History of Austria

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The history of Austria extends from the first settlement in the Paleolithic to the present. Mentioned for the first time in 996 under the name "Ostarrichi", the country initially belonged to the Duchy of Bavaria as a margraviate and was an independent part of the Holy Roman Empire from 1156 to 1453 and as the Archduchy from 1453 to 1806 . As the House of Austria, the Habsburg dynasty acquired extensive territory and was the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire for several centuries . The Austrian Empire proclaimed in 1804(which at that time also included Hungary and Bohemia) was with its western part from 1815 to 1866 part of the German Confederation and from 1867 formed the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy with the now independent Kingdom of Hungary . After their breakup at the end of the First World War , Austria emerged within its current borders in 1918–1921, after the victors of the First World War prevented the democratic union with Germany. Having become a dictatorship in 1934, Austria was incorporated into the German Reich in 1938 by the National Socialist regime . Austria has been an independent republic again since 1945, and a sovereign republic since 1955Joined European Union .

The red-white-red shield , the historical symbol of Austria


People first settled in what is now Austria in the Paleolithic Age. In the Celtic period from 800 to 400 BC The kingdom of Noricum was established on this territory . At the turn of the ages, the Romans conquered and settled the land south of the Danube . The most important Roman settlement in Austria was Carnuntum .

From the 6th century, Bavarians settled the country, which was incorporated into the Franconian Empire in the 8th century . Charlemagne established the Avarsmark around 800 AD , a border mark in what is now Lower Austria, to stop the further advance of Slavs and Avars from the east. In the 10th century the margraviate of Austria was established east of the Enns , which was under the Duke of Bavaria . The oldest surviving document in which the country is called "Ostarrichi" (meaning "Eastern Mark", cf. Ostarrîchi, name origin) comes from the year 996. Since 1156 ( Privilegium minus ), independent dukes from the Babenbergs ruled in Lower Austria . The areas of today's Austria gradually broke away from Bavaria . They belonged to the Holy Roman Empire until 1806 and to the German Confederation from 1815 to 1866 .

After the death of the last Babenberger, the German King Rudolf I became the first Habsburg to take over Austria in 1276 . In the centuries that followed, Austria became the home of the Habsburgs, under whom it rose to become the leading power in the Holy Roman Empire . In the 15th and beginning of the 16th centuries, the Habsburgs extended their rule to Spain, the Netherlands and parts of Italy, primarily through clever marriage policies. This is how the Habsburg-French antagonism arose , which shaped European politics for more than 200 years. Emperor Charles V transferred the Austrian lands to his brother Ferdinand I in 1521 .who created the first central administrative structures. In 1526 Ferdinand inherited the kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary . After the Battle of Mohács, however, the latter was largely under the control of the Ottoman Empire , which now bordered directly on the Austrian lands. Even after the unsuccessful first siege of Vienna by the Turks , the Ottoman threat persisted for a century and a half.

In the 16th century, the Reformation also spread in the Austrian countries . The re-Catholicisation of the Habsburgs, which began around 1600, was a triggering factor in the Thirty Years' War , at the beginning of which it seemed as if the Habsburgs could transform the Holy Roman Empire into a centrally controlled monarchy under their rule. Under pressure from the anti-Habsburg coalition from France, Sweden and most of the Protestant German states, however, from 1648 they had to confine themselves to their Austrian and Bohemian countries in the empire. In 1683 the Ottoman forces were defeated a second time before Vienna and in the Great Turkish War pushed back to behind Belgrade.

When the main Spanish line of the Habsburgs died out in 1700, the War of the Spanish Succession began between the Habsburgs and King Louis XIV of France . From the inheritance, Austria received the Spanish Netherlands , Naples and Lombardy in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 . With this and with the conquests in the Balkans it reached its greatest territorial extent. Also in 1713 the Pragmatic Sanction was enacted, which provided for a uniform succession and was intended to prevent the division of the Habsburg Empire. Nevertheless, in 1740, after Maria Theresa's accession to the throne , the marriage withFranz Stephan von Lothringen founded the new Habsburg-Lothringen dynasty, the War of the Austrian Succession , in which Silesia was lost to Prussia . With the Silesian Wars , the dualism between Austria and Prussia began, which from then on had a significant influence on imperial politics. Under Empress Maria Theresa, far-reaching reforms were initiated in all areas of the state, which were continued by her son, Emperor Joseph II.

The coronation of Emperor Napoleon I responded in 1804 Francis II. With the proclamation of the Empire of Austria . In 1806 he laid down the imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation , which ceased to exist. Austria took part in the Napoleonic Wars and, as host of the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15, played a leading role in the reorganization of Europe. In the 19th century, the nationalist currents in the countries of the Habsburg monarchy endangeredincreasingly their existence. Towards the end of the 19th century, the differences between the individual ethnic groups could no longer be overlooked. Since the German element of the state was weakened after Prussia's forced departure from the German Confederation in 1866, the Austro-Hungarian settlement and the creation of the imperial and royal dual monarchy took place in 1867 . In the long run, however, it was not possible to reduce the nationalist tensions in the multi-ethnic state . They culminated in 1914 with the assassination of the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo, which led to the First World War in a chain reaction.

Towards the end of the lost war, the non-German ethnic groups broke away from the state association. As a result, Austria emerged within today's borders. It was proclaimed a republic in 1918 under the name German Austria . The persistent, severe consequences of the global economic crisis and domestic political tensions led to conflicts similar to civil war in February 1934, which culminated in an authoritarian corporate state with the May constitution of 1934 . Only two months later, the Austrian National Socialists, who wanted to join the country to the German Reich , attempted a coup against Federal Chancellor Engelbert Dollfusswas killed. The putsch could be put down, but with the invasion of the German armed forces , Adolf Hitler's government forced the annexation of Austria on March 12, 1938 . As " Ostmark " it remained part of the Nazi state until 1945 . After the Second World War , Austria was restored as a republic, but remained occupied by the victorious Allied powers for another ten years. In 1995 Austria joined the European Union .

Geological history

The geological history of the Alpine region and the granite and gneiss plateaus of the Bohemian masses and their foothills can be traced back to the Proterozoic era. Essential for the geology and today's geography of Austria was the alpine mountain formation and the development of the marginal sea Paratethys since the Cretaceous period .

Prehistory and early history of today's Austria

The Venus of Willendorf , originated around 25,000 BC. Chr. (Natural History Museum, Vienna)

The oldest human traces in Austria, over 250,000 years old, have so far been found in the Repolust cave in Styria .


During the Ice Ages, the Alps were glaciated and hardly or not at all accessible. The oldest traces of human presence in Austria belong to the Middle Paleolithic , the time of the Neanderthals . About 70,000 year old traces of the Neanderthal man are known from the Gudenus Cave in northwestern Lower Austria . Many sites of the Upper Palaeolithic are also in Lower Austria. The most famous are in the Wachau , including the locations of the two oldest Austrian works of art, the figural depictions of women of the so-called " Venus vom Galgenberg " by Stratzing/ Krems-Rehberg (36,000 years old, relief sculpture, 7.2 cm, green serpentine) and the Venus von Willendorf (30,000 years old, 11 cm, oolite). An infant double burial from the Wachtberg in Krems on the Danube from the Gravettian era , which was found in red chalk and located under a mammoth shoulder leaf , is the oldest burial in Austria with an age of approx. 27,000 years ( radiocarbon dating ).


Abris (rock protection roofs) from the Lake Constance-Rhine valley, a burial from Elsbethen and a few other sites with microlithic artefacts are scanty evidence of the transition period between groups living as hunters and gatherers and sedentary farmers and cattle breeders.


During the Neolithic Age , all regions of Austria where agriculture is possible or raw materials are available are gradually settled. The first documented rural settlement from the time of the oldest linear ceramics comes from Brunn am Gebirge . The oldest industrial monument in Austria, the chert mine of Mauer-Antonshöhe , also dates from this time. The following shows a dense settlement of the Lengyel culture , during which a number of circular moats were built in Lower Austria .

Copper Age

The oldest copper objects originate in the Carpathian Basin, including the custodian of Stollhof (Lower Austria). Hill settlements are common in eastern Austria. In the course of the Copper Age , the inner-Alpine areas are also fully developed in search of raw materials - especially copper. The most important find is the glacier mummy Ötzi ( man from Tisenjoch ), who lived around 3300 BC. . AD lived. The Mondsee culture is characterized by pile dwellings around the alpine lakes.

Bronze age

The ramparts that were increasingly being built at the beginning of the Bronze Age seem to have overseen the mining, processing and trading of copper and tin as centers of power and trade. The flourishing trade in raw materials and semi-finished products is reflected in the furnishings in the graves ( Pitten , Franzhausen , Lower Austria). During the Urnfield period , salt mining began in the northern group of the Hallstatt salt mine.

Iron age

The Iron Age of Austria is shaped by the influences of the Mediterranean high cultures and the steppe peoples. The transition between the older Hallstatt culture and the younger - Celtic - Latène culture was fluid.

Hallstatt culture

Leather shoe from the Hallstatt culture, 800–400 BC Chr.

The older Iron Age is called " Hallstatt Period " after the famous place where it was found in Hallstatt ( Upper Austria ) . The West and East Hallstatt districts are formed by the rivers Enns , Ybbs and InnCut. The Westhallstattkreis was in contact with the Greek colonies on the Ligurian coast. In the Alps, contacts are maintained with the Etruscans and the regions in Italy that are under Greek influence. The east had close ties to the steppe peoples who were at home from the Carpathian Basin to the southern Russian steppe regions. The people of Hallstatt get rich from the salt. Imports of luxury goods from the North and Baltic Sea region to Africa have been discovered in the Hallstatt burial ground. The oldest evidence of Austrian wine was discovered in Zagersdorf (Burgenland) in a tumulus. The cult car from Strettweg(Styria) is evidence of religious life. The most visible evidence of the Hallstatt period are the barrows in today's Weinviertel , the largest being the 16 meter high Leeberg from Großmugl

Latène culture

The younger Iron Age, Latène culture , is the time of the Celts . For the first time, population groups can be named by name. With the Regnum Noricum (celt. Norig) - an amalgamation of several Celtic tribes - under the leadership of the Norikers, the first state formation on Austrian soil emerges . It was limited to the south and east of today's Austria. The west was populated by different Rhaetian tribes.

Dürrnberg and Hallein (Salzburg) become Celtic salt metropolises. In the east of Austria, a flourishing iron industry in the Oberpullendorfer Bay (Burgenland) wins the high-quality Ferrum Noricum (Noric iron), which is so popular with the Romans . Fortified hilltop settlements ( Oppida ) such as on Magdalensberg (Carinthia), near Schwarzenbach or on Braunsberg near Hainburg not far from Carnuntum are becoming centers of public life.


Roman Empire

Roman provinces and places in what is now Austria
The Roman Heidentor in Carnuntum

Most of what is now Austria was founded around 15 BC. It was incorporated into the Roman Empire after there had previously been lively trade relations and military alliances between the Kingdom of Noricum and the Romans. This marked the beginning of the 500 year period of the Austria Romana .

During his reign (41–54 AD), the Roman Emperor Claudius set up the Roman province of Noricum, its borders in the north to the Danube, in the northeast to the Vienna Woods , in the east roughly along today's eastern Styrian border and in the southeast and south beyond Eisack and Drau . Later, under Diocletian (284–305), the province was divided along the main Alpine ridge into a northern ( Noricum ripense , "Ufernoricum") and a southern ( Noricum mediterraneum , "Binnennoricum") province. That at the Zillerto the west of the area of ​​today's federal states Vorarlberg and Tyrol bordering on the Noricum came to the province of Raetia , in the east Pannonia with today's Burgenland joined Noricum. The Danube formed with the Donaulimes the border to the northern parts of Upper and Lower Austria, which were colonized by the Germans (Marcomani and Quads).

Some cities and places in Austria go back to the Celts such as B. Linz (Lentos). Numerous other settlements were created by the Romans. The city ​​of Carnuntum, east of Vienna , was the largest Roman city on Austrian soil today, other important places were Virunum (north of today's Klagenfurt ), Teurnia (near Spittal an der Drau ), Iuvavum (Salzburg) and the legionary camps Vindobona (Vienna) and Lauriacum (Enns). Important excavation sites for Roman times today include Kleinklein (Styria) and the Zollfeld (City on the Magdalensberg ).

Christianity began to spread in the 2nd century AD ; the ecclesiastical organization of the country at that time goes back to the 4th century AD. After the settlement by the Bavarians , however, the country was re-missioned, especially by Rupert and Virgil ( Iroschottische Mission ).

Great Migration

The Great Migration sealed the decline of Roman power. From the 5th century onwards, the Roman Empire was beset by Germanic tribes. After several incursions into Italy, the Goths invaded Noricum, commanded by the Roman military leader Stilicho , for the first time in 408 under Alaric I , coming from Emona (today's Ljubljana ) across the Carnic Alps . From 472, Ostrogoths and Alamanni came through the country without being able to conquer it. Even after Odoacer476 had deposed the last western Roman emperor, at least remnants of the Roman administration remained in the provinces before the late antique administration in this area collapsed ( see Severin von Noricum and Flaccitheus ). With the death of the Ostrogoth king Theodoric in 526, the collapse of the Ostrogoth Empire began in Italy without them having gained control over Noricum.

From the 6th century a continuous settlement began by the Bavarians and in what is now Vorarlberg by the Alamanni. At the end of the 6th century, the Roman Empire finally fell apart. The Slavs , besieged by the Avars , moved in from the east and, since they were not prevented from doing so by the remaining Celto-Roman population, moved further and further west along the Drava until they were surrounded by the Bavarians around 610, who at that time were Coming north as far as the Pustertal, were stopped. The settlement border between Slavs and Bavarians roughly corresponds to the line Freistadt , Linz , Salzburg( Lungau ), East Tyrol ( Lesachtal ).

middle age

Early Middle Ages (until 976)

Avarmark and Mark Karantanien at the time of Charlemagne

In the early Middle Ages , today's Austria was politically fragmented. From the middle of the 6th century the Bavarian tribal duchy was formed in the northern Alpine region , whose rulers came from the Agilolfinger family and were under Franconian suzerainty . The settlement area of Bavaria was in this period to the south to present-day South and east to the Enns expanded. East of it and in the area of today's Bohemia to let Avars and later Slavslow. The seat of the Bavarian dukes, who ruled largely independently for a long time, was Regensburg .

In the south of what is now Austria, the Slavic tribes that had settled in the valleys of Drava, Mur and Save formed the first independent Slavic rulership in Europe, Carantania , around the year 600 ; The center of Carantania was the Zollfeld . With the remnants of the indigenous Celto-Roman population they connected the will to resist further penetration of the neighboring Franks and Avars into the southeastern Alpine region.

After the Avars had destroyed the Gepid Empire under Baian in 567 , they took control of Pannonia , from where they ruled an empire for about 250 years that included Vienna, Lower Austria, Burgenland and parts of Upper Austria and Styria. For the 8th century, the Avar settlement area is estimated to be between 140,000 and 160,000 km². The Enns formed the border between Avars and Baiern and was called limes certus . However, there are also significant Avar finds in Linz and Enns- Lauriacum . In 595 the Merovingian Childebert II fell. in Avar Austria, but was crushed on the Drau. From 627 to 658, according to the Fredegar Chronicle, the Vienna area was the scene of a great Slav uprising under the leadership of the Franconian merchant Samo against the Avars until March . As early as 650 the first Avars returned to the rebellious areas. In 791, Charlemagne led the first unsuccessful campaign against the Avars, but was able to push them back as far as the Vienna Woods and establish Franconian bases in Comagena-Tulln and Aelium Cetium-St. Pöltenerect. A civil war in the Avar Empire in 795 ended with the new ruler (Tudun) offering Charlemagne the submission and acceptance of Christianity, which the Franks only used for another attack. In 795/96, Erich von Friuli and King Pippin of Italy captured the famous Avar treasure, whereupon Tudun personally came to the king to submit. He received his own ruling organization within the Franconian Avarmark, the so-called Avar Khaganate in what is now Lower Austria between Carnuntum and Sabaria. In the years 797, 799 and 803 there were significant Avar uprisings and incursions by non-subject Avars in what is now Austria, in which the Franconian Counts Cadaloc and Goteram I (Prefect of the Bavarian Ostland ) at the Guntio Fort (possibly in northern Burgenland ) were killed.

Under the Carolingians , the Frankish empire grew stronger , as a result of which in 788 the older Baier tribal duchy, to which large areas of today's Austria belonged, was eliminated. The last largely independent Duke of Bavaria was Tassilo III. Also in the second half of the 8th century, the Slavic empire of Carantania collapsed and came under Franconian sovereignty.

After conquering the Avars empire, the Frankish ruler Charlemagne established a border mark around 800 in the region of today's Lower Austria between the rivers Enns, Raab and Drau, which was also known as the Avarsmark , and south of it the Mark Karantanien, both together were the Marcha orientalis , a prefecture of the Duchy of Bavaria.

Duchy of Bavaria in the 10th century

The border march against the Avars was destroyed by the Hungarian invasions . After the Battle of Pressburg in the summer of 907, the border of the subsequent Eastern Franconia was withdrawn to the Enns. The subsequent accession of Arnulf I as Duke of Baiern is also seen as the beginning of the younger Baier tribal duchy, which included the entire eastern Alpine region. After the victory in 955 in the battle of the Lechfeld under the East Franconian King Otto I , the threat from the Hungarians was averted. This was followed by a second wave of eastern Baier settlements with the acquisition of areas in what is now Lower Austria, inIstria and Carniola . In the second half of the 10th century, a margraviate east of the Enns was rebuilt under the Duke of Baiern.

Margraviate Austria (976–1156)

The Holy Roman Empire around the year 1000 with the Duchy of Carinthia and the Bavarian border region of Ostarrîchi

The Roman-German Emperor Otto II enfeoffed Luitpold (Leopold) from the Babenberg family with this mark in 976 . This eastern mark was part of the Bavarian tribal duchy and is considered to be the nucleus of the later duchy of Austria. In the same year 976, the Duchy of Carinthia was separated from the Bavarian Duchy. In a deed of gift from Emperor Otto III. The name Ostarrîchi was first mentioned in 996 . The spelling Austria later developed from this . In addition, the name form Osterlant has been around for a long time(Ostland or land in the east) common, the inhabitants are the Ostermann and the Osterfrau . The Latinized form Austria for this area does not appear in the writings until the 12th century under Leopold III. on ( cf. Austria as the eastern part of the Franconian Empire).

The Babenbergers pursued a purposeful clearing and colonization policy and established - in cooperation with other houses, such as the Kuenringers  - a solid state rule. The residence was initially in Pöchlarn , later in Melk . Margrave Leopold III. succeeded in marrying into the imperial family; In the power struggle between Emperor Heinrich IV. and King Heinrich V , he switched to Heinrich V and thus contributed significantly to his victory. As a reward he received the hand of Heinrich's sister Agnes von Waiblingen . He was because of his monasteries - especiallyKlosterneuburg  - canonized after his death .

Duchy of Austria under the Babenbergs (1156–1246)

In the course of the conflict between the Staufers and the Guelphs , the Duchy of Bavaria came to the Babenbergs in 1139 . When Frederick I Barbarossa wanted to end this dispute, he returned the Duchy of Bavaria to the Guelphs - as compensation, Austria was elevated to the Duchy of the Holy Roman Empire with the privilege minus of 1156 . The first duke was Heinrich Jasomirgott , who made Vienna a royal seat in 1156 . Due to the Georgenberger Handfeste (1186) also fell the Duchy of Styria , the Traungau , the central part of today'sUpper Austria , and the county of Pitten in southern Lower Austria as well as large areas in today's Slovenia , with the extinction of the Traungau in 1192 to the Babenbergs.

Rudolf of Habsburg. Grave slab in the Speyer Cathedral

With Leopold VI. Austria in the High Middle Ages reached a cultural climax - under it the then revolutionary art of Gothic was introduced. However, his childless son Friedrich II , known as "the arguable", soon got into an argument with several neighbors, including Hungary. When Béla IV of Hungary , to whom he was related through his second wife Agnes von Andechs-Meranien , asked for help against the Mongols , he initially participated in the war in the spring of 1241. But soon afterwards he asked for money and three West Hungarian countiesfor this. The fulfillment of these conditions laid the foundation for the Babenberg-Hungarian conflicts, which culminated in the Battle of the Leitha in 1246 , in which Frederick II was killed. With him, the Babenbergs died out in the male line. The period known as the “Austrian Interregnum ” began, during which the lands of Frederick II got caught up in a prolonged battle of forces between rival powers.

Duchy of Austria as an object of dispute (1246–1282)

The domain of Ottokar II Přemysl from 1247 to 1278

Among those who laid claim to the lands of Frederick II, the king of Bohemia , Ottokar II Přemysl , who had been called into the country by the estates in 1256 to end the turmoil, was able to prevail. Nevertheless, his policy was aimed at pushing back the nobility and promoting the urban bourgeoisie , which is why the Viennese fondly remembered him well into the Habsburg era. His grab for royal power in the Holy Roman Empire was met by Rudolf von Habsburg , who took him in 1278 at the Battle of Marchfelddefeated. The Habsburgs were then able to establish themselves as Dukes of Austria and Styria and were to rule here until 1918, i.e. for 640 years.

Duchy of Austria under the Habsburgs (1282–1452)

From the middle of the 13th to the end of the 14th century, Austria was the scene of intense persecution of heretics by the Inquisition . A first major wave of persecution around 1260 in over forty parishes in the southern Danube region between the Salzkammergut and the Vienna Woods was mainly directed against Waldensians . Further inquisitions took place in 1311-1315 in Steyr , Krems , St. Pölten and Vienna . Under the inquisitor Petrus Zwicker there were again severe persecutions from 1391 to 1402, including a. in Steyr, Enns , Hartberg ,Ödenburg and Vienna. In 1397, between 80 and 100 Waldensians were burned in Steyr alone, as a memorial erected there in 1997 commemorates.

In 1335 the Habsburgs were able to inherit the Meinhardiners in Carinthia and Carniola , and in 1363 Tyrol also fell from Margaret of Tyrol to Duke Rudolf IV. This resulted in a complex of lands in the Eastern Alps that was called the rule of Austria .

Rudolf IV was the busiest ruler of the late Middle Ages. He initiated a variety of measures that were primarily intended to raise the importance of the city of Vienna. He also had the Privilegium Maius forged, which made Austria an archduchy and guaranteed him a number of privileges within the empire.

In 1379, in the Treaty of Neuberg, Habsburg rule was divided for the first time. After that there were further divisions in 1406 and 1411. This resulted in three country complexes:

  • the Lower Austrian states (Upper and Lower Austria),
  • the inner Austrian states (Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and Inner-Istria as well as Trieste)
  • the Upper Austrian states (Tyrol, Vorarlberg and the Swabian and Alsatian foothills).

Almost the entire 15th century was a phase of confused inheritance divisions and family disputes, which largely weakened the political and economic importance of the Habsburg lands. Frederick V († 1493) finally succeeded in reuniting the countries by surviving and inheriting all of his opponents. Even Albert V was the heir of Luxembourg was elected Holy Roman king. This position was subsequently transferred to Friedrich, who was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1452 and henceforth Friedrich III. called.

The Archduchy of Austria since 1453

Main article: Archduchy of Austria

The elevation of the Duchy of Austria to the Archduchy was in 1453 by Emperor Friedrich III. accepted. From then on, the Habsburg princes referred to themselves as archdukes , referring to the electors , also known as archprinces . The duchy was henceforth an archduchy of the Holy Roman Empire in order to equate it legally with the electorates - only their masters, the electors, were involved in the election of the Roman-German emperor . As a duchy of equal rank with the electorates, primogeniture and indivisibility were valid for Austria . It later became official as theArchduchy of Austria ob and under the Enns and finally in 1861 divided into the Archduchy of Austria ob and the Archduchy of Austria under the Enns .

Early modern times to 1804

The rise of Austria to a great power

tu felix austria nube . Maximilian I (left) with his family

The emperor's house power in the empire was not particularly great, as the many noble ruling houses inside and outside the empire strived for their own political power. So the lackluster but tenacious policy of Frederick III. a solid rule. Its importance was increased by the marriage (1477) of his son Maximilian to Maria , the heiress of the Burgundian country complex between the Holy Roman Empire and France . After Mary's early death, Maximilian married the Breton Princess Anna of Bretagnewho had an inheritance claim to Brittany. However, an intervention by France prevented the Habsburgs from taking power there. In 1496 Maximilian I married his son Philip the Beautiful to the Infanta Johanna (the madwoman) of Castile and Aragon . He secured the Habsburgs not only inheritance rights to Spain, Naples , Sicily and Sardinia , but also to the Spanish colonies . The Habsburgs' marriage policy is expressed in the famous saying: Bella gerant alii - tu felix austria nube("Wars may be waged by others - you, happy Austria, get married!"). The Swabian War ended in 1499 . The Habsburgs had to give up their home country with the Habichtsburg in the peace treaty of Basel . This marked the beginning of the legal separation of Switzerland from the Holy Roman Empire, which was finally sealed in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. In 1500 Maximilian inherited the county of Gorizia . Due to the rapid expansion of the territory, the Habsburgs were on the verge of establishing a universal monarchy spanning the world, which is expressed in the motto of Charles V , who was crowned in 1519 : Plus Ultra(Beyond everything so far). Although he was unable to meet this claim in the face of strong opponents, he is still considered the most powerful Habsburg of all time.

Charles V quote: The sun never set in his kingdom

At the Diet of Worms in 1521, the Austrian states were handed over by Emperor Charles V to his brother Ferdinand I , who established the beginnings of central administrative structures. Ferdinand I married Anna in the same year , who brought inheritance rights in Bohemia and Hungary into the marriage. In 1524 Charles V added Friesland to the Habsburg household. In 1526 after the unfortunate battle of Mohács , Ferdinand inherited (thanks to the claims of his wife) not only the kingdoms of Hungary and Bohemia (with the neighboring countries of Moravia , Silesia and Lusatia), but also the permanent threat from the Ottoman Empire , against which Hungary had previously been a territorial shield. In addition, the Habsburgs came into conflict for the first time with the Hungarian nobility, who at that time supported the opposing king Johann Zápolya . In 1528 Overijssel and Utrecht came under Habsburg rule. In 1531 Ferdinand I was elected Roman-German King with the help of bribes . The Duchy of Milan was annexed by Charles V.

In 1538 the Kingdom of Hungary was divided into three parts:

  • The Royal Hungary (now Slovakia, Burgenland, western Croatia and parts of today's Hungary) remained in Habsburg.
  • The center of the country fell to the Turks.
  • Transylvania came under the control of rival Hungarian nobles.

In 1555/56 Charles V abdicated after the Peace of Augsburg . This led to the division of the Habsburgs into a Spanish and an Austrian line. The Austrian line provided the Roman-German emperor almost continuously until 1806.

Reformation, Counter Reformation and Catholic Reform in the Habsburg countries

In the Austrian countries (with the exception of Tyrol) the population converted almost entirely to Protestantism. The recatholicization did not begin until around 1600 a ( see also Counter-Reformation ), but with all the greater ferocity and violence. In this process the Jesuits and Cardinal Melchior Khlesl , the chancellor of Archduke Matthias , stood out. A leading operator of this policy was Ferdinand II , who took up the topos and made it known that he would rather rule a desert than a land full of heretics.

Because of this policy, the Austrian states were also involved in the Thirty Years' War , which was brought about by the class uprising in Bohemia . For a while it looked as if the Habsburgs could transform the Holy Roman Empire into an absolutist monarchy ( see also Battle of the White Mountain , Edict of Restitution ); at the end of this war, however, they were thrown back on the Austrian and Bohemian lands. So they tried to form an integrated state structure from these. Economic theorists such as Philipp von Hörnigk and Johann von Justi have been pushing in this direction since the 1680s .

The Habsburg Empire and the Ottoman Threat

After incursions by Turkish marauders had already occurred in the late 15th century , the Ottoman army advanced as far as Vienna in 1529 and besieged the city . Only the fact that the attackers were forced to break off the siege because of the late season could save the city at that time. In the almost 200 years that followed, the Turks posed a serious threat to the Holy Roman Empire and the Turkish Wars (with often cautiously answered requests for help from the imperial estates) were a recurring topic at the imperial diets .

1683, Second siege of Vienna by the Ottomans

In 1683 the Ottomans besieged Vienna a second time without success. A decisive factor was the relief army led by Duke Charles of Lorraine under the supreme command of the Polish King John III. Sobieski , who with his hussars fell from Kahlenberg in the rear of the besiegers. In the following years, the liberation against the Ottoman threat finally succeeded. With the help of capable generals such as Karl of Lorraine and Prince Eugene of Savoy , the Ottomans were thrown back behind Belgrade during the Great Turkish War 1683–1699 and in another Turkish war 1716–1718 . in theThe Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699 passed all of Hungary and Slavonia into the possession of Austria. The other territorial gains from the Peace of Passarowitz (1718) were reversed in the Peace of Belgrade (1739) with the exception of the Banat .

This enabled an unprecedented flourishing of the baroque culture, which developed a specifically Austrian form and profoundly shaped the city (“Vienna gloriosa”) and the country.

Wars of Succession

After the Spanish Habsburgs died out in 1700, the Austrian Habsburgs fought against Louis XIV in the War of the Spanish Succession for the local legacy of the monarchy. The war was fought particularly by Emperor Joseph I with verve and success - but everything collapsed after his death. His brother Karl was the last living male Habsburg; he would have inherited a world empire, which the other European powers prevented. In the Peace of Utrecht in 1713, the French Bourbons were installed as Spanish rulers; the Habsburgs were left with all the European sub-lands of Spain from the inheritance (Spanish Netherlands , Naples , Lombardy ).

In the same year, Charles VI. also the pragmatic sanction , which can be seen as the first basic law for the Habsburg monarchy . The pragmatic sanction determined the indivisibility and inseparability of the monarchy and, for this purpose, introduced a uniform succession to the throne based on the principles of primogeniture and subsidiary female succession. This regulation lasted until the end of the Habsburg Monarchy in 1918; it was explicitly confirmed by Hungary in the settlement in 1867.

In historiography it is often stated that Charles VI. made the female succession possible from the point of view that he only left two daughters, Maria Theresia (1740–80) and Maria Anna , born in 1717 . However, this does not correspond to the facts, since at the time of the adoption of the Pragmatic Sanction in 1713 none of the emperor's four children (one son, three daughters) had been born and it was not foreseeable that his firstborn son would not survive the year of birth 1716.

After the successful Turkish War from 1714 to 1718 , the Habsburgs received Northern Bosnia, Northern Serbia (roughly the area of ​​today's Vojvodina ), the Banat and Little Wallachia . Through the so-called Schwaben trains organized carried arrival and settlement of these as a result of the Turkish wars almost deserted areas with predominantly German-born Catholic subjects. With the exchange of Sardinia for Sicily , the Austrian Habsburg Empire achieved its greatest territorial expansion.

With the death of Charles VI. In 1740 the Habsburgs were extinct in the male line. Therefore, due to the Pragmatic Sanction, his daughter Maria Theresa came to power in the Austrian states. With her husband Franz Stephan von Lothringen she became the founder of the new Habsburg-Lothringen dynasty . She was able to largely defend her legacy in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–1748). In the preliminary peace of Breslau , which was confirmed in the Peace of Berlin in 1742, however, most of Silesia , with the exception of Austrian Silesia , fell to Prussia and, despite many efforts andtwo further wars (including 1756–1763 ) cannot be regained.

Reforms of Maria Theresa

In the following years Maria Theresa made some changes for the hereditary lands in Austria and Bohemia:

  • Special rights in the monarchy were restricted.
  • The neighboring countries lost the right to their own administration.
  • The estates lost their say in government decisions.
  • Justice and administration were separated.
  • The court chambers of the Austrian and Bohemian countries were combined into a central financial and military authority.
  • The nobility was obliged to serve the monarchy.
  • Compulsory instruction was introduced.

The Hungarian nobility, who had supported Maria Theresa in the power struggle at the beginning of her rule, retained their privileges. An Austro-Hungarian dualism arose.

Under Maria Theresa people began to settle the then very sparsely populated areas in Galicia and Lodomeria , the Banat and Transylvania . The most influential group of immigrants were the Danube Swabians . This settlement policy was continued until the fall of the monarchy and led, among other things, to the settlement of Jews in Bukovina , who had a strong influence on the local culture in the late 19th century.

Enlightened absolutism

Joseph II

In 1765 her son Joseph II was appointed Emperor of the Roman-German Empire and co-regent, but he was only to take over the official duties in full after Maria Theresa's death in 1780. Joseph II carried out many reforms; his form of government ( Josephinism ) was later referred to as enlightened absolutism ( everything for the people, nothing through the people. ) From 1766, he opened the private parks of the imperial court to everyone. He abolished serfdom in 1781 and closed monasteries that were only contemplative and did not provide any services to the general public. After 1779 in the Peace of Teschen the Innviertelwas won for Austria, the attempt in 1785 to exchange Bavaria for the Austrian Netherlands failed . Further reforms were prevented mainly by the resistance of Hungary and the Austrian Netherlands, where the Brabant Revolution broke out in 1789 . Nevertheless, Joseph is regarded as an important enlightener and decisive pioneer of civil society.

Austria participated in the first partition of Poland in 1773 and then in the third partition in 1795 . (Maria Theresa did not want to sit idly by while Prussia and Russia gained territory in 1773.) When Austria was first divided, it received Galicia with the area around Lemberg and founded the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria . During the third division, Austria was able to win over what was later known as West Galicia with Lesser Poland as far south-east of Warsaw .

Joseph's successor was his younger brother Leopold II . His help - together with Prussian Friedrich Wilhelm II - for the French King Louis XVI. did not come about, Leopold II died unexpectedly in March 1792 at the age of 44.

The enlightened approaches were after the shock of the French Revolution quickly frozen: Leopold's son Franz II. (As Roman-German emperor, later Francis I of Austria) drove a "downright stubborn response" policy that especially with the name of the State Chancellor Metternich connected is. This political stagnation would last through the first half of the 19th century. As a result, Austria fell behind in terms of social and economic development compared to Prussia, France and Great Britain.

Austrian Empire (1804–1866)

After the French Revolution , Austria also became involved in the Napoleonic Wars . The imperial coronation of Napoleon in 1804 was answered by Francis II with the proclamation of the Austrian Empire ; Emperor Francis II. Was now as Francis I and Emperor of Austria . The empire encompassed the entire territory of the Habsburgs, including Hungary, which, ultimately successfully, resisted merging into an Austrian unified state. In the Peace of Pressburg at the end of 1805 Austria had to cede large areas, including Veneto , Tyrol and Vorarlberg to Bavaria, which was allied with Napoleon; for that cameSalzburg, until 1803 the ecclesiastical imperial principality , to Austria. At the urging of Napoleon, Francis II laid down the imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 , which ceased to exist.

Three weeks earlier, at Napoleon's endeavor, German princes had founded the Confederation of the Rhine , which he was obliged to achieve . At the urging of Metternich , who had meanwhile been promoted to Foreign Minister, Archduchess Marie Louise , the daughter of Emperor Franz I, was married to Napoleon I in 1810 . In October 1813 united Austrian, Russian and Prussian troops defeated Napoleon's troops in the Battle of Leipzig . In April 1814 he abdicated; in September the Congress of Vienna began to reorganize Europe. Here Austria got back many areas lost to France and exchanged the Swabian foothillsagainst the Archdiocese of Salzburg, which is now definitely part of Austria . The Habsburgs now ruled large parts of central Italy through secondary lines (details here ).

The Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna shattered state finances to such an extent that Austria went bankrupt in 1811 and 1816. The bank notes , the paper currency of that time, lost dramatically in value and could only be exchanged for so-called "redemption slips" at a ratio of 5: 1.

In March 1815 Napoleon returned to France from his exile in Elba (→ Rule of the Hundred Days ), he was finally defeated in June 1815 in the Battle of Waterloo . In 1815 the German Bund with the Bundestag in Frankfurt was founded under the permanent chairmanship of Austria as the successor to the Holy Roman Empire. At the same time, Prussia, Austria and Russia concluded the Holy Alliance , which was supposed to guarantee political stability in Europe against all ideas of liberalization and democratization that migrated eastward from Western Europe.

The first years after the wars were difficult economically; In the mid-1820s, a phase of economic growth, a growing population and technical advances began. The state revenues grew; expenses could be reduced. In agriculture, the arable area increased and productivity rose through the use of iron plows , increased crop rotation and better manure management . This had a positive effect on the nutritional situation of the population. More thorough training of doctors has resulted in better medical care and a reduction in child mortality. So rose despite a cholera-Epidemic 1830/31 the population (excluding the foreland, Lombardy and Austrian Netherlands) from 22 million in 1790 to 31 million in 1850.

The use of steam engines triggered a proto-industrial innovation boost , and existing factories were expanded. The textile production has increased. Growing economic sectors were also mining and metallurgy as well as the paper industry . The transport system became more effective during this time and increasingly favored social mobility. Stagecoaches were technically improved; the post road network was expanded and given better gravel. Steam engines enabled more efficient shipping for people and goods. In 1829 theFirst Danube Steamship Company founded, Austrian Lloyd in 1833 . The railway, too, initially designed as a horse-drawn railway , soon began to use steam locomotives ; In 1835 the concession for the construction of the Kaiser Ferdinands-Nordbahn was issued as the first steam railway in Austria (see also the history of the railway in Austria ).

The industrialization began in Austria later than in some other European countries. Areas of raw material extraction , processing centers and sales markets were often not directly connected with one another, which meant that no large industrial areas developed. The construction of railway lines in the hill country and in the mountains was laborious and expensive, because railway lines can only have a small maximum gradient ; therefore numerous railway tunnels and railway bridges had to be built. The construction or expansion of Alpine passes was also often time-consuming.

In the first half of the 19th century there was a strengthening of nationalist movements . Different nationalities in the multi-ethnic state of Austria worked vehemently against each other and could be played off against each other by the imperial family. This disagreement of nationalities and the aid of Russia saved the empire from falling apart in the revolution of 1848 .

In 1848, in the course of the March Revolution, there were also uprisings in Austria. On March 13, 1848, numerous groups petitioned for freedom of the press , jury courts, and academic freedoms. The demonstrations that followed were bloodily suppressed. As a result, violent uprisings broke out in Vienna, Metternich was released and fled to Great Britain. The censorship was lifted, freedom of the press and a constitution in the formal sense were promised. The Pillersdorf constitution was promulgated on April 25, 1848, but never came into force. She came across mainly because of the provisions on the composition of the Reichstagon rejection, which is why it was declared provisional on May 16 (with the promise of universal and equal suffrage) and was finally withdrawn entirely in July.

Like all other member states of the German Confederation, Austria took part in the elections for the Frankfurt National Assembly , which met from May 18, 1848 to May 31, 1849 in the Paulskirche in Frankfurt . It sent 102 members to the first freely elected parliament for the German successor states of the Holy Roman Empire. After no majority was found in the assembly for the Greater German solution pursued by Austria and the Lower German solution was decided instead , the Austrian MPs withdrew from Frankfurt on April 5, 1849.

Based on the Pillerdorf constitution, the Reichstag, the first Austrian parliament in the modern sense, met in Vienna on July 22nd, 1848. Since there was no parliament building yet, the winter riding school was used as temporary accommodation.

Meanwhile the revolution spread to other parts of the monarchy (Hungary, Milan, Veneto and Prague). The uprising in northern Italy was put down by Radetzky , the Whitsun uprising in Prague in June by Windischgrätz . In September Lajos Kossuth took power in Hungary and raised an army. When imperial troops in Vienna refused to march to Hungary and were supported by citizens, violent fighting broke out. Hungary could only be retaken with the help of Russia.

The court fled to Olomouc in Moravia and moved the Reichstag to the neighboring town of Kremsier . At the end of the Vienna October Uprising , Vienna was conquered on November 1st by troops loyal to the emperor under the leadership of Windischgrätz and Joseph Jelačić von Bužim . Around 2,000 people died in the fighting and 24 leading revolutionaries were executed. The revolution was bloodily suppressed by the Imperial Austrian Army and thus failed.

In Olomouc, where the leading Habsburgs were discussing the future of their dynasty, Emperor Ferdinand I abdicated in favor of his 18-year-old nephew Franz Joseph Karl, who ascended the throne as Franz Joseph I in December 1848 and was supported by Prince Felix Schwarzenberg as Prime Minister has been. The Reichstag of Kremsier was dissolved on March 4, 1849. On the same day a new constitution was imposed by the emperor ( October Constitution ), but only a small part of it became effective; in particular, no new Reichstag was convened. After the uprisings in Italy and Hungary had been completely suppressed, Franz Joseph raised his New Year's Eve patentsof December 31, 1851, the October constitution of 1849 and introduced a phase of neo-absolutism .

In 1853 the alliance with Russia was severely shaken because neither Prussia nor Austria intervened in the Crimean War . From then on, the Austro-Russian antagonism dates back to which the Balkan crises in the decades that followed intensified.

The period of neo-absolutism came to an end with the defeat of the imperial troops in Italy in 1859 against the Italian unification movement ( Risorgimento ): the direct government by the emperor and his ministers without any parliament had no supporters and could not get through, even among the upper classes Legitimate success. After his unfortunate leadership in 1859, the emperor never again appeared as a general himself. The October 1860 diploma and the February 1861 patent were short-lived constitutional experiments; However, the state constitutions of the crown lands introduced with the February patent and their state parliaments as state parliaments existed until 1918.

The defeat of Königgrätz in the German War of 1866 (German Confederation chaired by Austria against Prussia) led to the dissolution of the German Confederation . The background to the war was that Bismarck sought a German alliance system under the hegemony of Prussia. According to Bismarck, such a hegemony was only possible without Austria within the framework of the “small German solution”, since Austria, as the previous hegemonic power of the German Confederation, was too important economically and militarily. After the Prussian victory, which was achieved through technically superior weapons, Bismarck was able to found a North German Confederation against Austria's willwithout Austria. In the war of 1866 Veneto was lost (despite the successful sea ​​battle of Lissa under Admiral Wilhelm von Tegetthoff for Austria ); the reputation of Franz Joseph I reached a low point.

Austria in the dual monarchy Austria-Hungary (1867-1918)

Small coat of arms of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy until 1915

The Austro-Hungarian monarchy, also known as the Austro-Hungarian monarchy or unofficially as the Danube Monarchy , was founded in 1867 as a result of the so-called settlement with the Kingdom of Hungary . Hungary left the previous unitary state and received its own royal government. On June 8, 1867, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria (Hungarian Buda) on the castle hill in what was then oven later rechtsufriger part of Budapest , for of Apostolic King of Hungary crowned. The Kingdom of Hungary was now, domestically independent, an equal state in a real unionwith Austria, which only covered foreign policy, warfare and the joint financing of these two departments; voluntarily, but without common ministries, common regulations for currency, economic and trade policy, the recognition of patents and company registrations etc. were added. Foreign policy was initially shaped by the three emperor alliance and later by the two alliance with the German Reich and the three alliance (with Italy).

The non-Hungarian crown lands ( which represented in the Reichsrat kingdoms and countries ), which remained in the Empire, received on 21 December 1867, consisting of several basic laws December Constitution , which essentially had until the end of the monarchy inventory. The problem that the prevailing nationality, the German, could be overruled by the Slavic nationalities (Poles, Ruthenians, Czechs, Slovenes, Croats), if they appeared together, became an increasing problem. The formation of a majority in the Reichsrat became more and more difficult with the inevitable progress of the democratization of the right to vote.

Previously suppressed by the ruling families - - in this period began nationalism its triumphal march through the countries of Europe and in particular the Habsburg monarchy. Intended to weaken Hungarian nationalism, the Compromise of 1867 exacerbated tensions more than it calmed them. This compensation created the situation that the national conflicts were additionally fueled by the Hungarian government's policy of Magyarization . The Poles in Galicia often cooperated with the Viennese government and received significant infrastructure investments for Galicia from the Cisleithan state budget. The other Slavic nationalities of Old Austriafelt that they were not on an equal footing with the Germans who dominated the state bureaucracy. The unsuccessful efforts of the Czech national movement in Bohemia and Moravia for an Austro-Czech compromise competed with the efforts of the German minority there and the German nationalist workers' party . The introduction of official bilingualism in Bohemia and Moravia in 1880, in the Slovenian regions in 1882 and in Austrian Silesia did not help either. The Moravian CompensationIn 1905 the nationality conflict in this crown land took a little bit of sharpness, but a similarly balanced solution could not be achieved for Bohemia. In Carinthia and Styria, with their Slovene territories, and in Tyrol, with its Italian territory , requests for autonomy by the respective minority were rudely rejected by the German majority in the state parliaments.

Emperor Franz Joseph I.
Empress Elisabeth, called "Sisi"

Bohemia and Moravia grew into the industrial centers of old Austria in the second half of the 19th century. It was easier to set up business here than in the mountainous Alpine region, the geographical location (proximity to the metropolitan areas of Berlin and Vienna and the Upper Silesian industrial area of ​​the German Empire) was favorable, and there was sufficient workforce available.

In 1878, at the Berlin Congress , Austria-Hungary was granted the right to occupy and administer the Ottoman province of Bosnia-Herzegovina , which had previously been ruled from Istanbul. The dual monarchy invested heavily in the modernization of the country, which neither of the two parts of the empire allowed the other, so that neither part of Austria nor Hungary was administered by the common finance ministry. When the monarchy annexed the province in 1908, this led to strong tensions with the Kingdom of Serbia , which now saw itself as the advocate of all southern Slavs, and was also a reason for the 1914 assassination attempt in Sarajevo.

In 1879 the two alliance was concluded with the German Empire and in 1882 the three alliance with Italy . It should still be decisive for the First World War . The Triple Alliance struggled with the Italian irredenta from the start , which primarily affected relations with Austria.

Around 1880 the electoral census (minimum tax payments as a condition for the right to vote for men; women still not entitled to vote if not a large landowner) was relaxed, which enabled the formation of new parties:

Austrian economy and culture experienced a heyday around 1900, while the state was often only able to develop further by fretting and muddling away ( Viennese expressions for “hard to get ahead”) due to the nationality quarrels . After all, in 1901 the Reichsrat was able to decide on the New Alpine Railways project , an extensive railway construction project, two of which are important new lines in what is now Austria. Around 1900, at the fin de siecle , lived Johann Strauss , Gustav Mahler , Sigmund Freud , Ernst Mach , Otto Wagner ,Gustav Klimt , Karl Kraus , Arthur Schnitzler and many other artists and scientists in Vienna. These roughly two decades, in which a multitude of cultural and scientific personalities never before and since then worked in Vienna, is also known as Viennese Modernism .

In 1906, after a Hungarian import ban on Serbian pork (meat export was a main source of income for Serbian agriculture), Serbia gave up its alliance with Austria-Hungary and began to work towards the separation of the South Slavic areas of the dual monarchy with Russian support (it was Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian and Bosniak populated areas in both halves of the empire). This multi-year conflict is known as the " pig war ".

In 1905, negotiations between the Social Democrats began with the Imperial and Royal Government, which - as historians estimate - ended with a historical compromise: in 1907 the first Reichsrat election took place, in which every adult male citizen was entitled to vote and every vote counted equally. Women's suffrage was not introduced in the republic until 1918. The Christian Socials won in 1907 over the Social Democrats and the Liberal parties. In 1911 the Social Democrats won most of the seats. (Both large parties were far removed from an absolute majority in the Reichsrat, as there were also numerous smaller political parties, often only regionally effective.)

In the last decades of the dual monarchy, Old Austria found itself - apart from its nationality issues - in the situation that Transleithanien covered only about a third of the joint expenditures for the army, navy and diplomatic service, but without the consent of the Budapest government, no significant foreign, economic or military-political decision could be made. The Reichsrat as parliament was often paralyzed by Czech policy of obstruction ; Many of the necessary regulations were therefore made on the proposal of the Imperial and Royal Government by imperial decree instead of parliamentary resolution. The state was essentially made up of the Austro-Hungarian bureaucracy and the Austro-Hungarian army, both transnationally sworn to the person of the monarch, held together. As long as he was alive (meaning the aged Emperor Franz Joseph I, already eighty years old in 1910), there were discussions in political circles that there would be no significant changes, but these were seen as inevitable for the reign of his successor.

In terms of domestic politics, Hungary was comparatively premodern: only a very small proportion of the men were eligible to vote; In contrast to Austria, the nationalities were not formally equal, since Magyarization was the government's goal. The aristocracy and the bourgeoisie asserted their interests. As king, Franz Joseph I did very little against it.

However , the assassination attempt on June 28, 1914 by the Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo on the heir to the throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand , who paid an official visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina, completely changed the situation. While individual top functionaries of the overall monarchy, such as Chief of Staff Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, had advocated a war against Serbia years before , the so-called war party was now established in Vienna and Budapest during the July crisisby. By bypassing the Reichsrat, which had been postponed since March 1914, the monarch was suggested that a war against Serbia was inevitable and a question of the monarchy's honor. Franz Joseph, who had a rather bad relationship with his nephew, who was not properly married, and initially did not want to "atone" for his death, was finally convinced by the war advocates and, through his kuk Foreign Minister Leopold Berchtold - with the backing of the German Emperor - gave Serbia an ultimatum judge. This brought about the activation of the Europe-wide existing alliance systems and assistance obligations and thus led to the First World War.

The monarchy on the eve of the First World War is aptly described in Robert Musil's novel The Man Without Qualities , alluding to the abbreviations kk and kuk , as a morbid "Kakanien".

Austria in the First World War

The First World War was fatal for Austria-Hungary because the state and its army were not prepared for a war of this magnitude. The conquest of the Kingdom of Serbia - in 1914 Vienna had imagined an easy “punitive expedition” based on the assumption of its own superiority - only succeeded after more than a year with German and Bulgarian support . In the war against Russia , the army of the Danube Monarchy suffered irreplaceable losses at the beginning of the war and had to evacuate a large part of Galicia. The imminent threat to the centrally important Hungarian lowlands was averted when, in the spring of 1915, Galicia in the wake of theBreakthrough at Gorlice-Tarnów was largely recaptured with German help. But the entry of Italy (1915) and Romania (1916) into the war prolonged the Austro-Hungarian fronts . Even in the Romanian theater of war , which opened in late summer 1916, the initiative and the preponderance lay with the German side from the start. Their support had previously averted an impending disaster on the Eastern Front through the Russian Brusilov offensive . In the war against Italy Austria was successful and could in twelve Isonzoprevent the Italian army from breaking in. At the end of 1917, again with German help, a deep advance into Friuli was made , which, however, did not result in a decision. Although Russia retired after the October Revolution in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk out of the war, but the prestige of the imperial central power was through the Sixtus affair severely damaged. A last offensive of the Danube Monarchy on the Italian front failed in June 1918. In October the front collapsed due to a lack of personnel and material, war fatigue and the disintegration of the army and the monarchy as a whole. At the war on the western frontthe Austrian army was only involved with limited forces in 1918 . In relation to the territory of the republic, the losses in the war amounted to 180,000 dead and 60,000 civilian casualties.

The supply of the old Austrian population was very poor, especially in the last years of the war, and there were great famines. In November 1916, Emperor Franz Joseph I died and Karl I became his successor. His chances of an early peace agreement and preservation of the dual monarchy were slim. When the Reichsrat , the old Austrian parliament, was convened by the new monarch in 1917 for the first time since the spring of 1914, the representatives of the nationalities announced what their intentions would be after the end of the war. The preservation of the entire state and the monarchy was not one of them. It was therefore already clear in 1917 that old Austria would disintegrate.

On October 16, 1918, Emperor Karl I attempted to preserve Imperial Austria as a federation. In a manifesto he called on the nationalities to found their own national councils and saw his government as an arbiter for a peaceful reorganization of the monarchy: Austria should become a federal state in accordance with the will of its peoples, in which each tribe has its own community in its settlement area forms.

Territory of the Republic of German Austria claimed by the National Assembly (1918–1919)

The nationalities accepted the invitation to set up national councils, as this legalized their separatist plans from the point of view of the state as a whole. However, they ignored arbitrators who were not elected by their peoples: They decided to found their own states and had no interest in a monarchical federal state. The Provisional National Assembly for German Austria - consisting of the Reichsrat members elected in 1911 from the predominantly German areas of Old Austria - appointed its own government on October 30, 1918 and notified US President Woodrow Wilson of this on November 6 ; The German-Austrian government did not present itself to the Kaiser.

First Republic and Austrofascism (1918–1938)

German Austria (1918–1919)

Karl Renner (1905)

In autumn 1918, as in Bavaria and Hungary, uprisings and a Bolshevik takeover were feared. This could be prevented through the cooperation including the cooperative handover of government power between the Renner I state government elected on October 30, 1918, the resigning Ministry of Lammasch (the last imperial cabinet) and the emperor.

On November 11, 1918, the Kaiser renounced "any share in state affairs" and dismissed the Lammasch Ministry. The provisional national assembly then decided on November 12, 1918 the form of a democratic republic for the state initially called “ German Austria ” . At the same time, Article 2 of the law stated that the country was part of the German republic that had been proclaimed three days earlier . While the Danube monarchy was dissolved, there were now efforts by Great Britain and Italy to maintain an Austro- South Slavic monarchy in order to Balkanize Central Europe and connect Austria to the Prevent German Empire . This was intended to create an essential counterweight to Germany or to prevent German hegemony in Europe.

The first state chancellor was Karl Renner ( SDAP ), who headed a grand coalition . Parts of the newly or re-established states of Czechoslovakia ( Province of German Bohemia , Province of Sudetenland , parts of Moravia ) and Poland ( Silesia ) as well as South Tyrol annexed by Italy (for more details see History of South Tyrol ) and Marburg were claimed, but not won over for the new state the Drava (see Maribor). Large parts of the population and most representatives of the political parties were of the opinion that this “remnant” or “ rump state ” - without the Hungarian agricultural economy and the Bohemian industry - would not be viable on its own. The publicist Hellmut Andics expressed this later (1962) in the book title “The state that nobody wanted” .

The union with the German Reich ( Weimar Republic ) was ruled out by the allied victorious powers in 1919 in the State Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye , in which Article 88 stipulated a formal requirement of independence for Austria. In Austria and Germany the article was referred to as a connection ban. According to the treaty, the state name Republic of Austria was also determined. On October 21, 1919, with the ratification of the State Treaty by the Constituent National Assembly , this name became binding (it was used until 1934 and has been used again since 1945). As Federal Chancellor Ignaz Seipel with the League of Nationslater agreed on the so-called Geneva restructuring to support the inflation-ridden state budget, the independence requirement was reaffirmed. In 1931 Austria's plans for a customs union between Germany and Austria were prevented by the victorious powers with reference to the provisions of the Saint-Germain State Treaty.

In Salzburg efforts were made to join Germany independently of other parts of Austria; but this was rejected by Germany. In Tyrol , a small part of the population was in favor of joining Italy in order to preserve the unity of Tyrol. Another political line aimed to join Germany. In the referendum in Vorarlberg in 1919 , 81% of those who voted were in favor of carrying out follow-up negotiations with Switzerland. There was also an initiative in this regard in Switzerland; the Swiss state government wanted the balanced modus vivendi between Protestant and Catholic as well as between German-speaking and other-speaking cantons not put in danger and therefore refrained from this idea.

However, the Kaiser had not yet abdicated. The state of German Austria therefore offered him the alternative of formally abdicating or leaving the country. In March 1919 ex-Emperor Karl I left German Austria, in April 1919 the Habsburg Law and the Nobility Repeal Law were passed.

First Republic of Austria (1919–1934)

"Law of October 1, 1920, with which the Republic of Austria becomes a federal state (Federal Constitutional Law)."

State and economy

The content of the constitution passed in 1920 is mainly shaped by Hans Kelsen (1881–1973), a respected expert on constitutional law. Due to the political wishes (social democrats: centralism ; conservatives: federalism ), he had to combine federal principles with a strong position of the National Council and the federal government . The function of the Federal President was initially weak; at the request of the Social Democrats, parliament was the central organ of the republic (a reaction to the previous monarchy).

Conflicts between the principles of national unity and the right to self-determination existed in Carinthia from 1918 onwards , because the Slovenian population of southern Carinthia tended to join the new southern Slav state and the Kingdom of SHS occupied southern Carinthia militarily in May / June 1919 in order to create facts. The Carinthian defensive battle against the South Slav troops was militarily hopeless, but mobilized the international public and, at the request of the victorious powers, led to a referendum in southern Carinthia on October 10, 1920. During this, the citizens of the voting area south of the Drau spoke clearly for belonging to the Republic of Austria.

Two treaties - the treaty of Saint-Germain (September 1919) with Austria and of Trianon with Hungary (the Hungarian delegation signed the treaty on June 4, 1920, in contradiction) - provided for western Hungary, which had been inhabited by German-speaking countries for centuries, to join Austria. (This meant that considerations to build a Slavic corridor from Slovakia to Slovenia , through which the war losers Austria and Hungary would be separated, were shelved .) Despite attempts by Hungarian irregulars to prevent this, “German West Hungary” was declared in 1921 with the Name Burgenlandthe ninth state of the new republic. For the natural capital of the area, Ödenburg ( Sopron ), a referendum was held in 1921 at the request of Hungary, which was supported by Italy , in which the majority of citizens decided to belong to Hungary. Numerous divergences can be seen in the contemporary Austrian and Hungarian representations of this referendum.

In 1918, Lower Austria was by far the most populous and also the largest federal state in Austria with over three million inhabitants. The political intentions of the conservatives, who were strongly represented in rural areas, and the Social Democrats , which were particularly strong in Vienna, were difficult to harmonize, and the lower Austrian preponderance depressed the other federal states. For this reason, Vienna was defined as its own - eighth - federal state in the Federal Constitution that came into force on November 10, 1920 , which at the end of 1921 also agreed on the property-related division of common property in the Separation Act with Lower Austria.

Unemployment rate in Austria between 1919 and 1955

The economy of the new state fell due to the consequences of the war (loss of territory, new customs borders). The related hyperinflation ("galloping inflation") - for 10,000 kroner one could have bought a block of houses in 1914, in December 1922 only a loaf of bread - was only possible through a currency reform on December 20, 1924, 13 months after the German currency reform, being stopped. The old kroner currency was replaced by the new shilling in the first months of 1925 at an exchange rate of 10,000: 1 ; The prerequisite was a loan negotiated by Ignaz Seipel from the League of Nations ( Geneva Protocols). With the introduction of the shilling, the government began a consistent hard currency policy , which soon earned the currency the nickname Alpine dollar , but severely restricted economic opportunities in times of crisis.

The hesitant economic upswing in Austria that followed ended with the world economic crisis of 1929. In addition to the latent structural crisis , symbolized by the postal savings bank scandal of 1926, the great economic crisis had come. In 1931 Creditanstalt , at that time the largest bank in Central Europe, threatened to collapse and the government felt compelled to intervene; but this threatened the stability of the currency. In 1932 Austria received another League of Nations loan (300 million schillings); in return for the conference in Lausanne, the connection ban had to be grantedreaffirm for the next 20 years. During the Second World War the debts were no longer serviced, after which the repayment of the outstanding League of Nations loans was resumed by the Second Republic and settled by 1980. In 1933 around a third of the workforce was unemployed ( mass unemployment ).

The strengthening of the conservatives prompted the Social Democrats to approve a constitutional amendment in 1929, which again created a prominent head of state: the Federal President was no longer elected by parliament, but by the people. He appointed the government and, on their proposal, was able to dissolve parliament for the purpose of new elections (until 1929 this was only possible by a parliamentary resolution). Most of the powers of the Federal President were tied to a proposal by the Federal Government, which was responsible to the National Council. The Federal Constitutional Law in the version from 1929 was until 1934 and has been in force again since 1945.

Political polarization

Anti-Semitic election poster of the Christian Social Party for the National Council election in 1920

From 1920 to 1934 social democracy was in opposition to the conservative government in federal politics and created its political counter-model in Red Vienna . With increasing distance from the decisive year 1918, more and more opponents of democracy formed on the right wing of the party spectrum. The Social Democrats fed their fear of Bolshevism by writing about the dictatorship of the proletariat in their party program and using Marxism on their lips, even though they practiced a de facto moderate social democratic policy.

Both large political camps soon formed paramilitary units: The Heimwehr (close to the Christian Socials, but without clear party affiliation), partly formed by soldiers who had returned from the First World War, was supposed to protect the homeland from undesirable changes. The Republican Protection Association of Social Democrats was supposed to protect democracy against right-wing radicalism.

On January 30, 1927, the Republican Schutzbund demonstrated in Schattendorf (Burgenland) against the Heimwehr. Members of right-wing "frontline fighters" shot at the peaceful, unarmed demonstrators. They killed a child and a war invalid. With the Schattendorfer verdict , the alleged perpetrators were acquitted by a jury in July 1927 - an unforgivable judicial scandal according to the “ Arbeiter-Zeitung ” . The large demonstration against the judgment that took place on July 15, 1927 in front of the Palace of Justice in Vienna escalated: radical elements among the demonstrators stormed the Palace of Justice and set it on fire (the government described the incident asJuly Revolt ).

After police guard rooms had also been stormed, the police received an order from their President Johann Schober to break up the demonstration by force of arms, and shot at many people who were completely uninvolved in the riots, including people who were just fleeing the riots. The result: 89 dead (including 84 demonstrators), 1,057 wounded. The publicist Karl Kraus took the overreaction as an opportunity to address the police chief publicly with posters: "I ask you to resign."

In the weeks that followed, there were a thousand newcomers to the Austro - Fascist Home Guard under their leader Ernst Rüdiger Starhemberg . Because Chancellor Prelate Ignaz Seipel said during the National Council debate about the event that "no leniency" could be expected of him, 28,000 people left the Roman Catholic Church by the end of 1927. From then on, the Social Democrats always referred to the Chancellor as a “prelate without mercy”. Social democracy felt weakened by the events. She saw it as a defeat that the state power ruthlessly hunted down workers. In the last National Council election of the first republic (on November 9, 1930) the SDAP was the parliamentary group with the largest number of votes.

Opponents of the two big parties were the Austrian National Socialists , who had supporters mainly outside of Vienna (e.g. in Styria). At times there was cooperation between Christian Socialist and National Socialist politicians. In the National Council elections in 1927 , Christian Socials, Greater Germans , the National Socialist Riehl and Schulz Group and other groups formed a single list .

In 1930 the Heimwehr organized the so-called Korneuburg Eid , a meeting in Korneuburg near Vienna, at which the participants renounced the “western, democratic party state” and, under the leadership of Starhemberg, worshiped authoritarian politics.

In the early 1930s, fascist movements began to prevail in a number of European states. There was a similar development in Austria. The Heimwehr in particular represented fascist ideas along the lines of Italy . Mussolini was seen as the most important pillar of the Austrian government, which was isolated abroad.

Engelbert Dollfuss (1933)

The Christian-Social Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss used a vote on railway workers' salaries that went dead on March 4, 1933 and tactically-related resignations of the three parliamentary presidents to announce that parliament would be " self-excluded ". Police who had surrounded the parliament building prevented the National Council from meeting again on March 15.

Dollfuss used the War Economic Enabling Act of 1917 to rule without parliament. On March 7, 1933, the Council of Ministers issued a ban on assemblies and marches and reintroduced censorship for Austrian newspapers. With the withdrawal of the Christian Social Members, Dollfuss also paralyzed the Constitutional Court . Federal President Wilhelm Miklas did not intervene, although - according to his own private records - he was aware of the unconstitutionality. He disregarded a petition from over a million voters calling for parliament to be reconvened.

The path to an authoritarian corporate state based on the example of fascist Italy was thus taken. Dollfuss founded the Vaterländische Front , an association of the Christian Socials with the Heimwehr, the Landbund and a few other military associations as a political gathering place . Political opponents were arrested. On March 31, 1933, the government dissolved the Republican Protection Association. On May 10, 1933, the government suspended all federal, state, and local elections. On May 26th became the Communist Party of Austria and on June 20th also the NSDAPany activity prohibited in Austria. For a long time the Social Democrats could not resolve to oppose this policy; she was unsure how to counter Dollfuss' undemocratic approach. Since the state parliaments of the nine federal states continued to function, the situation still seemed open.

Austrofascism and the Federal State of Austria (1934–1938)

Soldiers of the Federal Army in front of the State Opera in Vienna, February 1934

As a result of a house search for weapons in the Hotel Schiff , a party home of the Social Democrats in Linz , armed clashes broke out on February 12, 1934 between the Social Democrats and the Home Guard or the Federal Army. These widened into a civil warwhat the government called the "February Uprising". The events had not been planned by the social democratic party leadership in Vienna, the top officials were surprised by the uprising of the grassroots. Accordingly, fights took place only very selectively and by no means throughout the country. These struggles can be described as acts of desperation, as it was very soon clear that there would not be a popular uprising and that the dictatorship would therefore be victorious.

In particular in Vienna and the industrial centers ( Steyr , Upper Styria , Linz) there was fierce fighting for two to three days. The police, the armed forces and the Home Guard departments that supported them were able to bring down the desperately fighting Republican Protection Association relatively easily. The social democratic party leadership under Otto Bauer , Julius Deutsch a . a. fled to Czechoslovakia . The mayor of Vienna, Karl Seitz , was forcibly removed from the town hall. The Social Democratic Party was banned and its assets confiscated. Some February fighters , among them Koloman Wallisch andKarl Münichreiter , were sentenced to death by the court and executed. Dollfuss was therefore often called a workers murderer by the social democrats . The civil war went down in history as the first armed struggle against fascism. That is why the sympathies in Great Britain, for example, were clearly on the loser's side.

After the mandates of the Social Democrats had been declared expired, the National Council was convened again on April 30, 1934. The MPs of the Fatherland Front decided to give the government all the powers that were previously the responsibility of the National Council and the Federal Council. On May 1, 1934, the authoritarian May Constitution came into force. Vienna was declared a federal city and the republic was named the federal state of Austria . Mussolini's influence had played an important role in the construction of the corporate state .

For most historians since the last decades of the 20th century, the First Republic in Austria ended with the events of 1933/34. Not only the unconstitutional transition from democracy to dictatorship contributed to this assessment, but also the fact that the dictatorship regime strictly avoided the term “republic”. In the years immediately after the Second World War, this differentiation in historiography was not yet common knowledge. Conservative historians at the time tended to equate the First Republic with the period 1918–1938.

On July 25, 1934, there was a National Socialist attempted coup , the so-called July coup . 154 Austrian SS men disguised as soldiers and police officers stormed the Federal Chancellery, where Engelbert Dollfuss was shot and died hours later as a result of the gunshot wounds because medical assistance was not permitted. A second group of putschists occupied the RAVAG radio studios and spread the false news that Dollfuss had handed over the business of government to Anton Rintelen . This was the agreed sign for a National Socialist uprising in all of Austria, especially in Styria, which, however, was stopped after a few days by the policeand the armed forces could be put down. Immediately after the murder of Dollfuss, Federal President Miklas entrusted the previous Minister of Education, Kurt Schuschnigg, with the office of Federal Chancellor.

Schuschnigg got help from Mussolini's Italy, which Austria had promised to support its independence. Italian troops marched in South Tyrol and on the Carinthian border, whereupon Adolf Hitler , the Austrian-born dictator of the German Reich, vigorously denied any influence on the events in Austria. At that time the Reich was not yet militarily in a position to risk a conflict with Italy in which Great Britain and France, as Hitler erroneously feared, could support Mussolini.

Schuschnigg oriented himself towards the independence of a "free and German Austria", but met with growing resistance, especially since Italy's dictator Benito Mussolini became increasingly dependent on the German Reich and was therefore less and less able to maintain his policy aimed at the independence of Austria . Schuschnigg's base among the people was narrow: Social Democrats and National Socialists worked underground against his regime. In the late 20th century his policy was called “competitive fascism” because he strove to “overheat” the National Socialists and make Austria appear as the “better German state”.

Many artists and intellectuals fled the German Reich, which was becoming more unbearable from year to year, to Austria, where they - like Carl Zuckmayer and Max Reinhardt  - found opportunities to perform and work until March 1938.

In 1936 the " axis " Rome-Berlin was forged, on October 25, 1936 a secret friendship treaty was signed between Italy and the German Reich.

Truck with Schuschnigg's supporters, call for elections for independence, March 1938

Kurt Schuschnigg decided to come to terms with Hitler. In July 1936 he concluded the " July Agreement " with the German Reich, as a result of which 17,000 Austrian National Socialists were granted amnesty . Edmund Glaise von Horstenau and Guido Schmidt were accepted into the Austro-Fascist government cabinet as stewards of the National Socialists . In addition, a “People's Political Unit” was created as a sub-organization of the Fatherland Front, with which the aim was to integrate the illegal National Socialist opposition into the party. Numerous previously banned National Socialist newspapers were legalized. Old Greater German ideasnoticeably gained weight. Many people hoped that the annexation sought by all of German Austria in 1918 - which the Social Democrats had removed from their program after Hitler came to power in 1933 - an economically better future; Austria continued to suffer from high unemployment and an economic crisis. Thus the Austrian National Socialists - admittedly still illegal - received support and support from more citizens.

"Anschluss" to the German Reich in 1938

Adolf Hitler's address on March 15, 1938 on Heldenplatz in Vienna
Ballot for the annexation of Austria to the German Reich

Since the " seizure of power " by Adolf Hitler on January 30, 1933, he and the NSDAP operated partly openly, partly covertly, the integration of Austria into the German Reich.

The connection idea had been popular in Austria, the majority of which saw themselves as Germans at the time, since 1918, although it was internationally outlawed by the connection ban. On November 12, 1918, German Austria decided through its provisional parliament to be a republic and part of the German republic from that day on. The Social Democrats deleted the affiliation request from their party program in 1933, the Christian Socials set about introducing their own form of dictatorship ( see Ständestaat (Austria) , Austrofascism). People now spoke out in favor of Austria's independence and banned National Socialist organizations, but were increasingly put under pressure by Hitler. Nazi ideas gained more and more supporters in Austria; In particular, the difference between the soon flourishing economy in Germany and the high unemployment in Austria was excellent advertising for Hitler.

In February 1938, the Führer and Reich Chancellor demanded  the repeal of the NSDAP ban and the participation of the Austrian National Socialists in the government under threat of the invasion of the Wehrmacht . Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg bowed to the dictation. A little later, however, he tried to prevent the imminent Anschluss to Germany: with a surprisingly announced referendum for a free, independent, German and Christian Austria , scheduled for March 13, 1938.

Hitler anticipated this provocation: Federal President Miklas was prompted by threats from Berlin to appoint the National Socialist Arthur Seyß-Inquart , Minister of the Interior since February, as the new Federal Chancellor on the evening of March 11 . At the same time, NSDAP supporters took power in the provincial capitals, and the first Gestapo leaders flew to Vienna on March 11th. On March 12th, Hitler let the Wehrmacht invade Austria. The soldiers were enthusiastically received by part of the Austrian population.

Hitler had initially planned to be head of state of Germany and Austria in a transitional period. The completely smooth, partly acclaimed, takeover of power caused him to announce the immediate annexation of Austria to the German Reich on March 13th. In Austria the connection law of March 13, 1938 was passed by the National Socialist government. At the same time, with the so-called wild Aryanization , terror and robbery of Jewish Austrians began. The resigned Chancellor Schuschnigg was taken into protective custody, in which he remained until 1945.

On March 15, 1938, many companies were given a day off so that the employees on Heldenplatz in Vienna could cheer Hitler. While Nazi opponents were arrested en masse and Jews were harassed as subhumans by the German masters at will, Hitler declared my homeland to join the German Reich. He did not use the term Austria and otherwise avoided it.

He had the connection subsequently confirmed by a referendum on April 10 (official result: 99.73% in favor). By then, around 8% of those eligible to vote had already been excluded from the election (Jews, " mixed race ", arrested opponents of the National Socialists).

Hitler replaced Austria with the name “Ostmark” derived from the medieval marcha orientalis , later with “ Danube and Alpine Reichsgaue ”, and later referred to the enlarged German Reich as “ Greater German Reich ”. The Ostmarkgesetz , which came into force on May 1, 1939, determined the complete dissolution of Austrian central offices; its execution ended on March 31, 1940.

Vorarlberg was connected to Tyrol, and Burgenland was divided between the Reichsgauen Niederdonau and Styria . Seven Reichsgaue, ruled directly from Berlin, succeeded Austria. When Austrians talked about Germany within its borders before the Anschluss, they unofficially called the area "Altreich".

Austria in the German Empire (1938–1945)

Administrative division of the Greater German Reich by the NSDAP, 1944

In 1938/39 Austria was reorganized state, militarily, economically, culturally and socially according to the imperial German model. All Reichsgaue on Austrian territory were directly subordinate to the Berlin central authorities, the term "Austria" very soon disappeared from official communication. For purposes of distinction one spoke of the Altreich and the Ostmark . Later the term "Danube and Alpine Reichsgaue" had to suffice.

The discrimination, disenfranchisement and deprivation of the residents of the Jewish religion, which had been carried out step by step in Germany for five years, were made up for and overtaken in the Ostmark in a few weeks. Private thirst for revenge and robbery played a major role.

War and Nazi ideology claimed around 380,000 deaths in Austria, including 247,000 dead or declared dead (permanently missing) in the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS , 65,500 murdered Jews, 16,000 others murdered in concentration camps, including 8,000 "gypsies", 10,000 in the Gestapo Imprisonment and more than 6,000 Austrians killed in prisons in countries occupied by the German Reich, 2,700 people sentenced to death as resistance fighters and around 35,000 civilians killed as a result of fighting and bombing. 140,000 Jewish Austrians were able to flee or were expelled and most of them did not return to the country after the war.

Austrians such as Arthur Seyss-Inquart , Alexander Löhr , Irmfried Eberl , Franz Stangl , Amon Göth , Odilo Globocnik , Adolf Eichmann and Ernst Kaltenbrunner were involved in war crimes ; the proportion of Austrians in leading positions in the regime was disproportionate. Some of the Nazi crimes committed by Austrians also had serious effects on the Second Republic.

Many buildings from the Nazi era have survived, including entire districts in Linz , which became necessary as accommodation for tens of thousands of workers in the course of the construction of the Hermann-Göring-Werke , today's Voestalpine , and the nitrogen works Ostmark , and six flak towers in Vienna . In Linz there are also particularly striking examples of National Socialist building activity in the form of the Nibelungen Bridge and its bridgehead buildings .

In 1938 the Mauthausen / Gusen double camp system was established, which included the Mauthausen and Gusen concentration camps . Over the years, this storage system, a network of field offices connected, which extended over the whole of Austria ( KZ Loibl , concentration camp subcamp Klagenfurt-Lendorf , concentration camp subcamp Bretstein , Redl-Zipf , Steyr-Münichholz subcamp , KZ Ebensee , Raxwerke and others). Forced laborers from all over Europe were found in these concentration campsunder inhumane conditions and a. used in arms production and in road construction. Around 100,000 prisoners were killed in Mauthausen alone.

In the Moscow Declaration in 1943, the war opponents of the Third Reich declared that after the end of the war Austria would be established again as an independent state, independent of Germany. They named Austria the first victim of Hitler's aggression against other states, but also referred to the shared responsibility of many Austrians for the crimes of the regime.

Air raids did not take place in Austria until August 1943, since until then it was partially beyond the reach of Allied bombers or their escort fighters. Compared to the Altreich, air strikes in Austria were far less likely to hit civilian targets than the armaments industry and traffic hubs, which meant that the old buildings were largely preserved. The Second World War ended in Vienna after the Battle of Vienna on April 13, 1945; the next day, politicians from the Second Republic met for their first meetings, while fighting was still going on in the outskirts of the city. Austria's independence was proclaimed on April 27th. In the other parts of the country, the Allies did not invade until early May 1945.

Second Republic (since 1945)

Austria under Allied occupation (1945–1955)

When the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht came into force on May 8, 1945 and the Second World War in Europe came to an end, Allied troops had already penetrated far into the so-called "Alpine and Donaureichsgaue". On April 13, 1945, the Soviet troops won the Battle of Vienna (around 19,000 German and 18,000 Soviet soldiers were killed). In late April and early May, the Western Allies advanced from the west.

On April 1st, Karl Renner, the first state chancellor of the 1st republic, made contact with Soviet troops who had advanced into Burgenland. As early as 1941 there were Soviet plans to restore the state of Austria after the war. In 1943 the Allies ( USA , Great Britain , Soviet Union , a little later also the “ French Committee for National Liberation ”) in the Moscow Declarationstated that they saw the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland to Hitler's German Reich in 1938 as null and void and the liberation of Austria was one of their war goals. Before that, especially in Great Britain, there had also been other models of thought that included a federal “Alpine state” with Bavaria or a “Danube confederation”, similar to the former Danube monarchy , in addition to a separate state .

Renner was commissioned by the Soviets to form a provisional state government . Originally, Renner only wanted to help form a government. But he was directly commissioned by Stalin to head a government. Therefore he was suspected by the Western Allies of collaborating with the Soviets. As a result, the SPÖ (made up of Social Democrats and "Revolutionary Socialists") was founded on April 14, and the ÖVP (Christian Social and Land Association) and the KPÖ on April 17 . On April 27, 1945 - before the end of the Second World War - Austria declared independenceproclaimed, which should officially come into force on May 1, 1945. The provisional Austrian state government met on April 29 (ten representatives of the SPÖ, nine ÖVP, seven KPÖ and three independent). Most of the MPs of the KPÖ came directly from Moscow, where they had lived in exile . At first the government was only recognized by the Soviet Union; the USA, Great Britain and France followed in the course of the year. The aim of the government was to restore the Austrian republic on the basis of the constitution of 1920 and the amendment of 1929. On November 25, 1945, the first elections to the National Council took place. The ÖVP became the strongest party, the communists only received 5%. Also in the 1949 and 1953 elections the ÖVP was able to maintain its mandate majority, but was narrowly outstripped in 1953 by the SPÖ.

Occupation zones in Austria

As a former part of the German Empire, Austria was divided into four occupation zones: Vorarlberg and North Tyrol belonged to the French zone, Carinthia , Styria and East Tyrol to the British, Salzburg and the part of Upper Austria south of the Danube to the US and Upper Austria to the north of the Danube, Lower Austria and Burgenland to the Soviet zone. Like Berlin, Vienna became a four-sector city , with the “ Inner City“(The first district) was administered jointly by the Allies.

The Soviet occupation forces dismantled industrial complexes in their zone, and much of what had been declared “German property” was confiscated under the name USIA . In the zones of occupation in the USA, Great Britain and France, however, the Marshall Plan was launched. The agreement between the USA and Austria was concluded on July 2, 1948; then Austria received aid from the Marshall Plan in the form of grants (guarantee of financial aid) in the form of material goods.

In order to stabilize the schilling, Austria implemented a currency reform . Not least because of this, the 1950 October strikes ensued . Because of the uneven distribution of the Marshall Plan funds, independent industrial development began in the west of the country for the first time.

After the collapse of the German Empire , millions of Germans were expelled from their settlement areas in Eastern and Southeastern Europe ; some of them moved or fled to Austria .

Austria from the State Treaty to EU accession (1955–1995)

Foreign policy

Leopold Figl in his time as governor. He spoke the three much-quoted words “Austria is free”.

In 1955, the State Treaty of May 15 with the four occupying powers gave the Republic of Austria back - unlike the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR  - its full state sovereignty . In return for this, the Second Republic had to declare its " perpetual neutrality " and establish it in a constitutional law. In September 1955 the last left SovietSoldiers crossed the national territory, those of the Western Allies followed on October 25th. On October 26, 1955, the National Council passed the Neutrality Act. In the decades that followed, the Austrian economy developed in a similar way to that of the Federal Republic of Germany, although the economy in the former Soviet zone had a lot of catching up to do compared to the western federal states and this east-west gap was only leveled out after decades ( see also economic miracle ).

In its neutrality policy Austria also tried to act as a bridge between the blocs in the Cold War . On June 3 and 4, 1961, a historic summit between Kennedy and Khrushchev took place in Vienna .

With its accession to the United Nations on December 14, 1955 and the Council of Europe on April 16, 1956, Austria integrated itself into the international community shortly after its sovereignty was restored. Austria became an important refuge for those involved in the uprising in Hungary (1956) and for many contributors to the Prague Spring(1968). Especially in 1956, when Eastern Austria in particular was still badly affected by the occupation, the humanitarian aid for the neighboring country was very large. Entire settlements were built for refugees. Although a large proportion of the refugees were mainly taken in from overseas countries, a large number of them stayed in Austria. The armed forces , which had only just been reorganized, also had their first practical test. In both cases, ORF also played a major role in informing the population in the neighboring countries concerned as neutral as possible as the state broadcaster .

Federal Chancellor Bruno Kreisky , who was one of the first Western politicians to hold talks with Arafat and Gaddafi , took part in the international discussion on solving the Middle East conflict . Vienna became the seat of many international organizations such as the UN ( Vienna International Center ), the IAEA , OPEC and the OSCE .

With the collapse of the communist regimes in the Eastern bloc countries and the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 (opening of the borders to Western Europe), the country lost its special character as a neutral buffer state between the warring blocs. Consequently, Austria joined the European Union in 1995 , which for a long time was considered unthinkable due to the Neutrality Act, and subsequently also joined the Schengen Agreement on the opening of borders and thus became part of the Schengen area. As a result, border controls were now also abolished for passenger traffic, first at Austria's borders with Germany and Italy (December 1, 1997), ten years later also at the border with the neighboring countries of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia (December 21, 2007).

Domestic politics

Domestic politics, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, was heavily influenced by the consequences of the Austrian civil war . Care was taken to ensure an even distribution of power between the ÖVP and the SPÖ (“ proportional representation ”). In the National Council election in Austria in 1959, the ÖVP was again behind the SPÖ in terms of votes, but continued to provide the Chancellor as the party with the strongest mandate. After the Minister of the Interior, Franz Olah, who was excluded from the SPÖ, founded his own party ( DFP ) in 1965 and in the National Council election in 1966Had won around 3% of the votes, which came mainly from the SPÖ, the ÖVP won the absolute majority of the mandate. This cleared the way for an ÖVP sole government. The federal government Klaus II ruled until 1970.

Bruno Kreisky, Federal Chancellor 1970–1983

On March 1, 1970, the SPÖ won by Bruno Kreisky , the parliamentary elections and formed with the acquiescence of the Freedom Party , which in turn benefited from an electoral reform, a minority government. With the early election on October 10, 1971 , the SPÖ gained an absolute majority of votes and seats, which was held in the 1975 election and in the 1979 electionwas even expanded. In 13 years of sole government and in the coalitions that followed, the SPÖ was able to largely implement its concepts and ideas and develop Austria into a social, modern and economically powerful state. Federal Chancellor Kreisky became a symbol of modernization and cosmopolitanism for an entire generation in the early 1970s . With the help of the absolute SPÖ majority in the National Council, he created a modern welfare state . At the same time he fought against unemployment, so Austria remained the only OECD country with consistently positive economic growth in the 1970s . Pope Paul VIcalled Austria an " island of the blessed " because of its inner peace and stable social conditions . In return, higher budget deficits and rising national debt were accepted. From 1976 the Austrian National Bank unofficially linked the Schilling to the D-Mark after the dollar had collapsed (more here ).

Furthermore, important social modernization steps were taken, e.g. B. Decriminalization of abortion ( deadline solution ), abolition of tuition fees , introduction of an environment and health ministry, establishment of the Ombudsman's Office , reduction of weekly working hours ( 40-hour week ), more minimum vacation, introduction of community service , legal equality of women in marriage , the mother-child pass , free travel for schoolchildren and free school books as well as participation in schools and universities. Furthermore, Kreisky represented a very liberal immigration policy, Austria served as a transit station for many Jewish emigrants from the Soviet Union. Austrian criminal law was modernized ( Christian Broda ).

In 1978 the referendum on the Zwentendorf nuclear power plant caused a stir, and commissioning was rejected by a narrow majority. The loss of votes by the SPÖ in the National Council election in April 1983  (loss of an absolute majority) resulted in Federal Chancellor Kreisky resigning. Fred Sinowatz took over government affairs . A “red-blue” (small) coalition (SPÖ / FPÖ) was concluded with Norbert Steger as Vice Chancellor . After the federal presidential election in Austria in 1986 , in which the ÖVP candidate Kurt Waldheim was elected, Sinowatz resigned. Franz Vranitzky followed him. A few months later, the coalition came to an abrupt end after Jörg Haider was elected party chairman of the FPÖ, as the new SPÖ Federal Chancellor categorically rejected a coalition with Haider. After the early National Council elections in 1986, the SPÖ had again become the strongest party despite a significant loss of votes - the ÖVP had also lost - the “grand” coalition was re-launched. In the following years of the red-black governments under Franz Vranitzky (1987–1997: II , III , IV , V ) and Viktor Klima (1997–2000), the government pursued an austerity courseTo overcome the economic crisis, some social benefits and taxes were abolished again, the budget under Finance Minister Ferdinand Lacina (SPÖ) was partially refurbished and the immigration laws under Interior Minister Franz Löschnak (SPÖ) were gradually tightened significantly. The government was under pressure from the FPÖ, which aggressively pursued right-wing populist politics. In addition to an enormous increase in votes (from around 5% in 1983 to 27% in 1999), this resulted in a break with the liberal wing of the party in 1993 : the Liberal Forum (LIF), which was represented in the National Council until 1999 , emerged as a split off .

One of the most important Austrian issues in the 1990s was the Yugoslav Wars . Shootings between Yugoslav troops and the Slovenian territorial defense on the Austrian border in 1991 as well as several border crossings by the Yugoslav air force into Austrian airspace caused a stir . The following wars in Croatia , Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo resulted in many people from these countries coming to Austria as refugees. Austrians also provided help with fundraising campaigns such as “ Neighbors in Need ” and with development projects during and after the war.

A sensational right-wing extremist criminal case shook Austria for several years: It was the attacks that Franz Fuchs carried out on behalf of a "Bavarian Liberation Army". He carried out three series of letter bombs and also planted several pipe bombs that killed a few people: four Roma died in the Oberwart attack . The most prominent victim was Helmut Zilk , the mayor of Vienna, who was seriously injured by a letter bomb.

National identity

As a result of recent history, the experiences after the “Anschluss”, the crimes of the National Socialists and the complete defeat of the Hitler Empire in World War II, the understanding of state identity also changed. While the self-image and the relationship to the state in the First Republic were still largely shaped by German national ideas, this idea now increasingly faded into the background. However, this Austrian national consciousness, which was also associated with a demarcation from the new Federal Republic of Germany , also meant that many Austrians, “ordinary citizens” and politicians, now wanted to see themselves as the first victim of National Socialism (also known as a “ victim thesis"), Although Hitler had brought about the" Anschluss "to the cheers of large sections of the population. The involvement in the National Socialist crimes was therefore hardly dealt with for a long time. This “blind spot” in historical awareness attracted international attention in 1986 in the Waldheim affair during Kurt Waldheim's candidacy for the federal presidency . Despite worldwide outrage about Waldheim's initially secretive SA membership and his role in the Wehrmacht, he won the presidential election in the second round of voting. Only under the government of Chancellor Franz Vranitzky In 1991 there was an express admission that many Austrians were jointly responsible for the crimes of National Socialism.

Austria in the European Union (since 1995)

Foreign policy

Design of the euro banknotes by the Austrian Robert Kalina
Joined the EU in 1995 at the same time as Finland and Sweden

After the National Council election on October 3, 1999 , Wolfgang Schüssel (ÖVP) formed the Federal Government Schüssel I , a black-blue coalition of the bourgeois-conservative ÖVP and the right-wing populist FPÖ . On February 4, 2000, the other 14 EU countries reacted with so-called " sanctions ", the symbolic freezing of diplomatic relations. In particular, the French government at the time ( Jospin cabinet ) and the Belgian government declared these measures to be a sign against right-wing populism in Europe. They were lifted because of the "wise men" s report, as it quickly became clear thatCivil rights in Austria would not be restricted by the new government. The attempt to exert political pressure on Austria from abroad had rather strengthened the ÖVP-FPÖ government, as it was able to address patriotic feelings in domestic politics.

On January 1, 1999, the new EU currency, the euro, was introduced as book money in Austria , and on January 1, 2002, the euro also replaced the shilling currency as a means of payment . On May 11, 2005, the parliament ratified the EU constitution, which later failed because of the “no” by France and the Netherlands . Austria supported the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). In 2008 Austria participated in EUFOR Tchad / RCA , an EU military mission in Chad .

Domestic politics

After the SPÖ suffered heavy losses in the National Council election on October 3, 1999 - but remained the strongest party - and the ÖVP, with lower losses, fell just behind the FPÖ in terms of the number of votes, protracted coalition talks between the previous government failed in January 2000 13 years of the Grand Coalition (1987-2000), the ÖVP and FPÖ agreed against the will of Federal President Thomas Klestil on a coalition under Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel , to which - because of the FPÖ's participation - large parts of the Austrian population reacted with outrage and against which it Periodically regular “ Thursday demonstrations" gave. Under this coalition the liberalization and austerity course of the SPÖ / ÖVP coalition was continued.

A break within the party within the FPÖ ( Knittelfelder FPÖ Assembly 2002 ) after disappointing regional election results and Jörg Haider's increasing dissatisfaction with his own government members led to the resignation of a large part of the FPÖ ministers and subsequently to an early election in November 2002 . In this, the ÖVP increased its share of the vote from 26.9 to 42.3 percent and became the party with the highest number of votes for the first time since 1966 , while the FPÖ slipped from 26.9 to 10.0 percent of the vote (SPÖ: 36.5%, Greens: 9 , 5%). Once again, a “black-blue” coalition was formed.

In April 2005, due to a renewed rift within the FPÖ, the previous members of the government and a large number of the parliamentarians of the FPÖ left the party and joined the “ Alliance Future Austria ” (BZÖ) newly founded by Carinthian Governor Jörg Haider . Government work was continued in a "black and orange" coalition.

After the National Council election on October 1, 2006 , in which the SPÖ achieved a relative majority after massive ÖVP losses, a grand coalition was formed in January 2007 under Federal Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer (SPÖ) and Vice Chancellor Wilhelm Molterer (ÖVP). This government only lasted about a year and a half, not least because of mutual distrust. In the new elections on September 28, 2008 , the SPÖ emerged as the party with the highest number of votes despite heavy losses. The ÖVP lost massively, the FPÖ and BZÖ achieved strong profits, the Greens stagnated. Federal President Heinz Fischer gave the new Federal Party Chairman of the SPÖ, Werner Faymann, the government education mandate. On November 23, 2008, Werner Faymann and the new executive federal party chairman of the ÖVP, Josef Pröll , announced that they had agreed on a new grand coalition with Werner Faymann as Federal Chancellor. In 2011 Michael Spindelegger followed Pröll.

In the 2013 National Council election (the legislative period was extended to five years in 2007), the two coalition parties were again able to achieve a narrow absolute majority despite the loss of votes, after which the coalition was continued. Reinhold Mitterlehner followed Michael Spindelegger as Vice Chancellor in August 2014 .

In 2015, Austria became a transit and sometimes destination country for hundreds of thousands of refugees (mainly from Syria ) and migrants who tried to get to Central and Northern Europe via the so-called Balkan route ( refugee crisis in Europe from 2015 ).

In May 2016, Faymann resigned as party chairman and Federal Chancellor after a very poor result (11.2%) for the SPÖ candidate in the Federal President election Rudolf Hundstorfer and after internal party criticism. He was succeeded in both functions by the CEO of ÖBB , Christian Kern . Former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen won the federal presidential election by a narrow margin against FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer . After an election challenge by the FPÖ, the Constitutional Court declaredOn July 1, 2016, the runoff vote was invalid due to serious irregularities and the possible manipulation of the counting of the postal votes. The second ballot therefore had to be repeated throughout Austria. Van der Bellen received 53.79% of the vote and was sworn in as Federal President on January 26, 2017.

After a change at the top of the ÖVP in May 2017, the new chairman Sebastian Kurz spoke out against a continuation of the governing coalition with the SPÖ, whereupon early elections were set for October 15 , in which the ÖVP became the strongest party, while the Greens resigned from the National Council after 31 years. Later on, a turquoise-blue government was formed under Federal Chancellor Kurz and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and sworn in in December of the same year. The coalition broke up in May 2019 in the course of the so-called " Ibiza Affair " around Strache, whereupon on September 29, 2019 another early election to the National Counciltook place, in which the ÖVP was able to further expand its majority, while the FPÖ and SPÖ suffered losses. The Greens, on the other hand, were able to move back into the National Council and on 7 January 2020, together with the ÖVP, formed the first black-green coalition at federal level, the Federal Government Short II .

The global COVID-19 pandemic also hit Austria in 2020 and caused unemployment to rise to a high of 588,000 people in April 2020. The economy suffered great losses, and during the year saw its worst slump since World War II .

See also

    From a constitutional point of view, the years 1918 to 1920 were
    a significant turning point: the constitutional monarchy
    Austria-Hungary became the Republic of " Austria ".


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Web links

Commons : History of Austria  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

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    Ordinance of the Federal Government of May 26, 1933, with which the Communist Party is prohibited from any activity in Austria.
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This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on July 3, 2005 .