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Budapest  
 
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With a population of nearly two million, Budapest is the capital and largest city of Hungary. As such, it is the seat of the country's administrative, business, legislative, educational, and cultural institutions. Budapest is also the hub of Hungarian gay and lesbian life and the center of the country's glbtq political rights movement.

While glbtq people outside of the capital city were relatively invisible in Hungary's conservative society until quite recently, Budapest has long had the reputation as a gay metropolis in Eastern Europe. For many years gay men were able to meet in Budapest's many Turkish baths and at well-known cruising areas along the Danube River.

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Since 1990 and the fall of the Communist regime, Budapest's gay and lesbian community has witnessed considerable advances in its social and legal status. Since then, about a dozen bars and clubs have opened, as well as glbtq-friendly cafés, saunas, and bathhouses.

The Budapest Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Festival, held annually since 1996, features exhibitions, discussions, and film screenings, and culminates with the Pride Parade, with thousands of people taking part in the festivities.

Homosexuality is legal in Hungary, and since 2002, the minimum age of consent is 14 for both homosexuals and heterosexuals. The Hungarian Parliament passed a law in 2007 that allows homosexual couples to live together in a "registered partnership," which grants many of the same legal rights to same-sex couples as to married heterosexuals.

Although the glbtq minority has achieved significant legal victories in Hungary in recent years, discrimination nevertheless remains common throughout the country, including in Budapest.

History

Originally a Celtic settlement, the region now known as Budapest was conquered by the Romans in approximately 35 B.C.E. and named Aquincum. It served as both a Roman trading settlement and a garrison town.

The region was later invaded by various tribes, including the Huns, the Avars, and, in the late ninth century, the Magyars, considered to be the ancestors of modern day Hungarians. The Magyars, under King Stephen I, converted to Catholicism, which was established as the national religion and which remains the faith of some seventy percent of Hungarians today.

In 1541, Turkish armies invaded the region and turned the area known as Buda into a provincial capital of the Ottoman Empire. The Turks remained in Buda and neighboring Pest for nearly 150 years.

Thereafter, the region came under the control of the Austrian Habsburg Dynasty. Development of the region was particularly significant during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa (1740-80). Pest in particular grew into a wealthy town with the increase of mercantile activity.

Despite the growth and modernization of the region under Habsburg rule, the nineteenth century ushered in an awakening of Hungarian nationalism and a struggle for independence. A national insurrection against the Habsburgs began in the Hungarian capital in 1848 and was defeated a little more than a year later.

The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 made Hungary a more equal power in the Habsburg Empire and Austria-Hungary was created, a single nation with two parliaments. In 1873, Budapest became a single city with the unification of the separate towns of Buda and Óbuda ("Old Buda") with Pest. During this time, the population of the new metropolis swelled, Hungarian culture thrived, and Budapest became a celebrated destination for wealthy travelers throughout Europe.

However, this golden age of progress ended suddenly with the outbreak of war in 1914. The end of World War I, in 1918, left Austria-Hungary defeated and its empire in collapse. The Treaty of Trianon, the peace accord drafted at the conclusion of the war, and signed on June 4, 1920, reduced Hungary's territories by over two-thirds.

Allied with Germany in World War II, Hungary reoccupied many of its former territories for a time.

However, by the end of the war, Budapest had been partly destroyed by British and American air raids during the Battle of Budapest, from December 24, 1944 to February 13, 1945. It also suffered major damage from advancing Soviet troops. All of Budapest's bridges were destroyed by German troops in a desperate attempt to halt Russian advances across the Danube.

The remaining German forces surrendered to the Soviets on April 4, 1945, following a particularly brutal siege that left the Royal Palace of Budapest in ruins.

After the war, the Soviet military occupied Hungary and soon replaced the freely elected government with the Hungarian Communist Party, which governed the country during the Cold War.

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