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Mozart Haydn Emperor Franz Joseph

Johann Strauss II Erwin Schrödinger Sigmund Freud Gustav Klimt Bertha von Suttner Arnold Schwarzenegger

Wolfgang Amadeus MozartJoseph HaydnEmperor Franz JosephJohann Strauss IIErwin SchrödingerSigmund FreudGustav KlimtBertha von SuttnerArnold Schwarzenegger
Total population
Over 10 million people.[1][2][3]
Regions with significant populations
 Austria        8 million
 United States 800,000
 Italy (mainly South Tyrol) 300,000 [4]
 Germany (mainly Bavaria) 230,000
 Switzerland 80,000
 United Kingdom 24,000
 South Africa 20,204
 Australia 15,000
 Argentina 511,000
 Czech Republic (mainly South Moravia) 9,300
 Sweden 6,300
 Slovenia (mainly Lower Styria) 5,400
 Slovakia (mainly Bratislava) 5,400
 Brazil 2,400,000 [5]
 Hungary (mainly Ödenburg) 3,000
 Greece 1,800
 New Zealand 1,300

German (Austrian German)[6] regional also: Croatian, Hungarian, Slovene


Roman Catholic ca. 66%, Protestant ca. 4%, Muslim ca. 4% other or no religion (ca. 26%)

Related ethnic groups

Germanic peoples, Czechs,[7] Slovaks, Hungarians, Slovenes and Croatians[8]

Austrians (German: Österreicher) are a nation[9] and an ethnic group[2] originating from the Republic of Austria and its historical predecessor states who share a common Austrian culture and Austrian descent. Due to their common history and belonging to the Holy Roman Empire until 1806, German-speaking Austrians were historically regarded and understood themselves as Germans but after the founding of a German national state, the German Empire in 1871, and after the events of World War II and Nazism, Austrians developed their own distinct identity separated from Germans.

The term Austrian in the 19th century applied to any citizen of the Empire of Austria between 1804 and 1867, and until 1918 to any citizen of Cisleithania, the western half of Austria-Hungary, regardless of his nationality. Before the 19th century, the term Austrian meant subjects of the Habsburg realm in the Holy Roman Empire empire, to which Transleithania did not belong. In these senses, the definition included speakers of up to twelve different languages.

In the closest sense, the term Austrian ever since meant inhabitants of Lower Austria and Upper Austria, constituting the first lands to be called Austria in the early middle ages. These were German speaking people only.



The English word Austrian is a derivative of the proper name Austria, which comes, via Medieval Latin, from the Old High German name Ostarrîchi, meaning "Eastern Realm". The same word is the source for the New High German word Österreich (Ost- "East] and Reich - "Empire" or realm, among other meanings..

The oldest known mention in writing of Ostarrîchi dates from the year 996, when it was used to refer to a region in what is now Lower Austria.

A Latin translation for Ostarrîchi, Marcha Orientalis, was itself retranslated into German during the 19th century as Ostmark, which was the official name applied to modern-day Austria for part of the time that it was incorporated into Nazi Germany from 1938 to 1945. Ostmark itself does not appear to have been used during the Middle Ages.



Middle Ages to Early Modern period

The name Österreich appears in the 10th century, as Old High German Ostarrîchi, in reference to the March of Austria.

In 1278 the territory, by then corresponding roughly to what are now Upper and Lower Austria, passed to the House of Habsburg, with whose history it became closely associated until the early 20th century. Within a century the Habsburgs had added Carinthia, Styria, Carniola, and Tyrol to their rule, thus effectively controlling most of the territory of the modern Republic of Austria. Being ruled from the Duchy of Austria, the name of the duchy came to be informally applied to all these territories collectively.

The Habsburgs greatly increased their political prestige and power with the acquisition of the lands of the crowns of Hungary and Bohemia in 1526. The Hungarian aristocracy was more successful at retaining the Magyars' cultural and political preponderance in multi-ethnic Hungary than Bohemia, on three sides surrounded by German neighbours, which underwent a period of intense German colonisation, germanizing the leading classes of the Czech people as well. The common German identity of lands such as Carinthia, Styria, or Tyrol, and the ruling dynasty made it easier for these lands to accept the central government set up in Vienna in the mid-18th century.

The term Austrian in these times was used to identify subjects of the Domus Austriae, the House of Austria, as the dynasty was called in Europe, regardless of their ethnic definition. Although not formally a united state, the lands ruled by the Habsburgs would sometimes as well be known by the name Austria. In reality they remained a disparate range of semi-autonomous states, most of which were part of the complex network of states that was the Holy Roman Empire (the imperial institutions of which were themselves controlled for much of their later existence by the Habsburgs). However, the second half of the 18th century saw an increasingly centralised state begin to develop under the regency of Maria Theresa of Austria and her son Joseph II.

Growth of the Habsburg Monarchy

After the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon, the emperor Franz II formally founded the Austrian Empire in 1804 and became as Franz I the first Austrian emperor. For the first time the citizens of the various territories were now subjects of the one same state, while most of the German states, Prussia excluded, still cultivated their Kleinstaaterei and didn't succeed in forming a homogenous empire before 1871 when the German Empire was founded.

A further major change resulted from a reorganisation of the Austrian Empire in 1867 into a dual monarchy, acknowledging the Kingdom of Hungary as an independent state bound to the remaining part of the empire, as well independent, by a personal and real union, the Emperor of Austria being the Apostolic King of Hungary (with both titles on the same level). The Austrian half, a patchwork of crown-lands, broadly coterminous with the modern-day Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and parts of Poland, Ukraine, Italy, and Croatia, was bound together by the common constitution of 1867, stating that all subjects now would carry the "uniform Austrian citizenship" and have the same fundamental rights. These non-Hungarian lands were not called Austrian Empire any more (the term would have recalled a period behind the newest development). Until 1915, they officially were called "the Kingdoms and States Represented in the Imperial Council". Politicians used the technical term Cisleithania (labelling the Hungarian lands as Transleithania), the general public called them Austria. In 1915, the non-parliamentary Cisleithanian government decreed to use this term officially, too.

Modern ethnogenesis

While the name Ostarrîchi has medieval origins, and the Modern Latin Austria is coined for Habsburg Austria, there was no Austrian national or ethnic identity prior to the 20th century.

19th-century nationalism

The lands later called Cisleithania (except Galicia and Dalmatia) were members of the German Confederation since 1815 as they had been part of the Holy Roman Empire until 1806. Until 1848, Austria and its chancellor Prince Metternich unanimously dominated the confederation. The developing sense of a German nationality had been accelerated massively as a consequence of the political turmoil and wars that engulfed Central Europe following the French Revolution and the rise to power of Napoleon Bonaparte. Although the years of peace after Napoleon's fall quickly saw German nationalism largely pushed out of the public political arena by reactionary absolutism, the Revolutions of 1848 established it as a significant political issue for a period of nearly hundred years.

Political debate now centred on the nature of a possible future German state to replace the Confederation, and part of that debate concerned the issue of whether or not the Austrian lands had a place in the Germany polity. When Emperor Franz Joseph I ordered to build a monument in Vienna in 1860 to Archduke Charles, victor over Napoleon in the Battle of Aspern-Essling in 1809, it carried the dedication "To the persistent fighter for Germany's honour", to underline the Germanic mission of the House of Austria.

Habsburg influence over the German Confederation, which was strongest in the southern member states, was rivalled by the increasingly powerful Prussian state. Political manoeuvering by the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck resulted in military defeat of the Austrians in 1866 and the collapse of the Confederation, both effectively ending any future Austrian influence on German political events.

The so-called Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of a German Empire, headed by Prussia and pointedly excluding any of the Austrian lands, let the state turn away from Germany and turn its gaze towards the Balkan Peninsula. Thereby the influence of pan-Germanism was diminished in the Habsburg territories, but as the term Austrians still was used supra-national, German-speaking Austrians considered themselves Germans (and where counted as such in the censuses). The state as a whole tried to work out a sense of a distinctively Austrian identity.

While the high bureaucracy of Austria and many German-Austrian army officers considered themselves "black-yellow" (the Habsburg colours), i.e. loyal to the dynasty, the term "Deutschösterreich" (German Austria) appeared in the media to mean all Austrian districts with a German majority among the inhabitants. Georg Ritter von Schönerers political party agitated against the "multi-national" Habsburgs and advocated for Deutschösterreich joining Imperial Germany.

The 20th century

Provinces claimed by German Austria, with the subsequent border of the First Austrian Republic outlined in red

The last year of World War I saw the collapse of Habsburg authority throughout an increasingly greater part of its empire. On October 16, 1918, emperor Karl I invited the nations of Austria to create national councils, with the aim to instigate a restructuring of the state under Habsburg rule. The nations followed the invitation (the Czechs had founded their national council already before the invitation) but ignored the will of the emperor to keep them in a restructured Austrian state. Their goal was total independence.

On October 21, the German members of the Austrian parliament, elected in 1911, met in Vienna to found the Provisional National Assembly of German Austria ("Provisorische Nationalversammlung für Deutschösterreich"). On October 30, 1918 they installed the first German Austrian government, leaving the question "monarchy or republic" open. (German nationalists and social democrats favoured the republic, the Christian Socialists wanted to keep the monarchy.) This government in the first days of November took over competences of the last imperial-royal government in a peaceful way. Initially the new state took the name German Austria, reflecting the republic being the German part of the old Austria and showing the popular desire to unite with the new German republic. On November 12, 1918, the provisional national assembly voted for the republic and for unification with Germany with a large majority.

The creation of the Czecho-Slovak and South Slav states, full independence for Hungary, and the post-war treaties imposed by the victorious Allies combined to see the newly-established Austrian republic both with the boundaries it has today, and a largely homogeneous German-speaking population. In the Treaty of Saint-Germain, in September, 1919 the union with Germany was prohibited, henceforth the new republic's name "Deutschösterreich" was ignored; instead the term "Republic of Austria" was used. (The westernmost province Vorarlberg's wish to unite with Switzerland[10] as well was ignored.) On October 21, 1919, the state changed its name accordingly. Many Austrian German communities were left scattered throughout the other new states, especially in Czechoslowakia, where more than 3 million of Austrian Germans had not been allowed their districts to become part of new Austria, as well as in the southern part of Tyrol which now found itself part of Italy. In total, more than 3.5 million Austrian Germans had to stay outside the republic of Austria.

Desire for unity with Germany was motivated both by a sense of common national identity, and also by a fear that the new state, stripped of its one-time imperial possessions, and surrounded by potentially hostile nation-states, would not be economically viable. Austrian identity emerged to some degree during the First Republic, and although Austria was still considered part of the "German Nation" by most, Austrian patriotism was encouraged by the anti-Nazi/anti-Socialist clerico-authoritarianist state ideology known as Austrofascism from 1934-38. Dictator Kurt von Schuschnigg called Austria "the better German state".

Sign of the Austrian resistance movement at the Stephansdom in Vienna

By March 1938, with Nazi governments in control of both Berlin and Vienna, the country was annexed to Germany (Anschluss) as Ostmark. In 1942 the name was changed to the Danubian and Alpine Districts, thus eradicating any links with a special Austrian past.

During the war, Austrians' addiction to Germany faded when Hitler's series of victories ended. When social democrat Adolf Schärf, from 1945 party president and vice-chancellor and from 1957 federal president of Austria, was visited by German friends who wanted to talk on post-war government, he spontaneously explained to his surprised visitors, "the love to Germany has been put out in Austrians". The Moscow Declaration of 1943, in which the allies declared to reestablish an independent Austrian state after the victory, in Austria was only known to people secretly listening to enemy broadcasts ("Feindsender"), which was heavily persecuted as a criminal offence.

Since large portions of Austrian society either actively or tacitly supported the Nazi regime, the Allied forces treated Austria as a belligerent party in the war and maintained occupation of it after the Nazi capitulation. But they treated Austria significantly different from Germany: They accepted the Declaration of Independence Austrian politicians had signed at Vienna's city hall on April 27, 1945, and they made the first national elections possible in the autumn of that year. By the end of 1945, Austria, under the supervision of the Allied Council in Vienna, had a democratic parliament and government again, acknowledged in all four allied occupation zones.

The Austrian resistance to the Nazi rule started with the Anschluss in 1938. Historians estimate that there were about 100.000 members of resistance facing 700.000 NSDAP members in Austria.[11] The sign of the Austrian resistance was O5, where the 5 stands for E and OE is the abbreviation of Österreich with Ö as OE.

Post World War II

The end of World War II in 1945 saw the re-establishment of an independent Austria, although the Allied Powers remained in occupation until 1955, when the Austrian State Treaty between Austria and them was signed to end occupation and to regain Austrian sovereignty.

Map of Austrian people in Central Europe

The national concept developed by only few people before and during annexation emerged strongly in the postwar era. Austrians developed a self-image unambiguously separate from its German neighbour, basing itself on cultural achievements of the past, the Moscow Declaration, geopolitical neutrality, language variation, Habsburg legacy (sans monarchism), and the historical separation of the Austrian and German empires in the 19th century. It proved favourable for Austrians not to be held guilty for World War II, genocide and war crimes, since Austria was considered victim of Nazi Germany. It was, for decades, widely ignored in Austria that many Austrians had either been Nazis or had collaborated with the Nazi regime up to terrible crimes.

Unlike earlier in the 20th century, in 1987 only 6 percent of the Austrians identified themselves as "Germans".[12]. Indeed, being (mis)identified as one can cause resentment. Today over 80 percent of the Austrians see themselves as an independent nation.[13][14] The logic of the existence of an independent Austrian state is no longer questioned as it was in the inter-war period.

Austria's multicultural history and geographical location has resulted in post-Soviet era immigration from Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Poland. As with neighbouring Germany, there has also been immigration from Turkey and former Yugoslav states such as Croatia and Serbia. Today, the largest group of immigrants are Germans.


Culture on the territory of what is today Austria can be traced back to around 1050 B.C. with the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. However, a culture of Austria as we know it today began to take shape when the Austrian lands were part of the Holy Roman Empire, with the Privilegium Minus of 1156, which elevated Austria to the status of a Duchy, marking an important step in its development. Austrian culture has largely been influenced by its neighbours, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Bohemia and the other Czech lands.


Austrian German is one of the varieties of the German language (High German or Hochdeutsch), which is considered a pluricentric language today (like English). It is not, as many Germans believe, a dialect, but the official language of the state.

In colloquial terms, there is no unitary Austrian language, but a variety of dialects are spoken. Besides the Germanic languages discussed here, minority languages such as Slovene, Croatian, and Hungarian are spoken and officially recognized in parts of the country.

Austro-Bavarian is widely spoken in Austria. The dialects are considered to belong either to the Central Austro-Bavarian or Southern Austro-Bavarian subgroups, with the latter encompassing the languages of the Tyrol, Carinthia, and Styria and the former including the dialects of Vienna, Upper Austria, and Lower Austria. The dialect spoken in Vorarlberg is more closely related to Swiss German than it is to other Austrian dialects, so Austrians from outside Vorarlberg may have difficulties understanding it.

While strong forms of the various dialects are not normally comprehensible to most German speakers, there is virtually no communication barrier along the border between Austria and Germany, since people on both sides of the border speak very similarly. The Central Austro-Bavarian dialects are more intelligible to speakers of Standard German than the Southern Austro-Bavarian dialects of Tyrol. Viennese, the Austro-Bavarian dialect of Vienna, is most frequently used in Germany for impersonations of the typical inhabitant of Austria.


Austrian cuisine, which is often incorrectly equated with Viennese cuisine, is derived from the cuisine of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In addition to native regional traditions it has been influenced above all by Hungarian, Czech, Jewish, and Italian cuisines, from which both dishes and methods of food preparation have often been borrowed. Goulash is one example of this. Austrian cuisine is known primarily in the rest of the world for its pastries and sweets. In recent times a new regional cuisine has also developed which is centred on regional produce and employs modern and easy methods of preparation.[citation needed]

See also

External links


  1. ^ See the following references: [15][16]

[17] [18] [19][20][21][22][23][24][25]

References and sources

  1. ^ According to the CIA World Factbook - Austria - People: Ethnic Groups the percentage of ethnic Austrians in Austria is 91.1% meaning there are 7,463,714 ethnic Austrians in Austria.
  2. ^ Census 2000: Ancestry - 730,336 people claimed Austrian descent; see also Austrian-Americans
  3. ^ Statistics Canada 2001: Ethnic Origins - 147,585 claimed to be of Austrian ethnic origin.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ US Department of State Austria
  7. ^
  8. ^ The sound of success, Economist, Nov 22nd 2007
  9. ^
  10. ^ []
  11. ^ Dokumentationsarchiev des österreichischen Widerstands
  12. ^ [1] Development of the Austrian identity .
  13. ^
  14. ^ Austria. Library of Congress Country Studies, 2004. Accessed 1 October 2006.
  15. ^ The CIA World Factbook
  16. ^ MSN Encarta. Archived 2009-10-31.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ The European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia
  20. ^ Literature:
    • Franz A. J. Szabo: Austrian Immigration to Canada. Pg. 41 et seq.
    • Alfred Connor Browman: Zones of Strain: A Memoir of the Early Cold War. Pg. 73
    • Ilija Sutalo: Croatians in Austria. Pg. 21
    • Donald G. Daviau, Herbert Arlt: Geschichte der österreichischen Literatur. Pg. 318
    • Deirdre N. McCloskey: The Bourgeois Virtues - ethnics for an age of commerce. Pg. 190
    • Bruce M. Mitchell, Robert E. Salsbury: Multicultural Education - An international guiede to research, policies and programs. Pg. 19
  21. ^ Institute for Higher Studies (IHS)
  22. ^ The President of the Republic of Slovenia
  23. ^ The BBC
  24. ^ The Chinese Embassy in Austria
  25. ^ A study from the University of Regensburg

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