Country, south-central Europe.

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 nameRepublik Österreich (Republic of Austria)
Form of governmentfederal state with two legislative houses (Federal Council [62]; National Council [183])
Chief of statePresident
Head of governmentChancellor
Official languageGerman
Official religionnone
Monetary uniteuro (€)
Population estimate(2008) 8,338,000
Total area (sq mi)32,383
Total area (sq km)83,871


[Credits : Encyclop?dia Britannica, Inc.]Mitteldorf, a village in the high Alpine region of Tirol in western Austria.
[Credits : Walter Geiersperger/Stone]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.


[Credits : Adapted from Westermann Grosser Atlas zur Weltgeschichte; Georg Westermann Verlag, Braunschweig]Austria is bordered to the north by the Czech Republic, to the northeast by Slovakia, to the east by Hungary, to the south by Slovenia, to the southwest by Italy, to the west by Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and to the northwest by Germany. It extends roughly 360 miles (580 km) from east to west.


MLA Style:

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APA Style:

Austria. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 19, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:

More from Britannica on "Austria"...

Encyclopædia Britannica articles, from the full Encyclopædia Britannica database

the Habsburg empire from the constitutional Compromise (Ausgleich) of 1867 between Austria and Hungary until the empire’s collapse in 1918.
Juan de Austria
illegitimate son of the Holy Roman emperor Charles V and half brother of King Philip II of Spain who, as a Spanish military commander, achieved victory over the Turks in the historic naval Battle of Lepanto.
Anne Of Austria
queen consort of King Louis XIII of France (reigned 1610–43) and regent during the opening years of the reign of her son King Louis XIV (from 1643).

Student Britannica Articles (Ages 11 and up) on "Austria" from the Britannica Online Student Edition

A small, mountainous country in Central Europe, Austria was once at the center of a great empire and one of the great powers of Europe. Its position at the middle of Europe made it a center of trade, transportation, and culture.
After centuries as one of the most powerful nations of Europe, proud Austria was forced to divide its empire with Hungary in 1867. The two nations formed a dual monarchy—Austria-Hungary.
Hitler began his conquests by occupying Austria in March 1938 and annexing it to Germany. Next he demanded from Czechoslovakia the Sudetenland, a region bordering Germany and peopled mostly by a German-speaking population. By threatening war, he forced England and France, in the Munich Pact, an agreement made at Munich in September 1938, to permit him to seize the Sudetenland. The Soviet Union then asserted that its offer to aid Czechoslovakia had been refused by France and England. Hitler, in March 1939, took more of Czechoslovakia. Hungary, which by then was part of the anti-Comintern pact, and Poland took the rest.
World War II
The postwar split between the Soviet Union and the West was also illustrated in Austria. After the war Austria was divided into four areas of occupation—American, British, French, and Soviet—with Vienna under the control of all four powers. In 1955, after repeated disagreements about terms, a peace treaty was signed in Vienna. Soviet and Allied occupation forces were withdrawn. (See also Austria.)
Francis Ferdinand
(1863–1914), archduke of Austria. Although the nations of Europe had been edging toward war for several years, it was the assassination of Austria's Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, that plunged the Continent into actual conflict. Francis Ferdinand was born on Dec. 18, 1863, in Graz, Austria. He was the nephew of Austria-Hungary's Emperor Francis Joseph and presumed heir to the throne. Francis Ferdinand was an ardent foe of nationalist aspirations among the empire's many ethnic groups. The couple, on a state visit to Sarajevo, was shot to death on June 28, 1914, by a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip. Austria's declaration of war against Serbia a month later initiated World War I.

Children's Encyclopedia Articles (Ages 8-11) on "Austria" from the Britannica Online Student Edition

Austria(from the Austria article)
Situated in central Europe, Austria is a small mountainous country. It lies at the center of European traffic between east and west and between north and south. Together with Switzerland it forms what has been described as the neutral core of Europe. The capital of Austria is Vienna.
Austria-Hungary(from the Austria-Hungary article)
The boundaries of Austria and most other European countries took shape over a period of hundreds of years. As different rulers and ruling families took control of particular areas they fought to expand their territory. One of the most powerful ruling families in Europe was the Hapsburg family. The Hapsburgs had built up a large area known as Austria, but in 1867 they were forced to divide their empire into two parts after the region of Hungary demanded more power. The new empire was called Austria-Hungary. The two nations formed a dual monarchy that lasted until 1918.
Assassination(from the World War I article)
Archduke Francis Ferdinand was murdered at Sarajevo, the capital of the Austrian province of Bosnia. The assassin was Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian terrorist. Austria claimed that Serbian government officials also belonged to Princip's terrorist group. For many years Serbia and Austria-Hungary had been unfriendly because Serbian patriots wanted to unite all Serbs into a single state. Serbs living in Austria-Hungary would be included, too. Austria-Hungary was strongly opposed to this.
Economy(from the Austria article)
Because of its large mountainous region, only about half of Austria's total area is suitable for farming. The major grain crops are corn (maize), barley, wheat, and rye. Other important crops include potatoes and sugar beets. Orchards and vineyards are found mainly in the eastern part of the country.
Formation of Czechoslovakia(from the Slovakia article)
In 1867, Austria formed a new empire in partnership with Hungary. Austria-Hungary controlled Slovakia until the empire collapsed after World War I (1914–18). In 1918, just after the war ended, Slovakia joined the neighboring Czech Republic and the region of Bohemia to form a new country called Czechoslovakia.


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