Hungarian Culture

Religion

Contemporary Hungary is religiously diverse, and a significant segment of the population identifies as non-religious. While some identify with particular religions, nominal membership does not necessarily reflect active participation or belief. The largest religion the population identify with is Roman Catholic (37.2%). Of the remaining population, 11.6% identify as Calvinist, 2.2% identify as Lutheran, 1.8% identify as Greek Catholic and 1.9% identify with some other religion. Moreover, nearly a fifth of the population identifies with no religion (18.2%) and nearly a third did not specify a religious affiliation (27.2%).

 

Religion and Communism in Hungary

During the communist era in Hungary (1949-1989), the country was officially an atheistic state. One of the religions that struggled significantly during this period was Roman Catholicism. The communist government established laws that allowed authorities to seize church property and schools as well as imprison resistant church leaders along with large numbers of priests, monks and nuns.

 

The end of communism in the country in 1989 brought the end of religious oppression. Religious groups became more visible throughout the country. Today, more than 200 religious groups have been officially registered in Hungary. This time also saw people questioning the relationship between church and state. In contemporary Hungary, there is an institutional separation and cooperation between the state and church. In public schools, for example, there is no religious instruction in public curricula, yet it is required that public schools provide classroom space for religious education by church authorities. For many Hungarians, religion is not discussed in the workplace or in social settings. Rather, it is considered to be a private matter.

 

Christianity in Hungary

Some believe that the history of the Hungarian state is as long as the history of Christianity in Hungary. This is due to the belief that the state’s founder, King St. Stephen, introduced Christianity as a state religion in 1000 CE. Christianity continues to thrive today in Hungary, with over a third of the population identifying as Roman Catholic, many of whom live in the western and northern parts of the country. Seminal Christian events such as baptism and church weddings continue to be considered important rituals. However, for many, this is considered to be a cultural tradition rather than purely religious.

 

Judaism in Hungary

Judaism has been present in Hungary for centuries. However, increasing sentiments and the subsequent events of World War II had a devastating impact on Hungary’s Jewish population. By the end of the Holocaust (known as Shoah in Hebrew), approximately 565,000 Hungarian Jews were killed.1 Others during this time and shortly after migrated abroad, further reducing the Jewish population in the country. In contemporary Hungary, according to the World Jewish Congress, the Hungarian Jewish community is the largest in Central Europe.2 Moreover, the largest synagogue in Europe is located in Budapest. However, much of Hungary’s Jewish population are unaffiliated due to various reasons, such as fear of .

 

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1 Yad Vashem, 2021
2 World Jewish Congress, 2017

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