To a visitor who learns a bit of Hungarian history one of its most memorable aspects is the amount of catastrophic military defeats the nation has suffered on a seemingly recurrent basis throughout the centuries.
In 1240 the catastrophic Mongol Invasion decimated the nation. Then 1526 where they succumbed to devastating defeat at Mohacs against the Turks and saw it repeated again at Buda a mere fifteen years later. In 1711 the War of Independence against the Habsburgs ended in calamity.
In somewhat the same manner, the 1848 Revolution brought yet another loss at the hands of the Habsburgs (with a major assist from the Russians). Then there was World War I which involved more than just lost battles, it also saw the nation’s finest men disappear into the maelstrom and the nation nearly disappeared with them as Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory in the aftermath.
Less than twenty-five years later, caught between the Nazis and Soviets, the Hungarian people were among one of many European nations consumed by the final violent vortex during the death throes of the Second World War’s final days. Finally, a decisive blow delivered by the Soviet Union brought the 1956 Revolution to its knees.
An outside observer flabbergasted by all these military calamities and historic misfortunes might wonder how Hungary even exists at all today. Or the same outsider might marvel at the nation’s resilience to rise again and again from the ashes, to remake itself anew and regenerate a cultural life that has been the envy of Eastern Europe.
It says something of the Hungarian people’s character that they have shown not just the will to survive, but also thrive. The subtitle of journalist Paul Lendvai’s eminently readable popular history of Hungary perhaps says it best, “One Thousand Years of Victory In Defeat.”
And no place in Hungary is more reflective of that phrase “Victory in Defeat” then they city of Eger and the siege it suffered in 1552.
written by CHRIS WILKINSON
edited by CHRIS KOVACS
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