History of Austria

(First) Republic of Austria (1918-1933)

With the end of the First World War, Austria was now divided. The newly founded Czechoslovakia received Bohemia and Moravia. The rest of the area became the Republic of German Austria. German Austria also had to give up territories that came to Italy (e.g. South Tyrol and Istria) and those that came to newly emerging countries, namely Poland (Galicia) and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Burgenland, previously part of Hungary, was awarded to Austria. In the treaties that the victorious powers concluded with the defeated, it was also stipulated in 1919 that German Austria should now be called the Republic of Austria.

After the war, the economy was down. There were many unemployed and inflation occurred. Only a currency reform could help. In 1925 the “Krone” was replaced by the “Schilling”. There were numerous new laws, including the Nobility Repeal Act. Thus the nobility was abolished, the nobility designation “von” was no longer allowed to be used in the name (unlike in Germany).

Politically, the time was – as in Germany – not stable. The course was unclear, there were riots from both ends of the political spectrum. Engelbert Dollfuß became Federal Chancellor in 1932.

Corporate state (1933-1938)

Dollfuss switched off parliament in March 1933 and now ruled dictatorially. He was close to Italian fascism, but rejected National Socialism in Germany. He and his party, the Christian Social Party, demanded the establishment of a corporate state. This state should be organized according to professional groups, there should be no political parties and a parliament.

In contrast, the Social Democrats stood. In February 1934 armed fighting between the two groups took place, in which several hundred people died. The SPD was banned. Dollfuss proclaimed the corporate state on May 1st. In July 1934, Dollfuss was murdered by the National Socialists, but the corporate state continued to exist.

Part of the German Empire (1938-1945)

In March 1938, Germany invaded Austria. With this the connection of Austria to the German Reich was completed. The persecution of the Jews began here immediately. The arbitrary rule found support from numerous supporters of National Socialism such as Arthur Seyß-Inquar.

With the advance of the Red Army in April 1945, the National Socialist rule in Austria ended. On April 27, 1945 Austria declared itself independent again. In May the Second World War ended with the surrender of the German Reich.

Post-war period (1945-1955)

After the Second World War, Austria was restored within the borders of 1938. Like Germany, Austria was divided into four zones of occupation by the victorious powers. Vienna was also divided.

The first government was formed by the three parties ÖVP, SPÖ and KPÖ, the first Federal Chancellor was Leopold Figl of the ÖVP. In 1955 Austria finally regained its full sovereignty. The country professed its neutrality and pledged not to seek reconnection with Germany.

The rest of the 20th century

South Tyrol, which had belonged to Austria until 1918 and was then occupied by Italy after the First World War, was given extensive autonomy within Italy in 1969. This autonomous status was extended again in 1972. The dispute over South Tyrol was then settled.

The Christian Democratic ÖVP ruled from 1966, and the SPÖ from 1970 to 1983 under Federal Chancellor Bruno Kreisky. A referendum in 1978 rejected the use of nuclear energy. That is why no nuclear power is used in Austria.

From 1983 the SPÖ ruled together with the FPÖ. This coalition ended in 1986 after the right-wing politician Jörg Haider was elected chairman. In 1986 Kurt Waldheim was elected the new Federal President. This choice was very controversial because there were suspicions that Waldheim was involved in Nazi war crimes (Waldheim affair).

From 1987 to 2000 the SPÖ and ÖVP again formed a grand coalition. In 1995 Austria joined the European Union.

21st century

In 2002 the euro replaced the schilling as a means of payment.

Between 2000 and 2007, the ÖVP ruled together with the FPÖ, a right-wing populist party. That means that this party is politically right and turns against strangers and foreigners. The other EU states initially reacted by freezing diplomatic relations. It was feared that xenophobic and racist statements by the FPÖ politicians could rub off the work of the Austrian government. In September 2009, however, these measures were lifted again as this fear did not come true.

Since 2007 there has been a grand coalition of ÖVP and SPÖ again. Federal Chancellors were Wolfgang Schüssel (ÖVP), Alfred Gusenbauer (SPÖ) and Werner Faymann (SPÖ).

In May 2016, Faymann resigned because of his party’s poor election results. Christian Kern became his successor. In December 2017, Sebastian Kurz became the new Austrian Federal Chancellor.

History of Austria