The Open Society Foundations have been working in Hungary since 1984, when our founder George Soros set up the Hungarian Soros Foundation. Hungary was then still under Communist one-party rule, but the new foundation was able to fund scholarships for Hungarians to travel and study abroad and to provide funding for libraries and academic research.
As government controls eased in 1989, the foundation began funding newly independent civic organizations and media groups, as Hungarians prepared for freely contested elections in May 1990.
After the end of Communism, the funding expanded to include support for educational and health care reform, and helping Hungarians who were struggling with the economic challenges of the new market economy.
Today, we continue to support Hungarian partners working on issues that include promoting independent journalism, fighting corruption, supporting civic participation, and combatting discrimination.
Nine facts about Hungary and the Open Society Foundations:
- The Budapest office employs around 100 staff, 60 percent of them Hungarians, and is one of the regional hubs of the Open Society Foundations.
- Between 1985 and 1995, the Hungarian Soros Foundation spent over $4.4 million supplying over 1,000 photocopiers to libraries, hospitals, and other institutions to promote the free exchange of ideas and information despite state controls.
- From 1991 to 1996, the foundation spent over $5 million providing free breakfasts for tens of thousands of elementary school children, as many families struggled economically during the transition from Communism.
- In the 1990s, the foundation backed a large-scale program to introduce ultrasound scanners into hospitals across Hungary, as part of a broad effort to support the modernization of health care treatment.
- Between 1997 and 2004, the foundation formed a partnership with the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta, responding to a surge in the incidence of tuberculosis amid the growing homeless population by screening over 40,000 people.
- More than 3,200 Hungarians have studied abroad with the support of funding from the Open Society Foundations—including the current prime minister, Viktor Orbán.
- George Soros, our founder, donated over $250 million to fund the creation of Central European University in Budapest. More than 2,100 Hungarians have attended the university with scholarship support from the Open Society Foundations.
- In 2010, the Open Society Foundations provided $1 million in emergency funding after extensive contamination of the Danube and other waterways caused by red sludge released in a severe chemical spillage.
- After the 2008 global financial crisis, we provided over $8.6 million in emergency funds to over 150 local groups in Hungary that were helping people deal with economic problems.