Ferenc Erdei, 19101971
Born in Makó (Csongrád County) into a peasant family, Erdei obtained a degree in law from Szeged University before travelling to Western Europe on a scholarship. On his return, he became a member of the Independent Kossuth Party in Makó and a leading figure in the March Front, which was just forming. His descriptive work Windblown Sand appeared in 1937, bringing him professional recognition as a social scientist for the first time. Erdei was among the initiators of the National Peasants Party and became a founder member in 1939. In October and November 1944, he took part in organizing the Independence Front in Szeged. In December 1944, he was returned from Makó as a member of the Provisional National Assembly, and from December 22 to November 15, 1945, he was interior minister in the Provisional National Government. He was elected vice-chairman of the National Peasants Party at the national meeting of 1945 and its general secretary on February 25, 1947. He became a corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1948 and a full member in 1956. From September 9, 1948 to June 11, 1949, he was state minister. Then followed appointments as minister of agriculture until July 4, 1953, then as justice minister, as minister of agriculture again from October 30, 1954 to November 15, 1955, and a deputy prime minister from November 1955 to October 31, 1956. From October 30, 1956 onwards, he belonged to the inner cabinet with in the government. During this period, he took part in resuscitating the National Peasant Party and forming a provisional organizing committee. On November 2, he headed the Hungarian delegation negotiating the details of a withdrawal by the Soviet army. On November 3, he was arrested by the KGB while negotiating at the Soviet military base at Tököl, but released again a few weeks later. He returned to political life in 1957, as general secretary of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences until 1964, then of the Patriotic Peoples Front until 1971, and of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences again until 1971. Apart from being one of the founders of the trend in descriptive rural social analysis known as sociography, he was a prominent campaigner for the reform of agricultural policy in the 1960s.
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