State (pop., 2001: 673,504), western Austria. Covering 4,883 sq mi (12,647 sq km), it consists of North Tirol and East Tirol, separated by the state of Salzburg and the Italian region of Trentino–Alto Adige. Tirol is a mountainous area bordered by the Bavarian Alps and the Ötztaler Alps. Its capital is Innsbruck. Tirol came under Roman control in the 1st century BC. In the Middle Ages it was ruled by various counts and bishops until it passed to the Habsburgs in 1363. It was the scene of revolts in 1525 during the Reformation, and again in 1809 against French and Bavarian rule. The southern Tirol was transferred to Italy in 1919. Renowned for its skiing, it attracts many tourists.
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According to a more recent and controversial theory, the Rhaeto-Romance languages are autochthonous and date back to before the Roman conquest (see: Paleolithic Continuity Theory).
Over the centuries, the Counts residing in Castle Tyrol, near Merano, extended their territory over much of the region and came to surpass the power of the bishops, who were nominally their feudal lords. Later counts came to hold much of their territory directly from the Holy Roman Emperor. The Meinhardinger family, originating in Gorizia, held not only Tyrol and Gorizia, but for a time also the Duchy of Carinthia.
1363/1369 the Wittelsbach released the country for Habsburg when Margarete Maultasch, lacking any descendants to succeed her, bequeathed Tyrol to Duke Rudolph IV of House of Habsburg. From that time onwards, Tyrol was ruled by various lines of the Habsburg family, who held the title of the Count of Tyrol (see List of rulers of Austria).
On the eve of World War I the Austrian crownland of Tyrol included an area populated mainly by Italian speakers, which coincided roughly with the present-day Province of Trento. The linguistic border was well-defined and followed the border between South Tyrol and Trento at the Salurn Pass. The existence of areas largely populated by Italian-speaking populations under the rule of the Austrian Empire was a constant cause of friction between Austria and Italy, a national state set on the unification of all Italians. Being part of the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria was "an embarrassment, if not a contradiction" for Italy. Italy's fear that it would not get what it wanted in the event of a victorious Triple Alliance caused it to remain neutral during the first year of the war, and the preoccupation that it wouldn't get what it wanted from a victorious Entente either if it remained neutral led it to join the war on the side of the latter. Italy conducted intense negotiations with Austria, which was prepared to part with Trento in exchange of Italy's neutrality, but Italy wanted the old borders of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, which ran between Salurn and the Brenner Pass, a demand which Austria refused, since it would mean giving up a territory regarded as personal fief by the Habsburg Emperors. From the Entente Italy demanded the boundary at the Brenner Pass in order to change Alliances. On 26 April 1915 Italy signed the London Pact, in which it accepted to declare war against the Central Powers, in exchange for the unredeemed territories of Trentino, Gorizia, Trieste and Dalmatia as well as the part of German Tyrol south of the main Alpine divide. Apart from these territorial gains the change of alliance enabled Italy to gain what it really aspired to: Italian military dominance in the Mediterranean. The ideals of irredentism where used to convince the population of the necessity of the war, but the true motives of the political leadership to join the war was their idea that Italy should become a great European power.
The war against the Austro-Hungarian Empire was declared on May 24, 1915. This put Tyrol on the front line, which passed through some of the highest mountains in the Alps. The ensuing front became known as the "War in ice and snow", as troops occupied the highest mountains and glaciers all year long. Twelve metres (40 feet) of snow were a usual occurrence during the winter of 1915–16 and tens of thousands of soldiers disappeared in avalanches. The remains of these soldiers are still being uncovered today. The Italian Alpini, as well as their Austrian counterparts (Kaiserjäger, Standschützen and Landesschützen) and the German Alpenkorps occupied every hill and mountain top and began to carve extensive fortifications and military quarters, even drilling tunnels inside the mountains and deep into glaciers, like at Marmolada. Guns were dragged by hundreds of troops on mountains up to 3,890 m (12,760 ft). Streets, cable cars, mountain railways and walkways through the steepest of walls were built. But whoever had occupied the higher ground first was almost impossible to dislodge, so both sides turned to drilling tunnels under mountain peaks, filling them up with explosives and then detonating the whole mountain to pieces, including its defenders, such us Col di Lana, Monte Pasubio, Lagazuoi, etc. Climbing and skiing became essential skills for the troops of both sides and soon Ski Battalions and Special Climbing units were formed.
On May 15, 1916, the Austrian army staged an attack from the Trentino without the aid of the German army, whose command had advised against such a move. In order to achieve the necessary troop strength, several divisions where withdrawn from the Russian front. The offensive was only a limited tactical success. The Austrians penetrated twelve miles into Italian territory and inflicted heavy casualties on the Italians, but fell short of their strategic and political goals. This inconclusive attack weakened the eastern front, which enabled the Russian Army to overrun Austrian positions in Galicia and threaten the heart of the Habsburg Empire
Until the end of the war the Tyrolean frontline remained practically unchanged. The decisive battles where fought elsewhere. This changed in October, 1918, with Austro-Hungarian defeat in the battle of Vittorio Veneto. The Imperial army collapsed and started to withdraw. An armistice was signed on 3 November 1918 but was set to come into force only the day after, the 4 November 1915, at 3pm. This allowed the Italians to complete the successful offensive and to penetrate deep into Austrian territory. In its advance, Italian troops took roughly 350,000 to 400,000 fleeing Austro-Hungarian soldiers prisoner in the space of 36 hours. It appears that this was also due to the fact that the Austrian command had decided that captivity in Italy was preferable to starvation at home. After the armistice, hundreds of thousands Austrian soldiers without weapons, food and discipline made their way home through the alpine valleys. The alpine villages where caught between the retreating, half-starved soldiers who repeatedly resorted to theft and robbery to survive, and the advancing Italian army. At the same time, great numbers of Italian war prisoners where making their way south towards their homeland. Austria did not have the means to guarantee the orderly retreat of its own army or the organized return of Italian war prisoners.
In the meantime, Italian occupation of Tyrol was going as planned. On 11 September Italian troops occupied the Brenner Pass and the Pass at Toblach. In order to secure access to the Inn valley, crucial for an advance into southern Germany, Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, and the village Landeck where occupied as well. On 10 January 1919 the commander of the 3rd army corps, gen. Ugo Sani, was appointed military governor of northern Tyrol with residence in Innsbruck.
The Treaty of Saint-Germain ruled that, according to the London Pact, the southern part of Tyrol had to be ceded to Italy, granting Italy the right to push its border northward to the strategically important Alpine water divide. The northern part was retained by the First Austrian Republic.
The Tyrol Gröstl is a traditional food which contains potatoes and pieces of cut pork browned lightly together with chopped onion and butter in a frying pan. It is spiced with abundant marjoram, plus salt, pepper, caraway and parsley. Gröstl is often served with fried egg and herbs, sheet or rohnensalat (beetroot).
"The Green Hills Of Tyrol" is a popular bagpiping tune, as a 3/4 retreat march. It is one of the best known, and oldest tunes played by pipe bands. It was originally transposed by Pipe Major MacLean in Crimea, during the Crimean War.
Alcock, Antony (1996), Trentino and Tyrol: from Austrian Crownland to European Region. In: Seamus Dunn/T.G. Fraser (eds.), Europe and Ethnicity. The First World War and contemporary ethnic conflict, London and New York:Routledge, ISBN 0-415-11996-0, pp. 67-87.
Gleirscher, Paul (1992), Die Laugen-Melaun-Gruppe. In: Metzger, Ingrid R., Die Räter – I Reti, Bozen:Athesia, ISBN 88-7014-646-4, pp.117-134.
Rothenberg, Gunther E. (1977), The Habsburg Army in the First World War: 1914-1918. In: Robert. A. Kann/Béla Király/Paula S. Fichtner, The Habsburg Empire in World War I. Essays on the Intellectual, Military, Political and Economic Aspects of the Habsburg War Effort, New York: Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-914710-16-8, pp. 73-86.