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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A page from my stamp album - Hungary

Magyar – the stamps bearing this word are in fact from Hungary. Sometimes it takes the novices and the rookies a little while to decipher the native names into English to know the name of the country. Magyar is actually the name of a tribe that migrated from Asia and settled in the Carpathian Basin in 896 AD. From these, rose the state of Hungary somewhere in 1000 AD, founded by King St Stephen. The Mongols did not spare countries like Hungary and invaded it in 1214 AD, but it survived the barbaric onslaught. Hungary then became a Central European power under the 300-year rule of the native Árpád Dynasty and subsequent dynasties.

In the 16th century, when the Ottoman Empire expanded, Hungary broke into three parts in 1526: Western Hungary ruled by the Austrian House of Habsburg, Transylvania governed by Hungarian princes, and central Hungary came under the Turks. The Turkish occupation lasted until the 17th Century, when the Habsburgs drove out the Turks and claimed all of Hungary. The 150 years of constant wars decimated the native population and the voids were filled by foreign nationalities, creating the polyglot characteristic of Hungary.
The birth of postal services was an outcome of the number of wars fought in the late 19th century to get rid of the yoke of the Austrian power influence. It was the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa who established a regular postal service in Hungary and a military field-post service operated during both wars of independence. The Austrian issues used in Hungary are of great value by the lovers of stamp collection, especially in Hungary even now.


In 1867 a compromise was reached with Austria, creating the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy under Emperor Franz Josef. The Hungarian half of the Monarchy organized an independent postal system, which issued its first stamps in 1867. Many Hungarian stamps depict two national symbols – the crown of St. Stephen and the mythical Turul bird. During the WW-I, Hungary side Austria against Russia and Italy. Thus Austrian military-post stamps, and stamps of Bosnia-Herzegovina (occupied in 1878 and annexed by the Monarchy in 1908) provide an interesting connection to Hungarian philately.


Magyar stamps from my collection


After the defeat of Austria in WW-I, Hungary proclaimed itself a republic. All previous stamps were overprinted with “Köztársaság”. The Russian communist influence in Hungary came in March 1919 and the stamps were then overprinted with “Tanácsköztársaság.”

The WW-II, in which Hungary sided with Germany, devastated Hungary, resulting in a rapid deterioration of its currency. Between May 1, 1945 and July 31, 1946, 27 postal rate changes occurred in what is known as the world’s greatest hyperinflation. 

In 1956, the Hungarians revolted against Soviet domination and the students of Sopron commemorated the event with an overprinted stamp issue. The revolt was brutally crushed and Hungary continued to be solid member of the Warsaw Pact until the disintegration of the Soviet Union’s European Empire in 1989. Hungary is now on its feet as a free country now.

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