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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 82,805 65,843 51,900 41
GNI per capita
 US $ 6,330 5,280 4,830 67
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Hungary

Update No: 124 - (28/09/07)

A troubled history
The Hungarians remember the events of 1956 well, even if too young to have personal recollections of them. It is not generally recognised in the West how bitter and violent was the fighting, in which thousands were killed. Thousands were afterwards imprisoned and for years. It was a much more brutal affair than the repression of the Prague Spring in 1968, sinister though that was.

Janos Kadar, the leader of the Hungarian Communist Party, who had backed the uprising initially, turned against it when the Soviet tanks moved in, an event that saved the day for the communists for a few more decades, but spelt the intellectual bankruptcy of the system. He had Imre Nagy, its leader, executed, even though Khrushchev did not request it. He mutated again into becoming a reformer, initiating a new economic policy, tolerating private business, which in effect admitted that capitalism was superior to socialism. 

Hungarians also recall what happened in 1848, It had been the Russians who meted out repression then too, albeit Tsarist forces rather than Soviet ones. As far as Central Europe is concerned Russia means trouble, nowhere more so than in Poland and Hungary. 

The Hungarian Social Democrats stand out
It is doubtless for this reason that the Hungarian Social Democrats, the heirs to the communists, are refusing to join with other social democrats in Central and Eastern Europe in denouncing the new anti-missile defences that the US is planning for Poland and the Czech Republic. Ostensibly they are aimed at Iran and North Korea. But everybody in that part of the world assumes that Russia is the real opponent. 

That is fine for nearly all Hungarians, even ex-communist ones. They never want to be dictated to by Moscow ever again.
In January, the United States asked the Czech Republic and Poland to station an X-band radar and 10 interceptor missiles respectively for its missile shield, that the US says is designed to protect against so called rogue states such as Iran. The countries entered into bilateral talks despite the project's lukewarm reception across Europe and Russia's outright hostility to it. 

The Central European Social Democratic politicians, in Austria, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, agreed in their statement that the deployment "has sparked tensions between the US and Russia" and "there is a threat of a new arms race." 

They also demanded that a debate on the project be held at European Union level. "It is not possible that we sidetrack ... the idea of common European security," said Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. "And it will be very bad if Europe is divided on this issue as it had been in Iraq's case." 

However, Hungarian Socialists, also present at the regional Social Democratic gathering, refrained from signing the statement. The party's Deputy Chairman, Hungarian Defence Minister Imre Szekeres, said that Europe must defend itself from threats. "If we do it in NATO or individual members of the alliance decide on cooperating in this area we recognize their right to do so," he said.

Gyurscany on the sidelines 
Premier Gyurscany is non-commital about the matter. He is thankful for the Carpathian mountains that make the issue largely irrelevant for Hungary. Who seriously imagines that the Russians want to start lobbing missiles into Central Europe? 

Gyurscany has plenty enough on his plate at home, where things are not going too well. His Social Democrats were returned last year, but after a mendacious campaign that he owned up to at the subsequent party conference: "We lied morning, noon and night."

It is difficult to imagine any Western leader getting away with it. But Hungary is not yet a full-fledged democracy, in which hypocrisy reaches truly refined forms. For who believes any politician to be entirely truthful all the time, except the losers.

Gyurscany the saviour?
The Hungarians are expecting Gyurscany to clear up the mess created by the previous Social-Democratic administration, which allowed the budget deficit to soar to nearly 10% of GDP. He is reining in the public finances, with belt-tightening all round. 

He has a good deal of business acumen to judge from his record. He made a pile out of being leader of the Young Communists under Kadar by selling off state assets to himself for a song and then converting them into well-run hotels at Lake Balaton and in the mountains. He may be a rogue and a compound cheat, but he is a clever one, who is also a genuine patriot. The Hungarians feel that they could do worse than let him get on with it.

But the opposition party, Fidesz, is surely well-poised to win the mantle next time round.

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