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This article is about the Austrians as an ethnic group. For information on citizens or nationals of Austria, see demographics of Austria; for information on speakers of the Austrian dialect of German, see Austrian-German language.
Total population

Over 8 million people.[1]

Regions with significant populations
Austria, Southern Germany, Southern Tyrol, United States, Canada and Brazil
German (Austrian German varieties)
Roman Catholic ca. 75 %, Protestant ca. 5 %, other or no religion (ca. 20 %)
Related ethnic groups
Germans (especially Bavarians) and other Germanic peoples.
Look up Austrian in
Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Austrians (German: Österreicher) are defined as the people of the Republic of Austria and its historical predecessor states, and to this extent share a common Austrian culture and being of Austrian descent. Common definitions also include speaking the German language as a mother tongue. Austrians were historically regarded as Germans, just as Bavarians or Prussians were, but especially during and after the events of World War II and Nazism, this has become out-of-fashion and is even considered offensive by many Austrians.

Austrians are also often defined by their national citizenship, which had, in the course of Austrian history, varying relations to the above, for example referring to a native German-speaker of the one-time Habsburg empire, or in a wider sense to any citizen of any of the various lands of that empire that did not form the Hungarian half of Austria-Hungary. In the letter sense, the definition included speakers of up to twelve different languages. Today there are approximately 8 million ethnic Austrians world wide,[2] even though ethnic identification of who is Austrian is almost impossible, as it is mainly a question of national identity and self-definition.


[edit] Etymology of Austrian

The English word "Austrian" is a derivative of the proper name Austria, which comes, via Medieval Latin, from the Old High German name Ostarrîchi, meaning Eastern Realm. The same word is the source for the modern German word Österreich.

The oldest known mention in writing of Ostarrîchi dates from the year 996, when it was used to refer to a region in what is now Lower Austria.

A Latin translation for Ostarrîchi, Marcha Orientalis, was itself retranslated into German during the 19th century as Ostmark, which was the official name applied to modern-day Austria for part of the time that it was incorporated into Nazi Germany from 1938 to 1945. Ostmark itself does not appear to have been used during the Middle Ages.

[edit] History

Main article: History of Austria

[edit] Ancient times

During the migration period, Germanic peoples started to move from their original position in modern Denmark and Southern Sweden. In the end 2 Germanic peoples made the area which is now Austria their new homeland: The Bavarii and the Alamanni.

The Bavarii were a large and powerful tribe which enters history from what is now the Czech Republic. They swiftly expanded their influence southward, and occupied modern Austria and the area which still bears their name: Bavaria.

The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribes located around the upper Main. The assembled warbands of the Alamanni frequently crossed the limes, attacking Germania Superior and moving into the Agri Decumates. As a confederation, they occupied what is now Alsace and expanded into northern Switzerland, as well as parts of what are now Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Austria.

[edit] Medieval times

Over time the Bavarii and Alamanni were conquered by another Germanic people, the Franks, and were incorporated in their empire. The Frankish Empire eventually evolved into the Holy Roman Empire, a vast multi ethnical Empire mostly located in Central Europe. Eventually Vienna, Austria's capital, grew to become the secret capital of the Holy Roman Empire and a cultural centre for arts and science, music and fine cuisine.

In 1278 the territory, by then corresponding roughly to what are now Upper and Lower Austria, passed to the House of Habsburg, with whose history it became closely associated until the early 20th century. Within a century the Habsburgs had added Carinthia, Styria, Carniola, and Tyrol to their rule, thus effectively controlling most of the territory of the modern Republic of Austria. Being ruled from the Duchy of Austria, the name of the duchy came to be informally applied to all these territories collectively, and hence their inhabitants also became known as Austrians.

The Habsburgs greatly increased their political prestige and power with the acquisition of the lands of the crowns of Hungary and Bohemia in 1526. Hungary was more successful at retaining its cultural identity than Bohemia, which underwent a period of intense German colonisation, coupled with Germanization. However, the longer history under rule from Vienna, and the common German-speaking identity of lands such as Carinthia, Styria, or Tyrol, created a sense of Austrian identity.

[edit] Early Modern Times

Although not formally a united state, the lands ruled by the Habsburgs would sometimes be known, at least to outsiders, by the name Austria. In reality they remained a disparate range of semi-autonomous states, most of which were part of the complex network of states that was the Holy Roman Empire (the imperial institutions of which were themselves controlled for much of their later existence by the Habsburgs). However, the second half of the 18th century saw an increasingly centralised state begin to develop, and the massive political changes occurring in what is now Germany as the result of the French Revolution indirectly resulted in the formal creation of an Austrian Empire. For the first time the citizens of the various territories were now citizens of the one same state.

A further major change resulted from a reorganisation of the empire in 1867 into a dual monarchy, with the Kingdom of Hungary gaining a considerable amount of political autonomy as one of the two halves. The other half remained a patchwork of states, broadly coterminous with the modern-day Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and parts of Poland, Ukraine, Italy, and Croatia. These non-Hungarian lands, formally known as "the Kingdoms and States Represented in the Imperial Council" were sometimes known as Austria, for want of a better name. An alternative label in this context is Cisleithania.

[edit] Modern times

[edit] 19th-century nationalism

For more details on this topic, see Pan-Germanism.

The Austrian lands had also been members of the Habsburg-dominated German Confederation since 1815. This split political personality also reflected a cultural uncertainty as to whether the German-speaking peoples under Austrian rule were Austrian, or German, or both. The developing sense of a German nationality had been accelerated massively as a consequence of the political turmoil and wars that engulfed Central Europe following the French Revolution and the rise to power of Napoleon Bonaparte. Although the years of peace after Napoleon's fall quickly saw German nationalism largely pushed out of the public political arena, the Revolutions of 1848 established it as a significant political issue for a period of over twenty years. Political debate centred on the nature of a possible future German state to replace the Confederation, and part of that debate concerned the issue of whether or not the Austrian lands had a place in the Germany polity.

Habsburg influence over the German Confederation was rivalled by the increasingly powerful Prussian state. Political manoeuvering by the Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck resulted in military defeat of the Austrians in 1866 and the collapse of the Confederation, both effectively ending any future Austrian influence on German political events. The so-called Franco-Prussian War and the establishment of a German Empire, headed by Prussia and pointedly excluding any of the Austrian lands, diminished the influence of pan-Germanism in the Habsburg territories, and worked to reinforce the sense of a distinctively Austrian identity as the state turned away from Germany and turned its gaze towards the Balkan Peninsula.

[edit] The 20th century

The last year of the First World War saw the collapse of Habsburg authority throughout an increasingly greater part of its empire, and the military surrender in November 1918 finally brought with it the abdication of the last emperor. The creation of the Czecho-Slovak and South Slav states, full independence for a rump Hungary, and the post-war treaties imposed by the victorious Allies combined to see the newly-established Austrian republic both with the boundaries it has today, and a largely homogeneous German-speaking population. However, German-speaking communities were also left scattered throughout the other new states, as well as in the southern part of Tyrol which now found itself part of Italy.

Initially the republic took the name German Austria, initially reflecting the republic beeing the German-speaking part of the old Austria and showing the popular desire to unite with the new German republic. This hope was to be dashed by the Treaty of Saint-Germain in 1919, and the new state changed its name to Republic of Austria on 21 October 1919.

Desire for unity with Germany was motivated both by a sense of common national identity, and also by a fear that the new state, stripped of its one-time imperial possessions, and surrounded by potentially hostile nation-states, would not be economically viable.

By 1938, with Nazi governments in control of both Berlin and Vienna, the country was annexed to Germany as Ostmark. In 1942 the name was changed to the Danubian and Alpine Districts, thus eradicating any links with an Austrian national past.

[edit] Post World War II

The end of World War II in 1945 saw the re-establishment of an independent Austria, although the Allied Powers remained in occupation until 1955.

Austrians, wishing to distance themselves from the Third Reich, decided to develop a self-image unambiguously separate from its neighbour, basing itself on cultural achievements of the past and, though not without controversy, the centuries of Habsburgs rule.

Unlike in the early 19th century, Austrians do not consider themselves to be a German subgroup.[3] Indeed, being (mis)identified as such can cause resentment. The logic of the existence of an independent German-speaking Austrian state is no longer questioned as it was in the early years of its existence. Most Germans likewise consider the Austrians to be a separate German-speaking people like the Swiss. Austria today still remains broadly ethnically homogeneous. However, immigration in recent decades has resulted in around 8,9% of the country being a member of an ethnic or linguistic minority.

Austria's history and geographical location has resulted in recent immigration from Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Poland. As with neighbouring Germany, there has also been immigration from Turkey and former Yugoslav states such as Serbia.

[edit] Culture

Main article: Austrian culture

Culture on the territory of what is today Austria can be traced back to around 1050 B.C. with the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures. However, a culture of Austria as we know it today began to take shape when the Austrian lands were part of the Holy Roman Empire, with the Privilegium Minus of 1156, which elevated Austria to the status of a Duchy, marking an important step in its development. Austrian culture has largely been influenced by its neighbours, Italy, Germany, Hungary and Bohemia.

[edit] Language

Main article: Austrian German
Further information: German language

Austrian German is any variety of the German language spoken in Austria. There is no unitary Austrian language, but a variety of High German dialects are spoken. Besides the Germanic languages discussed here, minority languages such as Slovenian, Croatian, and Hungarian are spoken in parts of the country.

Ordinarily, the latter dialects are considered to belong either to the Central Austro-Bavarian or Southern Austro-Bavarian subgroups, with the latter encompassing the languages of the Tyrol, Carinthia, and Styria and the former including the dialects of Vienna, Upper Austria, and Lower Austria. The dialect spoken in Vorarlberg is more closely related to Swiss German than it is to other Austrian dialects, so Austrians from outside Vorarlberg can have difficulties understanding it.

While strong forms of the various dialects are not normally comprehensible to most German speakers, there is virtually no real communication barrier between speakers from Austria and Germany. The Central Austro-Bavarian dialects are more intelligible to speakers of Standard German than the Southern Austro-Bavarian dialects of Tirol. Viennese, the Austro-Bavarian dialect of Vienna, is most frequently used in Germany for impersonations of the typical inhabitant of Austria.

[edit] Cuisine

Main article: Austrian Cuisine

Austrian cuisine, which is often incorrectly equated with Viennese cuisine, is derived from the cuisine of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In addition to native regional traditions it has been influenced above all by Hungarian, Czech, Jewish, and Italian cuisines, from which both dishes and methods of food preparation have often been borrowed. Goulash is one example of this. Austrian cuisine is known primarily in the rest of the world for its pastries and sweets. In recent times a new regional cuisine has also developed which is centred on regional produce and employs modern and easy methods of preparation.[citation needed]

[edit] References and sources

  1. ^ According to the CIA World Factbook the percentage of ethnic Austrians in Austria is 91.1 this means there are 7.463.714 ethnic Austrians in Austria. At the same time, the US Department of State shows that 98% of Austrians are ethnic Germans.
  2. ^ Idem.
  3. ^ Austria. Library of Congress Country Studies, 2004.. Accessed 1 Oct 2006.
  1. People of Austria (Encarta)
  2. Ethnic groups of Austria (CIA Factbook)
  3. Austrians (German Wikipedia)

[edit] See also