Found in the heart of Europe, Austria was always bound to have a storied history, and a storied history does it ever have. It has been the stomping grounds for the ancient Romans, a base for the mighty Hapsburgs, and a part of Nazi Germany Austria. Today, its history is on display across the land, characterized in its people, its buildings, and its very soul. Covering every aspect of Austrian history would require an untold amount of pages, so this article will give you a summary of the history of Austria, from its roots as a hangout for various tribes, to its role today as a neutral, European democracy.
Before the Romans arrived in modern-day Austria, Celtic tribes called the area home. In addition to the Romans, other groups like the Visigoths, the Huns, and the Slavs came after the Celts, though none remained to claim the territory for very long. It was Charlemagne who came in to eventually conquer what we now know as Austria, and he did so in the name of Christianity in 788. At the time, Austria became heavily Germanic, which influences Austria culture to this day. German is the main language spoken in the country, and the Austrian citizens are primarily Germanic in heritage. From 976 to 1248, Austria history saw the house of Babenburg in control, though the almighty Hapsburgs eventually settled in for a long stay. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Hapsburgs had accumulated a large amount of land in central Europe, and their vast wealth led to the construction of some of the country's most historic and identifiable edifices.
The Hapsburgs ultimately established their base in Vienna, building both a winter and a summer palace in Austria's current capital. When it was cold outside, they lived at Hofburg Palace, and when the summers came, over to Schonbrunn Palace they went. These two palaces can be toured today, and when you enter them, you will see the kind of opulence that the Hapsburgs enjoyed. In 1571, the emperor of Austria granted his people the right to choose religious freedom, which is one of the more intriguing Austria facts. Austria culture at the time turned right on its head. Scores of Austrians began to convert from Catholicism to Protestantism, though by 1576, the Counter Reformation occurred, marking what would be a pivotal point in the history of Austria. What followed would be the Thirty Years' War, which managed to adversely affect most of Central Europe. This war lasted from 1618 to 1648.
The latter half of the sixteenth century was a particularly messy period in Austrian history, as the country was doing all that it could to fight back advances made by the Turks. Almost managing to take Vienna in 1683, the Turks were turned away with the help of soldiers from Germany and Poland. St Stephens Cathedral was damaged during the 1683 conflict with the Turks, which gives testament to how close the Turks must have been to truly taking the city. Worth noting too when it comes to St Stephens Cathedral, is the fact that its iconic south tower served as a lookout during the 1683 Battle of Vienna. Once the Turkish threat was ultimately doused, Austria exploded into a Baroque building frenzy, the likes of which can be seen in many structures to this day, including Salzburg Dom, where Mozart was baptised. It was a glorious time in the history of Austria, and in Vienna, top musicians and composers of the day were welcomed with open arms. Mozart, who was born in Salzburg in 1756, first played a concert in Vienna's Schonbrunn Palace when he was 6! You can visit Mozarts Geburtshaus when visiting Salzburg, which is a fascinating thing to do for anyone who even remotely appreciates music or Austria history.
Beginning in 1740, Austria culture again developed as the country transitioned itself into a modern state under the rule of Maria Theresa. Among the highlights of this period of history in Austria was the establishment of a public education system. The Holy Roman Empire, which had dominated the Austrian scene for centuries, eventually fell in 1806, due largely in part to Napolean's defeat of the country. Austria then became the Empire of Austria until 1867, when Austria history saw the country become the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It remained as such until one of the most significant events in Austrian history occurred. In 1914, the assassination of Emperor Joseph I's nephew, Franz Ferdinand, led to the outbreak of World War I. This also marked the end of the road for the Hapsburgs.
Austria shrank in size following the war, having to relinquish its grip on some of the Hapsburg's past land holdings. A poor economic situation arose thereafter, opening the door to the Nazis. In 1938, Austria was annexed to Germany, becoming part of the infamous Third Reich. For a sobering look into past Austria culture, you can visit Mauthausen to see a one-time Nazi labor camp. At the end of World War II, Austria had to endure some heavy bombing, yet it came out on the other end a free nation. In 1995, Austria joined the European Union, and today, it is enjoying a quality of life that is hard to match.