Budapest, including the Banks
of the Danube,
the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue (1987, 2002)
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This site has the remains of monuments such as the Roman city of Aquincum and the Gothic castle of Buda, which have had a considerable influence on the architecture of various periods. It is one of the world's outstanding urban landscapes and illustrates the great periods in the history of the Hungarian capital.
In the 1st century AD the Romans established an outpost called Aquincum on the west side of the Danube at what would later be called Óbuda. Aquincum served as a provincial seat in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, complete with a large military camp and a civilian town, each with its own large amphitheater. In 376 invading Vandals conquered Aquincum. During the next 500 years Slavic peoples, Avars, and others settled on the sites of Buda and Pest, and in the second half of the 9th century the Magyars took over the towns.
While the Magyars evolved from a collection of marauding tribes into the Kingdom of Hungary, ruled from the town of Székesfehérvár, Buda and Pest prospered at the Danube’s narrowest point, where the river was shallowest. Pest’s burgeoning commercial development came to a halt in 1241, when Mongol-led Tatars raided the city, which was defended only by makeshift wooden walls. King Béla IV had a fortress built on Castle Hill, and many Pest citizens moved across the river to better-defended Buda. The old settlement, located north of Buda, became known as Óbuda (“Old Buda”). Pest recovered and Óbuda continued to grow, but from then on Buda advanced ahead of them.
In the 14th century Hungarian king Charles I moved the royal seat to Buda. During the reign of King Matthias Corvinus, from 1458 to 1490, Óbuda declined into a minor village, while Buda became a cultural center of Europe. Matthias and his court embraced the Italian Renaissance, and the king had a new palace built. Matthias’s famous library, called the Bibliotheca Corvina, held more than 3,000 volumes, about as many as were contained at the time at the Vatican Library in Rome.
After the death of Matthias in 1490, a slow decline of Buda and Pest began. In 1526 the Ottomans sacked the towns, returning to take the throne at Buda in 1541. At the time, 12,000 to 15,000 people lived in Buda, and about 10,000 lived in Pest and its surrounding area. During 145 years of Ottoman dominion, the three cities lost most of their Hungarian population and their wealth. In 1686 a Christian army under Holy Roman emperor Leopold I liberated Buda from the Ottomans but nearly obliterated the city in the process. Hungary was then incorporated into Leopold’s Habsburg Empire, and Buda and Pest languished. The towns’ development intensified in the early 1800s, when they served as centers of political activity for independence-minded Hungary.
Hungarians revolted unsuccessfully against the Austrians in 1848 but achieved many of their goals in a compromise with Austria in 1867. Austria-Hungary came into being, a dual monarchy with its Hungarian capital to be at Pest-Buda (as the towns were then called). The capital of Hungary became official after Óbuda, Buda, and Pest were unified as Budapest in 1873. A burst of construction and commerce marked the next 30 years in Budapest. Two major metropolitan thoroughfares, Andrássy Avenue and the Great Boulevard, were constructed during that period.
By 1900 the population of Budapest was 733,000, more than eight times the area’s population a century earlier. With elegant public buildings, competitive industry, three major bridges, and blossoming arts, Budapest was in its heyday. Development slowed somewhat after the turn of the century. Hungary severed state ties with Austria and became independent at the conclusion of World War I (1914-1918). The war and the inflation that followed, as well as an influx of Hungarian refugees, who came to the city from the ravaged countryside, paralyzed Budapest for a long time. In March 1944, during World War II, German troops occupied Hungary and established a Jewish ghetto in Pest.
||Fortunately, thousands of Budapest’s Jews were spared deportation to concentration camps, largely because of efforts
by the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. After World War II,
Wallenberg disappeared completely; rumours have it that he was
captured by the Soviet Union and kept prisoner in Moscow, where he
Raoul Wallenberg's niece is the wife of the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.
On February 13, 1945, Budapest was taken by armies of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) after fierce battles with the Germans that damaged much of the city. After a brief two-year period of democracy, Hungary became a Soviet satellite and was ruled by a Communist dictatorship. Incompetence, nepotism, and devotion to Moscow plagued civil service and political leadership. The absence of capital and free commerce resulted in the erection of ugly prefabricated apartment buildings around the inner city.
| Under Communist rule, Budapest’s fine architectural monuments degenerated into almost irreversible decay. In October 1956 an anti-government demonstration by students at Loránd Eötvös University spread among workers to become a national revolt.
A reformist government was installed to appease the thousands of protesters. However, the revolt continued, with protesters demanding complete replacement of Hungary’s Communist system. Thirteen days after the uprising began, Soviet troops invaded Budapest and crushed the revolt.
Beginning in the late 1970s, censorship restrictions enforced by the Communist government were eased, and Budapest enjoyed a cultural resurrection. A small business boom in the early 1980s heralded a new era for the city. By the time the Communist government collapsed in Hungary in 1989, Budapest was better prepared for free commerce than most other Eastern European cities. In the 1990s Budapest underwent a conversion from declining city to fast-developing metropolis.
Sources and links:
Other World Heritage Sites in Hungary (on this website). Inactive links are not described on postage stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Hungary-section, for further information on such properties.
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Revised 21 nov 2006