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The Republic of Austria (German: Republik Österreich) is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It borders Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The state is a representative democracy governed in accordance with principles of Parliamentarism.


Origin and history of the name

The German name Österreich can be translated into English as the "eastern realm", which is derived from the Old German Ostarrîchi. The term probably originates in a vernacular translation of the Medieval Latin name for the region: Marchia orientalis, which translates as "eastern border," as it was situated at the eastern edge of the Holy Roman Empire, that was also mirrored in the name Ostmark applied after Anschluss to the Third Reich. Interestingly, the derivation of the Latin name from the original Old German gives rise to the use of "Aust-" for east, rather than south as in Classical Latin.


Main article: History of Austria

After being conquered by the Romans, Huns, Lombards, Ostrogoths, Bavarii and Franks, Austria was under the rule of the Babenbergs from the 10th to the 13th century. The Babenbergs were then succeeded by the Habsburgs, whose line continued to govern Austria until the 20th century.

After the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the Empire of Austria was founded, which was transformed in 1867 into the double-monarchy Austria-Hungary. The empire was split into several independent states after the defeat of the Central Powers in World War I, leading to Austria becoming a republic in 1918. Between 1918 and 1919 it was officially known as the Republic of German Austria (Republik Deutschösterreich), and then the name was changed to simply Republic of Austria. The democratic republic lasted until 1933 when the chancellor Engelbert Dollfuß established an autocratic regime oriented towards Italian fascism.

Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938 (the Anschluss) amongst popular acclaim. After the defeat of the Axis Powers, the Allies occupied Austria at the end of World War II in Europe until 1955, when the country again became a fully independent republic under the condition that it remained neutral (see also: Austrian State Treaty). In that year it also became a member of the UN. After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, Austria became increasingly involved in European affairs, and in 1995, Austria joined the European Union, and the Euro monetary system in 1999. Some Conservative politicians have suggested that Austria join NATO.


Main article: Politics of Austria

Austria has been a federal, parliamentary democracy republic since the Federal Constitution of 1920, which was again reintroduced in 1945 to the nine states of the Federal Republic. The head of state is the Federal President, who is directly elected. The chairman of the Federal Government is the Federal Chancellor, who is appointed by the president and voted into office by the majority of the Nationalrat, the National Council of Austria. The government can be recalled by a vote of no confidence in the National Council.

The Austrian parliament consists of two chambers. The composition of the Nationalrat is determined every four years by a free general election in which every citizen is allowed to vote to fill its 183 seats. A "Four Percent Hurdle" prevents a large splintering of the political landscape in the Nationalrat by awarding seats only to political parties that have received at least four percent of the general vote, or alternatively, have won a direct seat, or Direktmandat, in one of the 43 regional election districts. The Nationalrat is the dominant chamber in the formation of legislation in Austria. However, the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat has a limited right of veto (the Nationalrat can pass the respective bill a second time bypassing the Bundesrat altogether). A convention, called the Österreich Konvent [1] was convened in June 30, 2003 to decide upon suggestions to reform the constitution.

See also: List of political parties in Austria

Federal States and cities

The nine Austrian states are divided into districts known as Bezirke.

The largest cities in Austria are:

   Name  State  Population       Name  State  Population
1 Vienna Vienna 1,550,123 11 Steyr Upper Austria 39,340
2 Graz Styria 226,244 12 Wiener Neustadt Lower Austria 37,627
3 Linz Upper Austria 183,504 13 Feldkirch Vorarlberg 28,607
4 Salzburg Salzburg 142,662 14 Bregenz Vorarlberg 26,752
5 Innsbruck Tyrol 113,392 15 Leoben Styria 25,804
6 Klagenfurt Carinthia 90,141 16 Wolfsberg Carinthia 25,301
7 Villach Carinthia 57,497 17 Klosterneuburg Lower Austria 24,797
8 Wels Upper Austria 56.478 18 Baden bei Wien Lower Austria 24,502
9 St. Pölten Lower Austria 49,121 19 Krems Lower Austria 23,713
10 Dornbirn Vorarlberg 42,301 20 Traun Upper Austria 23,470

Source of population data: Statistics Austria - Census 2001

See also: States of Austria

Administrative divisions

Main article: States of Austria

A federal republic, Austria is divided into nine states, or Bundesländer (singular Bundesland).

  1. Burgenland
  2. Carinthia
  3. Lower Austria
  4. Upper Austria
  5. Salzburg
  6. Styria
  7. Tyrol
  8. Vorarlberg
  9. Vienna
States of Austria


Main article: Geography of Austria

Map of Austria

Around 60 percent of Austria is mountainous due to its location in the Central Eastern Alps, which can be subdivided into the Tirolean Alps, the High and Low Tauern , Northern Limestone Alps, Southern Limestone Alps, and the Wienerwald.

The Five Regions of Austria

  1. Austrian granite plateau, located in the central mountainous area of the Bohemian Mass (8500 km², 10.1% of the total area)
  2. Austrian portion of foothills of the Alps and the Carpathians (9500 km², 12.3%)
  3. Austrian portion of the Alps (52600 km², 62.8%)
  4. Austrian portion of the Viennese basin (3700 km², 4.4%)
  5. Foothills in the east, Austrian area around the periphery of the Pannoni low country . (9500 km², 12.3%)

Out of the total area of Austria (84,000 km²) only about a quarter can be considered low lying, and only 32 percent of the country is below 500 metres.

The five highest mountains in Austria are:

   Name  Height  Range
   1 Großglockner    3.797 m High Tauern
   2 Wildspitze    3,768 m Ötztal Alps
   3 Weißkugel     3,739 m Ötztal Alps
   4 Großvenediger     3,674 m High Tauern
   5 Similaun     3,606 m Ötztal Alps
   6 Wiesbachhorn     3,571 m High Tauern


Main article: Economy of Austria

Austria, with its well-developed market economy and high standard of living, is closely tied to other European Union economies, especially Germany's. Membership in the EU has drawn an influx of foreign investors attracted by Austria's access to the single European market and proximity to EU aspirant economies. Slow growth in Germany and elsewhere in the world affected Austria, slowing its growth to 1.2% in 2001. To meet increased competition from both EU and Central European countries, Austria will need to emphasize knowledge-based sectors of the economy, continue to deregulate the service sector, and lower its tax burden.

The town of Kaprun in the state of Salzburg
The town of Kaprun in the state of Salzburg

See also: List of Austrian companies


Main article: Demographics of Austria

The issue of Austrian nationality and ethnicity was throughout recent centuries and remains to this day a sensitive issue and a topic of dispute. Before the end of the Second World War, most of Austria's population were clearly self-identified ethnic-Germans, who considered themselves part of a larger German Volk (ethnic nation), together with the other German-speaking-populations of Europe. A distinct Austrian national identity has emerged since the mid-twentieth century and most Austrians now no longer identify themselves as "Germans". In modern Austria only a small minority of population, mostly but not entirely people with conservative or far right political views, advocate a pan-German ethnic identity for German-speaking Austrians.

Austrians of German mother tongue, by far the country's largest ethnic group, form between 85% and 89% of Austria's population. Around ten percent of Austria's people are of non-Austrian descent, many from surrounding countries, especially from the former East Bloc nations. The Austrian federal states of Carinthia and Styria are home to a significant (indigenous) Slovenian minority with around 18,000 members. So-called guest workers (Gastarbeiter) and their descendants also form an important minority group in Austria.

The official language, German, is spoken by almost all residents of the country. Austria's mountainous terrain lead to the development of many distinct German dialects. All of the dialects in the country, however, belong to Austro-Bavarian groups of German dialects, with the exception of the dialect spoken in its west-most Bundesland, Vorarlberg, which belongs to the group of Alemannic dialects.

There is also a distinct grammatical standard for Austrian German with a few differences to the German spoken in Germany.


73.6% of the native population identify themselves as Roman Catholic, while 4.7% consider themselves Protestant. About 12% of the population does not belong to any church or religious community. Of the remaining people, about 180,000 are members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, about 7,300 are Jewish, and around 300,000 are members of various Muslim religious communities.

Well-known Austrians

Main article: List of Austrians

Austria has been the birthplace for several famous composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz-Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, Anton Bruckner, Johann Strauss, Sr., Johann Strauss, Jr. and Gustav Mahler; it is also the home of members of the Second Viennese School such as Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, and Alban Berg.

Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau, Upper Austria.

Other famous Austrians include physicists Ludwig Boltzmann, Lise Meitner,Erwin Schrödinger, Ernst Mach, Wolfgang Pauli and Christian Doppler (Doppler effect), as well as philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper, mathematician Kurt Gödel, psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler as well as Paul Watzlawick, economists Joseph Schumpeter and Friedrich Hayek, poet Peter Rosegger, painter Gustav Klimt, photographer Inge Morath, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl and engineer Ferdinand Porsche. Famous contemporary playwrights and novelists are Elfriede Jelinek and Peter Handke.

Being situated in the Alps, Austria has been the homeland of many great alpine skiers, such as Toni Sailer, Franz Klammer, Hermann Maier, Annemarie Moser-Pröll and Anita Wachter.

Former actor & bodybuilder, now governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is Austrian, as is celebrity chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck.

Airline executive and former Formula One race car champion Niki Lauda is Austrian.


Miscellaneous topics

Much of the material in these articles comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.

External links

Official national sites

Travel information

Information from the USA

News stories

Portals focused on Austria

  • Austrosearch Bilingual Austrian Search engine and Directory (German, English)


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