Austria (German: Österreich), officially known as the Republic of Austria (German: Republik Österreich), is a small, Central/Western European republic ("The Danube Republic") shaped vaguely like a Schnitzel that was once one of the leading Empires of Europe.
In 1278, the House of Habsburg, originally hailing from rural Switzerland, acquired rulership of the Duchy of Austria (the name Ostarrichi deriving from "Eastern Realm", being a former eastern province of the Margraviate of Bavaria), which lay at the eastern edge of the Holy Roman Empire and form the North of the modern republic. Through marriage, the Habsburgs spread their control over large parts of Europe, including Spain, the Netherlands and large parts of Italy, and became Holy Roman Emperors. In 1522, the sprawling and difficult-to-defend Habsburg empire was divided by Charles V, who assigned its eastern half to his younger brother, Ferdinand I. However, following the disastrous Battle of Mohács (1526), an early victory in the Ottoman Turks' Hungarian campaign which led to the occupation of most of Hungary and several sieges of Vienna, Ferdinand I would claim the kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary for the Austrian Habsburgs. War between the Austrian and Ottoman Empires continued on and off until the end of the seventeenth century, when the Ottomans ceded most of Hungary.
The Habsburgs were Holy Roman Emperors, Kings of Bohemia (Czech Republic) and Arch-Dukes of Austria within the Empire, and Kings of Hungary (including Croatia, Slovakia, and Transylvania) without it. In 1806, Napoleon decided that this was just too confusing and abolished the HRE. From then on, the Habsburgs were to be Emperors of a single united Austrian Empire, within which were Austria, Bohemia, Hungary, and The Rest.
In 1848, the Hungarians revolted, as did the Czechs, Italians, and substantial portions of the German-speaking working and middle classes. The Hungarians and Czechs wanted national recognition within the Empire (very few wanted independence, at least at first), with the Hungarians in particular demanding full internal autonomy; the Italians sought unification with the other Italian states into a united Italy; the Germans sought greater links with the rest of the German world (and some wanted German Austria to slough off the non-German parts of the Empire and join a united Germany); and all demanded liberal political reform. These uprisings were eventually crushed by force of arms, with particular assistance from other Slavs (especially the Croats) and Romanians, who saw the situation less as a struggle for liberation and more a choice between domination by the Habsburgs, domination by the Russians, or domination by the Turks. However, it was the Russian intervention that sealed the fate of the Hungarian War of Independence.
In 1866, the notorious Bismarck tricked them into declaring war on Prussia and their arses were promptly handed to them in the Austro-Prussian War. In the chaos that ensued, the Hungarians managed to gain autonomy for their half and the Empire became Austro-Hungarian.
In 1914, all hell broke loose over a little place called Bosnianote , then a part of the Empire. At the same time, the Austrian half of the Empire had become more and more decentralised, while the Hungarians were determined to remain top dogs over the Slovaks, Ruthenians, Transylvanians and Croats. This led to the Empire breaking down and being divided, according to the Treaty of Trianon (1920), between Italy, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia and the new independent nations of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria.
"Austria" had always been simply the name of a place, and what bound the nation together had been loyalty to the Habsburgs. As an ethnicity, the Austrians had always thought of themselves as German. Almost immediately after the war, Austria attempted to unite with Germany, even naming the newly independent state "German Austria." The Entente vetoed this, and actually forbade Austria from referring to itself as "German." Austria remained independent for 20 years, until it finally did reunite with Germany in 1938.
Following the Second World War, Austrians became much more keen to distance themselves from Germany for... obvious reasons. Whether Austria was a Nazi conquest or willing Reichsgau is a sore issue, especially given Adolf Hitler was originally Austrian. Many would like to present Austria as "Hitler's first victim," but when looked at historically it just doesn't hold up. There is still a certain amount of denial going on about it. This was in large part because with the concept of Austrian nationalism being such a new thing, it was widely felt that acknowledging how many Austrians had been willing collaborators would tear their fragile national identity apart.
After the war, the country was divided like Germany into zones, but the British, US, French and Soviet armies all agreed in 1955 to leave if the newly-reconstituted Austrian Republic swore to remain neutral. Following the end of the Cold War, Austria joined The European Union in 1995.
Austria is most famous for its mountains, the western part of the country being Alpine. The capital, Vienna, however, lies on a wide plain that takes up most of the northeast of the country - this only increases the sense that Vienna is somehow "foreign" and "alien" to the rest of the country.
Austrians are often regarded as "Laid-back Germans", sharing their larger neighbours' love of neatness and orderliness, but with a more relaxed, friendly air (and a certain amount of bureaucratic inefficiency). They also do not, ever, like to be called German these days anymore. There is no nobility in Austria any more, all titles have been abolished. If someone is a "von" they are most likely German (In Germany nobility was abolished 1918, but they were allowed to keep their names).
Yet, Austrians are generally considered to be more right-wing than Germans, both socially, culturally and politically. In reality, however, the strongest party is the social democratic SPÖ, as opposed to the conservative CDU in Germany. This is mainly caused by the fact that most cities, especially Vienna, have been prime examples of social welfare done right in the past, which lead to left-winged parties, like the SPÖ or Die Grünen gaining power, while the countryside kept their more conservative world view, which lead to right-winged parties, like the ÖVP and FPÖ, keeping the majority.
A large portion of income in many parts of the country is tourism. Having both a rich history and beautiful nature (and skiing slopes) to show off, this is both understandable and a bit annoying for those Austrians who do not want to be associated with Dirndls and Lederhosen and Yodeling (for that, see Switzerland or Bavaria), yet are backstabbed by their own tourism board. Curiously enough, many younger Austrians in rural areas go back to wearing lederhosen when going out drinking. The reason? They are durable and it is completely accepted if you smear your dirty hands all over them. It is even said that a lederhosen is only a real lederhosen when it is dirty and grimy enough to stand up for its own...
Yet, one should not forget the feud that is going on between southern Germany (Especially Bavaria) and eastern Austria. Well yes, it is usually a rather mild-mannered feud (shining through mainly in sports and other competitions)... but its origins can be traced as far back as the Thirty Years' War. It's a Long Story. The long and short of it is that neither side likes it to be compared to its counterpart.
The biggest newspaper is the "Kronen Zeitung", which is rather right-wing (but it depends on the whims of their owner; recently, said owner Hans Dichand who had run it for half a century died) and pretty influential. How influential? It sells one million copies in a country with eight million people. - That means it reaches almost three million people each day.
The republic of Austria consists of the capital of Vienna and nine federal states (Bundesländer). These states are:
- Vienna (Wien): The capital state, whose federal borders are identical with the city borders. Even though it only consists of the city, it is still the most populated state. This should show how large Vienna is compared to the rest of Austria.
- Lower Austria (Niederösterreich): The state that covers the largest area and with the second largest population. It was the capital state, until Vienna became a states on its own in 1920. Since 1986 the local capital is St. Pölten. It is also the traditional area of the Duchy of Austria.
- Upper Austria (Oberösterreich): Its most prominent areas are the Mühlviertel and Traunviertel, which are known for their natural beauty. Its local capital Linz is the third biggest city in Austria.
- Burgenland: Austria's newest state consists of a string of counties separating Lower Austria and Styria from the Hungarian border. Until separated from Hungary by a 1921 plebiscite, these were the mostly German-speaking hinterlands of the counties of Moson (Wieselburg), Sopron (Ödenburg) and Vas (Eisenburg). The region was historically associated with the Eszterházy family, whose vast estates here were not finally disposed of until after World War II. The land is mostly hilly except in the northeast area which includes the Neusiedler See. Burgenland is both the poorest state and also the one with the fastest economical growth. Its capital is Eisenstadt.
- Styria (Steiermark): The capital Graz is the second largest city in Austria and quite important on a local level, but it is not nearly as well known as Salzburg or even Innsbruck or Linz, especially overseas. The western part is mostly forested and more mountainous, the southeast hilly and known for agricultural products like apples, wine or pumpkins. Not a huge surprise that Styria is marketed as "Green Hearth of Austria".
- Carinthia (Kärnten): Nearly completely surrounded by mountain ranges, especially noticeable in the western part with the highest mountain of Austria (Großglockner) at the border to Salzburg and Tyrol. Famous for its beautiful mountains and lakes, somewhat infamous for its comparatively strong right-wing tendencies (and everything surrounding Joerg Haider) and the partially related conflicts with its Slovenian minority in the southeast.
- Tyrol (Tirol): The most mountainous state, and geographically discontiguous ever since its southern part was annexed to Italy in 1919. (Over half the population of South Tyrol speaks German and still consider themselves to be Austrian. Perhaps because of this, Italy allows South Tyrol a high degree of autonomy. Nevertheless, it remains a controversial topic between Austria and Italy.)
- Vorarlberg: The westernmost state, bordering on Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Its capital, Bregenz, is located on Lake Constance. (The actual Swiss border follows the Rhine; the mountainous frontier in The Sound of Music is a product of artistic license.)
Austrians have two main sports:
Football (Soccer for Americans), in which they are less than stellar, though they are getting better (previously qualifying for the Euro for the first time) and Skiing. Skiing is extremely popular and Austrians are usually among the best skiers in the world. This leads to giant expectations by the public, going as far as calling everything but a top-three-position a failure.
Other sports practiced and supported in Austria are:
- American Football - the AFL is second only to the GFL of Germany in terms of playing talent and the national team is among the best in Europe
- Basketball (Jakob Pöltl)
- Swimming (Markus Rogan)
- Ice Hockey
- Judo (Peter Seisenbacher)
- Beach volleyball
- Windsurfing, Table tennis and Golf (to some extent)
As Austria is under obligation to remain neutral, there is not a big need for a standing military. Still, all male adult Austrians are required to absolve 6 months of military training ("Präsenzdienst") or 9 months of civil service (ambulances, nursing) if they refuse. The main rifle of the military is the Steyr AUG (STG77) [i.e. the guns used by Hans Gruber's men in Die Hard], the service pistol the Glock 17, both being Austrian products. After working with wildly outdated SAAB Draken for decades, Austria has now bought Eurofighter jet airplanes. Despite frequent jokes to the contrary, they actually are able to start, turn around and land again without violating foreign airspace.
Austria In Fiction and Media
Whenever Austria turns up in a movie, it is also prone to having Television Geography as both the directors and the tourism board have an interest in showing off the beautiful and well-known tourist places. This can greatly annoy people who know the geography in some cases. If it's not the Austrian Alps (as seen in The Sound of Music), it's usually Vienna, either as the stage for Cold War intrigue in shady alleys and the U-Bahn, or as a showcase of classical music concerts and noblemen going from the opera to palace feasts in carriages on cobblestone streets.
Few Austrian productions make it abroad, those that do are usually the ones dealing with more serious themes like historical movies. There are many lighter-hearted productions, often recorded in the regional dialect, which range from ironic and socio-critical to silly-humorous. If more lighthearted Austrian productions have a foreign fanbase somewhere, it's usually Germany, because of the common language.
Austria itself is part of a thriving circuit of European musical theatre, along with Germany. Much of the non-English repertoire done in the rest of Europe originated in either Austria or Germany, and some musicals started out in one country to move to the other. Shows that have become well-known (and merited their own pages here on TV Tropes) include Elisabeth, Mozart!, and Tanz Der Vampire.
Recently, several Austrian movies have found critical acclaim, earning a Best Foreign Movie Oscar and other titles. As usual in Austria, the films are likely to become famous after that fact. Indeed, people are more likely to know its aristocratic personification than those movies.
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Visitors anywhere in Austria, but particularly in Salzburg, can hardly move for racks of Mozartkugeln, a chocolate and marzipan confection bearing his picture.
- Note that unlike Hitler (see below), Mozart was not an real Austrian. His hometown Salzburg was annexed in 1805, years after his death in 1791 and he never saw himself as an Austrian, either. It did not stop the present-day Austrians claiming him as an Austrian.
- He didn't like Salzburg all that much, either, much like other famous "sons" of the town.
- The Mozart family originated from Swabia and Leopold, Wolfgang's father, was born in Augsburg (then a Free City, now part of Bavaria).
- All this being said, Mozart spent most of his career in Vienna in the employ (one way or another) of the Habsburgs. He seems to have fit in well with Viennese society and quite clearly regarded Vienna as his home in a way no other city ever was. In a way, he can be seen as the quintessential Viennese as seen from the rest of Austria: Of Vienna, but not of Austria.
- Visitors anywhere in Austria, but particularly in Salzburg, can hardly move for racks of Mozartkugeln, a chocolate and marzipan confection bearing his picture.
- Adolf Hitler
- Austrians are less proud of their other most known son. He was born in Austria and regarded Linz as his "home town" (he planned to endow it with massive museums and monuments once he'd finished remodelling Berlin), but moved to Bavaria after being rejected for (or not wanting to serve in) the Austrian Army in World War One. After becoming Fuehrer, Hitler would bring the country of his birthplace into Germany. This is the main reason today's Austrians don't want to be seen as German anymore.
- A Brazilian magazine once wrote in the same story: "Sigmund Freud, the second most famous Austrian", and later "Josef Fritzl, the second most infamous Austrian".
- Old joke: "What's Austria's greatest accomplishment? Convincing the world that Beethoven was Austrian and Hitler was German." (This joke appears to have originated with Billy Wilder in case you were curious.)
- Sigmund Freud.
- Viktor Frankl, while less known than Freud but more prominent than Adolf Adler (the three founders of the three Viennese Schools of Psychotherapy), was also a very influential scientist and author ("Man's Search for Meaning")
- Painters such as Klimt, Kokoschka, Makart and Schiele
- Composers such as Strauss (all of them, except for Richard (Bavarian)), Haydn, Bruckner, Mahler, Schubert and Schönberg. Vienna was the place to be a musician at many points in time, so a lot of non-Austrian composers had careers there, too.
- Perhaps the best example for the latter: Ludwig van Beethoven, while born in Bonn, spent most of his career in Vienna.
- Modern musicians / bands like Opus ("Live is life - na na na na na"), Falco ("Amadeus" / "Jeanny" / "Der Kommissar"), Erste Allgemeine Verunsicherung, and Conchita Wurst (drag queen, LGBT rights activist and winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest).
- Joseph Haydn, composer of many symphonies, oratorios and string quartets, wrote in 1797 the tune of the song that would officially become the Austrian imperial anthem in 1826. Its original lyrics, "Gott erhalte Franz dem Kaiser," were written in praise of Franz II; the lyrics were revised in 1836 for Franz's successor Ferdinand I, and again in 1854. However, most people today recognize the tune by one of its many alternate lyrics, "Deutschland über alles."
- Entrepreneurs such as Dietrich Mateschitz (founder of Red Bull), the Rothschild family, Ferdinand Porsche and Gaston Glock. Also expatriate Frank Stronach, whose birth name is Franz Strohsack (which means sack of straw, so you understand his name change).
- Actors including Christoph Waltz, Maximilian Schell, Klaus Maria (sic) Brandauer and Arnold Schwarzenegger (though Schwarzenegger and Austria have pretty much disowned each other. He had a bad childhood there, and has said some unflattering things about the country. His hometown originally named a stadium after him, but changed it after both an execution in California and Schwarza's request for a rename)
- And while we are mentioning the movie business: Fritz Lang, director of Metropolis, M and other movies, was born in Vienna. Billy Wilder also came from Austria-Hungary, as did Otto Preminger, who made his pre-Hollywood career in Vienna.
- Christoph Waltz was born in Austria, but has a German citizenship, as well as an Austrian citizenship since 2010.
- The late Otto Habsburg-Lothringen, son of the last Austrian Emperor and a fairly prominent and influential European Union politician. He once punched fellow MEP Rev. Ian Paisley for calling The Pope The Antichrist (to the Pope's face, mind you). Had he succeeded his father Charles (the Only Sane Man of World War I), Otto (born 1912, died 2011) would be both the oldest and longest reigning monarch in the world. Reluctantly renounced his claim to the throne in 1961 so the Austrian Government would allow him to set foot on Austrian soil. Also was symbolic head of the Paneuropan Union (basically, it aims for a conservative or at least bipartisan, Habsburg-esque version of the EU) and among the leading figures of the nonpartisan Black-Yellow Alliance (which aims for the establishment of a Habsburg-led Mitteleuropan bloc).
- Writers like Franz Grillparzer, Paul Celan, Karl Kraus, Rainer Maria Rilke, Joseph Roth and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Franz Kafka may also count; he wrote in German, and Prague was part of the Austrian empire when he was born.
- Maria von Trapp (née Kutschera), on whose life the play and film The Sound of Music are based, was from Austria.
- One should note that The Sound of Music was rather unsuccessful in Austria. This is because the time period it depicts (immediately before and during the Nazi takeover) is one that Austrians have long preferred to neither hear nor speak about. As such one shouldn't be shocked when most Austrians one talks to never saw the movie, or never heard of it at all.
- Important scientists include:
- The physicist Erwin Schrödinger well known for the thought experiment Schrödinger's Cat.
- Nikola Tesla who was born in Smiljan (Austrian Empire at the time) and studied in Graz in Styria.
- Konrad Lorenz one of the founders of modern ethology.
- The physicists Ludwig Boltzmann and Ernst Mach (yes, the same Mach as in "With X Mach speed!").
- Bertha von Suttner, who was born in Prague when it was still part of Austria, but lived in Vienna, was a major member of the european pacifism movement and the first female Nobel Peace Prize laureate. She is depicted on the Austrian 2 coin.
- Austrian-born talent notable for contributing to Broadway musicals in the interwar period included stage designer Joseph Urban and choreographer Albertina Rasch.
- Empress Elisabeth of Austria, wife to Emperor Franz Joseph, also known as Sisi (Sissi like in the Romy Schneider movies is a misspelling). Renowned for her beauty and fairytale romance, as well as her assassination in Geneva in 1898. note Similar to Mozart, visitors to Vienna are bombarded with her image in the famous Star Dress (Sternkleid) on merchandise and sweets everywhere they go. The "fairytale" story that the tourism industry of Austria relies on was thoroughly debunked in one of Austria's international cultural export, Elisabeth. Their only son and heir Crown Prince Rudolf (who also appeared in said musical) was involved in the Mayerling Incident that was, among other things, part of the reason for the outbreak of the First World War. Unlike his mother, because he was a suicide, there was a concerted effort to erase Rudolf from public memory.
- Niki Lauda, won the 1975 Formula One world title before being scarred in a fiery crash at the Nürburgring. Returned to win again (in 1977 and 1984) and retired to manage his own airline company. At the time of his death in 2019, he was the non-executive chairman of Mercedes's F1 division. Sometimes known by his nickname, "The Rat," for his prominent buck teeth.
The Austrian Flag