Austria has no coastline. It shares boundaries with the countries of Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, and Slovenia and Italy to the south. Vienna is the capital and largest city of Austria. It lies on the Danube River in the northeastern part of the country.
Most of Austria's people live in cities and towns. About a fifth of the people live in Vienna. Austrians enjoy good food, outdoor sports, and the arts. They take great pride in the fact that their country has long been a leading cultural center of Europe. The cultural institutions and scenic beauty of Austria attract millions of tourists each year.
Austria was once one of the most powerful countries in Europe. The royal Habsburg (or Hapsburg) family began to gain control of Austria in the late 1200's. In time, the country became the center of a huge empire that was ruled by the Habsburgs. This empire collapsed after World War I ended in 1918. Austria then became a republic and went through a long period of economic difficulty and political unrest. In the last half of the 1900's, however, Austria became increasingly industrialized, and the economy of the country grew steadily. The country also achieved political stability.
Austria is a federal republic made up of nine provinces: Burgenland; Carinthia; Lower Austria; Salzburg; Styria; Tyrol (or Tirol); Upper Austria; the city of Vienna; and Vorarlberg. Its Constitution was adopted in 1920. All Austrians 19 years and older may vote.
The president is Austria's head of state. The people elect the president to a six-year term. The president may serve any number of terms but no more than two in a row. The president's duties are largely ceremonial. They include appointing ambassadors and acting as commander in chief of the armed forces. But the president does not have the power to declare war or to veto (reject) bills passed by Parliament.
The chancellor and Cabinet run the Austrian government. The chancellor (prime minister) serves as head of government. Generally, the president appoints as chancellor the leader of the political party with the most seats in the Nationalrat (National Council). The Nationalrat is the more important of the two houses of the Austrian Parliament. On the chancellor's advice, the president also appoints members of the Cabinet to head the government departments. The chancellor and Cabinet form government policies and are responsible to the Nationalrat. The Nationalrat may force the chancellor and Cabinet to resign by rejecting their policies in a vote of no confidence.
The Parliament. The Nationalrat forms the lower house of Austria's Parliament. The upper house is called the Bundesrat (Federal Council). The Nationalrat has 183 members, elected by the people to four-year terms. But the Nationalrat may dissolve itself at any time, or the president may dissolve it on the chancellor's advice. New elections then take place. The Bundesrat's 63 members are elected by the country's nine Landtags (provincial legislatures). Members of the Bundesrat serve as long as the Landtag that chose them stays in power. The number of members a province has in the Bundesrat varies according to population.
Provincial and local government. The people in each province elect Landtag members to four- to six-year terms, depending on the province. Each Landtag chooses the governor of the province. The provinces are subdivided into about 2,320 communes (units of local government). Voters in each commune elect a governing council, which selects one of its number to serve as mayor. Vienna is both a province and a commune. Its communal council serves as the provincial legislature, and its mayor serves as governor.
Political parties. Two political parties usually share the great majority of the seats in the Nationalrat. They are the conservative People's Party and the liberal Social Democratic Party. The Freedom Party usually wins the third largest number of seats.
Courts. The Supreme Court is Austria's highest court of appeal in civil and criminal cases. Four regional courts hear appeals of decisions made by lower courts. Various special courts handle juvenile matters, labor disputes, and administrative and constitutional cases.
Armed forces. Austria has about 55,000 men in its armed forces. Men 18 years of age must serve at least six months in the army with additional periods of follow-up training later.
Most of Austria's people live in the lower areas of the country--in
the east and just south of the Danube River. About a fifth of the
people live in Vienna, the country's capital and largest city.
Ancestry. Many different groups of people have settled in Austria. Each group mixed with other peoples and so helped shape the ancestry of present-day Austrians. In ancient times, the peoples of Austria included Celts and Romans. Later, Asians, various Germanic groups, and Magyars (Hungarians) settled in Austria. From the 1300's on, Austria attracted peoples from many parts of central Europe. These peoples included Italians and various Slavic groups. During the 1950's and 1960's, many people fled to Austria from Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
As a result of this mixing of peoples, there is no "typical" Austrian. Some are tall and slim, with fair skin, blue eyes, and blond hair. Others are short and stocky, with fairly dark skin, brown eyes, and brown hair. Many others do not fit either description.
Language. Almost all Austrians speak German, the country's official language. In different parts of the country, the people speak various dialects (local forms) of German.
A number of Austrians speak another language as their first language. In the province of Burgenland, for example, there are communities of people who speak Serbo-Croatian. Burgenland also has some people who speak Magyar. Carinthia has a number of people who speak Slovenian. Small groups of people in Vienna speak either Czech or Slovak.
Way of life. Most city dwellers in Austria live in four- or five-story apartment buildings. Others live in high-rise apartment buildings or in one-family homes. Many farm and village families live in single-family homes. The style of these houses varies from region to region. For example, many homes in Burgenland are simple in design and covered with a kind of plaster called stucco. The provinces of Tyrol and Vorarlberg have many wooden chalets similar to those of Switzerland. Most chalets have a steep, pointed roof that hangs out over the sides of the house.
Austrians wear clothing much like that worn in the United States, but they dress up somewhat more than Americans do. On special occasions, many Austrians wear traditional national or regional costumes. Men may wear a green-trimmed, gray wool suit consisting of a coat and knickers--short, loose-fitting trousers gathered in just below the knee. Women may wear a peasant costume called a dirndl. It consists of a blouse; a wide girdle worn over the blouse and laced up the front; and a full, brightly colored skirt and apron.
Austrians appreciate good food. Many of their dishes have been influenced by Czech, German, or Hungarian cooking. Popular meats in Austria include beef, chicken, pork, sausage, and veal. An Austrian dish called Wiener schnitzel (breaded veal cutlet) has become a favorite in many countries. Popular side dishes in Austria include dumplings, noodles, and potatoes. The people drink beer or wine with many meals. The delicious cakes and pastries created by Austrian bakers have become world famous.
Festivals and holidays play an important part in Austrian life.
Some festivals date from pre-Christian times. One such festival takes
place throughout the Tyrol at the beginning of spring, when the people
pretend to chase away the "evil spirits" of winter. Wearing special
costumes and masks, they march through the streets and wave large sticks
in the air. The name and date of this festival vary from place to
Social welfare. The Austrian government provides a number of welfare services. Under the national social insurance program, workers may receive disability, maternity, old-age, sickness, survivors', or unemployment benefits. Austria also has a national health insurance program for all citizens. The costs of both programs are shared by insured people; employers; and the federal, provincial, and local governments.
Since 1919, Austrian law has limited the workday to eight hours and has guaranteed employed people annual holidays. Today, employed people who have been on the job for six months or longer receive at least an 18-day vacation with pay each year. In 1975, the workweek became limited to 40 hours.
Recreation. Austrians love the outdoors, and their country's many forests, lakes, and mountains offer opportunities for a variety of outdoor sports. In winter, the people especially enjoy ice skating, skiing, and tobogganing. Other popular winter sports include bobsledding; ice hockey; ski jumping; and curling, a game in which the players slide heavy stones along the ice toward a circular target. Favorite summer sports include boating, fishing, hiking, mountain climbing, swimming, and water skiing. The people also enjoy bicycling, camping, picnicking, and playing soccer.
Austrians love the arts as well as sports. Ballets, concerts, motion pictures, operas and operettas, and plays all attract large, enthusiastic crowds.
Education. Almost all adult Austrians can read and write. For the country's literacy rate, see LITERACY (table: Literacy rates for selected countries). Austrian children between the ages of 6 and 15 are required to attend school. Most students attend free public schools. The rest attend private schools, which may charge a tuition fee.
Austrian students may choose from a variety of educational programs. The minimum program requires a student to attend eight years of elementary school and one year of either vocational school or polytechnical school, which offers courses in the arts and sciences. Students who wish to go to a university may attend (1) elementary school for four years and high school for nine years; (2) elementary school for eight years, preparatory school for one year, and high school for four years; or (3) elementary school for eight years and vocational high school for five years.
Austria has 12 universities and 6 fine arts colleges. The University of Vienna is the country's largest university.
Religion. Austria and the pope have a concordat (agreement) under which the Roman Catholic Church in Austria receives financial support from the national government. But Austrians have freedom of worship. About 80 percent of the people are Roman Catholics, and about 5 percent are Protestants. Austria also has about 12,000 Jews, most of whom live in Vienna.
The arts. Austria has long been one of the great cultural centers of Europe. The country has made outstanding achievements in architecture, literature, and painting. But its most famous and important contributions to Western culture have been in music.
Music. Austria has produced many great composers. During the late 1700's and early 1800's, Joseph Haydn helped make the symphony one of the most important forms of musical composition. Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart became the leading composers of the classical period of music. Mozart wrote masterpieces in a wide range of musical forms. Many people consider his Don Giovanni the world's greatest opera.
During the early 1800's, Franz Schubert composed more than 600 songs. His "Ave Maria" and "Who Is Sylvia?" are among the most beautiful songs ever written. Gustav Mahler and Hugo Wolf, who wrote in the late 1800's, rank with Schubert as composers of songs. Anton Bruckner wrote emotionally powerful symphonies during the middle and late 1800's. Also during the 1800's, Johann Strauss and his son, Johann Strauss, Jr., composed their famous waltzes.
Arnold Schoenberg became one of the most revolutionary composers of the 1900's. He developed a new system of composition called the twelve-tone technique. Schoenberg influenced many composers, including his fellow Austrians Alban Berg and Anton Webern.
Austria today continues to make important musical contributions.
The Vienna Boys' Choir, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna State Opera,
and Vienna Symphony Orchestra have won international fame. The annual
Salzburg Festival is one of the great musical events of the year.
Students from all over the world study at Austria's fine music schools.
Architecture. Austria has some of Europe's best examples of baroque architecture. This highly decorated style dates from the 1600's. Through the use of such materials as gold, marble, and wood, baroque architects created buildings that pleased the senses. At the same time, their buildings appealed to people's spiritual nature because they were decorated with paintings and sculptures of religious and mythical figures. Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach was one of Austria's leading baroque architects. His designs include the Karlskirche (Church of St. Charles) in Vienna and the Church of the Holy Trinity in Salzburg.
Austria also has many churches, palaces, and other buildings designed in the rococo style of the 1700's. Rococo architecture is even more decorated than baroque.
During the late 1800's and early 1900's, Adolf Loos developed a simplified style of architecture marked by uncluttered lines and flat surfaces. His work did not become highly popular in Austria. But it strongly influenced architects in the United States.
Literature. Austrians have a deep love for the theater, and many of the country's most important writers have been playwrights. One of the most outstanding was Franz Grillparzer, who wrote in the early 1800's. Grillparzer's plays drew on the traditions of classical German drama as well as on the humor and liveliness of Austrian folk drama.
During the late 1800's and early 1900's, Arthur Schnitzler became famous for exploring the psychology of human emotions in his plays and stories. Hugo von Hofmannsthal, a playwright and poet of the early 1900's, shared Schnitzler's interest in psychology. Other important Austrian writers of the 1900's include Franz Werfel and Stefan Zweig.
Painting. Gustav Klimt, who worked in the late 1800's and early
1900's, was one of Austria's first painters of international importance.
In his works, Klimt explored the inner nature of human beings and tried
to express his own strong emotions. Two of Klimt's followers--Egon
Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka--carried his ideas still further. Their
paintings reflected an art movement of the early 1900's called expressionism.
Mountains cover about three-fourths of Austria. The Alps stretch across the western, southern, and central parts of the country. A separate mountainous area, the Granite Plateau, lies in the north. The country's highest point, the mountain Grossglockner, stands 12,457 feet (3,797 meters) above sea level in central Austria.
The Danube, the country's longest river, flows 217 miles (350 kilometers) from west to east through northern Austria. Almost all Austrian rivers flow into the Danube. Austria's largest lake is Neusiedler Lake. Part of this lake lies in Hungary. The Austrian part covers 51 square miles (132 square kilometers).
Land regions. Austria has six main land regions. They are (1) the Granite Plateau; (2) the Eastern Forelands; (3) the Alpine Forelands; (4) the Northern Limestone Alps; (5) the Central Alps; and (6) the Southern Limestone Alps.
The Granite Plateau forms Austria's northernmost region. It consists of hills and mountains that are made up mostly of granite and partly covered by thick forests.
The Eastern Forelands lie southeast of the Granite Plateau. The northern part is a lowland called the Vienna Basin. Its fertile soil helps make it Austria's chief agricultural area. The southern part consists of rolling hills and broad valleys, with the land becoming flatter in the east.
The Alpine Forelands lie south of the Granite Plateau and west of the Eastern Forelands. The region is made up of hills and low mountains.
The Northern Limestone Alps rise south and southwest of the Alpine Forelands. The mountains in this region consist of limestone. The region is marked by high plateaus; steep, forested slopes; and jagged peaks. Several large lakes formed by ancient glaciers are found in this region.
The Central Alps are separated from the Northern Limestone Alps to the north by a series of valleys. Unlike the Northern Limestone Alps, the Central Alps do not consist of limestone but of such rock materials as granite and gneiss. The Central Alps have Austria's highest mountains. Large glaciers cover many of the mountain peaks.
The Southern Limestone Alps lie south of the Central Alps. A series of valleys separates the two regions. The physical features of the Southern Limestone Alps resemble those of the Northern Limestone Alps.
Climate. Austria has four sharply defined seasons. The country's climate is influenced by both west and east winds. Warm, moist winds blowing eastward from the Atlantic Ocean affect the climate of western and central Austria. These winds bring precipitation (rain, snow, and other forms of moisture) and help produce moderate temperatures the year around. Dry winds blowing westward from the Asian plains are hot in summer and cold in winter. Partly as a result of these winds, eastern Austria has less precipitation and more extreme temperatures than western and central Austria.
Within the western, central, and eastern areas, Austria's climate varies from place to place, partly because of differences in altitude. Local winds also influence the climate. For example, warm, dry winds called foehns cause sudden rises in temperature in some mountain valleys in winter. Because they may rapidly melt mountain snow, foehns sometimes cause destructive avalanches (see FOEHN).
January temperatures in Austria average about 27 °F. (-3 °C).
July temperatures average about 67 °F. (19 °C). The country
receives an average of about 25 inches (64 centimeters) of precipitation
Austria's economy is based mostly on private ownership. But the government owns companies in several industries as well as certain transportation and communication services. The country's economy was brought to a standstill as a result of World War II (1939-1945). In the late 1940's, the Austrian government purchased most of the companies in certain industries. These industries included coal and metal mining; electric power production; iron and steel production; and oil drilling and refining. Large amounts of aid from the United States helped the government rebuild these industries.
Since the early 1950's, Austria has become increasingly industrialized,
and its economy has grown steadily. Today, Austria is a prosperous
country with little unemployment.
Natural resources. Austria has a variety of minerals. But most deposits are too small to meet the country's needs, or the quality is low. For example, Austria's coal--found chiefly in Styria--consists almost entirely of lignite, a low-quality brown coal. Austria must thus import high-quality coal. The Erzberg (Ore Mountain) in Styria has much iron ore. But the country has to import some high-grade iron ores. Petroleum and natural gas must also be imported because the country's reserves, found mostly in Lower Austria, do not meet its needs.
Austria ranks as one of the world's leading producers of magnesite, which is used to make such products as heat-resistant bricks, plaster, and artificial stone. The country is also a leading producer of graphite, which comes mostly from Lower Austria. Other mineral deposits include copper, lead, salt, and zinc.
Austria's rich forests, which cover about 40 per cent of the country, provide plentiful lumber, paper, and other products. Spruce and fir are the most commercially important trees. Strict conservation laws and extensive replanting programs prevent the forests from being used up.
Austria's swift-flowing rivers are perhaps its most important natural resource. They provide energy for many hydroelectric power stations, which produce most of the nation's electricity.
Service industries, taken together, account for the largest portion of Austria's gross domestic product (GDP)--the total value of goods and services produced within a country in a year. Community, government, and personal services form the most important service industry in terms of the GDP and employ about a fourth of the workers. The government controls several of Austria's major companies. Community, government, and personal services also include the operation of schools and hospitals. Foreign investment in Austria's banks helps to make finance, insurance, real estate, and business services another important service industry. Trade, restaurants, and hotels benefit from heavy spending by tourists. The other service industries are utilities, and transportation and communication.
Manufacturing. Austria's leading manufacturing activities are the production of metals and metal products. The chief metals include iron and steel. The main metal products include automobiles and other motor vehicles, locomotives, machines and tools, and ships. Other major manufactured products are chemical products, electrical equipment, processed foods and beverages, and textiles and clothing. Austrian factories also produce cement, furniture, glass and porcelain products, lumber, optical instruments, and paper and pulp.
Factories are scattered throughout Austria, but the heaviest concentration is in the Vienna area. Manufacturers tend to stress high quality rather than mass production. Many factories are small or medium-sized. In small workshops throughout Austria, skilled craftsmen produce excellent glassware, jewelry, needlework, porcelain objects, woodcarvings, and other handicrafts.
Agriculture. Austria is so mountainous that only about 20 percent of the land can be used for growing crops. But the country's farmers use modern machinery and scientific farming methods. As a result, they can supply more than three-fourths of the food needed by the people. All Austrian farms are privately owned. Since the late 1940's, there has been a trend toward larger farms. But most farms in Austria are still small.
Dairy farming and livestock production are the main sources of farm income. Austria's farmers produce all the eggs, meat, and milk needed by the people. Farm animals graze in the high areas of the country, where it is too rugged and cold for growing crops.
The best croplands are in the Vienna Basin. But farm plots can be found in every province. The farmers produce all the potatoes and sugar beets and most of the barley, oats, rye, and wheat needed in Austria. Other farm crops grown in the country include apples, corn, grapes, hay, hops, and vegetables.
Tourism. Austria is one of Europe's most popular vacationlands. Millions of tourists visit the country every year. The booming tourist industry adds more than $1 billion to Austria's annual national income.
Innsbruck, Kitzbuhel, and other sports centers in the Alps attract many winter vacationers, especially skiers. In summer, the lakes of Carinthia and of the Salzkammergut area in central Austria are popular recreation spots. Vienna's art galleries, concert halls, and museums also attract many tourists, as do the summer music festivals held throughout the country.
Foreign trade. Austria depends heavily on trade, especially trade of manufactured goods with other European industrialized nations. It imports some types of machinery and vehicles and exports other types. The country's other imports include foods and petroleum. Other exports include forest products, including paper and pulp; iron and steel; and magnesite. The value of Austria's imports is greater than that of its exports. Income from tourism largely makes up the difference.
Austria's chief trading partner is Germany. Both countries are members of the European Union (EU). The EU is an organization of European nations that works for economic and political cooperation among its member nations. Most of Austria's trade is with EU members or with members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), an economic organization of European nations. EU and EFTA members have removed almost all tariffs and other restrictions on imports of manufactured goods from one another. See EUROPEAN FREE TRADE ASSOCIATION; EUROPEAN UNION (History).
Transportation. Austria has an excellent road network. Almost all Austrian families own an automobile. Railroads link almost all cities and towns. The federal government owns 90 per cent of the nation's railroad tracks. Both buses and trains provide fast and frequent passenger service. Many mountain areas have cable railways.
The federal and provincial governments own most of the stock in the national airline, Austrian Airlines. The airline operates international and domestic flights. Foreign airlines also serve the country. Vienna has Austria's chief airport. The Danube River is a major shipping route for trade between Austria and nearby countries. Passenger vessels also travel on the Danube.
Communication. Austria has about 30 daily newspapers. The
federal and provincial governments own the nation's radio and television
network. People who own a radio or television set pay a monthly fee
for its use. The federal government operates the postal, telegraph,
and telephone services. Most families in Austria have a radio, television
set, and telephone.
Early years. People have lived in what is now Austria for thousands of years, but historians do not know much about the earliest inhabitants. They do know that after about 800 B.C., the people mined and traded iron ore and salt. About 400 B.C., a people called Celts began to move into central and eastern Austria.
By 15 B.C., the Romans controlled Austria south of the Danube, and they made it part of their empire. In the late A.D. 100's, warlike tribes from the north began to invade Roman Austria, and Roman control slowly weakened. In 476, the Roman Empire collapsed. During the period of the empire's decline, groups of Asians, Germans, and Slavs invaded and settled in Austria.
In the late 700's, Austria came under the rule of Charlemagne, king of a Germanic people called the Franks. After Charlemagne's death in 814, the Frankish empire gradually broke up. In the 900's, tribes of Magyars overran Austria. But the king of Germany, Otto I, defeated them in 955. Austria then came under his rule. In 962, the pope crowned Otto emperor of what later became known as the Holy Roman Empire. German emperors ruled the Holy Roman Empire until it ended in 1806. Austria became the empire's most important state.
In 976, Emperor Otto II gave control of northeastern Austria to Leopold I of the Babenberg family. In 1156, Emperor Frederick I increased the importance of this area by declaring it a duchy--a territory ruled by a duke. In 1186, the Duchy of Styria, which lay south of the Duchy of Austria, also came under Babenberg rule.
The Habsburgs. The last Babenberg duke died without an heir in 1246. King Ottokar of Bohemia then gained control of the Babenberg duchies of Austria and Styria, plus some lands to the south. In 1273, the princes of Germany elected Rudolf I, a member of the Habsburg family of Switzerland, as Holy Roman emperor. Rudolf defeated Ottokar in battle in 1278 and began to acquire for his family the lands that the king had taken.
In the 1300's, the Habsburgs lost the Holy Roman crown. The empire was a disorganized patchwork of states ruled by various families, including the Habsburgs. In 1359, the great-grandson of Rudolf I, Rudolf IV, claimed the title of archduke of Austria. But his claim was not recognized by other European rulers until 1453. In that year, the Duchy of Austria became the Archduchy of Austria. In time, the Habsburgs acquired the other regions that make up present-day Austria. In 1438, a Habsburg had again been elected Holy Roman emperor. From then on, the Habsburgs held the title almost continuously. Their Archduchy of Austria became the empire's chief state. One of the greatest Habsburgs was Maximilian I. In 1496, he arranged for his son, Philip, to marry the daughter of the king and queen of Spain. Philip's son became King Charles I of Spain in 1516 and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1519. In 1556, Charles gave up the two thrones. Spain went to his son, and Austria and the title Holy Roman emperor went to his brother, Ferdinand I. The Habsburgs thus became divided into Spanish and Austrian branches.
Ferdinand had become king of Bohemia and Hungary in 1526. He fought against the Ottoman Empire, which had conquered a large part of Hungary. The Ottomans attacked Vienna twice but failed to capture it. They were driven out of almost all of Hungary in the late 1600's.
In 1618, Protestants in Bohemia revolted against their Habsburg ruler, who was a Roman Catholic. But they were defeated in 1620. The revolt became the start of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). This series of religious and political wars eventually involved most European nations. The Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years' War, declared that each German ruler could determine the official religion of the state. The Habsburgs could thus force Catholicism on the people in their lands.
Wars in the 1700's and 1800's. The last Habsburg king of Spain died in 1700. Both Austria and France claimed the throne. The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) followed. Austria won Belgium and Spain's Italian lands. A French prince became king of Spain.
Charles VI, archduke of Austria, became Holy Roman emperor in 1711. He had three daughters but no sons. An old European rule known as the Salic law prohibited a woman from inheriting a kingdom (see SALIC LAW). But in 1724, Charles publicly announced a decree called the Pragmatic Sanction. This decree made his oldest daughter, Maria Theresa, heir to the Habsburg possessions. The principal European states agreed to recognize the Pragmatic Sanction.
After Charles VI died in 1740, several states broke their promise and challenged Maria Theresa's right to rule. They tried to take her lands in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). In the war, Maria Theresa lost one of her lands, Silesia, to Prussia. But the powers of Europe recognized her as ruler of Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary. In the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), she tried unsuccessfully to regain Silesia.
Austria suffered many defeats in the Napoleonic Wars of the late 1700's and early 1800's. In these wars, Napoleon I of France fought an alliance of European states that included--in addition to Austria--Britain, Prussia, and Russia. Napoleon conquered large parts of the Holy Roman Empire, and in 1806 he forced Emperor Francis II to dissolve the empire. In 1804, Francis had changed his title from archduke to emperor of Austria. After 1806, he reigned as Emperor Francis I of Austria. Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815.
Metternich and revolution. The major political figure in Austria from 1809 to 1848 was Prince Klemens von Metternich, who served as minister of foreign affairs. Metternich played a leading role at the Congress of Vienna. The congress was a series of meetings of European political leaders that arranged the peace settlement following the Napoleonic Wars. The congress returned to Austria most of the land it had lost. But Austria gave up its claim to Belgium. The congress also set up the German Confederation, a loose union of independent states. Austria and Prussia began a struggle to lead the confederation.
During the 1800's, the forces of democracy and nationalism swept across Europe. Revolutions broke out in many areas. Because he feared revolution, Metternich tried to put down all democratic or nationalist movements in the Austrian Empire. But in 1848, revolution began in France and spread to Bohemia, Hungary, and even Vienna. In Vienna, revolutionaries demanded that Metternich resign and that a constitutional government be set up. Metternich fled to England. Revolts also broke out in the Austrian-controlled states in Italy. But by 1851, the Austrian army had put down all revolts.
In the following years, unification movements in Italy and Germany weakened the empire. In the various Italian states, many people wanted national unity under the king of Sardinia. Austria declared war on Sardinia in 1859. Italian and French forces defeated the Austrians. As a result of the defeat, Austria gave up its Italian state of Lombardy and lost its influence in other Italian states. In Germany, Prussia sought to unite the northern states under itself. In 1866, a minor dispute led to the Seven Weeks' War, in which Italy and Prussia quickly defeated Austria. The German Confederation was dissolved. Prussia formed a new confederation without Austria.
Austria-Hungary. In 1867, the Hungarians forced Emperor Francis Joseph to give Hungary equal status with Austria by setting up the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. Under this arrangement, both the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary pledged allegiance to Francis Joseph. The two countries also were united in their conduct of foreign, military, and certain financial affairs. But each country had its own constitutional government to handle all other matters.
In the late 1800's and early 1900's, Slavs and other minority groups in Austria-Hungary demanded the right to govern themselves. Serbia, a Slavic country south of Hungary, led the Slavic nationalist movement. In 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian from Bosnia-Herzegovina, killed Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia, marking the start of World War I (1914-1918). Germany and other nations joined Austria-Hungary in fighting the Allies, which included Britain, France, Russia, and the United States.
After World War I. A defeated Austria-Hungary signed an armistice on Nov. 3, 1918. On November 12, the last Habsburg emperor was overthrown, and Austria became a republic. Many Austrians wanted to make Austria part of Germany. But the Treaty of St.-Germain, signed by Austria and the Allies in 1919, forbade such a union. The treaty also established Austria's present boundaries. In 1920, Austria adopted a democratic constitution.
Austria had many political problems after the war. These problems centered on conflict between the two major parties--the Christian Social Party and the Social Democratic Party. Each party supported a private army. These armies often clashed with each other and with a group led by the Austrian Nazi Party. This party sought to unite Austria and Germany.
In March 1933, Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, a Christian Socialist, adjourned Parliament. This and other actions brought about a four-day war between his supporters and the Social Democrats in February 1934. The Christian Socialists won the war, and Dollfuss then ruled Austria as a dictator. Dollfuss strongly opposed the Nazi Party's goal of uniting Austria and Germany, and so, in July 1934, the Nazis killed him. Dollfuss was succeeded by Kurt von Schuschnigg. Schuschnigg also tried to keep Austria an independent nation.
In 1938, German troops seized Austria. Adolf Hitler, the German dictator, then announced the Anschluss (union) of Austria and Germany. Austria's fate thus became tied to that of Nazi Germany, whose quest for power led to World War II in 1939. The Allies, including Britain, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States, finally defeated Germany in 1945.
After World War II, Austria was divided into American, British, French, and Soviet zones of occupation. But the four powers allowed Austria to set up a single provisional (temporary) government based on the 1920 Constitution. Following elections in November 1945, a national government was formed. It included leaders of both the People's Party (formerly the Christian Social Party) and the Socialist Party (formerly the Social Democratic Workers' Party). This coalition government helped stabilize Austria. In 1955, the Allies ended their occupation of the country. To obtain its independence, Austria agreed to be permanently neutral--that is, completely uninvolved in international military affairs. Later in 1955, Austria joined the United Nations (UN).
As a neutral nation, Austria became an important channel for the exchange of ideas between the non-Communist countries of Western Europe and the Communist countries of Eastern Europe. Vienna was the site of some of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) that began in 1969 between the Soviet Union and the United States. Vienna also became the home of a number of UN agencies.
Austria had coalition governments until 1966, when the People's Party, led by Chancellor Josef Klaus, won a majority of seats in the Nationalrat. In the 1970 elections, the Socialist Party became the strongest party, though it did not have a majority. The party formed Austria's first Socialist government, with Bruno Kreisky as chancellor. In the 1971 elections, the Socialists gained a majority in the Nationalrat, and they retained their majority in the 1975 and 1979 elections.
In 1983 elections, the Socialists won the most seats in the Nationalrat but did not win a majority. They formed a coalition with the Freedom Party to keep control of the government. Kreisky resigned as chancellor following the elections. Fred Sinowatz of the Socialist Party succeeded him. The coalition broke up in 1986. In 1987, the Socialists formed a new coalition with the People's Party.
Recent developments. In 1986, Kurt Waldheim was elected to the largely honorary post of president. His campaign was marked by controversy when records surfaced concerning his possible involvement in Nazi atrocities in World War II. Waldheim denied involvement. He served as president until 1992. The day after Waldheim's election, Sinowatz resigned as chancellor. Franz Vranitzky of the Socialist Party succeeded him. In 1990 elections, the coalition of the Socialist and People's parties retained its majority. In 1991, the Socialist Party changed its name to the Social Democratic Party. In 1994 and 1995 elections, the coalition retained its majority.
Austria joined the European Union on Jan. 1, 1995. It had been
a member of the European Free Trade Association from 1960 through 1994.
Chancellor Vranitzky retired in 1997. Viktor Klima, also of the Social
Democratic Party, became chancellor.