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Österreich, Republik#

Austria, Republic of (Republik Oesterreich), federal state in the south-eastern part of Central Europe. The westernmost point lies 6 km north-west of Feldkirch (Vorarlberg, 9° 32´ eastern longitude), the easternmost point is 4 km east of Deutsch Jahrndorf (Burgenland, 17° 10´ eastern longitude), the northernmost point 8 km north of Litschau (Lower Austria; 49° 1´ northern latitude) and the southernmost point 13 km south of Eisenkappel (Carinthia; 46° 22´ northern latitude); area 83,858 km2; pop. 7,795,786 (in 1991). The widest east-west extension is 580 km, the widest north-south extension is 294 km. The peak of Grossglockner mountain (3,797 m) is the highest elevation, the lowest point lies in the Seewinkel region southeast of Apetlon (114 m); the federal capital is Vienna.

History: Over the centuries the geographical area of Austria has undergone profound changes. Austria, which is one of the succession states of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, today encompasses the largest part of the former German-speaking crownlands, and its current size goes back to the size of the Habsburg territory in the late Middle Ages. Before then, the Bavarians asserted themselves in the area in the Middle Ages, progressing eastwards along the axis which constitutes the Alpine Foreland after having destroyed the empire of the Avars under Charlemagne. Following the end of the Avar Empire and the defeat of the Magyars by Otto the Great (Battle of Lechfeld, 955), the "Ostmark" (Eastern March) was established as an independent political unit, and in 976 the Babenbergs were appointed as margraves. The name Ostarrîchi first appeared in 996 in a deed of donation issued by Otto III. At that time, the region now known as Upper Austria and Lower Austria were the principal areas under Babenberg rule, from where their political power expanded eastwards into the Vienna Basin and into Styria, which was acquired in 1192. The Babenbergs were awarded the title of "Duke" in 1156, the last male Babenberg died in 1246. In 1251, the Bohemian King Přemysl Otakar II seized power over the territory. Rudolf of Habsburg, elected German King in 1273, put an end to Otakar's power and presented his sons Albrecht I and Rudolf II with the Duchies of Austria and Styria (1282). The House of Habsburg pursued a successful expansion policy within their family: Albrecht II acquired Carinthia and Carniola (1335), his eldest son Rudolf IV gained Tirol (1363), and the latter´s brother Leopold III acquired central Istria (1374) and Trieste, 1382). Vorarlberg, finally, was acquired in the 15th century. Austria´s large east-west extension is thus a legacy of the medieval territorial policy of the Habsburgs. While more territories became part of Austria later on, namely the provinces of Salzburg (finally in 1816) and Burgenland (1921), Austria lost some others: South Tirol, southern Carinthia and southern Styria were ceded in fulfilment of the Treaty of St. Germain. The Republic of Austria was proclaimed on November 12, 1918, under the name "Deutschoesterreich". The viability of the First Republic was severely doubted for many reasons. The young state was facing growing political polarisation, a bleak economic situation and radical structural changes in all fields of the economy that were due to the disintegration of the monarchy. Political tensions led to the dissolution of parliament in 1933 and came to a head in the Civil War of 1934, the ban on the Social Democratic Party and the proclamation of an authoritarian corporation state (E. Dollfuss, K. Schuschnigg). The First Republic ended when German troops marched into Austria on March 12, 1938, Austria was annexed to the German Reich and ceased to exist as an independent state for 7 years to come. Austria re-gained her statehood after 1945 ( Second Republic) but was initially divided into four occupation zones and full sovereignty was not re-gained until 1955 Austrian History.

Constitution and Administration: Austria is a democratic republic and a federal state composed of 9 independent Bundeslaender Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Vienna. The federalist structure is reflected in the organisation of Parliament, which is composed of the Nationalrat (National Council) and the Bundesrat (Federal Council - the representative chamber of the Federal Provinces), in the election of independent Landtage (Provincial Diets), the transfer of powers to the provinces (hospitals, social services, primary and lower secondary schools, traffic police), in what is called delegated federal administration and also in the sharing of funds ( Revenue-sharing). Austria is a parliamentary democracy with pronounced features of a presidential republic. In accordance with the Federal Constitution, the supreme executive organs are the Federal President and the Federal Government, headed by the Federal Chancellor. The legislative power is jointly exercised with the Nationalrat, which is elected by the people, and the Bundesrat, which is composed of Provincial Delegates. The Federal Budget is the responsibility of the National Council. According to the principle of separation of powers, there is an independent judiciary. The administration is entrusted to the public authorities ( Public Authorities, Structure of) at federal, provincial and communal level. 2 forms of federal administration can be distinguished: delegated and direct federal administration. Matters that are not dealt with by federal administrative authorities (direct administration), are entrusted in the Provinces to the Provincial Governor or his subordinate District Commissioner or, at the level of the municipality, to the Mayor (delegated administrative jurisdiction; Gemeinde). Side by side with the organs provided for in the Federal Constitution, the actual political scene is influenced by a number of institutions, some of which possess considerable political weight. Among these are the Employers' Associations (Federation of Austrian Industrialists, Chambers of Agriculture, Economic Chambers), the organs of Workers´ Representation (Chambers of Labour, Austrian Federation of Trade Unions) and institutionalised forms of the Social Partnership. Their fora deal with important matters in the field of wage and income policy as well as with general questions of social and economic policy. While this approach has made an important contribution to social peace, it also prevents widespread public debate of important political problems.

The Landscape: Austria has 5 basic landscape types. Nearly two thirds of the surface are covered by the Alps. They run through the country from west to east and are divided into distinct sections: the Flysch Zone (Bregenzerwald Mountain Region, Vienna Woods), the Northern Limestone Alps, the Greywacke Zone, which is rich in natural resources, the glaciated and crystalline Central Alps and the Southern Limestone Alps.

Each individual alpine zone is separated from the others by a northern and a southern longitudinal valley. The northern longitudinal valleys (valleys of the rivers Inn, Salzach, Enns and Muerz) and the southern longitudinal valleys (Drau/Drava valley, Klagenfurt Basin) enable passage from west to east. The west-east extension of the Alps on the other hand leads to the concentration of north-south traffic to a few passageways - a considerable problem in Transit Traffic which is limited to a few low alpine passes. - The granite and gneiss plateau, which forms part of the Bohemian Massif, is the oldest geological section of Austria. It is a rolling hilly plateau at 500 to 800 m with elevations over 1,000 m, covers the Upper Austrian Muehlviertel region and the Lower Austrian Waldviertel region and has the River Danube as its southern borderline. The Bohemian Massif reaches south beyond the River Danube in 5 regions: Sauwald, Kuernberger Wald, Neustadtler Platte, Hiesberger Wald and Dunkelsteinerwald.

Between the Alps and the Bohemian Massif in the North stretches the hill and terrace landscape of the Alpine Foreland, which reaches its greatest width in the Innviertel region in the west and the Weinviertel region in the east. Between the Alps and the Carpathian Mountains lies the Vienna Basin, a wide cove filled with tertiary sediments that is divided by the River Danube into the southern and northern Vienna Basin (Marchfeld).

The fifth landscape type, the Foreland in the East, is composed of a number of Pannonian coves ( Graz Basin, Oberpullendorf Bay and Neusiedl Bay) which were filled with sediments and afterwards transformed by erosion into a rolling hill and terrace landscape. The 5 landscapes also give rise to climatic differentiation ( Climate). The ecological differences between western and eastern Austria, between mountain fringes and inner-Alpine valleys and basins are considerable. The patterns of use of these economic areas, which depend on natural conditions (especially agriculture and tourism), follow these ecological differences. The extensive cultivation of wheat, barley, vegetables and fruit, for example, is only possible in the ecologically favoured Alpine Foreland, in the Vienna Basin and in the south-eastern Foreland. Conditions of production in mountainous regions, especially on alpine farms, are much less favourable and frequently only allow for grassland farming. There are two types of farms: "alpine farms" (in upper Carinthia, the western part of upper Styria, Salzburg province, Tirol and Vorarlberg) and "woodland farms" (Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Styria, central and lower Carinthia). Alpine farmers have in many cases succeeded in attracting tourism, the income from which has played an important role in supporting the farms, particularly in the highlands.

The People: Austria´s population reached 8,000,000 at the beginning of the 1990s. Population growth ( Population Development) has been due to 2 factors: Owing to a decreasing mortality rate and a slightly increasing birth rate there were more births than deaths. Statistically, every Austrian woman today gives birth to 1.5 children. Migration statistics show even more pronounced population shifts: While departure exceeded influx at the beginning of the 1980s, the number of immigrants began to rise continuously from the middle of the 1980s and exceeded departures by far. Between 1981 and 1991, the number of inhabitants rose from 7,550,000 to 7,800,000. Geographical trends were, however, not uniform: In the western provinces, population growth, due to a positive migration balance, young population and above-average birth rate, was clearly higher than in the eastern provinces. The regional distribution is characterised by high population concentration in some areas (Vienna Basin, central areas of Upper Austria and Salzburg central areas, Graz Basin, Mur-Muerz area, Klagenfurt Basin, Inn Valley and central Vorarlberg). The ecologically favoured areas of the Alpine Foreland, Vienna Basin and south-eastern Foreland are the major areas of settlement. Their intensive use due to the dual function as residential and economic areas for businesses and industries constitutes a major challenge to regional planning, which is intensified by increasing demand for land. - Austria´s ethnic structure is historically determined by the disintegration of the multiethnic country after World War I: around 92 % of the population state they use only German in everyday life.

Religion: 1991: 78 % of Austrians are Roman Catholic, 5 % are Protestants and 2 % are Muslims; 12 % do not belong to any denomination, 3 % belong to other religious groups.

Arts, Culture: Austria sees itself as a modern European state, as a popular tourist destination and a country with longstanding artistic and cultural traditions. Archeological excavations brought to light a large number of finds from Prehistory, the Roman Era and Early Christianity. There is a rich heritage of monuments from various eras (Romanesque, Gothic, Danube School, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Classicism, Biedermeier, Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, Secession, Expressionism, Modernism) in the fields of Architecture, Sculpture, Painting and Graphic Arts. Some eras exhibit a particularly pronounced style in Austria. The pre-historic Hallstatt Culture, the late Gothic period, the Danube School, Baroque, Biedermeier, Secession and the (Vienna Crafts Studio) have all bestowed on parts of the country their particular character, leaving behind a rich legacy of wayside shrines, castles, palaces and other buildings. There are varied traditions in book illumination and stained glass, in Industrial Arts and in popular art (e.g. models of nativity scenes, eglomise painting, carving). Of particular importance are Literature and Music, which gained world renown through Viennese Classicism and the Vienna School of Dodecaphonic Music, Opera, Operetta and Ballet as well as through music performances ( Orchestras) and training. Another facet of Austrian cultural identity are its scientific institutions (universities, Academy of Sciences, Austrian) and a host of "Austrian Schools" or "Vienna Schools" in the fields of medicine, law, sociology, Slavonic, Oriental and Byzantine studies, economics (e.g. Marginal Utility Theory), philosophy and psychology, folklore studies and ethnology, Germanic studies, history of art, and musicology. Austrian scientists have made significant contributions in the fields of astronomy, meteorology, mineralogy, chemistry and physics, as well as in other fields of natural science and in technology. Austrian Inventions and Inventors have also played an important role, as have Discoveries and Explorations carried out by Austrians.

Economy: Austria currently ranks among the world´s wealthiest nations, with a deeply rooted democratic system, an extensive welfare system and a balanced regional development. World War II had left the country´s economy almost completely shattered, post-war times were characterised by excessive supply of money, a lack of economic goods and high demand, with high inflation as a consequence. The structural change with regard to the relation between the economic sectors came about only with a certain time lag in Austria. In 1951, the proportion of those employed in agriculture and forestry was still 32.7 % and only 28.5 % were employed in services, while in other Western European countries the agricultural sector was clearly smaller. Right after the war, in the 1950s, unemployment was around 8 %, and the employment rate for women between the ages of 15 and 60 years was below 50 %. The agricultural sector was continuously shrinking and industry was under reconstruction until the early 1960s, By that time, the currency had been stabilised, inflation pushed below 5 %, and with an unemployment rate of below 3 % there was virtually full employment. This success was based on a functioning Social Partnership which battled inflation by concluding wage and price agreements, the rise of Nationalised Industry and the acceptance of real wage losses. These developments were accompanied by favourable global economic conditions and efficient international economic assistance ( ERP Fund). The change from an industrialised agricultural country to a service-based economy was achieved without heavy industrialisation by the timely promotion of the service sector, whereby regional balance was managed as well. The collapse of a well-functioning agrarian and industrial network after the First World War was successfully overcome by the Second Republic: The centre of economic activity shifted from the east to the western provinces, and a policy of promoting regional centres brought about a functional shift, so that institutions that had originally only existed in the provincial capitals were spread over the country. In order to achieve equality of opportunity, geographic patterns had to be modified. While other Western European countries suffered social and economic crises, Austria was blessed with economic growth, low unemployment and social peace. Austria´s active foreign policy predestined it for the role of a neutral intermediary between East and West. After New York and Geneva, Vienna became the third location for important UN institutions, and Austria also supplied a Secretary General to the United Nations, K. Waldheim. The words of Pope Paul VI, who talked of Austria as an "Isle of the Blessed", matched the new picture Austrians had of their country. In the 1980s, the economic situation in Austria changed and was then more like that in the rest of Western Europe; the Austro-Keynesian theory that unemployment and economic crises could be largely avoided by way of economic and labour market directionism was abandoned as political paradigm. The "Austrian way" has gradually changed into a "regular European path". The combination of parliamentary democracy with institutions of social partnership as well as the typically Austrian co-existence of private and nationalised enterprises is being increasingly called into question today. Furthermore, external factors are causing a change in Austria´s understanding of itself: The decreasing importance of Neutrality following the end of the Cold War, European integration and shifts in the geographical division of labour have created new structures for Austria, and all these factors also have considerable influence on internal developments.


see general bibliography on Austria