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Deriving its name from the Old High German term "Ostarrichi" first recorded in 996 by Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, the small, landlocked nation of Austria has long been an influential player in the political and military sagas of Europe. Beginning in the 13th century with the nearly 650 year rule of the powerful Habsburg Monarchy, Austria emerged as one of the premier nations of Europe, establishing strong alliances and far-reaching trade agreements across the continent. The later union of Austria and Hungary as a singular empire brought stability to both nations, only to be broken by the turmoil of World War I, and eventually, the German occupation of World War II. In the aftermath of these great conflicts, the borders of Austria were recreated, and the independent Republic of Austria stands today as a democratic nation that prides itself on maintaining neutrality and stability.

Climate and Terrain[]

With a skyline dominated by the looming presence of the Alps, much of Austria is mountainous with a cool, moderate climate. Although the nation's borders have shifted repeatedly throughout history, Austria has always been surrounded by several imposing neighbors, primarily Germany, Italy, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Landlocked among rivals and allies, Austria and its people bear a long history of adapting to the ever-changing situations surrounding them. In the modern day, Austrians enjoy taking advantage of the prevalent alpine terrain, as Austrian athletes are known for their competitiveness in winter sports, particularly downhill skiing, ski jumping, and snowboarding.


Austria's earliest history centers on the nomadic Celts and their conflicts with the expansionist Roman Empire. In the waning stages of the 1st millennium BC, the area that today constitutes Austria was inhabited by Celtic tribes north of the Danube River. These early Celts originated from the Hallstatt Culture, so named for the Austrian village of Hallstatt where the majority of their artifacts have been discovered. The arrival of the Romans around 200 BC marked the end of the Celtic dominance in the area, as the Romans quickly subdued the local populace and seized control of the region. It was during this period that the ancient Celtic settlement of Vindobona was captured and converted into a Roman military outpost. Initially an encampment for Roman troops, Vindobona grew to become an important center of trade along the Danube, eventually becoming the site of Austria's future capital, Vienna.

Although the Romans held dominion over southern Austria for several hundred years, by the 3rd century AD, increasingly powerful Germanic tribes from the north were making headway into Roman-controlled territory. By the 5th century, this loss of territory was but one of many problems facing Rome, as the decline of the empire spiraled out of control, allowing settlers from Bavaria and the surrounding area to move about uncontested. The city of Vindobona was captured by the nomadic Avars in 630 AD, who were then conquered themselves by Charlemagne in the late 8th century.

Initial Boundaries[]

In 976, the March of Austria, known in German as the Ostmark or "Eastern March," was formed, outlining much of the territory that would make up the future empire of Austria. A March, or border territory, was used to designate frontier regions in medieval Europe. The March of Austria was outlined by Holy Roman Emperor Otto II and superseded all previous designations of the area, including the Avar March laid out by Charlemagne in the 8th century encompassing the same region. The region would later be referenced as the Ostarrichi by Otto's son, Otto III.

The Counts of Babenberg[]

The House of Babenberg, the first ruling dynasty of the March of Austria, was a family of nobles whose ascension to power came at the behest of Holy Roman Emperor Otto II. Leopold I was named Margrave of Austria in 976 as a reward for his loyalty to Otto during an uprising in Bavaria in the prior years. The title "Margrave" was bestowed upon counts who ruled over the medieval marches, primarily in a military role as these frontier territories were used to buffer the heart of the empire. The Babenberg counts ruled Austria for nearly 300 years before the rise of Austria's most influential dynasty, the aristocratic House of Habsburg.

Rule of the House Habsburg[]

The Habsburg Dynasty, first established by German King Rudolph I of Habsburg in the 13th Century, grew to become one of the most powerful ruling houses in all of Europe. The last of the Babenbergs, Duke Frederick II, died in 1246, providing the Habsburgs with an opportunity to seize control of the region. Following his selection as Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolph claimed the provinces of Austria and faced a struggle for succession with the Bohemian prince Ottokar II. The successful outcome for Rudolph allowed him to install his two sons, Rudolph II and Albert I, as joint rulers, the first of the Habsburg line in Austria.

Over the next 600 years, the Habsburgs would enjoy increasing influence and authority in Europe, notably gaining the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1452 with the selection of Frederick III by Pope Nicholas V. Frederick's breakthrough in gaining the position of Holy Roman Emperor ushered in an even greater expansion of Habsburg rule, who controlled Austria and the Holy Roman Empire up to the early 19th century.

During their long reign, the Habsburgs were successful in claiming a number of territories surrounding their seat of power in Austria, most importantly Hungary. Frequently the focus of conflict between the Habsburg Empire and the Ottoman Turks occupying large swaths of the nation, Hungary eventually fell under complete control of Austria following the Ottomans decisive loss at the Battle of Vienna and the eventual settlement of the Great Turkish War in 1699.

The last of the Austrian Habsburg monarchs, Maria Theresa, ruled in the 18th century and was faced with a war over her right to succession soon after her father's death. As the first female to ever lead the Habsburg Monarchy, Maria was met with contempt by the European powers of France and rival Prussia, who disputed her claim to the throne and incited the War of Austrian Succession. After nine years of conflict the war was settled in 1748, with Maria Theresa affirmed as ruler of Austria, but at the cost of ceding the valuable province of Silesia to Prussia.

Maria Theresa's reign was marked with a steady increase in the stability of her nation, due in part to her careful consideration of the economic and social policies she instituted. Balancing Austria's budget through increased taxation and regulated expenditures allowed her to strengthen Austria's depleted military, while improvements in education and medicine bolstered the well-being of her people.

The Austrian Empire[]

The outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars, beginning in the late 18th century, led to the creation of several coalitions opposed to Napoleon's French Empire. Austria joined the First Coalition against Napoleon in 1793, and despite a multi-pronged invasion of France joined by a number of European powers, the French were successful in repelling the invaders. Despite the setback, Austria continued to oppose the French and joined the majority of the seven coalitions that rose to confront Napoleon. Unfortunately Austria's early efforts led only to defeat, and Holy Roman Emperor Francis II formed the Austrian Empire in 1804 in an attempt to consolidate his land holdings in the region, naming himself Emperor of Austria. Abdicating the throne of Holy Roman Emperor, Francis signed the Treaty of Pressburg in 1805, dissolving the Holy Roman Empire itself in order to delegitimize claims made by Napoleon to German lands through his formation of the Confederation of the Rhine. Following Napoleon's defeat in 1813, the forces allied against France dissolved his confederation, which was then recreated as the German Confederation shortly thereafter.

As a union of European states bound by the German language, the German Confederation was formed with Austria and Prussia joining as its most powerful members. However, cooperation between the two historical rivals was short-lived. Prussia and its closest ally, Italy, invaded the disputed state of Holstein, provoking Austria into war in 1866. Austria, joined by the majority of the confederation members, faced off against the superior Prussian military. After a brief conflict, Prussia won a decisive victory over the Austrian alliance and dissolved the German Confederation.

In 1848, revolution swept across Europe, during a time known as the "Spring of Nations," when working-class citizens throughout Europe rose up against the longstanding monarchs ruling over them. Austria was not immune to these revolutionary ideals, as word spread from France of the uprisings, the subjects of the Austrian Empire joined in the opposition. Although the revolution in Austria was ultimately unsuccessful, it contributed directly to the future formation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as nationalism in Hungary grew increasingly potent and dissatisfaction with Austrian rule peaked. In an agreement that came to be known as the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph negotiated the creation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, maintaining the rule of the Austrian Emperor but providing Hungary with an independent parliament and government structure.

Austro-Hungarian Empire[]

The union of Austria-Hungary allowed the Hungarians to gain greater independence from the rule of the Austrians, while at the same time increasing Austria's stability by regaining the popular support of the Hungarian People. Having bore the burden of the war with Napoleon in the prior century, Austria's economic and military infrastructure was greatly weakened by the immense conflict, and this union strengthened Austria.

The events leading up to World War I, tracing its roots to the First and Second Balkan Wars, stemmed from Austria-Hungary's continual power struggle with Russia and Serbia over control of the Balkan region. The eventual occupation of Bosnia by Austria-Hungary in an attempt to curb Russian expansion in the region would incite nationalist opposition throughout the Balkans, putting Europe on a path towards a war unlike any before it.

World War I[]

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 was incited by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip was responsible for the assassination, and despite attempts at a diplomatic resolution, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in 1914. At the onset of war, a tangled web of alliances and treaty-bound nations sprang into action. Austria-Hungary was joined by her closest ally, Germany, against a united force led by Russia, who came to the defense of Serbia. France joined the conflict as a past ally to Russia, while Great Britain joined after Germany's invasion of Belgium. Although the conflict began as a dispute between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, the closely tied system of military alliances brought all of the world's major powers into the fight. After years of disastrous losses, Austria-Hungary was left in disarray, and the Treaty of Versailles brought an end to World War I in 1919.

First Republic of Austria[]

Austria-Hungary as a unified body was dissolved by the victorious Allied force in 1919, and Austria itself was reformed along its previous borders as the republic known as German Austria. As stipulated by the Treaty of Saint-Germain, signed at the end of World War I to deal specifically with Austria, any future unification of Austria and Germany was strictly prohibited. However, the rise of Nazi Germany under the leadership of Austrian-born Adolf Hitler paid little mind to the regulations of the former treaty.

Nazi Annexation[]

In 1938, troops from Germany entered Austria with the intention of unifying Austria and Germany. Despite resistance from the Austrian leadership, the Germans successfully installed a puppet regime and annexed Austria with support from a large portion of the populace. Known as the "Anschluss," the union of Germany and Austria led to the immediate dissolution of the Austrian republic, and came to be known once again as the Ostmark, or Eastern March, until the end of the war in 1945.

The New Republic[]

Following Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II, Austria was occupied by the Allies for nearly a decade until the Declaration of Neutrality and the Austrian State Treaty were signed in 1955. The Austrian State Treaty returned Austria's status as an independent republic, while the Declaration of Neutrality maintained that for the remainder of its existence, Austria would always remain militarily neutral.

Modern Austria[]

Since the formation of the second republic, Austria has maintained its neutrality and prospered as a democratic nation. After regaining independence following World War II, Austria joined the United Nations in 1955 as its 70th member state. Austria's capital, Vienna, is home to one of the central offices of the UN, and, as determined by the United Nations Human Development Index, Austria has one of the highest standards of living in the world. In 1995, Austria voted via referendum to join the European Union, and accepted the Euro as its currency in 1999. Austria strives to work closely with the UN and bases much of its foreign policy on conflict resolution and peaceful relations throughout the world today.

Austrian Trivia[]

The grand Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, once home to the rulers of the Habsburg Dynasty, features over 1,400 rooms and is a major tourist attraction.

The popular candy known as PEZ was first created in Austria in 1927 by Eduard Haas III. The name PEZ comes from the first, middle, and last letters of the German word for peppermint, "Pfefferminz."

Many of the world's greatest classical composers were Austrian, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, and Franz Liszt.

Joseph II[]


Joseph II, (born March 13, 1741, Vienna, Austria—died Feb. 20, 1790, Vienna), Holy Roman emperor (1765–90), at first coruler with his mother, Maria Theresa (1765–80), and then sole ruler (1780–90) of the Austrian Habsburg dominions. An “enlightened despot,” he sought to introduce administrative, legal, economic, and ecclesiastical reforms—with only measured success.

Early Years[]

Joseph, the eldest son of Maria Theresa and Francis Stephen of Lorraine (the future emperor Francis I), was strictly and thoroughly educated. When Maria Theresa appointed him to the Council of State, he exhibited unusual intelligence and an intense interest in politics. Joseph’s first marriage in 1760 to the Bourbon princess Isabella of Parma, whom he loved passionately, ended in tragedy when she died of smallpox three years later. In 1765 he married Maria Josepha of Bavaria, who in 1767 also died of smallpox. His inability to make decisions necessarily limited his ambition. After his father died, in 1765, he became emperor, but Maria Theresa made all the important decisions.

Domestic Reforms[]

After her death in 1780, Joseph tried to finish her work of reform. The educational system had been consolidated throughout the monarchy. For the University of Vienna, no longer under the influence of the church, Joseph tried to find the best scholars and scientists. The judiciary and the executive had already been separated at the top; Joseph extended this process to the lower administrative levels. In 1786 the Universal Code of Civil Law was issued. Under Maria Theresa the physician Gerard van Swieten had organized a public health service, and in Joseph’s time the General Hospital in Vienna was considered one of the best equipped in Europe. The monarchy’s finances were balanced. The reorganization of the army secured Joseph’s position in Europe. He ordered the abolition of serfdom; by the Edict of Toleration he established religious equality before the law, and he granted freedom of the press. The emancipation of the Jews within a short time endowed cultural life with new vitality. The artistic life of Vienna rose to new heights when the Burgtheater became the German National Theater. By transferring the management of the theatres to the actors, Joseph introduced an artistically fruitful concept.

Joseph’s conflict with the Roman Catholic Church, however, posed more difficult problems. He established national training colleges for priests and deprived the bishops of their authority and limited their communications with the Pope. The power of the church was even more affected by the dissolution of more than 700 monasteries not engaged in such useful activities as teaching or hospital work. The 36,000 monks forced to leave their orders were given an annuity or money to return home; those so returning could continue as secular priests. Some measures intended to forestall a relapse into monasticism, such as the foundation of new parishes, bore good results. The Emperor’s impatience in turning the monks out of the monasteries, however, caused many works of art to be destroyed. At the climax of the crisis, Pope Pius VI visited the Emperor in Vienna, but the visit changed nothing; nor did a later journey by Joseph to Rome. Joseph’s passionate zeal to change everything and to force a new form of life on his subjects met with embittered resistance, chiefly in such strongly traditional countries as the Austrian Netherlands and Hungary.

Failure in Foreign Affairs[]

In foreign policy, Joseph had obtained some success even as co-regent with his mother. When a civil war occurred in Poland under King Stanisław II Poniatowski, the lover of Catherine II the Great of Russia who was completely dependent on Russia, Joseph met with Poland’s third neighbour, King Frederick the Great of Prussia, to plan the partition of Poland, with each neighbour taking a part of the country and the remaining part to be given a last chance at independence. Frederick took what was later West Prussia, Austria took Galicia, and Catherine took as much border territory as she thought necessary. In a later treaty with Turkey, Joseph annexed Bukovina to his country.

To obtain a personal view of the situation in eastern and western Europe, Joseph visited France, where he was enthusiastically received by the intellectual elite, and then also visited Catherine of Russia. The banquets given in his honour in Paris could not conceal the truth from him: France was headed for catastrophe. His Russian visit gave him the impression of a state retarded in its development compared with the West, but the loyalty of its enormous population to Catherine and her nearly unlimited power seemed to make her the best ally for political manoeuvres in Europe.

After his mother’s death, Joseph had involved himself fruitlessly in 1784 in an attempt to force the Dutch to lift their blockade to secure a passage to the sea for the Austrian Netherlands. The Emperor hoped for more success with his unusual plan of exchanging the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria. The Wittelsbach dynasty had been extinguished in Bavaria, and the heir, the count palatine Charles Joseph, was in favour of moving from Munich to Brussels. But Joseph left Prussia out of his calculations. Frederick protested, and his troops marched into Bohemia. The threat of war ended without a battle being fought, for in 1785 Frederick had formed the Fürstenbund (Princes’ League) against Joseph to prevent the exchange. Deeply disappointed, Joseph now saw his only hope in Catherine. Though he was in bad health, he decided to visit her again; the Austrian Netherlanders and Hungarians, enraged at his reforms, resisted the move. Both publicly and secretly Catherine proposed a complete sharing of power in the east and southeast. Joseph signed an alliance giving her a free hand for her far-reaching plans and the conquest of Constantinople and the Dardanelles and assuring Austria of substantial territorial gains. When Catherine declared war on Turkey sooner than expected, Joseph raised an army of 250,000 men. Yet, despite careful preparations, the organization of this large army was weak. Revolutionary unrest in the Austrian Netherlands and Hungary grew in the belief that preoccupation with the war would prevent the Emperor from taking on the revolutionaries as well. Joseph spent several months with his army; but both his illness and the domestic crisis made progress dangerous, and he had to return to Vienna before a victory could be won. There the Emperor attempted to establish peace in the Austrian Netherlands by delaying negotiations, but he failed in this as he did in Hungary, where his refusal to be crowned had deprived him of a legal foundation for his reign.

In Hungary topographical surveys and the replacing of Latin by German as the official legal language drove the Hungarian gentry into opposition, and in the Austrian Netherlands immigrants who had fled from Holland opened hostilities against the occupation forces, and finally the country declared its independence.


Joseph and his reign have generated much discussion among historians. Generally, he is presented as the representative enlightened absolutist—that is to say, the most typical of those 18th-century monarchs who applied the principles of the philosophical movement known as the Enlightenment to the problems of government and society. In his religious reforms, he endorsed the principles that a person’s beliefs are his own business and that no one should be compelled to worship in ways that violate his conscience. In his social reforms, he sought the greatest good for the greatest number and so tried to alleviate the plight of the peasantry and foster prosperity for all. In his administrative reforms, he tried to rationalize government so that it could perform as effectively and sensibly as possible, and he sought to achieve not only equal treatment for his subjects but equal opportunity as well.

But many scholars dispute these claims. They argue that Joseph fostered freedom of expression only when that expression did not criticize him; when it did, he introduced repression just as harsh as any other monarch of the time. His social and religious reforms were less concerned with creating a just society than with extracting the greatest amount of taxes and the greatest number of military recruits from his people in the most efficient manner possible. Prosperity in his mind was good only because it meant increased revenue for the state. Finally, they contend that his administrative reforms served primarily to level the cultural and historical differences among his crown lands without consideration for the traditions and customs of the people who populated them. The debate among scholars promoting these positions and their variations will continue for some time. It can be said, however, that Joseph’s legacy was profound in the monarchy’s later history. His policies set the tone for church-state relations from his reign onward, and his reforms in serf-lord relations alleviated the worst conditions in the countryside and would be completed by the final abolition of serfdom in 1848. Perhaps the one criticism that will stand in all schools is that Joseph tried to do too much too quickly and so died a deeply disappointed man.

Unique Components[]


The original grenadier was a specialized assault soldier designed to attack enemy fortifications. The grenadier was equipped with grenades, small metal balls filled with gunpowder. The grenadiers would approach the enemy's works, light and throw their grenades, and then rush the works in the resulting confusion and panic.

As time progressed, the early grenades were abandoned, primarily because improvements in musketry and massed fire techniques made it highly likely that the grenadier would get shot while in the act of throwing the grenade. The term "grenadier" remained, however, and it was used to denote elite troops until the First World War.

State School[]

Joseph II's education policies were remarkable for their time. It was his desire to produce a highly literate citizenry, irrespective of ethnicity or social class. To do this, Joseph made elementary education compulsory for all boys and girls, and created special scholarships for poor students who showed particular aptitude in their studies.

Allgemeins Krankenhaus[]

(Requires Sukitract's Events and Decisions)

The Allgemeins Krankenhaus, German for the 'Vienna General Hospital,' is a university medical center founded by Joseph II in 1784. It was designed to meet the demands for higher quality facilities for medical professionals throughout Austria. Although it largely failed to combat the spread of epidemics and plagues, the medical center did make Vienna pre-eminent in the field of medical research.