Hungary: Foreign Domination

Foreign Domination

After the death of Louis I, a series of foreign rulers succeeded: Sigismund (later Holy Roman Emperor), son-in-law of Louis; Albert II of Austria, son-in-law of Sigismund; and Ladislaus III of Poland (Uladislaus I of Hungary). During their reigns the Turks began to advance through the Balkans, defeating the Hungarians and their allies at Kosovo Field (1389), Nikopol (1396), and Varna (1444). John Hunyadi, acting after 1444 as regent for Albert II's son, Ladislaus V, gave Hungary a brief respite through his victory at Belgrade (1456).

The reign of Hunyadi's son, Matthias Corvinus, elected king in 1458, was a glorious period in Hungarian history. Matthias maintained a splendid court at Buda, kept the magnates subject to royal authority, and improved the central administration. But under his successors Uladislaus II and Louis II, the nobles regained their power. Transylvania became virtually independent under the Zapolya family. The peasants, rising in revolt, were crushed (1514) by John Zapolya. Louis II was defeated and killed by the Turks under Sulayman the Magnificent in the battle of Mohács in 1526. The date is commonly taken to mark the beginning of Ottoman domination over Hungary. Ferdinand of Austria (later Emperor Ferdinand I), as brother-in-law of Louis II, claimed the Hungarian throne and was elected king by a faction of nobles, while another faction chose Zapolya as John I.

In the long wars that followed, Hungary was split into three parts: the western section, where Ferdinand and his successor, Rudolf II, maintained a precarious rule, challenged by such Hungarian leaders as Stephen Bocskay and Gabriel Bethlen; the central plains, which were completely under Turkish domination; and Transylvania, ruled by noble families (see Báthory and Rákóczy).

The Protestant Reformation, supported by the nobles and well-established in Transylvania, nearly succeeded throughout Hungary. Cardinal Pázmány was a leader of the Counter Reformation in Hungary. In 1557 religious freedom was proclaimed by the diet of Transylvania, and the principle of toleration was generally maintained throughout the following centuries.

Hungarian opposition to Austrian domination included such extreme efforts as the assistance Thököly gave to the Turks during the siege of Vienna (1683). Emperor Leopold I, however, through his able generals Prince Eugene of Savoy and Duke Charles V of Lorraine, soon regained his lost ground. Budapest was liberated from the Turks in 1686. In 1687, Hungarian nobles recognized the Hapsburg claim to the Hungarian throne. By the Peace of Kalowitz (1699), Turkey ceded to Austria most of Hungary proper and Transylvania. Transylvania continued to fight the Hapsburgs, but in 1711, with the defeat of Francis II Rákóczy (see under Rákóczy, family), Austrian control was definitely established. In 1718 the Austrians took the Banat from Turkey.

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Hungarian Political Geography