Austria country profile

Map of Austria

Famous for its spectacular mountain scenery, Austria is no longer the dominant political force it was in Central Europe under the Habsburg dynasty which ruled until the first world war.

However, its position at the geographical heart of Europe on the key Danube trade route enhances its strategic importance.

After being joined to Nazi Germany from 1938-1945, Austria was occupied by the Allies, who divided up the country and the capital Vienna into separate sectors.

However, the 1955 State Treaty - signed by the Allies - guaranteed Austria's unity, ensuring it did not suffer Germany's fate of being split between the Soviets and the Western Cold War blocs.

Vienna is nowadays home to several key international organisations, including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Opec, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.


Republic of Austria

Capital: Vienna

  • Population 8.7 million

  • Area 83,871 sq km (32,383 sq miles)

  • Major language German

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 80 years (men), 84 years (women)

  • Currency euro

Getty Images


President: Alexander van der Bellen

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Alexander van der Bellen's victory over far-right candidate made headlines across Europe

Alexander van der Bellen was elected in the December 2016 re-run of a highly polarising election earlier that year, defeating Norbert Hofer of the far-right Freedom Party.

Mr Van der Bellen - a Green politician running as an independent - had won a extremely narrow victory in the initial run-off vote against Mr Hofer in May, but the result was annulled because of vote-counting irregularities.

The possibility of Mr Hofer becoming the first far-right European head of state in recent history attracted major international media interest in the contest for the largely ceremonial post.

Chancellor: Christian Kern

Image copyright AFP

Christian Kern was sworn in as federal chancellor and chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Austria, or SPOe, on 17 May 2016, following the resignation of Werner Faymann after a string of poor election results.

The SPOe has been in coalition with Austria's other traditional main party, the centre-right Austrian People's Party, or OeVP, for the bulk of the country's post-World War 2 history, but both have recently come under pressure from the far-right Freedom Party, or FPOe.

  • The party leaders agreed to a snap election after the centrist "grand coalition" collapsed in May 2017. The election is due on 15 October.


Image copyright Getty Images

Austria's public broadcaster, Oesterreichischer Rundfunk (ORF), has long-dominated the airwaves. It faces competition from private TV and radio broadcasters.

Cable or satellite TV is available in most Austrian homes and is often used to watch German stations, some of which tailor their output for local viewers.

A daily newspaper is a must for many Austrians. National and regional titles contest fiercely for readers.


Some key dates in Austria's modern history:

1918 - End of the Hapsburg empire.

1919 - Treaty of St Germain defines Austria's boundaries.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Austrian Alps are a popular visitor destination

1920 - New constitution creates Republic of Austria.

1934 - Government crushes Socialist uprising, backed by the army. All political parties abolished except the Fatherland Front.

1936 - Austria acknowledges itself "a German state".

1938 - The Anschluss (union): Austria incorporated into Germany by Hitler. Austria now called the Ostmark (Eastern March).

1945 - Soviet troops liberate Vienna. Austria occupied by Soviet, British, US and French forces.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption View of Salzburg, birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

1946-47 - Denazification laws passed. Reconstruction begins.

1955 - Treaty signed by UK, France, US and USSR establishes an independent but neutral Austria. Austria joins the United Nations.

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