Austria Identity Card

Country name:
~ conventional long form: Republic of Austria
~ conventional short form: Austria
~ local long form: Republik Oesterreich
~ local short form: Oesterreich
Area: 83,870 sq km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Highest point: Grossglockner 3,798 m
Population: 8,184,691
Density: 97/Km2
Population growth rate: 0.11%
Official Language: German
Religions: Predominately Roman Catholic
Government type: Federal republic
Capital: Vienna
GDP - per capita: $31,300
Inflation rate: 1.8%
Currency (code): euro (EUR)
Vehicle Country Id-Code: A
Calling code: +43
Internet country code: .at
Time Zone: GMT +1.0H



Austria is a small, mainly mountainous country about twice the size of Switzerland, situated in south-central Europe. It is completely landlocked, bordering the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the north, Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Germany and Hungary to the east, and Slovenia and Italy to the south. Roughly pear shaped, Austria is almost 600 km long, extending from the Neusiedler See in the east, to Lake Constance in the west. Since the opening up of Eastern Europe in 1989 Austria has become an important trade route for people and goods crossing into Western Europe.


Austria consists of nine provinces: Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Styria, Carinthia, Salzburg, Tirol, Vorarlberg, Burgenland and Vienna. Much of the country is Alpine with heavily wooded mountains and hills cut by valleys of fast-flowing rivers. Ten percent of the country is covered by the Bohemian Granite Massif, a low mountain range to the north of the Danube Valley, with bare and windswept plateaus and a harsh climate. The least mountainous landscape is southeast of the low Leitha Range, where the steppe of the Hungarian Plain begins.
There are three major Alpine ranges, the Northern Alps, Central Alps and Southern Alps, running west to east through Austria and cover over half the country. The Central Alps, extending from Tirol to the Lower Austrian border, are the largest and highest ranges in Austria. The highest mountain, Grossglockner in Carinthia, is 3,797 meters high.
The most important pass in the Austrian Alps is the Brenner Pass, on the Austrian-Italian border in Tirol. It is one of the lowest Alpine passes, and provides the most direct route between Germany and northern Italy, two of Europe’s most industrialized regions.
Austria is one of the least densely populated states of Western and Central Europe. Although the spectacular mountain scenery is beautiful, it is also largely uninhabitable. Most of the population live in the plains and lowland areas that are arable and have a beneficial climate. The areas of permanent settlement are in the Danube Valley, the lowlands and hilly regions north, east, and south of the Alps, and in river valleys in the Alpine provinces.

Vienna View

Over a quarter of Austria is flat or gently hilly, including the Danube Valley and the Danube Basin, and the rolling hills and lowlands of the south-eastern Alpine Foreland. The Danube, with its source in south-western Germany, flows east through Austria to the Black Sea. It has always been an important inland waterway connecting the Balkan peninsula to the ‘Orient’ an even more so since the completion of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal in 1992. Connecting the Rhine and Main rivers with the Danube it allows barges to travel from the North Sea to the Black Sea.
The major rivers north of the Austrian Alps (the Inn in Tirol, the Salzach in Salzburg, and the Enns in Styria and Upper Austria) are direct tributaries of the Danube and flow north into the Danube Valley. The rivers in central and eastern Austria (the Gail and Drau rivers in Carinthia and the Mürz and Mur rivers in Styria) flow south into the Drau, which eventually flows into the Danube in Serbia. Consequently, the provinces of Upper Austria and Lower Austria are oriented toward the Danube and the provinces of Carinthia and Styria toward the Drau.

Hallstatt view


Austria’s climate is predominantly continental, temperatures and rainfall varying with altitude. The winters are cold, with frequent rain in the lowlands and snow in the mountains. The summers can be cool with occasional showers. Humidity is highest in the west, diminishing towards the east. The southern slopes of the Alps and the south-eastern Alpine Foreland are the most temperate part of Austria with warm, sunny Mediterranean weather. The Atlantic maritime climate from the northwest has the greatest influence on the northern slopes of the Alps, the Northern Alpine Foreland, and the Danube Valley, bringing snow in the winter.

The Amphitheatre of Carnuntum


In prehistoric times Austria was inhabited by Celtic tribes before becoming part of the Roman Empire in the 1st century AD. Following the fall of the empire 500 years later, the region was occupied by Vandals, Goths, Huns, Lombards, and Avars. In 791, Charlemagne established the East Mark, and the area became ethnically Germanic. In 1278 Rudolf of Habsburg seized Austria and invested his son as duke. The Dukes, and later Archdukes, of Austria were also known as “Holy Roman Emperor” until 1806 when the Napoleonic Wars brought about the end of the Holy Roman Empire and the creation of the Austrian Empire.
In 1867 war with Prussia led Emperor Franz Joseph to establish the Dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, which lasted until the end of World War I in 1918, when Austria became a republic. The Treaty of St Germain, signed in 1919 by Austria and the Allies, established Austria’s present boundaries. In 1938 Austria was invaded by Hitler’s troops and incorporated into the German Reich (the Anschluss). At the end of World War II the Allies divided the country and Vienna into four zones, occupied by the USSR, the USA, Britain, and France, (the Four Powers) until 1955, when Austria's independece was formally recognised.
In 1995 Austria became a full member of the European Union. However, the entry into Austria’s coalition government of the far-right Freedom Party in February 2000 severely strained Austria’s relations with the EU after some states imposed sanctions in protest. These were lifted after a few months. Then in April 2005 the Freedom Party split when its former leader, Joerg Haider, left to set up the Alliance for Austria’s Future. In May 2005 the Austrian Parliament ratified the EU constitution.

The Golden Roof of Innsbruck


Austria has a mixed free-market and government-operated economy. The manufacturing industry, employing about a quarter of the workforce, is made up of a few large organizations, producing machinery, chemical products, food products, metals and metal products, and wood and paper products and many small and medium-sized enterprises that make traditional Austrian wood, glass, textile, and ceramic handicrafts.
Being one of the world’s top tourist destinations, tourism is an important part of Austria’s economy. Famous for its winter sports and summer music festivals about 19 million people from other countries visit Austria annually. However, due to environmental concerns efforts are being made to introduce “green” or “soft” forms of tourism that are more compatible with Austria’s Alpine environment. For example, the commercial exploitation of the Alps for tourism places an massive amount of pressure on the ecosystem, sports like skiing, mountain hiking and biking are damaging the forests. Alpine villages have also grown excessively because of the tourist industry; in some cases there are 20 tourists to each local, placing a disproportionate seasonal burden on public services and the environment.
Less than 20 percent of Austria is suitable for conventional agriculture, mostly in the non-Alpine regions. However, over 20 percent of Austria is pastures and meadows, about one half of which consists of pastures lying at altitudes of more than 1,000 meters. These pastures are used during the summer for grazing dairy cattle, thereby freeing land at lower altitudes for cultivating winter fodder. Although agriculture in mountainous areas used to be economically viable, it can only exist with subsidies, without which, many areas will be reclaimed by nature after centuries of cultivation.
Austria imports most of its fossil fuel needs, so energy policies are aimed at moving toward cleaner, renewable sources. About two-thirds of Austria’s electricity is produced from hydroelectric power. However, Austria does have domestic reserves of oil, natural gas and coal. In 1992, oil reserves were estimated at 15 million tons, gas reserves at 17.5 billion cubic meters, and coal reserves were estimated at 70 million tons. Although Austria also has about 500 tons of uranium, in 1978 Austrians decided by referendum not to generate nuclear power.

Austrian Parliament in Vienna


Austria is a Western European parliamentary democracy based on the constitution of 1920, which transformed Austro-Hungary into a federal republic. The constitution established executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, with the executive branch subordinate to the legislative branch.
Although the constitution does not include a bill of rights, it does guarantee equality before the law and guarantees that there shall be no discrimination because of birth, gender, civil status, class, or religion. Individual rights are further defined by inclusion in the constitution of the final article, which raises certain older Austrian laws to the rank of constitutional law.
The constitutional amendments of 1929 gave the people the right to elect the president. They also gave the president the power to appoint or dismiss the chancellor, and on the chancellor’s recommendation, the cabinet.
Austria’s federal government is almost exclusively responsible for foreign affairs, national security, justice, finance, civil and criminal law, police matters, and education. The nine provinces haveing jurisdiction over all matters not explicitly reserved for the federal government.
Two laws are particularly important to the constitutional development of Austria: The State Treaty signed by the Four Powers and Austria in May 1955, established Austria’s frontiers, forbade economic or political union with Germany and guarenteed free elections and a democrtic government. The second law of constitutional importance is the Federal Constitutional Law of October 26, 1955, on the Neutrality of Austria. This law declared the country’s permanent neutrality and prohibited it from entering into military alliances or allowing foreign countries to establish military bases within Austria’s borders.

The Musikverein concert hall of Vienna



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