Official Name: Republic of Austria
Language: (major) German
Religions: Roman Catholic 78%, Protestant 5%, Muslim and other 17%
Area: 83,858 sq km
Landforms: In essence, Austria has three main geographical areas.
of the east and southeast are the country's agriculture center. A sliver
of lowland also fronts the Lake Constance area on its border with Switzerland.
In the Hill Country, north of the Danube River, the land rises into forested hills and lower mountains up to its border with the Czech Republic.
Most of Austria (70%), is covered by the Alpine Region, central and west, as the Alps extend on into Austria from Switzerland.
In this region several branches, spurs and forested, snow-capped ranges of
the Alps dominate. The major ones include the Bavarian, Carnic and Otztaler
Austria -- History --
During the VI-VIII century, after the disintegration of the Roman Empire the western parts of today’s Austria were populated with Germanic, and the eastern – with Slavonic tribes. In 1156 Austria became a principality within the Holy Roman Empire. In the XIII century it became a family property of the Habsburgs and the center of the future Austrian Empire. Due to its strategic position against the advancing Ottoman forces during XIV-XV century Austria became “Austrian mark”.
During the wars with the Ottoman Turks in XVI-XVII centuries the Habsburgs conquered Bohemia (today’s Czech republic), Silezia, Moravia, Croatia and Hungary, and in the XVIII century – Belgium, part of Italy, Poland and western Ukraine. Austria developed as a typical absolute monarchy. In the 1867 the dual-monarchy Austro-Hungary was formed.
In World War One Austro-Hungary fought on the side of the Central forces. After the defeat in the war, in the end of 1918 the multinational country disintegrated and several smaller states were formed – Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and parts of the ex-empire’s territories were given to Yugoslavia (at that time – Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes), Poland, Romania and Italy. On 12 November 1918 Austria became a republic, its borders were determined by the treaty of Saint Germain in 1919. In the period between the wars it suffered from the problems typical for the countries which lost the war, similar to those in Germany.
In 1938 the annex (Anschluss) with Nazi-Germany was announced. Austrian forces participated actively in World War Two. At the end of the War Austria was occupied by Soviet forces. In the spring of 1945 a Control council of the Allied Forces was set up in the country. In May 1955 a treaty was signed between Austria and the countries of the Coalition, according to which Austria was restored as a “independent and democratic republic”.
In October 1955 the Parliament of Austria adopted a law for constant neutrality, non-participation in military alliances and non-allowance of foreign military bases on Austrian territory. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 some people in Austria question the relevance of this absolute neutrality. However, up to now it remains. Austria joined the UN in 1955, the EU in 1995, the Currency union (Euro-zone) in 1999.
Austria -- Economy --
The economy of the Republic of Austria may be characterised as a social market economy similar in structure with Germany's. The country has a very high standard of living in which the government has played an important role in its citizen's life ever since 1945. Austria is the 4th richest country within the European Union having a GDP (PPP) per capita of approximately 33,000 USD, with Luxemburg, Ireland and Denmark leading the list. Vienna is ranked the 6th richest NUTS-2 region within Europe (see Economy of Europe) with 38,000 USD GDP per capita. Growth has been steady but slow in the years 2002-2005 pendling between 1 and 2.5 %. Because of its position in central Europe it has gained significance as a gateway to the new EU memberstates.
Ever since the end of the Second World War Austria has achieved sustained economic growth. In the souring 1950s the rebuilding efforts for Austria lead to an average annual growth rate of more than 5% in real terms and averaged about 4.5% through most of the 1960s. Following moderate real GDP growth of 1.7%, 2.0% and 1.2%, respectively, in 1995, 1996, and 1997, the economy rebounded and with real GDP expansion of 2.9% in 1998 and 2.2% in 1999.
Austria became a member of the EU on January 1, 1995. Membership brought economic benefits and challenges and has drawn an influx of foreign investors attracted by Austria's access to the single European market. Austria also has made progress in generally increasing its international competitiveness. As a member of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Austria's economy is closely integrated with other EU member countries, especially with Germany. On January 1, 1999, Austria introduced the new Euro currency for accounting purposes. In January 2002, Euro notes and coins were introduced and substitute for the Austrian Schilling. Economists agree that the economic effects in Austria of using a common currency have been positive.
Privatisation, state participation and labour movements
Many of the country's largest firms were nationalized in the early post-war period to protect them from Soviet takeover as war reparations. For many years, the government and its state-owned industries conglomerate played a very important role in the Austrian economy. However, starting in the early 1990s, the group was broken apart, state-owned firms started to operate largely as private businesses, and a great number of these firms were wholly or partially privatized. Although the government's privatization work in past years has been very successful, it still operates some firms, state monopolies, utilities, and services. The new government has presented an ambitious privatization program, which, if implemented, will considerably reduce government participation in the economy. Austria enjoys well-developed industry, banking, transportation, services, and commercial facilities.
Austria has a strong labour movement. The Austrian Trade Union Federation (OGB) comprises constituent unions with a total membership of about 1.5 million--more than half the country's wage and salary earners. Since 1945, the OGB has pursued a moderate, consensus-oriented wage policy, cooperating with industry, agriculture, and the government on a broad range of social and economic issues in what is known as Austria's "social partnership." The OGB has often opposed the Schussel government's program for budget consolidation, social reform, and improving the business climate, and indications are rising that Austria's peaceful social climate could become more confrontational.
Austrian farms, like those of other west European mountainous countries, are small and fragmented, and production is relatively expensive. Since Austria's becoming a member of the EU in 1995, the Austrian agricultural sector has been undergoing substantial reform under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Although Austrian farmers provide about 80% of domestic food requirements, the agricultural contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has declined since 1950 to less than 3%.
Although some industries are global competitors, such as several iron and steel works, chemical plants and oil corporations that are large industrial enterprises employing thousands of people, most industrial and commercial enterprises in Austria are relatively small on an international scale.
Most important for Austria is the service sector generating the vast majority of Austria's GDP. Vienna has grown to finance and consulting metropole and has established itself as the door to the East within the last decades. Viennese law firms and banks are among the leading corporations in business with the new EU memberstates. Very important for Austria's economy is tourism, both winter and summer tourism. It's dependency on German guests has made this sector of Austrian economy very dependent on German economy, however recent developments have brought a change, especially since winter ski resorts such as Arlberg or Kitzbuhel are now more and more frequented by Eastern Europeans, Russians and Americans.
Trade with other EU countries accounts for almost 66% of Austrian imports and exports. Expanding trade and investment in the emerging markets of central and eastern Europe is a major element of Austrian economic activity. Trade with these countries accounts for almost 14% of Austrian imports and exports, and Austrian firms have sizable investments in and continue to move labor-intensive, low-tech production to these countries. Although the big investment boom has waned, Austria still has the potential to attract EU firms seeking convenient access to these developing markets.
Total trade with the United States in 1999 reached $6.6 billion. Imports from the United States amounted to $3.7 billion, constituting a U.S. market share in Austria of 5.4%. Austrian exports to the United States in 1999 were $2.9 billion or 4.6% of total Austrian exports.
Austria -- Culture --
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Vienna was a world center of culture, particularly in music and literature. Austrian fine art usually is considered with the art of southern Germany. A distinctive Austrian style, however, is manifested in the refined baroque architecture and sculpture of the 17th and 18th centuries, notably in Vienna, Salzburg, and Melk.
The largest of the 2,400 libraries in Austria is the National Library, founded in 1526. Important research collections are housed in the various universities, in several old monasteries, and in a number of scientific libraries. The collection of the former royal house contains state papers dating from 816, collections of the Holy Roman Empire dating from 1555, and documents concerning the history of the Austrian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, and the period since 1918.
The art and natural science museums of Vienna are internationally known, as are many individual collections. The Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) is famous for its paintings by members of the Brueghel family and for the works of Dutch, Italian, and German painters. The Albertina collection of prints and drawings, the collections of jewelry and relics of the Holy Roman Empire, the Austrian Gallery, the technical museum, and the museum for folklore and ethnography are all well known. Salzburg, birthplace of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, has several museums housing collections of his manuscripts and memorabilia, including one in the house where he was born.
Austrian Literature is one literature written in German from the 16th century to the present by authors of Austrian nationality and of distinguishable Austrian national consciousness. An Austrian culture distinct from that of Germany developed only after the Counter Reformation, when in the 16th century Roman Catholic Austria and Protestant Germany were separated. As Spain and Italy were at times part of the Habsburg empire, Austrian literature was influenced by both Spanish drama and Italian opera.
The first uniquely Austrian genre was the magic play of the 18th century, depicting supernatural events in allegorical terms. One that attained worldwide fame was Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute, 1791), by Emanuel Schikaneder, set to music by Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Ferdinand Raimund elevated the magic play to tragicomedy. Johann Nepomuk Nestroy wrote magic plays of political satire and literary parody. The witty plays of Raimund and Nestroy helped Austrians forget the period of warfare against French emperor Napoleon I.
Franz Grillparzer, on the other hand, fused the tradition of the German classics with the typically Austrian spirit that Roman Catholicism and the Habsburg empire had shaped. In the play
Konig Ottokars Gluck und Ende (King Ottokar: His Rise and Fall, first performed in 1825), he contrasts the arrogance of the enemies of Austria with the Christian humility of Austrian heroes. His contemporary Adalbert Stifter demonstrated a concern for tradition, literary form, and morality. The well-ordered life is idealized in his novel Der Nachsommer (1857; Indian Summer, 1985). Stifter's prose is an expression of the quiet desperation underlying the era dominated by the Austrian statesman Prince Klemens von Metternich.
An important contribution to Austrian literature was made by the dramatist Ludwig Anzengruber. His realistic presentation of social issues, as in Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld (The Village Priest of Kirchfeld, 1870) and Das vierte Gebot (The Fourth Commandment, 1877), mark him as a pioneer of naturalism.
Modern Austrian literature, developing while the Austro-Hungarian Empire was disintegrating, began with Hermann Bahr. He was the author of the sophisticated comedy Das Konzert (1909; The Concert, 1921) and an essayist who promoted impressionism and other new movements. His contemporary, Arthur Schnitzler, unmasked hypocrisy in such plays as Anatol (1893; The Affairs of Anatol, 1911). Influenced by impressionism, Schnitzler excelled in the short dramatic episode, such as Der Grune Kakadu (1899; The Green Cockatoo, 1913). An astute analyst of human behavior, Schnitzler won the praise of his countryman Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis.
Playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal at first turned to a new romanticism. His early verse plays, such as Der Tod des Tizian (1892; The Death of Titian, 1913) and Der Tor und der Tod (1893; Death and the Fool, 1913), were stylized legends. Later he drew inspiration, as did Grillparzer, from a universal cultural heritage. He wrote in a variety of forms, including Greek drama in Elektra (1903; translated 1908); drawing-room comedy in Der Schwierige (1921; The Difficult Man, 1963); and opera libretto. His were the librettos used by the German composer Richard Strauss for Der Rosenkavalier (The Cavalier of the Rose, 1911), Ariadne auf Naxos (Ariadne on Naxos, 1912), and Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman Without a Shadow, 1919). Together with Strauss and theater director Max Reinhardt, Hofmannsthal founded a music and drama festival in Salzburg. The festival opened in 1920 with a production of Hofmannsthal’s play Jedermann (Everyman, 1911). Inspired by medieval morality plays, Jedermann criticized the materialism of the modern world.
After World War II the Gruppe 47 formed to restore the German language and German-language literature after their destruction by Nazi censorship and propaganda. Among its Austrian
members were Ilse Aichinger, a writer of short stories, and Ingeborg Bachmann, a poet, who both achieved a wide readership. Bachmann also wrote librettos for two operas by German composer Hans Werner Henze, Der Prinz von Homburg (The Prince of Homburg, 1960) and Der Junge Lord (The Young Lord, 1965).
Some postwar Austrian writers looked to European literary and artistic movements from the first decades of the 20th century, such as expressionism, dada, and surrealism, or to writers associated with the Austrian empire, such as Kafka. These writers often presented a picture of a bleak or meaningless world. The legacy of Kafka and surrealism can be felt in the works of Aichinger, novelist and dramatist Peter Handke, and novelist Elfriede Jelinek. In his witty dramas playwright Wolfgang Bauer also dealt with human alienation in a purposeless world.
Some Austrian writers chose to experiment with language, in particular several poets known as the Vienna Group, which included H. C. Artmann, Ernst Jandl, and Friedericke Mayrocker. Others used fragmented prose to deal with such questions as the nature of self, as did Bachmann in her first novel, Malina (1971; translated 1990).
In the last decades of the 20th century, Bernhard and several other Austrian writers chose to confront Austria’s role during the Nazi Anschluss and World War II. They included Erich Hackl, Marie-Therese Kerschbaumer, and Elisabeth Reichart. The fiction of many other writers, while ostensibly nonpolitical in subject, also had political overtones in its depiction of alienation, isolation, and the quest for meaning.
Important art contributions include early wood carvings, Gobelins tapestries, hand-carved and hand-painted chests, intricately forged grates and other ironwork, stained-glass windows, Augarten porcelain from Vienna, lace, and leatherwork. Wood carving and sculpturing have long been popular among the people of the Alpine valleys. Among the best-known modern painters of Austria are Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, and Hundertwasser.
The Land of Music is a name often given to Austria. Composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Anton Bruckner, Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss the Elder and Younger, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz von Suppe, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Franz Lehar, and Arnold Schoenberg, as well as conductors Felix Weingartner, Clemens Krauss, and Herbert von Karajan, are just a few who have enriched Austrian cultural life. The Vienna Boys’ Choir and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra are celebrated organizations. Vienna has two famous opera houses, the Volksoper (People’s Opera), opened in 1904, and the Vienna State Opera, completed in 1869 and known for its beautiful architecture and fine performances. In addition, every provincial capital has its own theater, and the summer festivals in Vienna, Salzburg, and Bregenz are outstanding musical events.
Austria -- Political system, law and government --
Austria is a federal republic with parliamentary democracy. Head of state is the Federal President, while the government is represented by the Federal Chancellor. The country is governed according to the constitution of 1920, as amended in 1929 and subsequently modified. Laws having their origin in 1862 and 1867 guarantee basic human rights and liberties; the rights of minorities are also guaranteed by the constitution. Like the constitutions of many other Western democracies, the constitution of Austria provides for a distinct division of power among the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches of government.
Executive power is exercised by the president of the republic, who is elected by popular vote every six years, and by the Council of Ministers, or cabinet, which is headed by a chancellor, appointed by the president for a term not exceeding four years. Suffrage is universal for citizens 19 years of age and older.
Austria has a bicameral legislature: the Nationalrat (or National Council, which includes 183 members) and the Bundesrat (or the Federal Council, which includes 64 membres). Federal legislative power is vested principally in the Nationalrat (National Council), or lower house of the bicameral Federal Assembly. Its 183 members are elected for four-year terms by popular vote according to proportional representation. The cabinet may remain in office only so long as it enjoys the confidence of the Nationalrat. The Bundesrat (Federal Council)’s members are chosen by the provincial legislatures in proportion to population for terms ranging from four to six years, depending on the length of terms of the provincial legislatures they represent. Although the powers of the Bundesrat are primarily advisory, the council can delay the passage of bills.
The legal system is based on the division between legislative, administrative, and judicial power. There are three supreme courts: the Supreme Constitutional Court, the Supreme Administrative Court, and the Supreme Judicial Court. The judicial courts include 4 higher provincial courts, 17 provincial and district courts, and about 200 local courts. The constitutional court deals with matters affecting the country’s constitution, and examines the legality of administration and legislation. The administrative court deals with matters affecting the legality of administration.
Austrian politics in the second half of the 20th century were dominated by two main parties, the Social Democratic Party (called the Socialist Party until 1991) and the Austrian People’s Party. Beginning in the late 1980s, however, the right-wing Freedom Party gradually gained strength. Other national parties included a coalition of Green parties, which are affiliated with the international Greens environmental movement, and the Liberal Forum.
Each of the nine provinces has a unicameral legislature elected on the same basis as the Nationalrat. The legislature chooses a provincial governor. All legislation must be submitted by the governor to the federal ministry for approval. The provincial legislature, however, may override a ministry veto by majority vote. Cities and villages are administered by elected communal councils, which in turn elect mayors, or burgomasters.
Health and Welfare
The Austrian system of social insurance is comprehensive, including sickness, disability, accident, old-age, and unemployment benefits, allowances for families with children, and rent aid. The program is financed by compulsory employer and employee contributions. Health insurance and some other benefits are voluntary for those who are self-employed.
An Austrian army was authorized by the treaty of May 15, 1955. Under the terms of this treaty, which promulgated Austria’s sovereignty and neutrality, no limitation was placed on the army size, but its equipment was restricted to conventional weapons. Austria has compulsory military service of six months plus duty in the reserves for men aged 18 to 50. In 2003 the Austrian armed forces included 35,000 members. Austria is not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).