Area: 32,383 sq mi (83,871 sq km). Population (2006): 8,263,000. Capital: Vienna. The population is predominantly Austrian. Language: German (official). Religions: Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic; also Protestant and Orthodox); also Islam. Currency: euro. Much of Austria is covered by Alpine regions, including the eastern Alps, where the country’s highest point, the Grossglockner, is found. The Bohemian Forest, a highland region, extends north into the Czech Republic. The lowland region, including the Vienna Basin, lies in the east; it supports mainly agricultural activities. The Danube River and its tributaries drain nearly the entire country. Austria has a developed mixed free-market and government-operated economy based on manufacturing and commerce; tourism is also important. Austria is a republic with two legislative houses. The chief of state is the president, and the head of government is the chancellor. Austria’s greatest cultural contribution has been in music (see Haydn, Joseph; Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus; Schubert, Franz; Berg, Alban; Webern, Anton). Major cultural figures in other fields include Oskar Kokoschka in art, Sigmund Freud in psychoanalysis, and Ludwig Wittgenstein in philosophy. Settlement in Austria goes back more than 5,000 years. The Celts invaded c. 400 bc and established the kingdom of Noricum. The Romans arrived after 200 bc and established the provinces of Raetia, Noricum, and Pannonia; prosperity followed, and the population became Romanized. Germanic tribes began invading the area before the fall of Rome in the 5th century ad, after which more Germanic tribes and the Slavs entered the region; they were eventually subdued by Charlemagne, and the area became ethnically Germanic. The distinct political entity that would become Austria emerged in 976 with Leopold I of Babenberg as margrave. In 1278 Rudolf IV of Habsburg (Rudolf I as the king of Germany) conquered the area; Habsburg rule lasted until 1918. While in power, the Habsburgs created a kingdom centred on Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary. The Napoleonic Wars brought about the end of the Habsburg-controlled Holy Roman Empire (1806) and the emergence of the Austrian Empire. The prince von Metternich tried to assure Austrian supremacy among Germanic states, but war with Prussia led Austria to divide the empire into the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. Nationalist sentiment plagued the kingdom, and the assassination of Francis Ferdinand by a Bosnian Serb nationalist in 1914 triggered World War I, which destroyed the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the postwar carving up of Austria-Hungary, Austria became an independent republic. It was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938 (see Anschluss) and joined the Axis powers in World War II. The republic was restored in 1955 after 10 years of Allied occupation. Austria became a full member of the European Union (EU) in 1995. After a half-century of military neutrality, Austria was one of the few members of the EU that was not a member of NATO at the outset of the 21st century.
|Official name||Republik Österreich (Republic of Austria)|
|Form of government||federal state with two legislative houses (Federal Council ; National Council )|
|Chief of state||President|
|Head of government||Chancellor|
|Monetary unit||euro (€)|
|Population estimate||(2008) 8,338,000|
|Total area (sq mi)||32,383|
|Total area (sq km)||83,871|
largely mountainous, landlocked country of south-central Europe. Together with Switzerland, it forms what has been characterized as the neutral core of Europe, notwithstanding Austria’s full membership since 1995 in the supranational European Union (EU).
A great part of Austria’s prominence can be attributed to its geographic position. It is at the centre of European traffic between east and west along the great Danubian trade route and between north and south through the magnificent Alpine passes, thus embedding the country within a variety of political and economic systems. In the decades following the collapse in 1918 of Austria-Hungary, the multinational empire of which it had been the heart, this small country experienced more than a quarter century of social and economic turbulence and a Nazi dictatorship. Yet the establishment of permanent neutrality in 1955, associated with the withdrawal of the Allied troops that had occupied the country since the end of World War II, enabled Austria to develop into a stable and socially progressive nation with a flourishing cultural life reminiscent of its earlier days of international musical glory. Its social and economic institutions too have been characterized by new forms and a spirit of cooperation, and, although political and social problems remain, they have not erupted with the intensity evidenced in other countries of the Continent. The capital of Austria is historic Vienna (Wien), the former seat of the Holy Roman Empire and a city renowned for its architecture.
We welcome your comments. Any revisions or updates suggested for this article will be reviewed by our editorial staff.
Contact us here.