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Republic of Austria
Republik Österreich
Anthem: Land der Berge, Land am Strome  (German)
Land of Mountains, Land by the River

and largest city
48°12′N 16°21′E / 48.2°N 16.35°E / 48.2; 16.35
Official languages German (Standard: Austrian German)[1]
Recognised regional languages Slovene, Croatian, and Hungarian
Ethnic groups 91.1% Austrians, former Yugoslavs 4% (includes Croatians, Slovenes, Serbs, and Bosniaks), Turks 1.6%, German 0.9%, other or unspecified 2.4% (2001 census)[2]
Demonym Austrian
Government Federal Parliamentary republic
 -  President Heinz Fischer
 -  Chancellor Werner Faymann (SPÖ)
 -  President of the National Council Barbara Prammer (SPÖ)
 -  Austrian State Treaty in force 27 July 1955 (Duchy: 1156, Austrian Empire: 1804, First Austrian Republic: 1918–1938, Second Republic since 1945) 
 -  Total 83,855 km2 (115th)
32,377 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 1.7
 -  2009 estimate 8,356,707[3] (93rd)
 -  2001 census 8,032,926
 -  Density 99/km2 (99th)
257/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $330.496 billion[4]
 -  Per capita $39,454
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $366.259 billion[4]
 -  Per capita $43,723.
Gini (2007)26
HDI (2010)0.851
very high · 25th
Currency Euro () ² (EUR)
Time zone CET (UTC+01)
 -  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+02)
Drives on the right
Calling code 43
Internet TLD .at ³
1. Slovene, Croatian, Hungarian are officially recognised regional languages and Austrian Sign Language is a protected minority language throughout the country.
2. Euro since 1 Jan 1999 virtual, since 1 Jan 2002 real currency; before: Austrian Schilling.
3. The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Austria (German: Österreich), officially the Republic of Austria, is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It borders Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The capital city is Vienna.


The German name Österreich can be translated into English as the "eastern realm", which is derived from the Old German Ostarrîchi. The name was Latinized as "Austria", although it has no etymological connection with the name of Australia (which derives from Latin Australis meaning The South). Reich can also mean "empire," and this connotation is the one that is understood in the context of the Austrian/Austro-Hungarian Empire, Holy Roman Empire, although not in the context of the modern Republic of Österreich. The term probably originates in a vernacular translation of the Medieval Latin name for the region: Marchia orientalis, which translates as "eastern marches" or "eastern borderland", as it was situated at the eastern edge of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, that was also mirrored in the name "Ostmark", for a short period applied after reunification[5] with Germany.

The current official designation is the Republic of Austria (Republik Österreich). It was originally known after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1918 as the Republic of German Austria (Republik Deutschösterreich), but the state was forced to change its name to "Republic of Austria" in 1919 the peace Treaty of Saint-Germain. The name was changed again during the Austro-fascist regime (1934–1938), into Federal State of Austria (Bundesstaat Österreich), but restored after regaining independence and the birth of the Second Austrian Republic (1955–present).

During the monarchy, Austria was known as the Austrian Empire (Kaisertum Österreich); however no official designation existed since the empire was strongly multiethnic. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the empire became known as Austria-Hungary in reflection of the dual monarchy character.


Prehistory and the Middle Ages

Settled in prehistoric times, the central European land that is now Austria was occupied in pre-Roman times by various Celtic tribes. The Celtic kingdom of Noricum was claimed by the Roman Empire and made a province. After the fall of the Roman Empire, of which most of Austria was part (all parts south of the Danube), the area was invaded by Bavarians, Slavs and Avars. Charlemagne conquered the area in 788 and encouraged colonization and Christianity. As part of Eastern Francia, the core areas that now encompass Austria were bequeathed to the house of Babenberg. The area was known as the marchia Orientalis and was given to Leopold of Babenberg in 976.

The first record showing the name Austria is from 996 where it is written as Ostarrîchi, referring to the territory of the Babenberg March. The term Ostmark is not historically ascertained and appears to be a translation of marchia orientalis that came up only much later.

The following centuries were characterized first by the settlement of the country. In 1156 the Privilegium Minus elevated Austria to the status of a duchy. In 1192, the Babenbergs also acquired the Duchy of Styria.

With the death of Frederick II in 1246, the line of the Babenbergers went extinct. Otakar II of Bohemia effectively controlled the duchies of Austria, Styria and Carinthia after that. His reign came to an end with his defeat at Dürnkrut at the hand of Rudolf I of Germany in 1278. Thereafter, until World War I, Austria's history was largely that of its ruling German dynasty, the Habsburgs.

Rise of The Habsburgs

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Habsburgs began to accumulate other provinces in the vicinity of the Duchy of Austria. In 1438, Duke Albert V of Austria was chosen as the successor to his father-in-law, Emperor Sigismund. Although Albert himself only reigned for a year, from then on, every emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was a Habsburg, with only one exception.

The Habsburgs began also to accumulate lands far from the Hereditary Lands. In 1477, the Archduke Maximilian, only son of Emperor Frederick III, married the heiress of Burgundy, thus acquiring most of the Low Countries for the family. His son Philip the Fair married the heiress of Castile and Aragon, and thus acquired Spain and its Italian, African, and New World appendages for the Habsburgs.

In 1526, following the Battle of Mohács, German-Austrian rulers expanded their territories, bringing Bohemia and the part of Hungary not occupied by the Ottomans under their rule. Ottoman expansion into Hungary led to frequent conflicts between the two powers, particularly evident in the so-called Long War of 1593 to 1606.

Austria as a European Power

The long reign of Leopold I (1657–1705) saw the culmination of the Austrian conflict with the Turks. Following the successful defence of Vienna in 1683, a series of campaigns resulted in the return of all of Hungary to Austrian control by the Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699.

The later part of the reign of Emperor Charles VI (1711–1740) saw Austria relinquish many of these fairly impressive gains, largely due to Charles's apprehensions at the imminent extinction of the House of Habsburg. Charles was willing to offer concrete advantages in territory and authority in exchange for other powers' worthless recognitions of the Pragmatic Sanction that made his daughter Maria Theresa his heir. With the rise of Prussia begins the Austrian–Prussian dualism in Germany.

Austria became engaged in the war with Revolutionary France, which lasted until 1797 and at the beginning proved unsuccessful for Austria. Defeats against Napoleon meant the end of the old Holy Roman Empire in 1806. Just two years before the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, in 1804 the Empire of Austria was founded, which was transformed in 1867 into the dual-monarchy Austria-Hungary. However, in 1814 Austria was part of the Allied forces invading France and conquering it. Following the Napoleonic wars Austria emerged from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as one of three of the continent's dominant powers (together with Russia and Prussia). In 1815 the German Confederation, (German) Deutscher Bund was founded under the presidency of Austria. Austria and Prussia were the leading powers of the German Confederation. Its central institution was the Bundesversammlung in Frankfurt. Because of unsolved social, political and national conflicts some of the German inhabitants took part in the 1848 revolution to create a unified Germany.

The Frankfurt Parliament in the St. Paul's Church elected the arch duke Johann of Habsburg as a Reichsverweser, an administrator of the German Empire. For a new German empire would have been possible three options: a Greater Germany Großdeutsche with the German-speaking territories of the Habsburg Empire, a Greater Austrian solution, Großösterreichische, the German Confederation with the whole Habsurgian territories, and a smaller German solution, Kleindeutsche the German Confederation without Austria at all. As Austria was not willing to relinquish its German-speaking territories to what would become the German Empire of 1848 the parliament offered the crown the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Austria grew out of Germany, Prussia grew in. In 1864 Austria and Prussia fought together against Denmark, to free the independent dutchies Schleswig and Holstein. Austria and Prussia could not agree on a solution to the administration of Schleswig and Holstein, which led to the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. Austria, that fought together with most of the German states was defeated by Prussia in the battle of Königgrätz in Bohemia. Austria had to leave the German Confederation and was subsequently no longer permitted to take part in German politics.

The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 provided for a dual sovereignty, the empire of Austria and the kingdom of Hungary, under Franz Joseph I, who ruled until his death on 21 November 1916. The German-Hungarian rule of this diverse empire, which included, various Slavic groups such as Poles, Ukrainians, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Serbs and Croats, as well as large Italian and Romanian communities. As a result, running Austria-Hungary became increasingly difficult in an age of emerging nationalist movements.

World War I and its aftermath

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 by Gavrilo Princip (a member of the Serbian nationalist group the Black Hand) was the proximate cause of World War I, which led to the downfall and the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. War left the country in political chaos and economic ruin, the Central Powers (being Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany and Turkey) having been defeated in 1918. The Empire was broken up - Austria, with most of the German-speaking parts became a republic (see Treaty of Saint-Germain) and all of what had been subordinated states became independent countries.

Between 1918 and 1919, it was officially known as the Republic of German Austria (Republik Deutschösterreich). After the Entente powers forbade German Austria to unite with Germany, they also forbade the name, it was thus changed to the Republic of Austria. The monarchy was dissolved in 1919 and a parliamentary democracy was set up by the constitution of 10 November 1920.

In the autumn of 1922, Austria was granted an international loan supervised by the League of Nations. The purpose of the loan was to avert bankruptcy, stabilize the currency, and improve the general economic condition. With the granting of the loan, Austria passed from an independant state to the control excersised by the League of Nations. At the time, the real ruler of Austria became the League, through its commissioner in Vienna. The commissioner was a Dutchman not formally part of the Austrian government. Austria had fallen under an international receivership, which had not been seen openly since Lord Croner became the financial advisor to the bankrupt Khedivial Government of Egypt a little less than half a century earlier.

Austrofascism and the Third Reich

The First Austrian Republic, lasted until 1933 when Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuß shut down parliament and established an autocratic regime oriented towards Italian fascism, (Austrofascism) to check the power of National Socialists advocating union with Germany. The two big parties of this time —the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Conservatives— had paramilitary armies, which fought each other. The "Heimwehr" (later integrated into the "Vaterländische Front"), the paramilitary arm of the Conservative party supported Dollfuß' s Fascist regime; the "Republikanischer Schutzbund", was the military arm of the Social Democrats which was outlawed in 1933 but still existed underground - civil war was to break out.

After the Austrian Civil War in February 1934, several members of the Schutzbund were executed, the Social Democratic party was outlawed and many of its members were imprisoned or emigrated. In May of that year the Fascists introduced a new constitution ("Maiverfassung") which cemented Dollfuß's power but on 25 July he was assassinated in a German coup attempt.

His successor Kurt Schuschnigg, struggled to keep Austria independent but on March 12, 1938 German troops occupied the country and Hitler, himself a native of Austria who lost Austrian citizenship in 1925, proclaimed its Anschluss with Germany, annexing it to the Third Reich, Austria thus ceased to exist.

Just before the collapse of the Third Reich, the defeat of Germany and the end of the war, Karl Renner, formed a Provisional Government in Vienna in April 1945 with tacit approval of the Soviet forces and declared Austria's secession from the Third Reich.

After the defeat of Germany, Allied Occupation

As with Germany, Austria was divided into a British, a French, a Soviet and an American Zone and was governed by the Allied Commission for Austria but because of Karl Renner's action on April 27th in setting up a Provisional Government there was, automatically, a very subtle difference in the treatment of Austria by the Allies (Austria was treated as though, originally, it had been invaded by Germany. Therefore, having being freed, it had been liberated). This Austrian Government was recognised and tolerated by the Four Powers.

Vienna itself was totally within the Soviet Zone and, especially during the time of the Berlin Air Lift, Soviet military pressure on the access points was, with skillful Allied military and political//diplomatic influence, successfully resisted, Britain's High Commissioner during a large part of this time being the exceptionally able Sir Harold Anthony Caccia. (Viennese citizens were at very great risk if they attempted to cross and to exit the Soviet Zone, travel to the West being banned.).

On 15 May 1955 Austria regained its independence by concluding the Austrian State Treaty with the Four Occupying Powers. And with its Second Austrian Republic, (established 19 December 1945 on the basis of the 1920 constitution (amended in 1929) ), the country was declared by the Federal Parliament to be neutral.

Recent history

The political system of the Second Republic came to be characterized by the system of Proporz, meaning that most posts of some political importance were split evenly between members of the Social Democrats (Labour Party) and the People's Party (Conservatives).

Interest group representations with mandatory membership (e.g. for workers, businesspeople, farmers etc.) grew to considerable importance and were usually consulted in the legislative process, so that hardly any legislation was passed that did not reflect widespread consensus. The Proporz and consensus systems largely held even during the years between 1966 and 1983, when there were non-coalition governments, but can now be called history.

Austria nowadays has five major political parties: The SPÖ (Labour Party), the ÖVP (Conservatives), the "Greens" (Environmental, social-liberal) and FPÖ/BZÖ (both right-wing, nationalist). SPÖ and ÖVP share about 75% of the parliamentary mandates, while the remaining 25% are divided between the other three parties.

Austria became a member of the European Union in 1995 and retained its constitutional neutrality, like other EU members (e.g. Sweden). The major parties SPÖ and ÖVP have contrary opinions about the future status of Austria's military neutrality: While the SPÖ pleas for a neutral role in the EU (together with other neutral EU members like Sweden), the ÖVP argues for a stronger integration into the EU's security policy and even an entry into NATO is considered by some ÖVP politicians. In any case, neutrality is a constitutional law and can only be suspended by a two-thirds majority in the Austrian parliament.

See also


  1. Austria. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online (31 May 2009). Retrieved on 31 May 2009.
  2. World Factbook (3 August 2010). Austria. CIA. Retrieved on 14 August 2010.
  3. Total population – At 1 January. Eurostat (1 January 2009). Retrieved on 27 May 2009.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Austria. International Monetary Fund. Retrieved on 6 October 2010.
  5. Austria was German and part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation from 800 until 1806