Peasants´ Revolts: In the second half of the 15th century, uprisings of peasant vassals occurred in several Austrian lands. They were due to changes in the social, legal and economic position of the peasantry: Taxes for the defence of Austria against the Turks were levied by landlords and the Estates, but the peasants were afforded little protection in exchange. The introduction of Roman law caused dissatisfaction because it meant a restriction of common law. The most frequent cause for riots were local complaints, since change often met with opposition. In no case, however, were uprisings aimed at the emperor or the empire, but only at the local landlords. High taxes levied by the church for ordination and consecration aroused opposition in Salzburg in 1462, insufficient protection from the Turks caused riots in Carinthia in 1478, as did the application of new principles of law in the Lower Styrian area inhabited by Slovenes (1515). Developments gained momentum with the teachings of Luther and other Reformers, especially after the great German Peasants´ Revolt of 1525, and the rebellion spread to the provinces of Tirol, Salzburg, parts of Styria, Lower and Upper Austria and Carinthia. The peak of the movement was represented by the fight of M. Gaismair in Tirol, the siege laid to archbishop M. Lang in the castle Hohensalzburg, and the fights for the town of Schladming. These riots were put down in 1526 by the Swabian League and by Austrian troops led by N. Salm, but more fighting was seen in the following years, especially in the Styrian and Salzburg provinces. One major riot in 1594-1595 was centred in the province of Upper Austria, but owing to financial burdens caused by the Turkish Wars and measures taken in the course of the Counter-Reformation it also spread to the western parts of Lower Austria. The leaders of the revolt were G. Prunner and A. Schrembser in the Waldviertel region and G. Markgraber and C. Haller in the region called "Viertel ob dem Wienerwald". The peasant bands were broken up by troops of the Estates in March and April 1597 near Hadersdorf and St. Poelten, 60 leaders were put to death and more than 100 others were severely punished.
The Upper Austrian Peasants´ Revolt was aimed at preventing Counter-Reformation measures, and was also a fight against Bavarian rule. The Frankenburger Wuerfelspiel (1625) had increased tensions, and in May 1626 some 40,000 peasants from the "Land ob der Enns" (earlier name for Upper Austria), under the leadership of S. Fadinger and Christoph Zeller rose and took the towns of Wels, Steyr, Kremsmuenster and Freistadt and laid siege to Linz. Zeller and Fadinger were killed in action, in November 1626 the rebellion was quelled by the Bavarian general H. G. von Pappenheim, and the leaders were punished. This Peasants´ Revolt has often been depicted in literature.
The Peasants´ Revolts brought renewed suppression and severe punishment to the peasants. The princes and the emperor invariably supported the noble and ecclesiastical landlords and the interests of the Estates prevailed over religious solidarity. Apart from Gaismair, the peasants did not pursue political or strategic military aims. The leaders of the revolt were for the greatest part not farmers but tavernkeepers, craftsmen, teachers and civil servants etc.
Literature#Die Bauernkriege in Oesterreich, exhibition catalogue, Pottenbrunn 1974; Der oberoesterreichische Bauernkrieg, exhibition catalogue, Linz-Scharnstein 1976; H. Feigl, Der Bauernaufstand 1596/97, 21978.