

Paul Lendvai was a young journalist covering politics in Hungary when the uprising broke out. He knew the government officials and revolutionaries involved. He was on the front lines of the student protests and the bloody street fights and he saw the revolutionary government smashed by the Red Army. In this riveting, deeply personal, and often irreverent book, Lendvai weaves his own experiences with in-depth reportage to unravel the complex chain of events leading up to and including the uprising, its brutal suppression, and its far-reaching political repercussions in Hungary and neighboring Eastern Bloc countries. He draws upon exclusive interviews with Russian and former KGB officials, survivors of the Soviet backlash, and relatives of those executed. He reveals new evidence from closed tribunals and documents kept secret in Soviet and Hungarian archives. Lendvai's breathtaking narrative shows how the uprising, while tragic, delivered a stunning blow to Communism that helped to ultimately bring about its demise.



One Day That Shook the Communist World is the best account of these unprecedented events.

The Jews of Hungary is the first comprehensive history in any language of the unique Jewish community that has lived in the Carpathian Basin for eighteen centuries, from Roman times to the present. Noted historian and anthropologist Raphael Patai, himself a native of Hungary, tells in this pioneering study the fascinating story of the struggles, achievements, and setbacks that marked the flow of history for the Hungarian Jews. He traces their seminal role in Hungarian politics, finance, industry, science, medicine, arts, and literature, and their surprisingly rich contributions to Jewish scholarship and religious leadership both inside Hungary and in the Western world. In the early centuries of their history Hungarian Jews left no written works, so Patai had to piece together a picture of their life up to the sixteenth century based on documents and reports written by non-Jewish Hungarians and visitors from abroad. Once Hungarian Jewish literary activity began, the sources covering the life and work of the Jews rapidly increased in richness. Patai made full use of the wealth of information contained in the monumental eighteen-volume series of the Hungarian Jewish Archives and the other abundant primary sources available in Latin, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Yiddish, and Turkish, the languages in vogue in various periods among the Jews of Hungary. In his presentation of the modern period he also examined the literary reflection of Hungarian Jewish life in the works of Jewish and non-Jewish Hungarian novelists, poets, dramatists, and journalists. Patai's main focus within the overall history of the Hungarian Jews is their culture and their psychology. Convinced that what is most characteristic of a people is the culture which endows its existence with specific coloration, he devotes special attention to the manifestations of Hungarian Jewish talent in the various cultural fields, most significantly literature, the arts, and scholarship. Based on the available statistical data Patai shows that from the nineteenth century, in all fields of Hungarian culture, Jews played leading roles not duplicated in any other country. Patai also shows that in the Hungarian Jewish culture a specific set of psychological motivations had a highly significant function. The Hungarian national character trait of emphatic patriotism was present in an even more fervent form in the Hungarian Jewish mind. Despite their centuries-old struggle against anti-Semitism, and especially from the nineteenth century on, Hungarian Jews remained convinced that they were one hundred percent Hungarians, differing in nothing but denominational variation from the Catholic and Protestant Hungarians. This mindset kept them apart and isolated from the Jewries of the Western world until overtaken by the tragedy of the Holocaust in the closing months of World War II.
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