The 20th Century
Brimming with ethnic tensions and locked into a rigid system of alliances from the 19th century wars, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was a catastrophe waiting to happen. The necessary spark was the assassination of the Austrian archduke and heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand in June 1914 in Sarajevo. Austria's declaration of war against Serbia marked the beginning of World War I. Emperor Franz Joseph dies in 1916 and after the end of the war in 1918 the first Republic of Austria was established, ending the 640-year old Habsburg dynasty. The young republic suffered massive inflation, unemployment, and near economic collapse. In 1933, the weak coalition government between the Christian-Social and the Social-Democratic parties gave way when Engelbert Dollfuss became Chancellor in 1932 as head of a right-wing coalition government, designed to tackle the problems caused by the Depression. In May 1934 Doffluss declared martial law in order to protect Austria from Hitler. In July Dollfuss was shot and killed by Nazis in an attempted coup.
On March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria and the country was incorporated into the German Reich ruled by Adolf Hitler. After the end of World War II in 1945, Austria was restored to its 1937 frontiers and occupied by the victorious allies - the USA, the Soviet Union, the UK, and France - for a decade.
The 21st Century
On May 15, 1955, the Austrian State Treaty was ratified, with Austria declaring its permanent neutrality. Thanks to its location near the "Iron Curtain", Austria soon developed into a nerve center between the West and the East. After the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the 1968 Prague Spring Invasion, Austria grants asylum to the refugees. Austria is also host country of many international organizations (UNO, OPEC) as well as host of many important conference and summit meetings. The Iron Curtain fell in 1989/90; in 1995 Austria becomes a member of the European Union.
Government & People
With an area of 83.858 sq km Austria consists of 9 independent federal states (Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Vienna) with their own provincial governments. The federal legislation is exercised by the national council (Nationalrat) together with the Upper House of Parliament (Bundesrat) - the two chambers of Parliament.
Austria is a member of the European Union, the United Nations as well as most UN organizations.Of the approximately 8 million inhabitants of Austria, 98% speak German. The six ethnic groups officially recognized in Austria (Burgenlandic Croatians, Roma, Slovaks, Slovenians, Czechs and Hungarians) are concentrated in the east and south of the country.
Approximately 74 % of Austrians are Roman Catholic, 5 % are Protestant, the rest belongs to other faiths.