Austria Essay Research Paper AustriaHistoryThousands of years

Austria Essay, Research Paper



Thousands of years ago, the great valley of the Danube River was an important pathway for the tribes who came to Europe from the east. Settled in prehistoric times, the central European land that is now Austria was overrun in pre-Roman times by various tribes, including the Celts. Traders also came from the north, carrying goods to trade in Rome and Alexandria. The route from the north and the route from the east crossed at a place in the Danube valley in the region now called Austria. A settlement called Carnuntum grew up at this crossroads. Another, called Vindobona, was soon established about twenty-four miles to the west. When the Romans took control of the Danube Valley, they set up strong forts at Carnuntum and Vindobona. But in the late A.D.300?s, Germanic tribes from the east swept through Austria. After the fall of the Roman Empire, of which Austria was part, the area was invaded by Bavarians and Slavic Avars. By A.D.600, Slavs from the east had occupied all of modern Styria, Lower Austria, and Carinthia

Austria became a border province of Charlemagne?s empire in A.D 788. Charlemagne set up the first Austrian March in the present Upper and Lower Austria, to halt the inroads of the Avars. Colonization was encouraged, and Christianity (which had been introduced under the Romans) was again spread energetically. After Charlemagne’s death (814) the march soon fell to the Moravians and later to the Magyars, from whom it was taken (955) by Emperor Otto. In 976, Otto II bestowed it as a separate fief on Leopold, founder of the first Austrian dynasty. Emperor Frederick I raised Austria to a duchy in 1156, and in 1192, Styria also passed under Babenberg rule. Soon the settlement at Vindobona was renamed Vienna. Charlemagne?s empire was divided among his grandchildren, and Austria became part of the Holy Roman Empire. At that time it was given the name of ?sterreich (kingdom of the east).

From 1282 until 1918, the history of Austria is completely tied to the history of the Hapsburg family. Rudolf I of Hapsburg was chosen King of the Germans in 1273. After a war with the King of Bohemia, Rudolf gave the duchies of Austria, Styria, and Carniola to his sons. In 1353, Rudolf IV took the title of Archduke of Austria.

In the 1500?s, Emperor Maximilian I arranged a marriage between his son and the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Maximilian? s grandson became King Charles I of Spain in 1516, and, three years later, was elected Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V. Until Charles V gave up his throne in 1556, he ruled over Austria, Spain, The Netherlands, much of Italy, and large possessions in the Americas. Charles V gave Austria to his brother Ferdinand. Ferdinand also had been elected King of Hungary and Bohemia in 1526. His family controlled Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary until the end of World War I in 1918.

After many internal wars from 1848 to 1866, Austria was very weak in 1867. Hungarian nationalists took advantage of Austria?s weakness and forced Francis Joseph I to sign an agreement giving Hungary equal rights with Austria. In the new Austria-Hungary, often called the Dual Monarchy, the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary were united under one ruler. Foreign affairs, war, and the treasury were combined for both countries, but each had a separate national government.

The division of the government left the Slavic peoples in the empire under the control of the German-speaking peoples of Austria and the Magyars of Hungary. The Slavs struggled to obtain the right to govern themselves. The independent country of Serbia, south of Hungary, claimed to be the leader of the Slavic movement. On June 28, 1914, Serbian patriots shot Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the nephew of Emperor Francis Joseph and heir to the Austrian throne. This set off World War I, in which Austria-Hungary joined with Germany and other allies to form the Central Powers.

After the Central Powers were crushed in World War I, Austria proclaimed itself a separate state, called German Austria, on November 12, 1918. Many Austrians wanted to make German Austria a federal state of the new German Republic. But the victorious Allies announced that Austria and Germany would not be allowed to unite. The name of the country was changed to the Republic of Austria. Austria?s new boundaries were established by the Treaty of Saint Germain, which was signed in 1919.

After World War II, Austria was divided into American, British, French, and Russian zones of occupation. The constitution of 1920 (a democratic constitution) was declared to be in force again, and the Austrians were allowed to set up a provisional government. To check the power of Nazis advocating union with Germany, Chancellor Engelbert Dolfuss in 1933 established a dictatorship, but was assassinated by the Nazis on July 25, 1934. Kurt von Schuschnigg, his successor, struggled to keep Austria independent, but on March 12, 1938, German troops occupied the country, and Hitler proclaimed its Anschluss (union) with Germany, annexing it to the Third Reich. In 1945, elections for a National Council and provincial assemblies were held, and the four occupying powers recognized the new government. The occupying powers held many talks trying to draw up an Austrian treaty of independence, but the Russians prolonged the occupation. Finally Austria concluded a state treaty with the U.S.S.R. and the other occupying powers and regained its independence on May 15, 1955. The United States, Great Britain, France, and Russia signed a treaty to end the Allied occupation of Austria. To obtain its freedom, Austria agreed to become a neutral nation. Austria joined the United Nations in 1955, the Council of Europe in 1956, and the European Free Trade Association in 1959.

On June 8, 1986, former UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim was elected to the ceremonial office of president in a campaign marked by controversy over his alleged links to Nazi war crimes in Yugoslavia (he was replaced by diplomat Thomas Klestil in 1992). On Jan. 1, 1995, Austria became a member of the European Union. Despite the membership, it retained its strict constitutional neutrality and forbade the stationing of foreign troops on its soil.

In 1998, Austria discussed the return of hundreds of art objects now owned by Austria that had been confiscated by the Nazi regime from their former, primarily Jewish, owners. Deadly avalanches struck several Austrian villages in Feb. 1999, the worst avalanches in the Alps since 1970. In Aug. 1999, Austrian police arrested Gen. Momir Talic, the highest-ranking Bosnian Serb military official, wanted by the UN on war crimes charges.

In Feb. 2000 the conservative People’s Party formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, headed by J?rg Haider. A nationalist against immigration, Haider had made several controversial remarks praising some Nazi policies, which he had since recanted. His gradual rise to power?from 5% in 1983 to 28% in the October 1999 election?was credited to voters weary of decades of stasis under the rule of the Social Democrats. The European Union condemned Austria’s new coalition and froze diplomatic contacts, accusing Haider of being a racist, xenophobe, and a Nazi-sympathizer. Large demonstrations in Austria and throughout Europe followed. Haider did not join the government, but he was expected to wield influence from the sidelines. At the end of February, however, he resigned from the party, claiming he would concentrate on his role as governor of the Carinthia province. Few inside or outside of Austria doubted that he would remain the eminence grise behind his party.


Austria is in the central part of Europe, and has no seaports. Its neighbors are Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic.

Geography and Climate

Austria?s geographic coordinates are 47 20 N, 13 20 E. Its total area is 83,858 sq. km, its land area is 82,738 sq. km, and its water area is 1,120 sq. km. Comparatively speaking, it is slightly smaller than Maine. Its borders are 2,562 km. The borders are: Czech Republic 362 km, Germany 784 km, Hungary 366 km, Italy 430 km, Liechtenstein 35 km, Slovakia 91 km, Slovenia 330 km, Switzerland 164 km.

Few countries in Europe have more mountains than Austria. The Alps cross Austria from the west to the east, covering the southern and central parts of the country. The Danube Valley and the open Vienna Basin are in the northeast part of Austria. The mountains and hills are covered with trees, meadows, and pastures. There are many mirrorlike lakes and green valleys. Neusiedler Lake, southeast of Vienna on the border between Austria and Hungary, covers an area of about 130 square miles. The scenery and climate in Austria are much like those of Switzerland. Austria has warm summers, cold winters, and plenty of rain.

Austria has deposits of salt, lead, talc, graphite, natural gas, and gypsum. It is the world?s largest producer of magnesite, and the fourth largest producer of crude oil in Europe. Iron ore comes from deposits in the province of Styria. Austria?s coal deposits are almost entirely lignite. This type of coal is not suitable for gas or coke production.


Greenhouse Gas Emissions

(Millions of Metric Tons)

Fuel 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997

Coal 3.097 2.755 3.019 3.339 3.337

Natural Gas 3.734 3.709 4.010 4.308 4.184

Petroleum 9.010 9.096 8.825 8.818 9.250

Total 15.841 15.560 15.854 16.465 16.771

% Change – -1.8% 1.9% 3.9% 1.9%

Slightly smaller than Maine, Austria includes much of the mountainous territory of the eastern Alps (about 75% of the area). The country contains many snowfields, glaciers, and snowcapped peaks, the highest being the Grossglockner (12,530 ft.; 3,819 m). The Danube is the principal river. Forests and woodlands cover about 39% of the land. Austria has only 1% permanent crops, and 23% permanent pastures.

As mentioned before, forests cover 39 percent of the land, and scientific management once produced much timber. But, during World War II, the Germans cut down so many trees that timber production was greatly reduced. Austria?s forests are an important source of ships? supplies such as tar, pitch, turpentine, and gum resin. There has been some forest degradation caused by air and soil pollution; soil pollution results from the use of agricultural chemicals; air pollution results from emissions by coal- and oil-fired power stations and industrial plants and from trucks transiting Austria between northern and southern Europe.

Austria is one of the most important sources of hydroelectric power in Europe. Its total electric power production, from all sources, amounts to more than 18,440,000,000 kilowatt-hours a year.

Austria?s climate is temperate; continental, cloudy; cold winters with frequent rain in lowlands and snow in mountains; cool summers with occasional showers


Austria has a well-developed market economy with a high standard of living. As a member of the European Monetary Union (EMU), Austria?s economy is closely integrated with other EU member countries, especially with Germany. Austria?s membership in the EU has drawn an influx of foreign investors attracted by Austria?s access to the single European market. Through privatization efforts, the 1996-98 budget consolidation programs, and austerity measures, Austria brought its total public sector deficit down to 2.5% of GDP required by the EU?s Maastricht criteria. Cuts mainly affect the civil service and Austria?s generous social system, the two major causes of the government deficit. To meet increased competition from both EU and Central European countries, Austria will need to emphasize knowledge-based sectors of the economy and deregulate the service sector, particularly telecommunications and energy.

Agriculture. The agriculture sector in Austria contributes 3.0% of the GDP and employs an estimated 0.7% of labor, as stated in the GDP/Employment by Sector of Origin table. The key primary food crops produced are barley, maize, potatoes, soybeans, sugar beets and wheat. The primary meat products are pork, beef, chicken, turkey and lamb. The largest (in value terms) agricultural exports in 1998 were non-alcoholic beverages, chocolate products, beef, pastry and prepared fruit. The total value of agricultural imports in 1998 was $4,560.8 million.


Key Sectors

Agriculture/Food: Production of Primary Crops

(Metric Tons)

Product 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998

BARLEY 1,184,350 1,065,188 1,082,800 1,257,800 1,211,600

MAIZE 1,420,640 1,473,662 1,735,568 1,841,681 1,573,000

POTATOES 593,720 724,426 768,873 676,872 663,000

SOYBEANS 104,946 31,121 26,763 33,000 43,400

SUGAR BEETS 2,560,580 2,885,807 3,131,307 3,011,921 2,930,000

WHEAT 1,255,120 1,301,310 1,239,723 1,352,281 1,341,800

TOTAL PRODUCTION 7,119,356 7,481,514 7,985,034 8,173,555 7,762,800

GROWTH RATE (%) – 5.1% 6.7% 2.4% -5.0%


Macroeconomic Activity

Real GDP Per Capita

1994 1995 1996 1997 1998

Real GDP

(Millions of 1990$US) 137,379 139,701 142,467 146,057 150,804

Total Population

(Millions-Mid Year Average) 8.060 8.100 8.130 8.130 8.130

Real GDP Per Capita

(1990$US Per Capita) 17,046 17,244 17,531 17,960 18,541

Global Ranking

Gross Domestic Product

(Millions of 1990$) Population

(Millions) GDP Per Capita


Country Rank 1997

GDP Rank 1997

Population Rank 1997 GDP

Per Capita

Austria 32 150,804 82 8.130 20 18,541


Austria is a democratic, federal republic. The president is elected by popular vote for a six-year term. With the agreement of the majority of the National Council he appoints the chancellor, who is the head of the government. The president also appoints cabinet ministers, upon the suggestion of the chancellor. The chancellor and his government are responsible to the National Council, the more important of the two houses of Parliament. The 165 members of the National Council are elected for four-year terms. The upper house, the Federal Council, has 50 members who are chosen by the legislatures of the provinces. A member of the Federal Council remains in office as long as the provincial legislature, which chose him, stays in power. The states send in representatives in proportion to their population.

Each province has its own constitution and government. The legislature elects the provincial governor and members of his government. The provinces are divided into administrative districts, which in turn are divided into communes.


The population of Austria is 8,139,299, with a population growth rate of 0.09%. The age structure is 0-14 years: 17% (male 702,261; female 666,310), 15-64 years: 68% (male 2,792,484; female 2,713,397), 65 years and over: 15% (male 478,071; female 786,776). The birth rate is 9.62 births/1,000 population. The death rate is 10.04 deaths/1,000 population. The sex ratio for the total population is 0.95 males/females. Austria?s life expectancy at birth is 77.48 years (male 74.31 years, female 80.82 years).

Austria has an unemployment rate of 7%, since it enjoyed strong growth with low inflation and low unemployment in 1998. Economic growth accelerated as the upturn in the wider European economy increased exports of goods and services. High levels of investment also boosted growth as both Austrian and foreign-owned firms geared up to meet expected higher demand in Europe and increase penetration into former communist bloc countries to the east. Unemployment remained under 5%–one of the lowest in the EU–without triggering any upward pressure on inflation. It only rose to 7% in the year 2000.

The population of Austria is German 99.4%, Slovene 0.4%, and other 0.2%. 78% of Austrians are Roman Catholic, 5% are Protestant, and 17% are other.


98% of Austrians are native German-speakers. The official language of the country is German.

Customs and Traditions

Coffee drinking is an important part of Viennese culture. The traditional Viennese coffeehouse has quite a long history, dating back to 1683. The recipe has been played with for centuries, but for 300 years the Melange has remained the most popular local coffee. (Viennese-style coffee is laced with cream and cinnamon.)

Another tradition is the Austrian Heuriger (wine tavern), which began in 1784. Today, just within the city limits of Vienna, over 800 families produce wine, and there are hundreds of Heurigers.

Sports are a way of life for many Austrians, who have long enjoyed what visitors have only figured out in recent years. Their spectacular environment has encouraged one of the most sports-minded societies in Europe. Half the population of eight million people are enthusiastic skiers, and in the summer they love their watersports.


The literacy rate in Austria is 99% because Austrian children are required to attend school from ages 6 to 14. All children start with the Volksschule. They attend for 4 years. After 4th grade, students attend a secondary school.

Secondary schools come in two basic types: the Hauptschule and the Mittelschule. The Hauptschule offers a 4-year course to prepare students for vocational schools; Mittelschules offer an 8-year course to prepare students for university or higher level technical schools. Students must pass an entrance exam after Volksschule to attend a Mittelschule.

There are four kinds of Mittelschule:

1. Gymnasium, with courses in Latin, Greek and one modern language

2. Realgymnasium, which offers more science, Latin, and one modern language

3. Realschule, which emphasizes science and two modern languages

4. Frauenoberschule, a girl?s school, where courses include home economics and childcare.

To go on to university, students must pass a final exam at the end of Mittelschule.


Austrians? life expectancy at birth is, for the total population, 77.48 years. For males it is 74.31 years, and for females it is 80.82 years. The infant mortality rate is 5.1 deaths/1,000 live births.


CIA World Factbook

Information Please

Encyclopedia Brittanica Online



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