First, let’s get one thing straight: Austria is not Australia! Many English-speakers – at least those who did not pay attention during geography class – confuse the two nations. Which, considering how different they are, and how distant from each other they are, is rather amazing. But Austria doesn’t have all those “No Kangaroos” T-shirts and signs for tourists for nothing.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the European and Alpine democratic federal republic called Republik Österreich in German. With about 8.6 million inhabitants, Austria has about one tenth of the population of its much bigger neighbor to the north. But there are many other important differences between Austria and Germany, including the fact that the German one hears in Austria does not sound like the German spoken in Germany (except maybe for the German heard in Bavaria). There are also many local dialects in Austria, which can be difficult to understand, even for Austrians from other regions.
Modern-day Austria dates back to the Habsburg dynasty when most of the country was a part of the Holy Roman Empire. Austria today has approximately the same area as the US state of South Carolina, but it was once a much bigger nation, covering a much larger area of Europe. When it was a monarchy (actually a dual monarchy) known as Austria-Hungary. That Habsburg (Austro-Hungarian) Empire ended in 1918 when World War I ended. That was the start of the First Republic (in 1919), which ended in 1934, and in 1938 with Hitler’s takeover of Austria (Anschluss). Today’s Second Republic began at the end of World War II in 1945, but Austria was still technically an Allied occupied nation until July 27, 1955, when an official state treaty granted Austria full sovereignty. (For more see our History of Austria page.)
Here are some key facts about Austria:
- Official Name: Republic of Austria (Republik Österreich)
- International Abbreviation: A (Internet country ID: .at)
- Government: Federal republic; parliamentary democracy with two legislative bodies: the Nationalrat (National Council, 183 directly-elected members) and the Bundesrat (Federal Council, members appointed by each province). There are nine Austrian federal provinces or states (Bundesländer).
- President: Heinz Fischer (since July 2004); a new election takes place on 22 May 2016.
- Chancellor: Werner Faymann, Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), held the office from Dec. 2008 to 9 May 2016 when he suddenly resigned as chancellor. Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner (People’s Party) takes over until a new chancellor can be chosen.
- Size: 32,382 sq mi (83,871 sq km), about the same area as the US state of South Carolina.
- Population: 8.6 million (2015 est.)
- Capital City: Vienna (Wien)
- National Holiday: October 26 – More: Other holidays in German-speaking Europe
- Largest Cities: (2014) Vienna (Wien) 1.8 million (over 2 million in metro area), Graz 270,000, Linz 193,814, Salzburg 146,600, Innsbruck 124,579; no other Austrian cities have a population of over 100,000.
- Ethnicity: Austrians 81.1%, Germans 2.7%, Turks 2.2%, other 14%
- Religions: (2014) Roman Catholic 61.4%, Protestant (Lutheran) 3.6%, Muslim 4%, unaffiliated 20%, other 11%
- Monetary Unit: Euro, since 2002. Formerly der Schilling.
- Economy/Industries: Austria is one of the 10 wealthiest countries in the world, measured by GDP per capita. Key industries include: agricultural products, banking, metals, chemicals, paper products, machinery, communications equipment, and tourism.
- Climate: Temperate; cool, cloudy, wet winters (snow in Alpine areas); mild summers with occasional heat waves. Cooler in Alpine areas.
- Highest Point: The Großglockner (12,457 ft, 3,797 m) in the Hohe Tauern range of the Alps. There are five more Austrian peaks higher than 3,500 meters (11,483 ft).
- Largest Lakes: Neusiedler Lake (Neusiedler See, partly in Hungary), the Attersee, the Traunsee, and a small portion of Lake Constance (Bodensee) in the eastern province of Vorarlberg.
- Waterways: The Danube (die Donau), the Mur, the Salzach
- Neighboring Countries (8): Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
- Famous Austrians: Marie Antoinette, Fred Astaire (dancer, film actor; Austrian father), Christian Doppler (physicist), Falco (Hans Hölzel), Sigmund Freud, Peter Handke (author), Josef Haydn (composer), Paul Henreid (film actor), Friedensreich Hundertwasser (artist), Franz Kafka (author), Gustav Klimt (painter), Hedy Lamarr (film actress), Niki Lauda (auto racing), Peter Lorre (film actor), Ernst Mach (scientist), Gustav Mahler (composer), Lise Meitner (nuclear physicist), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Josef Neutra (architect), Otto Preminger (film director), Egon Schiele (painter), Romy Schneider (film actress), Franz Schubert (composer), Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johann Strauss (composer, “Waltz King”), Kurt Waldheim (politician), Oskar Werner, Billy Wilder (film director), and more…
Next | History of Austria
AT THE GERMAN WAY
- Austria – Information and links related to Austria
- History of Austria – from the Ostmark to Austria
- Kitzbühel, Austria – All about this top Tyrolian ski resort – History, sights, photos
- The Austrian Autobahn toll sticker
- Mini Bios A-Z – More brief biographies of people from the German-speaking world
- Featured Biographies – More detailed bios of notable people from the German-speaking world
- Notable Women from Austria, Germany, Switzerland
- Austrians in Hollywood – Austrian, German and Swiss people in Hollywood