Austria, formally the Republic of Austria, is a federal republic in Central Europe with a population of approximately 8.7 million people. It is bounded to the north by the Czech Republic and Germany, to the east by Hungary and Slovakia, to the south by Slovenia and Italy, and to the west by Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Austria has an area of 83,879 square kilometers (32,386 sq mi). The landscape is hilly, being within the Alps; only 32% of the nation is below 500 meters (1,640 feet), and the highest point is 3,798 meters (12,461 ft). The bulk of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects of German as their native language, while Austrian German is the country’s official language in its standard form. Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene are the other official languages in the region.
Austria’s roots may be traced back to the Habsburg dynasty, when the overwhelming bulk of the nation was a part of the Holy Roman Empire. Many Northern German rulers, resentful of the Emperor’s power, adopted Protestantism as a rebel banner from the time of the Reformation. The Thirty Years War, the influence of the Kingdoms of Sweden and France, the emergence of the Kingdom of Prussia, and the Napoleonic invasions all reduced the Emperor’s authority in the North of Germany, but the Emperor and Catholicism retained control in the South and non-German parts of the Empire. During the 17th and 18th centuries, Austria was able to maintain her status as one of Europe’s major powers, and the Austrian Empire was formally declared in 1804 in reaction to Napoleon’s crowning as Emperor of France. Following Napoleon’s fall, Prussia emerged as Austria’s main rival for dominance over a bigger Germany. During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Prussia defeated Austria in the Battle of Königgrätz, paving the way for Prussia to seize control of the rest of Germany. The empire was reorganized as Austria-Hungary in 1867. Following France’s loss in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, Austria was excluded from the creation of a new German Empire, but its politics and foreign policy gradually converged with those of the Prussian-led Empire in the following decades. During the 1914 July Crisis, which followed the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, Germany assisted Austria in delivering the ultimatum to Serbia, which resulted in the beginning of World War I.
Following the fall of the Habsburg (Austro-Hungarian) Empire in 1918 at the conclusion of World War I, Austria adopted and used the name the Republic of German-Austria (Deutschösterreich, subsequently sterreich) in an effort to union with Germany, but was barred by the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919). In 1919, the First Austrian Republic was founded. Austria was seized by Nazi Germany at the Anschluss in 1938. This lasted until the conclusion of World War II in 1945, when the Allies invaded Germany and Austria’s previous democratic constitution was restored. The Austrian State Treaty re-established Austria as a sovereign state in 1955, thus ending the occupation. The Austrian Parliament issued the Declaration of Neutrality the same year, declaring that the Second Austrian Republic would become permanently neutral.
Austria is now a parliamentary representative democracy with nine federal states. Vienna is the capital and biggest city, with a population of about 1.7 million people. Austria is one of the world’s wealthiest nations, with a nominal per capita GDP of $43,724. The nation has raised its quality of life and was rated 21st in the world for its Human Development Index in 2014. Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1955, of the European Union since 1995, and of the OECD since its inception. Austria joined the Schengen Agreement in 1995 and accepted the euro in 1999.