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Nation (from Latin "natio" and "nasci" = to be born), originally meant geographic or social origin or the place of birth, and sometimes designated collective properties (e.g. the "nations" of a council or of a university) or historical and political entities and their members (the concept of "aristocratic nations" was used in respect of Hungary and Poland up to the 19th century). Natural law and the ideas of Enlightenment and the French Revolution with its call for equality and the right to participate in the political process then broadened the concept to include not only the Estates but all citizens ("state nationality"). Economic, political and social developments required a standard language. As a result, the concept of "nation" has since then been linked with the idea of a common language (and hence a common origin, history and culture). In the Habsburg Monarchy, resistance to revolutionary France and the trend towards "reformed absolutism" resulted in attempts to promote a "society of citizens" and thus the concept of an Austrian Nation, which was to comprise all linguistic groups. These attempts were, however, frustrated by the resistance of the Court and the traditionalist Estates in the lands of the Monarchy and by the emergence of nationalist thought. Accordingly, the nations that took shape in the Monarchy consisted of individual language groups, a development that was both due to the distinct characteristics of the old-established realms (Bohemia, Poland, Hungary, Croatia etc.) and the attitude of the educated citizenry. The German-speaking parts of the Monarchy developed a kind of national consciousness that associated itself with the Austrian empire on the one hand and "German culture" on the other (i.e. the concept of a "German-Austrian" nation). At the same time, a German Nation began to take shape within the German Confederation ( Deutscher Bund), which excluded the German-speaking Austrians (Deutscher Zollverein, Frankfurt 1849, Koeniggraetz 1866). From the 1880s onwards, the radical German Nationalist groups in Austria (G. von Schoenerer) were hostile to the Monarchy, and the Austrian component of the German-Austrian national consciousness received a fatal blow through the end of Austria-Hungary, which may explain why the remainder of Austria expressed the wish to join Germany on November 12, 1918. Despite a number of attempts to strengthen the national pride of Austrians from 1933 onwards, this lack of national identity greatly contributed to internal strife and ultimately to the surrender of Austria in 1938. Union with National-Socialist Germany ( Anschluss) then caused Austrians to become more aware of their specific identity, and the collapse of Nazi Germany in 1945 decisively weakened the "German" component of the Austrians' national consciousness. In fact, Austrian resistance to National Socialism was in many cases due to a strong feeling of Austrian identity.

In its party platform of 1945, the Austrian People's Party (OeVP) embraced the idea of an Austrian nation, as did the Government Declaration of the Figl government in December 1945. Since the 1960s, the idea that the Austrian people constitutes a nation in its own right has steadily gained popular support: In 1993 80% of Austrians felt that Austria was a nation and 12% stated that they were beginning to feel that way.


F. Kreissler, Der Oesterreicher und seine Nation, 1984; G. Stourzh, Vom Reich zur Republik, 1990; E. Bruckmueller, Oesterreich-Bewusstsein im Wandel, 1994.