|28th Prime Minister of Hungary|
3rd Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Hungary
14 April 1921 – 24 August 1931
|Preceded by||Pál Teleki|
|Succeeded by||Gyula Károlyi|
|Member of the House of Representatives|
31 October 1901 – 16 November 1918
18 February 1920 – 2 February 1939
|Born||8 October 1874|
Gernyeszeg, Kingdom of Hungary, Austria-Hungary
(now Gornești, Romania)
|Died||5 October 1946 (aged 71)|
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Political party||Liberal Party (1901-1903) |
Party of Independence and '48 (1904-1913)
National Constitution Party (1913-1918)
Christian National Union Party (1919-1922)
Unity Party (1922-1935)
|Spouse(s)||Countess Margit Bethlen de Bethlen|
The scion of a noble Transylvanian family, Bethlen was elected to the Hungarian parliament as a Liberal in 1901. Later, he served as a representative of the new Hungarian government at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. In that year, the weak centrist Hungarian government collapsed, and was soon replaced by a communist Hungarian Soviet Republic, under the leadership of Béla Kun. Bethlen quickly returned to Hungary to assume leadership of the anti-communist "white" government based in Szeged, along with former Austro-Hungarian admiral Miklós Horthy. After the "white" forces seized control of Hungary, Horthy was appointed Regent. Bethlen again took a seat in the Hungarian parliament, allying with the conservative factions there.
In 1919, Bethlen proposed a personal union between Romania and Hungary under the Romanian King.
After the attempted return of King Charles IV to the throne of Hungary in 1921, Horthy asked Bethlen to form a strong government to eliminate the possibility of other such threats to the new country. Bethlen founded the Party of National Unity. Through a system of ballot manipulation, handing out government jobs, and changing the electoral law to enfranchise supporters, he was able to form a political machine that was unstoppable in Hungarian politics. Bethlen was also able to unite the two most powerful factors in Hungarian society, the wealthy, primarily Jewish industrialists in Budapest and the old Magyar gentry in rural Hungary, into a lasting coalition; this effectively checked the rise of Fascism in the country for at least a decade. Bethlen was also able to reach an accord with the labor unions, earning their support for the government and eliminating a source of domestic dissent.
During his decade in office, Bethlen led Hungary into the League of Nations and arranged a close alliance with Fascist Italy, even entering into a Treaty of Friendship with Italy in 1927, in order to further the nation's revisionist hopes. He was, however, defeated in his attempts to change the Treaty of Trianon, which stripped Hungary of most of its territory after the First World War. The Great Depression shifted Hungarian politics to the extreme right, and Horthy replaced Bethlen with Gyula Károlyi, followed quickly by Gyula Gömbös, a noted Fascist and antisemite.
Increasingly shunted into political obscurity, Bethlen stood out as one of the few voices in Hungary actively opposed to an alliance with Nazi Germany. As it became apparent that Germany was going to lose the Second World War, Bethlen attempted, unsuccessfully, to negotiate a separate peace with the Allied powers. By the spring of 1945 most of Hungary had fallen to the advancing Soviet troops. The communists, who returned with the Soviets, immediately began their scheme to take over the country. They saw the aging Bethlen as a threat, a man who could unite the political forces against them. For this they had him arrested by the Soviets in April 1945. Soon after, Bethlen was taken to Moscow, where he died in prison on 5 October 1946.
- (in Hungarian) Péter Miklós, "Konfliktus és szolidaritás. Szempontok Horthy Miklós és a katolikus egyház kapcsolatának értelmezéséhez", Egyháztörténeti Szemle, 2007, II.
- Romsics, p. 25-26.
- Ignác Romsics, Social Science Monographs, 1995, István Bethlen: a great conservative statesman of Hungary, 1874-1946, p. 111
- Romsics, p. 169.
- Romsics, p. 225.
- Romsics, p. 298.
- Romsics, p. 386.
- Romsics, p. 388.
- Ignác Romsics: István Bethlen: A Great Conservative Statesman of Hungary, 1874–1946. East European Monographs. Columbia University Press, 1995.
- Bethlen Istvan Emlekirata, 1944, Published in Hungarian/Magyar by Zrinyi Katonai Koenyvkiado, 1988.
- Newspaper clippings about István Bethlen in the 20th Century Press Archives of the German National Library of Economics (ZBW)
| Prime Minister of Hungary
| Minister of Finance
| Minister of Justice
| Minister of Foreign Affairs
István Szabó de Nagyatád
| Minister of Agriculture
| Minister of Justice