Austrian History

Austrian history

Austrian History

History of Austria The history of Austria, like the history of most European countries, is full of changes and twists. Nevertheless, individual elements of the Austrian character have been strengthened over the centuries. Above all, the inclination to pleasures, beauty, sophistication acted as a stable driving force here.

Prehistory and Antiquity

The territory of today’s Austria, the fertile Danube valley and the Alpine valleys was already inhabited in the early Stone Age (around 8,000 BC). In the Celtic period (800 to 400 BC), the first kingdom called Noricum was created, whose settlements became rich mainly from the mining of salt and trade in this commodity. The archaeological finds in Hallstatt, where in the museum there you can take a journey against the current of time that takes you deep into the past, gave this epoch its name: the Hallstatt period. Around the beginning of our era, much of the territory was conquered by the Romans, who built cities and roads. The most important Roman seat in Austria, Carnuntum (the capital of the Roman province of Upper Pannonia, located in today’s Lower Austria), flourishes and even becomes an imperial city. It is still possible to admire an impressive archaeological park with a museum and an amphitheater.

From Ostarrich to Österreich

At the beginning of the migration of peoples, the Roman influence in the Danubian lands is weakening. Bavarians have inhabited the country since the 6th century. To stop the further penetration of the Slavs and Avars, the Frankish ruler Charlemagne establishes around 800 AD. border mark on the territory of today’s Lower Austria. In the 10th century, a margrave east of Ange was created, which was subject to the Duke of Bavaria and was given as a fief to Leopold of the Babenberk dynasty. At this time (996) the name “Ostarrichi” appears for the first time in the document, which later changes to “Österreich”, i.e. Austria.

The Babenbergs: the founders of Austria

The Babenbers first made Pöchlarn and later Melk in the charming Wachau valley of the Danube their seat. The country is settled, and monasteries are founded (e.g. Klosterneuburg). In the first half of the 12th century, during the reign of Jindřich Jasomirgott, Austria becomes a duchy, and Vienna then becomes a residential city.

The beginnings of the reign of the Habsburgs

The beginnings of the reign of More than 100 years later, King Rudolf I comes to power – as the first monarch from the Habsburg dynasty, which since then has controlled the country’s destinies for almost 650 years. The Vienna Hofburg Castle becomes the center of the empire, whose museums (Jewellery, Sisi Museum) today tell us about the life and deeds of the royal house.

During the reign of the Habsburgs, Austria gradually became a great power, in 1452 during the reign of Friedrich III. the country becomes an empire. Through a skillful marriage policy, the Habsburgs secured their influence in France in the 15th century and even became the kings of Spain and its overseas colonies founded just then.

Wars with the Turks

In the 16th century, the Turks penetrating from the east represented a great challenge. In 1529, the Ottoman army besieged Vienna unsuccessfully. The invaders may move away, but they remain a constant threat for the next 150 years. In 1683, the Turks again stood in front of the city gates. However, they are driven back again and subsequently the troops, under the leadership of generals such as Evžen Savojský, are pushed back as far as Belgrade.


Liberation from the danger of the Turkish invasion is also a signal for a flourishing of art and culture that had not been imagined until then: fascinating buildings such as the remarkable Schönbrunn Palace (today a part of the world cultural heritage) or the Salzburg Cathedral are created, the builders Johann Fischer from Erlach, Lukas von Hildebrandt and Jakob Prandtauer, as well such as Daniel Gran, Paul Troger and Franz Anton Maulbertsch create outstanding works. During the reign of Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780), extensive reforms were initiated in all areas of state administration, which then continued during the reign of her son, Emperor Joseph II. (1741-1790), an enlightened liberal monarch.

From Biedermeier to Art Nouveau

The French Revolution of 1789 and the subsequent seizure of power by Napoleon will change many things: Austria is drawn into the Napoleonic wars and in 1814/15, as the host of the Congress of Vienna, participates in the creation of a new power arrangement in Europe. Emperor Francis I and his state chancellor Metternich will face the shock that the revolution caused to the European monarchies in Austria by restricting civil liberties and introducing censorship.

That is why the bourgeoisie retreats to the privacy of its four walls: the Biedermeier period begins. Salons become a place for social gatherings – art is cultivated. Attention is drawn to painters such as Georg Waldmüller and Friedrich Gauermann, composer Franz Schubert and poets Adalbert Stifter, Ferdinand Raimund, and Franz Grillparzer. At the end of this era, a revolution lurks again: in 1848, the citizens revolted, and Emperor Francis Joseph I takes over the government. Together with his wife Elizabeth, the legendary “Sisi” still creates the image of the Austrian Empire to this day.

He will make his capital city of Vienna, thanks to his magnificent constructions, an important Central European metropolis, and the center of a huge multinational state, which also includes Hungary and Northern Italy and stretches deep into South-Eastern Europe. The king of the waltz, Johann Strauss, is celebrating success all over the world. Sigmund Freud develops psychoanalysis. Around 1900, the Viennese Art Nouveau creates unique works.

The painters Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, just like the architect’s Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos, leave an indelible mark on their creative acts. A walk along Vienna’s Ringstrasse, a visit to the Sisi Museum, the Sigmund Freud Museum, or the Belvedere Austrian Gallery conveys ample evidence of this epoch.

20th century

Tensions in the multi-ethnic state peaked in 1914 with the murderous assassination of the Austrian heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, which became the trigger for the First World War. Emperor Francis Joseph dies in 1916, and at the end of the war in 1918, Austria becomes a republic. The very difficult economic situation and political disputes between the Christian-Socialist and Social-Democratic camps became a sign of the times, and in February 1934 the situation reached the point of civil war.

Federal Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss establishes an authoritarian estate state with the May Constitution of 1934. In July of the same year, the Austrian National Socialists make a coup attempt, which is repelled, but the Federal Chancellor Dolfuss is murdered. On March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria and annexed the country as the “Eastern Mark” to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi German Reich. After the end of World War II in 1945, Austria was restored as a republic, but it remained occupied by the victorious allied powers Great Britain for a whole decade. France, the USA, and the Soviet Union.

Until the 21st century

With the signing of the State Treaty between the Allies and Austria on May 15, 1955, and the declaration of “permanent neutrality”, Austria regains its independence. Located right next to the “Iron Curtain” on the border with the Eastern Bloc, the Alpine Republic is quickly gaining a reputation as a link between East and West. It provided asylum to refugees after the Hungarian uprising of 1956 and the Prague Spring of 1968, soon becoming the seat of international organizations (UN, OPEC) and the host of important conferences and meetings at the highest level. The Iron Curtain collapses at the turn of 1989/90, and in 1995 Austria becomes a member of the European Union.

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