Settled in ancient times, the central European land that is now Austria was inhabited in pre-Roman times by Celtic tribes. The Celtic kingdom of Noricum was later claimed by the Roman Empire and made into a province. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was invaded by Bavarians, Slavs and Avars. The Slavic tribe of the Carantanians migrated into the Alps, and established the realm of Carantania, which covered much of eastern and central Austrian territory. Charlemagne Carantania in 788 AD, encouraged colonization, and introduced Christianity. As part of Eastern Francia, the core areas that now encompass Austria were bequeathed to the house of Babenberg.
In 1156 Austria elevated to the status of a duchy. In 1192, the Babenbergs acquired the Duchy of Styria, but with the death of Frederick II in 1246, the line of the Babenbergs went extinct. Ottakar II of Bohemia saw his chance and seized control over the duchies of Austria, Styria and Carinthia. His reign came to an early end with his defeat at the hands of Rudolf I of Germany, the first Habsburg to rule Austria, in 1278. Thereafter, until the end of World War I in 1918 Austria was ruled by the Habsburg dynasty.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Habsburgs began to accumulate other provinces in the vicinity of Austria, and beyond. By marriage they acquired the Netherlands, and even Spain and its colonies in Italy, Africa, and New World. Under the rule of Charles V (in Spain Carlos I) the empire reached it’s pinnacle. After his adbication the huge empire was split in the Spain (and the low countries) and Austria. In the 16th and 17th century the growing Ottoman Empire was a cause of many conflicts. But the turning point of the Ottoman invasion of eastern Europe came in 1683, with the defeat at the Battle of Vienna. This resulted in bringing all of Hungary to Austrian control by the Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699.
In 1804, the Empire of Austria was founded. But the era of Napoleon brought Austria more problems, it suffered successive defeats leading to the end of the old Holy Roman Empire in 1806. In 1814 Austria was part of the Allied forces that invaded France and brought to an end the Napoleonic wars. It thus emerged as one of four of the continent's dominant European powers.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 by Gavrilo Princip directly caused the outbreak of World War I which led to the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the end of the rule of the Habsburgs.
On November 12, 1918 German Austria, by law, declared itself to be a democratic republic. The new republic had wished to unite with Germany, but the Entente powers forbid that and even ignored the name German Austria in the peace treaty to be signed; it was therefore changed to Republic of Austria in late 1919. After the war, an enormous inflation started to devaluate the Krone, still Austria's currency. After an international loan supervised by the League of Nations. Austria passed from an independent state to the control exercised by the League of Nations. In 1925, the Schilling, replaced the weak Krone.
The First Austrian Republic lasted until 1933 when Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, gladly using what he called "self-switch-off of Parliament", established an autocratic regime tending towards Italian fascism. The two big parties at this time had paramilitary armies; the Social Democrats' Schutzbund was declared illegal after which a civil war broke out.
In February 1934, several members of the Schutzbund were executed, the Social Democratic party was outlawed. Many member were imprisoned or immigrated. On 1 May 1934 the Austrofascists imposed a new constitution which cemented Dollfuss's power but on 25 July he was assassinated in a Nazi coup attempt. His successor Kurt Schuschnigg struggled to keep Austria independent, but on 12 March 1938 German troops occupied the country while Austrian Nazis took over government. One day later the Anschluss of Austria was declared, and two days later Hitler, proclaimed the re-unification of his home country with the rest of Germany on Vienna's Heldenplatz. Austria was incorporated into the Third Reich and ceased to exist as an independent state. Vienna fell on 13 April 1945 during the Soviet Vienna Offensive just before the total collapse of the Third Reich. Karl Renner set up a Provisional Government in Vienna in April with the approval of the Soviet forces, and declared Austria's secession from the Third Reich by the Declaration of Independence on 27 April 1945.
After talks which lasted for years, on 15 May 1955 Austria regained its full independence by concluding the Austrian State Treaty with the Four Occupying Powers. (like Germany and Berlin, Austria and Vienna was split up in four sections.) The table on which the documents were signed is on display in the Upper Belvedere in Vienna, in an otherwise empty room. Following the regaining of its independence Austria signed a document on 26 October 1955 that declared it would be a neutral state from then on.
A boost to the country came in 1964 when it was the host country of the Olympic Winter games, which were held in and around Innsbruck. 12 years later the Olympic games would return to Innsbruck, after Denver withdrew from organising the Olympics. Another important sporting event was the European Championship Football in 2008, that was co-hosted with Switzerland.
Alpine tourism gave another boost to the economy and is one of the important columns on which the Austrian economy is built. The Austrian economy proved to be a strong one, and during a long period of time, the Schilling was given the nickname "Alpine Dollar", due to its strength.
After a referendum the country became a member of the European Union in 1995 and was one of twelve countries to introduce the Euro in 2002. Becoming a member of the EU, also meant a new discussion about the neutral status of the country, but until this day, Austria considers itself a strictly neutral country, although some people in Austria are wanting a membership of NATO, which would disolve the neutral status.
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