Hungary

In the latter years of the ninth century the pagan Magyars made their first permanent settlements in Hungary. Using their new home as a base, they raided large portions of W Europe. In 955 Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, won a great victory over them at Unstrut. This victory checked the advances of the Magyars, and their conversion to Christianity followed this major defeat. It took place in the closing years of the tenth century under Stephen (see Stephen of Hungary) who preached to his subjects, urging them to accept Christianity. From Pope Sylvester II Stephen received the royal crown and title as king of Hungary. When Stephen died in 1038, a sharp reaction set in against Christianity. Later in the eleventh century, however, powerful monarchs gave new support to the Christian Church, and Christianity gained a stronghold in Hungary. The situation changed again when the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 opened the way for their conquest of Hungary. Christianity faced increasing difficulties and lost its privileged position.

In the latter half of the sixteenth century Protestantism made its way into the country. It had been adumbrated by the Hussite movement of the fifteenth century and the resultant translation of the Scriptures into the Hungarian language. Lutheranism made great headway in Hungary after 1525, and many Hungarian students went to Wittenberg for their training in theology. Calvinism later had an impact, particularly among the Magyars, while Lutheranism had the greater appeal for the German and Slavonic peoples of the kingdom. On the other hand, the upper classes, particularly the landed aristocracy, remained loyal to the Roman Catholic Church, and the activities of the Jesuits also helped to keep the Protestants as a minority in Hungary. Not until 1787, in fact, did the Hungarian Protestants gain a degree of freedom, when the Hapsburg Edict of that year either eased or removed entirely the earlier restrictions. Protestants were thereafter given the same civic rights as Roman Catholics.

During the nineteenth century, Protestants in Hungary felt the effects of the evangelical movements which were so influential in Britain, Switzerland, and the USA. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1920 after a short period of communistic control, the religious situation of the nineteenth century was restored, but in 1944 a Nazi regime was created which brought great hardship to both Protestants and Catholics. When Nazis gave way to Communists after World War II, the situation became even worse, and all branches of the Christian Church have suffered severely since 1949.

E. Horn, Christianisme en Hongrie (1906); E. Revesz, S. Kovats, and L. Ravasz, Hungarian Protestantism, Its Past, Present and Future (1927); V. Gsovski (ed.), Church and State Behind the Iron Curtain (1955); R. Tobias, Communist-Christian Encounter in East Europe (1956).