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Austrian History

Austria has had a long history with many tribes and republics controlling it, but let’s begin by explaining why German is Austria’s official language.

In the 5th and 6th centuries Germanic tribes from Bavaria started to press into the west of Austria and by the 7th century they were the main tribe in the country. Because of this reason and how long they were there for, German was the main language spoken by the population, which has stuck and it’s still the official language of Austria.

Austria experienced many other groups and people control it after the arrival of the Germanic tribes, but it was in the 12th century when things began to really change in the country. This was a time when the Babenberg family was in control and the Duchy of Austria ran it under a feudal system. It was during the 12th century that Henry II moved his official residence to Vienna and it’s been the capital ever since. Today, you can find a statue of Henry II in Vienna in honor of his achievements and what he did for the city and country.

The Habsburg’s were the next to take over the country and they controlled the country for the next six centuries, which is arguably Austria’s most prosperous time in its history. They built the Imperial Palace and the Schloss Schönbrunn (World Cultural Heritage) in Vienna, which are focal points of any visit to the capital today. They increased their influence through marriages and strategic alliances, which made them stronger and stronger.

Turkish forces during this time were trying to attack them and their neighboring countries, which led Poland, Russia and Venice to join the Habsburg Empire hoping this would repel and attack from the Turkish. After taking over much of Hungary and fighting off the Turkish, the Austrians had to worry about a new foe in Europe named Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon managed to take part of Austria’s land briefly, but when he was finally was beaten at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It was after this defeat that Austria began to flourish and it became a European power, where urbanization, industrialization and the arts took over the country and a middle class was later born. It was helped by the rule of Emperor Franz Joseph I, who controlled the country for 68 years, which is one of the longest in their history.

The Austrian – Hungarian monarchy and rule was about to come to an end when Austrian archduke and heir to the throne, Franz Ferdinand were murdered in Sarajevo in June 1914.
The Austrian – Hungarian Empire was stretched too far and ethnic tensions started to form. When this murder happened in Sarajevo, Austria declared war on Serbia, which marked the beginning of World War I. After the war the Republic of Austria was formed and it was the end of the Hapsburg dynasty’s 640-year rule. When the war ended Austria lost most of its land and was left to what you pretty much see today. One of the biggest events which occurred after the war was the economic collapse of the country, which led to high unemployment and massive inflation.

On March 12, 1938, German Nazi troops under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, who was Austrian born, marched into Austria and took over and brought it under the control of the German Reich. When World War II ended in 1945, Austria was occupied by USA, Britain, France and the Soviet Union for the next decade, as they wanted to bring it under control. This lasted till 1955, when the Austrian State Treaty was ratified and Austria declared permanent neutrality. For the next 30+ a year till the Berlin Wall was taken down and the fall of Communism, the country was in between all the action between the West and East.

Today, Austria is one of the wealthiest countries in Europe and in 1995 it became a member of the European Union and it adapted the European Currency, the Euro in 1999.

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