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Austria

[aw-stree-uh]

Austria (Österreich) officially the Republic of Austria (Republik Österreich) is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It borders both 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 capital is the city of Vienna on the Danube River.

The origins of Austria date back to the ninth century, when the territory of Upper and Lower Austria became increasingly populated. The name "Ostarrichi" is first documented in an official document from 996. Since then this word has developed into the Österreich.

Austria is a parliamentary representative democracy comprising nine federal states and is one of six European countries that have declared permanent neutrality and one of the few countries that includes the concept of everlasting neutrality in its constitution. Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1955 and joined the European Union in 1995.

Etymology

The German name Österreich is derived from Old German Ostarrîchi "Eastern Territory". The name was erroneously Latinized as "Austria" (Latin auster "south wind", metaphorically "south" thus austrālis "southern" and so on. There is no evidence for the region being called "South" anything in any other language). Reich can also mean "empire," and this connotation is the one that is understood in the context of the Austrian/Austro-Hungarian Empire, Holy Roman Empire, although not in the context of the modern Republic of Österreich. The term probably originates in a vernacular translation of the Medieval Latin name for the region: Marchia orientalis, which translates as "eastern marches" or "eastern borderland", as it was situated at the eastern edge of the Holy Roman Empire, that was also mirrored in the name Ostmark, for a short period applied after the Anschluss to Germany. However, Friedrich Heer, one the most important Austrian historians in the 20th century, stated in his book Der Kampf um die österreichische Identität (The Struggle Over Austrian Identity), that the Germanic form ostarrîchi was not a translation of the Latin word, but both resulted from a much older term originating in the Celtic languages of ancient Austria: More than 2,500 years ago, the major part of the actual country was called Norig by the Celtic population (Hallstatt culture); No- or Nor- meant East or Eastern, whereas Rig is the related to the modern German Reich; realm (among other things). Accordingly, Norig would essentially mean ostarrîchi and Österreich, thus Austria. The Celtic name was eventually Latinized to noricum, when the Romans conquered and Romanized the country that later became Austria. The name of Noricum was then used to designate the Roman province.

The current official designation is the Republic of Austria (Republik Österreich). It was originally known after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1918 as the Republic of German Austria (Republik Deutschösterreich) , but the state was forced to change its name to "Republic of Austria" in 1919 by the Treaty of Saint-Germain. The name was changed again during the Austro-fascist regime (1934–1938) , into Federal State of Austria (Bundesstaat Österreich) , but restored after regaining independence and the birth of the Second Austrian Republic (1955 – present).

During the period of monarchy, Austria was known as the Austrian Empire (Kaisertum Österreich) ; however no official designation existed since the empire was strongly multiethnic. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the empire became known as Austria-Hungary reflecting the dual monarchy character.

History

Settled in prehistoric times, the central European land that is now Austria was occupied in pre-Roman times by various Celtic tribes. The Celtic kingdom of Noricum was later claimed by the Roman Empire and made a province. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was invaded by Bavarians, Slavs and Avars.. Charlemagne conquered the area in 788 encouraged colonization and introduced Christianity. As part of Eastern Francia, the core areas that now encompass Austria were bequeathed to the house of Babenberg. The area was known as the marchia Orientalis and was given to Leopold of Babenberg in 976.

The first record showing the name Austria is from 996 where it is written as Ostarrîchi, referring to the territory of the Babenberg March. In 1156 the Privilegium Minus elevated Austria to the status of a duchy. In 1192, the Babenbergs also acquired the Duchy of Styria. With the death of Frederick II in 1246, the line of the Babenbergs went extinct. As a result, Otakar II of Bohemia effectively assumed control of the duchies of Austria, Styria and Carinthia. His reign came to an end with his defeat at Dürnkrut at the hands of Rudolf I of Germany in 1278. Thereafter, until World War I, Austria's history was largely that of its ruling dynasty, the Habsburgs.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Habsburgs began to accumulate other provinces in the vicinity of the Duchy of Austria. In 1438, Duke Albert V of Austria was chosen as the successor to his father-in-law, Emperor Sigismund. Although Albert himself only reigned for a year, from then on, every emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was a Habsburg, with only one exception.

The Habsburgs began also to accumulate lands far from the Hereditary Lands. In 1477, Archduke Maximilian, only son of Emperor Frederick III, married the heiress Maria of Burgundy, thus acquiring most of the Low Countries for the family. His son Philip the Fair married the heiress of Castile and Aragon, and thus acquired Spain and its Italian, African, and New World appendages for the Habsburgs. In 1526, following the Battle of Mohács, Bohemia and the part of Hungary not occupied by the Ottomans came under Austrian rule. Ottoman expansion into Hungary led to frequent conflicts between the two empires, particularly evident in the so-called Long War of 1593 to 1606.

During the long reign of Leopold I (1657–1705) and following the successful defense of Vienna in 1683 (under the command of the King of Poland, John III Sobieski), a series of campaigns resulted in bringing all of Hungary to Austrian control by the Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699. Emperor Charles VI relinquished many of the fairly impressive gains the empire made in the previous years, largely due to his apprehensions at the imminent extinction of the House of Habsburg. Charles was willing to offer concrete advantages in territory and authority in exchange for other powers' worthless recognitions of the Pragmatic Sanction that made his daughter Maria Theresa his heir. With the rise of Prussia the Austrian–Prussian dualism began in Germany. Austria participated, together with Prussia and Russia, in the first and the third of the three Partitions of Poland (in 1772 and 1795).

Austria later became engaged in a war with Revolutionary France - at the beginning highly unsuccessful - with successive defeats at the hands of Napoleon meaning the end of the old Holy Roman Empire in 1806. Two years earlier, in 1804, the Empire of Austria was founded. In 1814 Austria was part of the Allied forces that invaded France and brought to an end the Napoleonic wars. It thus emerged from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as one of four of the continent's dominant powers. The same year, the German Confederation, (Deutscher Bund) was founded under the presidency of Austria. Because of unsolved social, political and national conflicts the German lands where shaken by the 1848 revolution aiming to create a unified Germany. A unified Germany would have been possible either as a Greater Germany, or a Greater Austria or just the German Confederation without Austria at all. As Austria was not willing to relinquish its German-speaking territories to what would become the German Empire of 1848 the crown of the new formed empire was offered to the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. In 1864 Austria and Prussia fought together against Denmark, and successfully freed the independent duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Nevertheless as they could not agree on a solution to the administration of the two duchies, they fought in 1866 the Austro-Prussian War. Defeated by Prussia in the Battle of Königgrätz, Austria had to leave the German Confederation and subsequently no longer took part in German politics.

The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the Ausgleich, provided for a dual sovereignty, the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary, under Franz Joseph I. The Austrian-Hungarian rule of this diverse empire included various Slav groups such as Poles, Ukrainians, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Serbs and Croats, as well as large Italian and Romanian communities. As a result, ruling Austria-Hungary became increasingly difficult in an age of emerging nationalist movements. Yet the central government tried its best to be accommodating in some respects; minorities were entitled to schools in their own language, for example. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 by Gavrilo Princip (a member of the Serbian nationalist group the Black Hand) was the immediate cause for the outbreak of World War I, leading to the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Empire was broken up according to the Treaty of Saint-Germain) and the remaining subordinate territories became independent states. However, over 3 million German Austrians found themselves living outside of the newborn Austrian Republic in the respective states of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary and Italy. Between 1918 and 1919, Austria was officially known as the Republic of German Austria (Republik Deutschösterreich). Not only did the Entente powers forbid German Austria to unite with Germany, they also forbade the name; it was therefore changed to the Republic of Austria. The monarchy was dissolved in 1919 and a parliamentary democracy was set up under the constitution of 10 November 1920.

In the autumn of 1922, Austria was granted an international loan supervised by the League of Nations. The purpose of the loan was to avert bankruptcy, stabilize the currency, and improve its general economic condition. With the granting of the loan, Austria passed from an independent state to the control exercised by the League of Nations. The First Austrian Republic, lasted until 1933 when Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss dissolved parliament and established an autocratic regime tending towards Italian fascism. The two big parties at this time — the Social Democrats and the Conservatives — had paramilitary armies, which fought each other as civil war broke out.

In February 1934, several members of the Schutzbund were executed, the Social Democratic party was outlawed and many of its members were imprisoned or emigrated. In May of that year the Fascists introduced a new constitution ("Maiverfassung") which cemented Dollfuss's power but on 25 July he was assassinated in a Nazi coup attempt. His successor Kurt Schuschnigg, struggled to keep Austria independent, but on 12 March 1938 German troops occupied the country and established a plebiscite confirming union with Germany. Hitler a native of Austria proclaimed the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria by Germany. Austria was incorporated into the Third Reich and ceased to exist as an independent state. The Nazis called Austria "Ostmark" until 1942 when it was again renamed and called "Alpen-Donau-Reichsgaue." Vienna fell on 13 April 1945 during the Soviet Vienna Offensive just before the total collapse of the Third Reich. Karl Renner astutely set up a Provisional Government in Vienna in April with the tacit approval of the victorious Soviet forces, and declared Austria's secession from the Third Reich.

Much like Germany, Austria, too, was divided into a British, a French, a Soviet and an American Zone and governed by the Allied Commission for Austria. Largely owing to Karl Renner's action on April 27th in setting up a Provisional Government, however, there was a subtle difference in the treatment of Austria by the Allies. The Austrian Government was recognized and tolerated by the Four Powers. Austria, in general, was treated as though it had been originally invaded by Germany and liberated by the Allies. On 15 May 1955 Austria regained full independence by concluding the Austrian State Treaty with the Four Occupying Powers. On 26 October 1955 Austria was declared "permanently neutral" by act of Parliament, which it remains to this day.

The political system of the Second Republic came to be characterized by the system of Proporz, meaning that most posts of some political importance were split evenly between members of the Social Democrats and the People's Party. Interest group representations with mandatory membership (e.g. for workers, businesspeople, farmers etc.) grew to considerable importance and were usually consulted in the legislative process, so that hardly any legislation was passed that did not reflect widespread consensus. The Proporz and consensus systems largely held even up to 1983.

The country became member of the European Union in 1995 and retained its constitutional neutrality, like some other EU members, such as Sweden. The major parties SPÖ and ÖVP have contrary opinions about the future status of Austria's military neutrality: While the SPÖ supports a neutral role, the ÖVP argues for stronger integration into the EU's security policy; even a future NATO membership is not ruled out by some ÖVP politicians. Since the "permanent neutrality" forms part of the Austrian constitution, a two-thirds majority in the Austrian parliament would be needed for such a change in policy.

Politics

Political system

The Parliament of Austria is located in Vienna, the nation's largest city and capital. Austria became a federal, parliamentarian, democratic republic through the Federal Constitution of 1920. It was reintroduced in 1945 to the nine states of the Federal Republic. The head of state is the Federal President, who is directly elected by popular vote. The chairman of the Federal Government is the Federal Chancellor, who is appointed by the president. The government can be removed from office by either a presidential decree or by vote of no confidence in the lower chamber of parliament, the Nationalrat.

The Parliament of Austria consists of two chambers. The composition of the Nationalrat is determined every five years by a general election in which every citizen over 16 years (since 2007) is allowed to vote to fill its 183 seats. A recent extension of that term from four to five years will become effective after the next election. While there is a general threshold of 4 percent for all parties at federal elections (Nationalratswahlen), there remains the possibility to gain 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 — in almost all cases — ultimately pass the respective bill by voting a second time. This is referred to as 'Beharrungsbeschluss, lit. "vote of persistence"). A convention, called the Österreich -Konvent was convened in June 30, 2003 to decide upon suggestions to reform the constitution, but has failed to produce a proposal that would receive the two thirds of votes in the Nationalrat necessary for constitutional amendments and/or reform. However, some important parts of the final report were generally agreed upon and are still expected to be implemented.

Recent political developments

In February 2000 the conservative People's Party formed a coalition with the controversial nationalistic Freedom Party, headed by Jörg Haider. The (at that time) 14 other member states of the European Union - but not the EU itself - condemned Austria's new coalition and froze diplomatic contacts. These measures were commonly referred to as "sanctions" although they were more or less just motions of diplomatic unfriendliness. Given the controversy, Haider chose not to join the government, but he continued to wield influence from the sidelines. This was not, however, the first time that the Republic of Austria had displeased international opinion. In 1986, the population voted for Kurt Waldheim as president despite his revelation that he had been active in the Wehrmacht as an intelligence officer during World War II.

In September 2002, the coalition between the People's Party and the Freedom Party dissolved after a shake-up in the Freedom Party. In November 2002, the People's Party made large gains in general elections again. After a lot of coalition talks with other parties, the People's Party again formed a government with the Freedom Party in February 2003 with Wolfgang Schüssel as Chancellor.

After general elections held in October 2006, the Social Democrats emerged as the largest party, whereas the People's Party lost about 8% in votes. Political realities prohibited any of the two major parties from forming a coalition with smaller parties. In January 2007 the People's Party and Social Democrats formed a Grand Coalition with the social democrat Alfred Gusenbauer as Chancellor.

Foreign policy

The 1955 Austrian State Treaty ended the occupation of Austria following World War II and recognized Austria as an independent and sovereign state. In October 1955, the Federal Assembly passed a constitutional law in which "Austria declares of her own free will her perpetual neutrality." The second section of this law stated that "in all future times Austria will not join any military alliances and will not permit the establishment of any foreign military bases on her territory." Since then, Austria has shaped its foreign policy on the basis of neutrality.

Austria began to reassess its definition of neutrality following the fall of the Soviet Union, granting overflight rights for the UN-sanctioned action against Iraq in 1991, and, since 1995, contemplating participation in the EU's evolving security structure. Also in 1995, it joined the Partnership for Peace and subsequently participated in peacekeeping missions in Bosnia.

Austria attaches great importance to participation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other international economic organizations, and it has played an active role in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Energy politics

In 1972, the country began construction of a nuclear-powered electricity-generation station at Zwentendorf on the River Danube, following a unanimous vote in parliament. However, in 1978, a referendum voted approximately 50.5% against nuclear power, 49.5% for, and parliament subsequently unanimously passed a law forbidding the use of nuclear power to generate electricity.

Austria currently produces more than half of its electricity by hydropower. Together with other renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass powerplants, the electricity supply from renewable energy amounts to nearly 80% of total use in Austria. The rest is produced by gas and oil powerplants.

Military

The manpower of the Austrian Armed Forces ("Bundesheer") mainly relies on conscription. All males who have reached the age of eighteen and are found fit get recruited for a six months long military service, which can be postponed under some circumstances. Conscientious objection is legally possible and obliges to serve an institutionalized nine months civilian service instead. Since 1998, women volunteers have been allowed to become professional soldiers.

The main sectors of the Bundesheer are Joint Forces (Streitkräfteführungskommando, SKFüKdo) which consist of Land Forces (Landstreitkräfte) , Air Forces (Luftstreitkräfte) , International Missions (Internationale Einsätze) , and Special Forces (Spezialeinsatzkräfte) ; next to Mission Support (Kommando Einsatzunterstützung; KdoEU) and Command Support (Kommando Führungsunterstützung; KdoFüU). Being a landlocked country, Austria has no navy.

In 2004, Austria's defense expenditures corresponded to approximately 0.9% of its GDP. The Army currently has about 45,000 soldiers, of which about half are conscripts. As head of state, Austrian President (currently Heinz Fischer) is nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the Bundesheer. In practical reality, however, command of the Austrian Armed Forces is almost exclusively exercised by the Minister of Defense, currently Norbert Darabos.

Since the end of the Cold War, and more importantly the removal of the former heavily guarded "Iron Curtain" separating Austria and Hungary, the Austrian military has been assisting Austrian border guards in trying to prevent border crossings by illegal immigrants. This assistance came to an end when Hungary joined the EU Schengen area in 2008, for all intents and purposes abolishing "internal" border controls between treaty states. Some politicians have called for a prolongation of this mission, but the legality of this is heavily disputed. In accordance with the Austrian constitution, armed forces may only be deployed in a limited number of cases, mainly to defend the country and aid in cases of national emergencies, such as in the wake of natural disasters etc. They may generally not be used as auxiliary police forces.

Despite, or perhaps because of, its self-declared status of permanent neutrality, Austria has a long and proud tradition of engaging in UN-led peacekeeping and other humanitarian missions. The Austrian Forces Disaster Relief Unit (AFDRU) , in particular, an all-volunteer unit with close ties to civilian specialists (rescue dog handlers, etc) enjoys a reputation as a quick (standard deployment time is 10 hours) and efficient SAR unit. Currently, larger contingents of Austrian forces are deployed in Bosnia, Kosovo and, since 1974, in the Golan Heights.

States

As a federal republic, Austria is divided into nine states (Bundesländer). These states are then divided into districts (Bezirke) and cities (Statutarstädte). Districts are subdivided into municipalities (Gemeinden). Cities have the competencies otherwise granted to both districts and municipalities. The states are not mere administrative divisions but have some distinct legislative authority separate from the federal government.

Geography

Austria is a largely mountainous country due to its location in the Alps. The Central Eastern Alps, Northern Limestone Alps and Southern Limestone Alps are all partly in Austria. Of the total area of Austria (84 000 km² or 32,000 sq. mi) , only about a quarter can be considered low lying, and only 32% of the country is below 500 meters (1,640 ft). The high mountainous Alps in the west of Austria flatten somewhat into low lands and plains in the east of the country.

Austria can be divided into five areas. The biggest area are the Austrian Alps, which constitute 62% of Austria's total area. The Austrian foothills at the base of the Alps and the Carpathians account for around 12% of its area. The foothills in the east and areas surrounding the periphery of the Pannoni low country amount to about 12% of the total landmass. The second greater mountain area (much lower than the Alps) is situated in the north. Known as the Austrian granite plateau, it is located in the central area of the Bohemian Mass, and accounts for 10% of Austria. The Austrian portion of the Vienna basin comprises the remaining 4%.

Phytogeographically, Austria belongs to the Central European province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Austria can be subdivided into four ecoregions: the Central European mixed forests, Pannonian mixed forests, Alps conifer and mixed forests and Western European broadleaf forests.

Climate

The greater part of Austria lies in the cool/temperate climate zone in which humid westerly winds predominate. With over half of the country dominated by the Alps the alpine climate is the predominant one. In the East, in the Pannonian Plain and along the Danube valley, the climate shows continental features with less rain than the alpine areas. Although Austria is cold in the winter, in the summer temperatures can be relatively warm reaching 20-35 degrees Celsius.

The six highest mountains in Austria are:

Name Height (m) Height (ft) Range
Großglockner Hohe Tauern
Wildspitze Ötztal Alps
Weißkugel Ötztal Alps
Großvenediger Hohe Tauern
Similaun Ötztal Alps
Großes Wiesbachhorn Hohe Tauern

Economy

Austria is one of the 10 richest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, has a well-developed social market economy, and a very high standard of living. Until the 1980s, many of Austria's largest industry firms were nationalised; in recent years, however, privatisation has reduced state holdings to a level comparable to other European economies. Labour movements are particularly strong in Austria and have large influence on labour politics. Next to a highly-developed industry, international tourism is the most important part of the national economy.

Germany has historically been the main trading partner of Austria, making it vulnerable to rapid changes in the German economy. But since Austria became a member state of the European Union it has gained closer ties to other European Union economies, reducing its economic dependence on Germany. In addition, 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 aspiring economies. Growth in GDP accelerated in recent years and reached 3.3% in 2006.

Numismatics

In Austria, the euro was introduced in 2002. As a preparation for this date, the minting of the new euro coins started as early as 1999, however all Austrian euro coins introduced in 2002 have this year on it; unlike other countries of the Eurozone where mint year is minted in the coin. Eight different designs, one per face value, was selected for the Austrian coins. In 2007, in order to adopt the new common map like the rest of the Eurozone countries, Austria changed the common side of their coins.

Austria has one of the richest collection of collectors' coins in the Eurozone, with face value ranging from 10 to 100 euro (although a 100,000 euro coin was exceptionally minted in 2004). These coins are a legacy of an old national practice of minting of silver and gold commemorative coins. Unlike normal issues, these coins are not legal tender in all the eurozone. For instance, a €5 Austrian commemorative coin cannot be used in any other country.

Education

Responsibility for educational oversight in Austria is entrusted partly to the Austrian states (Bundesländer), and partly to the federal government. Optional kindergarten education is provided for all children between the ages of three and six years. School attendance is compulsory for nine years, i.e. usually to the age of fifteen. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Austria's education as the 18th best in the world, being significantly higher than the OECD average.

Primary education lasts for four years. Alongside Germany, secondary education includes two main types of schools based on a pupil's ability as determined by grades from the primary school: the Gymnasium for the more gifted children which normally leads to the Matura which is a requirement for access to universities and the Hauptschule which prepares pupils for vocational education but also for further education (HTL = institution of higher technical education; HAK = commercial academy; HBLA = institution of higher education for economic business; etc.), where you also get the Matura.

The Austrian university system had been open to any student who passed the Matura examination until recently. A 2006 bill allowed the introduction of entrance exams for studies such as Medicine. Currently all EU students are charged a fee of about €370 per semester for all university studies. A recent OECD report criticized the Austrian education system for the low number of students attending universities and the overall low number of academics compared to other OECD countries.

Demographics

Austria's population estimate in October 2006 was 8,292,322. The population of the capital, Vienna, exceeds 1.6 million (2.2 million with suburbs) , representing about a quarter of the country's population and is known for its vast cultural offerings and high standard of living.

In contrast to the capital, other cities do not exceed 1 million inhabitants: the second largest city Graz is home to 250,099 inhabitants, followed by Linz (188,968), Salzburg (150,000), and Innsbruck (117,346). All other cities have fewer than 100,000 inhabitants.

German-speaking, by far the country's largest group, form roughly 90% of Austria's population. The Austrian federal states of Carinthia and Styria are home to a significant indigenous Slovene speaking minority with around 14,000 members (Austrian census; unofficial numbers of Slovene groups speak of up to 50,000). In the east-most Bundesland, Burgenland (formerly part of the Hungarian half of Austria-Hungary) about 20,000 Austrian citizens speak Hungarian and 30,000 speak Croatian. Of the remaining number of Austria's people that are of non-Austrian descent, many come from surrounding countries, especially from the former East Bloc nations. So-called guest workers (Gastarbeiter) and their descendants, as well as refugees from Yugoslav wars and other conflicts, also form an important minority group in Austria. Since 1994 the Roma-Sinti (gypsies) are an officially recognized ethnic minority in Austria.

According to census information published by Statistik Austria for the year 2001 there were a total of 710,926 foreign nationals living in Austria. Of these, 124,392 speak German as their mother tongue (mainly immigrants from Germany, some from Switzerland and Bolzano-Bozen (Italy).) The next largest populations of linguistic and ethnic groups are 240,863 foreign nationals from the former Yugoslavia (Serbian being the largest number of these at 135,376, followed by Croatian at 105,487); 123,417 Turkish nationals; 25,155 whose native tongue is English; 24,446 Albanian; 17,899 Polish; 14,699 Hungarian; 12,216 Romanian; 7,982 Arabs; 6,902 Slovenes (not including the autochthonous minority); 6,891 Slovaks; 6,707 Czech; 5,916 Persian; 5,677 Italian; 5,466 Russian; 5,213 French; 4,938 Chinese; 4,264 Spanish; 3,503 Bulgarian. The populations of the rest fall off sharply below 3,000.

The mother tongue of the population by prevalence, is German (88.6%) followed by Turkish (2.3%) , Serbian (2.2%) , Croatian (1.6%) , Hungarian (0.5%) and Bosnian (0.4%).

The official language, German, is spoken by almost all residents of the country. Austria's mountainous terrain led 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 western-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.

As of 2006, some of the Austrian states introduced standardised tests for new citizens, to assure their language ability, cultural knowledge and accordingly their ability to integrate into the Austrian society.

Politics concerning ethnic groups (Volksgruppenpolitik)

An estimated 13,000 to 40,000 Slovenes in the Austrian state of Carinthia (the Carinthian Slovenes) as well as Croats (around 30,000) and Hungarians in Burgenland were recognized as a minority and have enjoyed special rights following the Austrian State Treaty (Staatsvertrag) of 1955. The Slovenes in the Austrian state of Styria (estimated at a number between 1,600 and 5,000) are not recognized as a minority and do not enjoy special rights, although the State Treaty of July 27, 1955 states otherwise.

The right for bilingual topographic signs for the regions where Slovene- and Croat-Austrians live alongside the Germanic population (as required by the 1955 State Treaty) is still to be fully implemented. Many Carinthians are afraid of Slovenian territorial claims, pointing to the fact that Yugoslav troops entered the state after each of the two World Wars and considering that some official Slovenian atlases show parts of Carinthia as Slovene cultural territory. The current governor, Jörg Haider, has made this fact a matter of public argument in autumn 2005 by refusing to increase the number of bilingual topographic signs in Carinthia. A poll by the Kärntner Humaninstitut conducted in January 2006 states that 65% of Carinthians are not in favour of an increase of bilingual topographic signs, since the original requirements set by the State Treaty of 1955 have already been fulfilled according to their point of view. Another interesting phenomenon is the so called "Windischen-Theorie stating that the Slovenes can be split in two groups: actual Slovenes and Windische (a traditional German name for Slavs), based on differences in language between Austrian Slovenes, who were taught Slovene standard language in school and those Slovenes who spoke their local Slovene dialect but went to German schools. The term Windische was applied to the latter group as a means of distinction. This theory was never generally accepted and fell out of use some decades ago.

Religion

At the end of the twentieth century, about 74% of Austria's population were registered as Roman Catholic, while about 5% considered themselves Protestants. Both these numbers have been in decline for decades, especially Roman Catholicism, which has suffered an increasing number of seceders from the church. Austrian Catholics are obliged to pay a mandatory tax (calculated by income —about 1%) to the Austrian Roman Catholic Church, which might (have) act(ed) as an incentive to leave the church.

About 12% of the population declare that they have no religion. Of the remaining people, around 340,000 are registered as members of various Muslim communities, mainly due to the influx from Turkey, furthermore Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania. About 180,000 are members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, more than 20.000 are active Jehovah's Witnesses and about 8,100 are Jewish. The Austrian Jewish Community of 1938 – Vienna alone counted more than 200,000 - was reduced to solely 4,000 to 5,000 after the Second World War, with approximately 65,000 Austrian Jews killed in the Holocaust and 130,000 emigrating. A significant proportions of the current Jewish population are post-war immigrants, particularly from eastern Europe and central Asia (including Bukharian Jews). Buddhism, which was legally recognized as a religion in Austria in 1983 has a following of 20,000 (10,402 at the 2001 census).

According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2005,

  • 54% of Austrian citizens responded that "they believe there is a God".
  • 34% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force".
  • 8% answered that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force".

While northern and central Germany was the origin of the Reformation, Austria (and Bavaria) was the heart of the Counter-Reformation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the absolute monarchy of Habsburg imposed a strict regime to maintain Catholicism's power and influence among Austrians. The Habsburgs viewed themselves as the vanguard of Catholicism and all other confessions and religions were repressed. In 1781, Emperor Joseph II issued a Patent of Tolerance that allowed other Christian confessions a limited freedom of worship. Religious freedom was declared a constitutional right in the Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich in 1867 thus paying tribute to the fact that the monarchy was home of numerous religions beside Roman Catholicism such as Greek, Serbian, Romanian, Russian, and Bulgarian Orthodox Christians (Austria neighboured the Ottoman Empire for centuries) , and both Calvinist and Lutheran Protestants.

Austria continued to remain largely influenced by Catholicism. After 1918, First Republic Catholic leaders such as Theodor Innitzer and Ignaz Seipel took leading positions within or close to Austria's government and increased their influence during the time of the Austrofascism; —Catholicism was treated much like a state religion by Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg. Although Catholic leaders initially welcomed the Germans in 1938 during the Anschluss of Austria into Germany, Austrian Catholicism stopped its support of Nazism later on and many former religious public figures became involved with the resistance during the Third Reich. After the end of World War II in 1945, a stricter secularism was imposed in Austria, and religious influence on politics declined.

Culture

Music

Austria's past as a European power and its cultural environment have generated a broad contribution to various forms of art, most notably among them music. Austria has been the birthplace of many famous composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, Anton Bruckner, Johann Strauss, Sr., Johann Strauss, Jr. and Gustav Mahler as well as members of the Second Viennese School such as Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern and Alban Berg.

Vienna has long been especially an important center of musical innovation. Eighteenth and nineteenth century composers were drawn to the city due to the patronage of the Habsburgs, and made Vienna the European capital of classical music. During the Baroque period, Slavic and Hungarian folk forms influenced Austrian music. Vienna's status began its rise as a cultural center in the early 1500s, and was focused around instruments including the lute. Ludwig van Beethoven spent the better part of his life in Vienna.

Austria's current national anthem, attributed to Mozart, was chosen after World War II to replace the traditional Austrian anthem by Joseph Haydn.

Austria has also produced one notable jazz musician, keyboardist Josef Zawinul who helped pioneer electronic influences in jazz as well as being a notable composer in his own right. Falco was an internationally acclaimed pop and rock musician.

Art and architecture

Among Austrian Artists and architects one can find painters Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele and Friedensreich Hundertwasser, photographer Inge Morath or architect Otto Wagner.

Science, philosophy and economics

Austria was the cradle of numerous scientists with international reputations. Among them are Ludwig Boltzmann, Ernst Mach, Victor Franz Hess and Christian Doppler, prominent scientists in the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, contributions by Lise Meitner, Erwin Schrödinger and Wolfgang Pauli to nuclear research and quantum mechanics were key to these areas' development during the 1920s and 1930s. A present-day quantum physicist is Anton Zeilinger, noted as the first scientist to demonstrate quantum teleportation.

In addition to physicists, Austria was the birthplace of two of the greatest philosophers of the twentieth century, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper. In addition to them biologists Gregor Mendel and Konrad Lorenz as well as mathematician Kurt Gödel and engineers such as Ferdinand Porsche and Siegfried Marcus were Austrians.

A focus of Austrian science has always been medicine and psychology, starting in medieval times with Paracelsus. Eminent physicians like Theodore Billroth, Clemens von Pirquet, and Anton von Eiselsberg have built upon the achievements of the 19th century Vienna School of Medicine. Austria was home to psychologists Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Paul Watzlawick and Hans Asperger and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl.

The Austrian School of Economics, which is prominent as one of the main competitive directions for economic theory, is related to Austrian economists Joseph Schumpeter, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek.

Other noteworthy Austrian-born émigrés include the management thinker Peter Drucker and the 38th Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Literature

Complementing its status as a land of artists and scientists, Austria has always been a country of poets, writers, and novelists. It was the home of novelists Arthur Schnitzler, Stefan Zweig, Thomas Bernhard, Franz Kafka, and Robert Musil, of poets Georg Trakl, Franz Werfel, Franz Grillparzer, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Adalbert Stifter, and of writer Karl Kraus.

Famous contemporary playwrights and novelists are Nobel prize winner Elfriede Jelinek and writer Peter Handke.

Cuisine

Austria's cuisine is derived from the cuisine of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In addition to native regional traditions, it has been influenced above all by Hungarian, Czech, Jewish, Italian and Bavarian cuisines, from which both dishes and methods of food preparation have often been borrowed. The Austrian Cuisine is therefore one of the most multi and transcultural cuisines in Europe.

Typical Austrian dishes include Wiener Schnitzel, Schweinsbraten, Kaiserschmarren, Knödel, Sachertorte and Tafelspitz. There are also Kasnockn, a macaroni dish with fresh Pinzgauer cheese and parsley, and Eierschwammerl (chanterelle) dishes. The Eierschwammerl are the native yellow, tan mushrooms. These mushrooms are delicious, especially when in a thick Austrian soup, or on regular meals.

The candy PEZ was invented in Austria. Austria is also famous for its Apfelstrudel.

Sports

The most popular sport in Austria is alpine skiing and Austria shows constant dominance in the Nations-Cup. Similar sports such as snowboarding or ski-jumping are also widely popular. The most popular team sport in Austria is football. However, Austria rarely has international success in this discipline, going out in the first round of the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship which was co-hosted with Switzerland. Besides football, Austria also has professional national leagues for most major team sports including ice hockey and basketball. Bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton are also popular events with a permanent track located in Igls, which hosted bobsleigh and luge competitions for the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics held in Innsbruck.

See also

Notes and References

References

  • Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (1997). The Austrians: A thousand-year odyssey. Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc.; 19 West 21st Street; New York, NY 10010.
  • CIA World Factbook—Austria Retrieved on December 7, 2007.
  • (1989). Introducing Austria: A short history. Ariadne Press, 270 Goins Court, Riverside, CA 92507.
  • Jelavich, Barbara (1987). Modern Austria. Cambridge University Press.
  • Schulze, Hagen (1994). States, Nations and Nationalism. Blackwell Publishers Inc, 350 Main Street, Malden, Massachusetts 02148, USA.

External links

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