Austria country profile

  • 27 July 2016
  • From the section Europe
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 8.4 million

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

  • Major language German

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 78 years (men), 84 years (women)

  • Currency euro

Getty Images


Outgoing president: Heinz Fischer

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Candidates Norbert Hofer, left, and Alexander van der Bellen will compete in a rerun of the presidential election on 2 October

Alexander van der Bellen made headlines across Europe when he won the largely ceremonial presidency in an extremely tight run-off vote against Norbert Hofer, of the far-right Freedom Party, in May 2016. However, the election will be re-run on 2 October after Mr Hofer successfully challenged the result.

Chancellor: Christian Kern

Image copyright AFP

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


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 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.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites