A mountainous republic in central Europe; under the Hapsburgs (1278-1918) Austria maintained control of the Holy Roman Empire and was a leader in European politics until the 19th century; Also called: Oesterreich.
Landlocked country in central Europe, bounded E by Hungary, S by Slovenia and Italy, W by Switzerland and Liechtenstein, NW by Germany, N by the Czech Republic, and NE by the Slovak Republic.
Austria is a federal republic consisting of nine provinces (Länder), each with its own provincial assembly (Landtag), provincial governor, and councillors. The 1920 constitution was amended 1929, suspended during Hitler’s regime, and reinstated 1945. The two-chamber federal assembly consists of a national council (Nationalrat) and a federal council (Bundesrat). The Nationalrat has 183 members, elected by universal suffrage through proportional representation, for a four-year term. The Bundesrat has 63 members elected by the provincial assemblies for varying terms. Each province provides a chair for the Bundesrat for a six-month term. The federal president, elected by popular vote for a six-year term, is formal head of state and chooses the federal chancellor on the basis of support in the Nationalrat. The federal chancellor is head of government and chooses the cabinet.
Austria was inhabited in prehistoric times by Celtic tribes; the country south of the Danube was conquered by the Romans 14 BC and became part of the Roman Empire. After the fall of the empire in the 5th century AD, the region was occupied by Vandals, Goths, Huns, Lombards, and Avars. Having conquered the Avars 791, Charlemagne established the East Mark, nucleus of the future Austrian empire. In 983 Otto II granted the Mark to the House of Babenburg, which ruled until 1246. Rudolf of Hapsburg, who became king of the Romans and Holy Roman emperor 1273, seized Austria and invested his son as duke 1282. Until the empire ceased to exist 1806, most of the dukes (from 1453, archdukes) of Austria were elected Holy Roman emperor.
Turks kept at bay
Austria, which acquired control of Bohemia 1526, was throughout the 16th century a bulwark of resistance against the Turks, who besieged Vienna 1529 without success. The Thirty Years' War (1618–48) did not touch Austria, but it weakened its rulers. A second Turkish siege of Vienna 1683 failed, and by 1697 Hungary was liberated from the Ottoman Empire and incorporated in the Austrian dominion. As a result of their struggle with Louis XIV, the Hapsburgs secured the Spanish Netherlands and Milan 1713. When Charles VI, last male Hapsburg in the direct line, died 1740, his daughter Maria Theresa became archduchess of Austria and queen of Hungary, but the elector of Bavaria was elected emperor as Charles VII. Frederick II of Prussia seized Silesia, and the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48) followed. Charles VII died 1745, and Maria Theresa secured the election of her husband as Francis I, but she did not recover Silesia from Frederick. The archduke Francis who succeeded 1792 was also elected emperor as Franc
is II; sometimes opposing, sometimes allied with Napoleon, he proclaimed himself emperor of Austria 1804 as Francis I, and the name Holy Roman Empire fell out of use 1806. Under the Treaty of Vienna 1815, Francis failed to recover the Austrian Netherlands (annexed by France 1797) but received Lombardy and Venetia.
During the revolutions of 1848 the grievances of mixed nationalities within the Austrian empire flared into a rebellion; revolutionaries in Vienna called for the resignation of Metternich, who fled to the UK. By 1851 Austria had crushed all the revolts. As a result of the Seven Weeks’ War 1866 with Prussia, Austria lost Venetia to Italy. In the following year Emperor Franz Joseph established the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. The treaty of Berlin 1878 gave Austria the administration of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Balkans, though they remained nominally Turkish until Austria annexed them 1908. World War I was precipitated 1914 by an Austrian attack on Serbia, following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (Franz Joseph’s nephew) and his wife by a Serbian nationalist. Austria-Hungary was defeated 1918, the last Hapsburg emperor overthrown, and Austria became a republic, comprising only Vienna and its immediately surrounding provinces. The Treaty of St Germain, signed 1919 by Austria and the Allies, es
tablished Austria’s present boundaries. Austria was invaded by Hitler’s troops 1938 and incorporated into the German Reich (the Anschluss).
partition and independence
With the conclusion of World War II Austria returned to its 1920 constitution, with a provisional government led by Dr Karl Renner. The Allies divided both the country and Vienna into four zones, occupied by the USSR, the US, Britain, and France. The first postwar elections resulted in a coalition of the Socialist Party of Austria (SPÖ) and the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). The country was occupied until independence was formally recognized 1955. The first postwar noncoalition government was formed 1966 when the ÖVP came to power with Josef Klaus as chancellor. The SPÖ formed a minority government under Dr Bruno Kreisky 1970 and increased its majority in the 1971 and 1975 general elections. The government was nearly defeated 1978 over proposals to install the first nuclear power plant. The plan was abandoned, but nuclear energy remained a controversial issue. The SPÖ lost its majority 1983; Kreisky resigned, refusing to join a coalition. The SPÖ decline was partly attributed to the emergence of two environme
ntalist groups, the United Green Party (VGÖ) and the Austrian Alternative List (ALÖ). Dr Fred Sinowatz, the new SPÖ chair, formed a coalition government with the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).
When Kurt Waldheim, former UN secretary-general, became president 1986, he was diplomatically isolated by many countries because of controversy over his service in the German army during the Second World War. Later that year Sinowatz resigned as chancellor and was succeeded by Franz Vranitzky. The SPÖ–FPÖ coalition broke up when an extreme right-winger, Jorg Haider, became FPÖ leader. Vranitzky remained as chancellor with the ÖVP leader, Dr Alois Mock, as vice chancellor. Sinowatz denounced the new coalition as a betrayal of socialist principles and resigned as chair of the SPÖ.
entering the European Union
In the 1990 general election the Socialists won a clear lead over other parties and Vranitzky began another term as chancellor. Thomas Klestil, the candidate of the ÖVP, replaced Waldheim as president 1992. A referendum June 1994 gave a clear endorsement of Austria's application for European Union (EU) membership. Despite gains for extreme right parties in the Oct 1994 general election, the SPÖ–ÖVP coalition continued under Vranitsky's leadership. Austria became a full EU member Jan 1995. In the same month the far-right FPO was renamed Freedom.