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István Count Bethlen of Bethlen

(1874—1947)


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(b. 8 Oct. 1874, d. 1947?).

Prime Minister of Hungary 1921–31 Born into an aristocratic family in Transylvania, he was first elected to the Hungarian parliament in 1901. A committed counter‐revolutionary, he helped to support Admiral Horthy's activities in deposing Béla Kun and became Prime Minister in April 1921. With his belief in the need to preserve feudal aristocratic privileges, he ended land redistribution. Bethlen gained the support of the Roman Catholic Church by giving it substantial control over education, and confirmed his political position through merging the popular smallholders' party with his own Christian Social Party. He also reintroduced the open ballot in the country districts in order to restore landowner control over the vote of their tenants. Eventually, he also received the support of the army by allowing it to ignore some of the restrictions imposed upon it by the Treaty of Trianon. He tried hard to promote modern agricultural and industrial techniques, and foreign investment. His regime came unstuck as a result of the Great Depression, with the collapse of production and exports followed by a banking crisis in 1931. He resigned in the face of growing unrest. He managed to hide from the German troops occupying the country in 1944, but was discovered by the Soviet forces who followed. The Red Army took Bethlen to Moscow, where he died.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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