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Time Line

The Habsburgs

1273–1291 — Rudolf I, founder of the Habsburg dynasty, is elected by the German princes to succeed the Babenbergs, defeats Ottokar and divides Austria and Styria between his sons.

1335 — Carinthia and Carniola are annexed to the Habsburg territory.

1358–65 — Reign of Rudolf IV. The Tirol is annexed to Austria (1363).

1440–93 — Friedrich III, Duke of Styria, inaugurates a policy of political succession and intermarriage which raises the Habsburgs to the highest rank in the west. His son, Maximilian, is the first to benefit from this.

Expansion of the Habsburg Empire

1493–1519 — By his marriage to the daughter of Charles the Bold, Maximilian I, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, gains possession of most of the Burgundian states. He marries his eldest son, Philip the Handsome, to the Infanta of Spain. Their son, Charles V, inherits the all of their possessions.

1519–56 — Reign of Emperor Charles V. Vienna is besieged by the Turks (1529).

1556 — Abdication of Charles V and partition of the Empire. Charles’ brother, Ferdinand I, becomes Emperor and head of the Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg. He founds the Austrian Monarchy and also reigns over Bohemia and Hungary. Charles’ son, Philip II, is given Spain and Portugal, Sicily, Naples and northern Italy, the Low Countries and Burgundy.

1618–48 — Thirty Years‘ War begins as a religious conflict and ends up as a Europe-wide power struggle.

Consolidation of the Austrian Empire

1657–1705 — Reign of Leopold I. Vienna is again besieged by the Turks (1683). The Hungarian monarchy falls to the Habsburgs (1687).

18C — Throughout this century, Austrian policy is overshadowed by three great problems: The Succession to the Empire; the territorial threat from the Turks, the Piedmontese and the French; and the unified administration of very different countries.

1713 — To ensure his daughter’s succession to the imperial crown in the absence of male heirs, Charles VI sacrifices territorial rights to the great European countries and promulgates the Pragmatic Sanction. When the king dies, Maria Theresia has to defy its signatories in order to keep her empire. War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48). Seven Years War (1756–63).

1740–90 — Reign of Maria Theresia (1740–65). With the help of able ministers, she becomes popular for her financial and administrative reforms. Reign of Joseph II (1765–90) who, in the authoritarian manner of enlightened despotism, continues the reorganization begun by his mother.

1781 — Abolition of serfdom.

1786 — Secularization: Dissolution of 738 houses of contemplative orders under Joseph II.

1792–1835 — Reign of Franz II. In 1805 Austria receives the territory of the archbishops of Salzburg as compensation for the losses of territory suffered under the Treaty of Pressburg. Franz II renounces the title of Holy Roman Emperor and adopts that of Franz I, Emperor of Austria in 1806.

1809 — Austrian policy, particularly foreign policy, is directed by Chancellor Metternich who seeks revenge against France. Andreas Hofer leads the Tirolean rebellion against the Franco-Bavarian alliance.

Trouble and downfall of the monarchy

1814–15 — Congress of Vienna redraws the map of Europe.Austria recovers Lombardy and Venetia, lost in wars with France, and takes a leading position in the Germanic Confederation, of which Metternich is the mastermind.

1848–49 — March Revolution in Vienna. Fall of Metternich, Hungarian rebellion is suppressed with the help of Russia.

1848–1916 — Reign of Franz Joseph.

1866 — War between Austria and Prussia. Austria is defeated, gives up on intervening in German politics and looks toward the Balkans.

1867 — Creation of the dual Austro-Hungarian monarchy, with common foreign, defence and economic policies.

1914 — Outbreak of World War I (1914–18), triggered by the assassination of Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo in Bosnia and Austria’s subsequent attack on Serbia.

1916–18 — Reign of Karl I. Collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy after defeat in the First World War.

The Republic

1919 — The Treaty of St. Germain-en-Laye re-draws national border, ceding South Tirol to Italy. Following a plebiscite (1920) southern Carinthia remains in Austria and is not be ceded to then-Yugoslavia. Women are given the vote.

1920 — Federal constitution passes.

1933 — Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuß inaugurates an authoritarian regime, hostile both to the Social Democrats and to the Nazis.

1934 — Social Democratic Party banned. Suppression of Nazi putsch. Assassination of Dollfuß. His successor seeks to avoid war with Germany at all costs.

1938 — Hitler annexes Austria to the German Reich. Austrians approve the annexation (Anschluß) in a referendum.

1939–45 — World War II.

1943 — In the Moscow Declaration the four Allied Nations undertake to restore Austria’s independence after the war and restore the frontiers of January 1, 1938.

1945 — The Russians occupy Vienna on April 11. On April 27, a new government forms, led by Karl Renner. Austria and Vienna are divided into four occupied zones.

1949–66 — Coalition government formed by the “People’s Party” (ÖVP) and the Social Democrats (SPÖ).

May 15, 1955 — Following the Staatsvertrag treaty, occupying troops withdraw from Austria.

Oct 26, 1955 — Austria declares its neutrality.

1956 — Austria is accepted onto the Council of Europe.

1970–83 — Social Democrats form a government under Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, for the first time with an absolute majority in Parliament.

1983–2000 — Government is once again a coalition of the SPÖ and ÖVP.

1989 — Austria applies for membership in the European Union.

Death of Zita of Bourbon-Parma, last Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, in exile since 1919.

Jan 1, 1995 — Austria joins the European Union.

1998 — Austria is admitted to the European Monetary Union.

2000-7 — Coalition government formed by the ÖVP and the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ, later BZÖ). EU briefly imposes sanctions in protest.

2003 — FPÖ posts huge losses during elections but remains in a coalition government with the ÖVP

2003 — The Danube floods and Austrian ex-body builder-turned-actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is elected governor of California.

2004 — Heinz Fischer is sworn in as Austria’s new president. Pope John Paul II beatifies the last Habsburg emperor, Karl I.

2005 — Devastating floods as the Danube bursts its banks.

2006 — Social Democrats (SPÖ) narrowly defeat the conservative People‘s Party (ÖVP). The two agree on a coalition.

2007 – After the last election, again a great coalition between ÖVP and SPÖ, headed by Chancellor Dr. Alfred Gusenbauer (SPÖ), was established.

2008 — Together with Switzerland, Austria hosted the European Championship in soccer.

The Eastern March

Celtic tribes had established settlements throughout Austria for about 500 years by the time the Romans arrived in the Danube Valley around 15 BC.

In the 4C, tribal migrations brought on the decline of the Roman Empire, resulting in a political vaccuum until the territory fell to Frankish ruler Charlemagne (747–814). He established a province called Ostmark or Ostarrîchi, the forerunner to “Österreich.” The Magyars conquered the land in 907 but lost it to Otto the Great in 955. In 976, Otto, now Holy Roman Emperor, granted the Ostmark to Leopold von Babenberg.

The House of Babenberg (976–1246)

The Babenbergs ruled first as margraves, then as dukes since 1156, giving them greater independence from imperial power. They chose as residences Pöchlarn, Melk, Tulln, the Leopoldsberg and finally Vienna and founded the abbeys of Kremsmünster, St. Florian, Melk, Göttweig and Klosterneuburg.

The last of the Babenbergs, Frederick II, was killed in 1246 fighting the Magyars.

Bohemian intervention (1246–1278)

Frederick died childless, so Ottokar of Bohemia laid claim to the possessions of the Babenbergs, even marrying Frederick’s sister. When Ottokar refused to swear allegiance to Rudolf of Habsburg, who had beaten him in the election for king of the Holy Roman Empire, war ensued. Ottokar was killed at Marchfeld and Rudolf granted the duchies of Austria and Styria to his two sons, thereby laying the corner stone of the House of Habsburg rule.

The Imperial Crown

Austria Est Imperare Orbi Universo—“Austria shall rule the world”—was the proud motto of the Habsburg dynasty. And for a while, it looked as though it would be so.

In the 16C, a clever marriage policy vastly enlarged Austria’s territory: Maximilian I acquired the Franche-Comté and the Low Countries by marrying Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold. Maximilian’s grandson, Charles V, ended up as the most powerful sovereign in Europe, being Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain, possessor of Naples, Sicily and Sardinia and of territories in the two Americas. Upon his abdication in 1556, the Habsburg territory fell to his brother Ferdinand I.

Maria Theresia “the Great” (1740–80)

When Charles VI died without a male heir, the crown went to his daughter Maria Theresia. An intelligent, shrewd and determined woman, she “stood her man“ against the Prussians in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48) and the Seven Years‘ War (1756–63), winning the respect from other rulers and the affection of her people. An “enlightened despot,” she lived unostentatiously and introduced a number of popular reforms. She and her husband, Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, had 16 children.

The struggle with France (1792–1815)

For the 23 years during which France was at war with the rest of Europe, Austria was, together with England, her most determined opponent.

The accession of Napoleon to the Imperial French throne in 1804 dealt a heavy blow to the Habsburg monarchy. Napoleon I opened his reign with the victories of Ulm and Austerlitz (1805) and forced Franz II to sue for peace and renounce the crown of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1809 the defeat of the French on the battlefields of Essling and Aspern and the successful Tirolean rebellion led by Andreas Hofer brought new hope to the Austrians. Eventually, though, the humiliating Treaty of Vienna forced Austria to relinquish Carniola, Carinthia, Trieste, Rijeka (or Fiume) and Galicia.

In 1810 Napoleon married Marie-Louise, daughter of the vanquished emperor. Metternich, however, refused to accept defeat and threw all of Austria’s forces against Napoleon. In 1814, Austrian troops marched into Paris. The Congress of Vienna renewed the power of the Habsburgs.

The century of Franz Joseph

Franz Joseph’s astonishing 68-year reign (1848–1916) ranks as a particular milestone in Austrian history, largely due to the monarch’s personality and policies. Although he had to overcome enormous political and personal difficulties (including the suicide of his only son, Rudolf, and the assassination of his wife, Elisabeth), his reign is widely regarded as a success.

The Republic of Austria

Since adopting a federal constitution in 1920, the Republic of Austria has been a Federal State consisting of nine autonomous provinces.

The Austrian provinces (Bundesländer)

Every five or six years, each province (Land) elects a Provincial Diet with a number of members ranging from 36 and 56 depending on the province’s population. Only the Diet of Vienna has 100 members. The diet elects the members of the Provincial Government (Landtag), which is the administrative organ of the Land.


3 965sq km/1 531sq mi – population 281 500 – capital: Eisenstadt

Predominantly agricultural, this German-speaking province on the border of Hungary has been the republic’s easternmost province since 1921. A touristic highlight is the Neusiedler See on the edge of the Central European steppes.

Carinthia (Kärnten)

9 533sq km/3 681sq mi – population 561 157 – capital: Klagenfurt

This lake-studded southern province has the only considerable national minority in Austria (4% of its residents are of Slovenian descent). In a 1920 referendum, the southern districts voted in favor of staying with Austria vs becoming part of Yugoslavia.

Lower Austria (Niederösterreich)

19 174sq km/7 403sq mi – population 1 599 413 – capital: St. Pölten

Considered the country’s historical cradle, this is Austria’s largest and most prosperous province. It has extensive agriculture, is rich in oil and other natural resources and boasts a thriving industry, mainly concentrated around Vienna.

Upper Austria (Oberösterreich)

11 980sq km/4 625.5sq mi – population 1 409 518 – capital: Linz

This region between the Salzkammergut and Bohemia is highly developed agriculturally and industrially. Tourism is of great importance in the lake district of the Salzkammergut.


7 154sq km/2 762sq mi – population 150 378 – capital: Salzburg

The former domain of the prince-archbishops of Salzburg did not become part of Austria until 1805. Its economy was based on salt. The Salzburg Festival, ritzy spas and modern ski resorts lure scores of visitors every year.

Styria (Steiermark)

16 388sq km/6 327sq mi – population 1 197 500 – capital: Graz

The “green province” of Austria (half its surface is covered by forest) is one of the oldest industrial regions in Europe, with important timber and steel industries, stock-breeding and mining.

Tirol (Tirol)

12 648sq km/4 883sq mi – population 638 300 – capital:

The Tirol is a world-famous destination that generates more tourist euros than any other Austrian province. Although about 35% of its area is given over to agriculture, industry also plays an important role. Southern Tirol was ceded to Italy in 1919, separating eastern Tirol from the rest of the province.


2 601sq km/1 004sq mi – population 367 048 – capital: Bregenz

The smallest Austrian province has a thriving textile and tourism industry and is a major producer of hydroelectric power.

Vienna (Wien)

415sq km/160sq mi – population 1 680 47

The services and ministries of the Federal Government and of the Land of Vienna are headquartered in the capital.

Federal organization

The Federal Assembly (Bundestag) consists of the members of the National Council and of the Federal Council, who share the legislative power.

The National Council (Nationalrat) has 183 members elected by a nationwide popular vote for four years. The minimum voting age is 18. It is convoked or dissolved by the Federal President.

The Federal Council (Bundesrat) is formed by 63 representatives elected by the provincial diets. Its role is to safeguard the rights of the provinces in the administrative and legislative fields vis-à-vis the Federation. On the federal level, it has the right to propose laws and its approval is necessary for international agreements and treaties.

The Federal President (Bundespräsident) is elected for six years and holds executive power together with the Federal Government. The president represents Austria abroad, appoints the chancellor and senior civil servants, and promulgates the laws.

The Federal Government (Bundes- regierung) is made up of a chancellor, a vice-chancellor, ministers and secretaries of state, appointed by the Federal President on advice of the chancellor.

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