The nineteenth century (1815–1914)
Biedermaier period (1815–1848)
Under the control of Metternich, the Austrian Empire entered a period of censorship and a police state in the period between 1815 and 1848 (Biedermaier or Vormärz period). The latter term (Before March) referring to the period prior to the revolution of March 1848. Metternich kept a firm hand on government resisting the constitutional freedoms demanded by the liberals. Government was by custom and by imperial decree (Hofkanzleidekrete). However, both liberalism andnationalism were on the rise, which resulted in theRevolutions of 1848. Metternich and the mentally handicapped Emperor Ferdinand I were forced to resign to be replaced by the emperor's young nephew Franz Joseph.
Franz Joseph I and the Belle Époque (1848–1914)
Post-revolutionary Austria (1848–1866)
Separatist tendencies (especially in Lombardy and Hungary) were suppressed by military force. A constitution was enacted in March 1848, but it had little practical impact, although elections were held in June. The 1850s saw a return to neoabsolutism and abrogation of constitutionalism. However, one of the concessions to revolutionaries with a lasting impact was the freeing of peasants in Austria. This facilitated industrialization, as many flocked to the newly industrializing cities of the Austrian domain (in the industrial centers of Bohemia, Lower Austria, Vienna, and Upper Styria). Social upheaval led to increased strife in ethnically mixed cities, leading to mass nationalist movements.
On the foreign policy front, Austria with its non-German constituencies, was faced with a dilemma in 1848 when Germany's Constituent National Assembly (Deutsche Konstituierende Nationalversammlung), of which Austria was a member, stated that members could not have a state connection with non-German states, leaving Austria to decide between Germany or its Empire and Hungarian union. However these plans came to nothing for the time being, but the concept of a smaller Germany that excluded Austria (Kleindeutschland) was to re-emerge as the solution in 1866. Austria's neutrality during the Crimean War (1853–1856), while the emperor was preoccupied with his wedding, antagonized both sides and left Austria dangerously isolated, as subsequent events proved (Hamann 1986).
The Italian question (1859–1860)
While Austria and the Hapsburgs held hegemony over northern Italy, the south was the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, with the Papal States intervening. Italy had been in a turmoil since the Congress of Vienna in 1815, with insurrections starting in 1820 (Carbonari). King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, an absolutist monarch, sought to strengthen his position by a further dynastic alliance with Austria. He already had a connection through his second wife, Maria Theresa, granddaughter of the emperor Leopold II This he achieved by marrying his son, Francis II, to Duchess Maria Sophie of Bavaria in February 1859. Marie was a younger sister of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, making Francis brother in law to the Emperor. Ferdinand died a few months later in May, and Francis and Maria Sophie ascended the throne.
In the meantime Austria had fallen into a trap set by the Italianrisorgimento. Piedmont, jointly ruled with Sardinia had been the site of earlier insurrections. This time they formed a secret alliance with France (Patto di Plombières), whose emperor, Napoleon III was a previous Carbonari. Piedmont then proceeded to provoke Vienna with a series of military manoeuvres, successfully triggering an ultimatum to Turin on April 23. its rejection was followed by an Austrian invasion, and precipitated war with France (Second Italian War of Independence 1859). Austria mistakenly expected support and received none, and the country was ill prepared for war, which went badly. The Hapsburg rulers in Tuscany and Modena were forced to flee to Vienna.
In May 1859 Austria suffered a military defeat at the Battle of Varese and in June at Magenta against the combined forces of France and Sardinia. The emperor refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation which was causing great hardship at home, and took over direct command of the army, though not a professional soldier. Later that month a further defeat at Solférino sealed Austria's fate, and the emperor found himself having to accept Napoleon's terms at Villafranca. Austria agreed to cede Lombardy, and the rulers of the central Italian states were to be restored. However the latter never happened, and the following year in plebiscites, all joined the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont. By April 1860 Garibaldi had invaded and quickly subdued Sicily, and by February 1861 the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies ceased to exist, Francis and Maria fled to Austria.
These events severely weakened the emperor's position. The government's absolutist policies were unpopular and these setbacks led to domestic unrest, Hungarian secessionism, criticism of Austria's governance and allegation's of corruption. The first casualties were the emperor's ministers. The Finance Minister, Karl Ludwig von Bruck killed himself. Other casualties were Count Karl Ferdinand von Buol (Foreign Minister), Interior Minister Baron Alexander von Bach, Police Minister Johann Freiherr von Kempen von Fichtenstamm, Adjutant General Karl Ludwig von Grünne, together with army generals.
The result was a reluctant undertaking by the emperor and his chief advisor Goluchowski to return to constitutional government, culminating in the October Diploma (October 1860) establishing constitutional monarchy through a legislative assembly and provincial autonomy. This was never completely implemented due to Hungarian resistance, demanding the full autonomy lost in 1849. Consequently the October Diploma (Oktoberdiplom) was replaced by the February Patent (Februarpatent), in 1861 establishing a bicamerallegislative body, the Reichsrat. The upper house (Herrenhaus) consisted of appointed and hereditary positions, while the lower house, the House of Deputies (Abgeordnetenhaus) was appointed by the provincial diets. TheReichsrat would meet with or without the Hungarians, depending on the issues being considered. This was a first step towards the establishment of a separate Cisleithanian legislature, on the other hand the more limited role of the diets in the February Patent, compared to the October Diploma, angered the champions of regionalism. The Reichsrat was dominated by liberals, who where to be the dominant political force for the next two decades.
The Danish question (1864–66)
Prussia and Denmark had already fought one war in 1848–51 over the territories that lined their common border,Schleswig-Holstein which resulted in Denmark retaining them. By 1864 Austria was at war again, this time allying itself with Prussia against Denmark in the Second Schleswig War, which although successful this time, turned out to be Austria's last military victory. The war concluded with theTreaty of Vienna by which Denmark ceded the territories. The following year the Gastein Convention resolved the control of the new territories, Holstein being allocated to Austria, after initial conflicts between the allies. However this did little to ease the Austria–Prussia rivalry over the German question. The ongoing efforts by Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian Minister President, to revoke the agreement and wrest control of the territories would soon lead to all out conflict between the two powers and achieve the desired weakening of Austria's position in central Europe.
The Hungarian question
From the 1848 revolution, in which much of the Hungarian aristocracy had participated, Hungary remained restless, pressing for more autonomy, restoration of the constitution, opposing the centralism of Vienna and refusing to pay taxes (Hamann 144). Hungary had little support in the court at Vienna which was strongly Bohemian and considered the Hungarians as revolutionaries. From the loss of the Italian territories in 1859, the Hungarian question became more prominent. Hungary was negotiating with foreign powers to support it, and most significantly with Prussia. Therefore Hungary represented a threat to Austria in any opposition to Prussia within the German Confederation over the German Question. Therefore cautious discussions over concessions, referred to as Conciliation by the Hungarians (Hamann 146), started to take place. Emperor Franz Joseph traveled to Budapest in June 1865 and made a few concessions, such as abolishing the military jurisdiction, and granting an amnesty to the press. However these fell far short of the demands of the Hungarian liberals whose minimal demands were restoration of the constitution and the emperor's separate coronation as King of Hungary. Chief among these were Gyula Andrássy and Ferenc Deák, who endeavoured to improve their influence at the court in Vienna. In January 1866 a delegation of the Hungarian parliament traveled to Vienna to invite the imperial family to make an official visit to Hungary, which they did, at some length from January to March.
Austro-Prussian War (1866)
While Andrássy was making frequent visits to Vienna from Budapest during early 1866, relations with Prussiawere deteriorating. There was talk of war. Prussia had signed a secret treaty with the relatively new Kingdom of Italy on April 8, while Austria concluded one with France on June 12, in exchange for Venetia.
While the motives for the war, Prussian masterplan or opportunism, are disputed, the outcome was a radical re-alignment of power in Central Europe. Austria brought the continuing dispute over Holstein before the German diet and also decided to convene the Holstein diet. Prussia, declaring that the Gastein Convention had thereby been nullified, invaded Holstein. When the German diet responded by voting for a partial mobilization against Prussia, Bismarck declared that the German Confederation was ended. Thus this may be considered a Third Schleswig War.
Hostilities broke out on June 14 as the Austro-Prussian War (June–August 1866), in which Prussia and the north German states faced not only Austria but much of the rest of Germany, especially the southern states. Three days later Italy declared war on Austria in the Third Italian War of Independence, Italy now being Prussia's ally. Thus Austria had to fight on two fronts. Their first engagement resulted in a minor victory against the Italians atCustoza near Verona on June 24. However on the northern front Austria suffered a major military defeat at theBattle of Königgrätz in Bohemia on July 3. Although Austria had a further victory against the Italians in a naval battle at Lissa on July 20, it was clear by then that the war was over for Austria, Prussian armies threatening Vienna itself, forcing the evacuation of the court to Budapest. Napoleon III intervened resulting in an armistice atNikolsburg on July 21 and a peace treaty in Prague on August 23. In the meantime the Italians who had had a series of successes throughout July, and signed an armistice at Cormons on August 12 rather than face the remaining Austrian army freed from its northern front.
As a result of these wars Austria had now lost all its Italian territory and was now excluded from further German affairs, that were now reorganised under Prussian dominance in the new North German Confederation. TheKleindeutschland concept had prevailed. For the Austrians in Italy, the war had been tragically pointless, since Venetia had already been ceded.
Dual Monarchy (1867–1918)
While Austria was reeling from the effects of war, the Hungarians increased the pressure for their demands. Andrassy was regularly in Vienna, as was Deak and the Hungarian position was backed by constitutionalists and liberals. While anti-Hungarian sentiments ran high at the court, the Emperor's position was becoming increasingly untenable, with the Prussian army now atPressburg (Bratislava), and Vienna crammed with exiles, while hope for French intervention proved to be fruitless. The Hungarians recruited Empress Elisabeth who became a strong advocate for their cause. György Klapka had organised a legion fighting for the Prussians, which Bismarck had supported, that entered Hungary and agitated for Hungarian independence.
However the needs of the other provinces had to be considered before entering into any form of Hungarian dualism which would give Hungary special privileges, and started to fan the flames of Czech nationalism, since Slavic interests were likely to be submerged. People started to talk about the events of 1848 again. By February 1867 Count Belcredi resigned as Minister President over his concerns about Slavic interests, and was succeeded by foreign minister Ferdinand Beust, who promptly pursued the Hungarian option which had become a reality by the end of the month.
Ausgleich (Compromise) 1867
Austria-Hungary was created through the mechanism of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867(Ausgleich). Thus the Hungarians finally achieved their aims of autonomy, indeed citizenship of one half of the realm was not recognised by the other. The western half of the realm known as (Cisleithania) and the eastern Hungarian (Transleithania), that is the realms lying on each side of the Leitha tributary of the Danube river, now became two realms with different interior policy, but with a common ruler and a common foreign and military policy. The empire now had two capitals, two cabinets and two parliaments. Only three cabinet positions served both halves of the monarchy, war, foreign affairs and finance (when both sectors were involved). Costs were assigned 70:30 to Cisleithania, however the Hungarians represented a single nationality while Cisleithania included all the other kingdoms and provinces. Andrassy was appointed as the first Minister President of the new Hungary on February 17. Feelings ran high in the provinces, and the Diets in Moravia and Bohemia were shut down in March.
Emperor Franz Joseph made a speech from the throne in May to the Reichsrat (Imperial Council) asking for retroactive ratification and promising further constitutional reforms and increased autonomy to the provinces. This was a major retreat from absolutism. On June 8 the Emperor and Empress were crowned King and Queen of Hungary in a ceremony whose pomp and splendour seemed out of keeping with Austria's recent military and political humiliation and the extent of financial reparations. As part of the celebrations the emperor announced further concessions that aggravated relationships between Hungary and the rest of the monarchy. An amnesty was declared for all political offences since 1848 (including Klapka and Kossuth) and reversal of the confiscation of estates. In addition the coronation Gift was directed to the families and veterans of the revolutionary Honved, which was revived as the Royal Hungarian Militia.
In return for the Liberals support of the Ausgleich, concessions were made to parliamentary prerogatives in the new constitutional law. The law of 21 December 1867, although frequently amended, was the foundation of Austrian governance for the remaining 50 years of the empire, and was largely based on the February Patent, the Imperial Council and included a bill of rights. Ultimately the political balance of the dual monarchy represented a compromise between authoritarianism (Obrigkeitsstaat) and parliamentarianism (Rechtsstaat)(Hacohen 2002). Like most compromises it was rejected by extremists on both sides, including Kossuth.
1873 marked the Silver Jubilee of Franz Joseph, and provided not only an occasion for celebration but also one of reflection on the progress of the monarchy since 1848. Vienna had grown from a population of 500,000 to over a million, the walls and fortifications had been demolished and the Ringstrasse constructed with many magnificent new buildings along it. The Danube was being regulated to reduce the risk of flooding, a new aqueduct constructed to bring fresh water into the city, and many new bridges, schools, hospitals, churches and a new university built.
What was supposed to be a temporary emergency measure was to last for half a century. Austria succeeded in staying neutral during the Franco Prussian War of 1870–1 despite those who saw an opportunity for revenge on Prussia for the events of 1866. However Austria'a allies amongst the South German States were now allied with Prussia, and it was unlikely that Austria's military capacity had significantly improved in the meantime. Any residual doubts were rapidly dispelled by the speed of the Prussian advance and the subsequent overthrow of the Second Empire.
In November 1871 Austria made a radical change in foreign policy. Ferdinand Beust, the First Prime Minister (to 1867), Chancellor and Foreign Minister (1866–1871) of the Dual Monarchy, was dismissed. Beust was an advocate of revanche against Prussia, but was succeeded by the Hungarian Prime Minister, the liberal Gyula Andrássy as Foreign Minister (1871–1879), although both opposed the federalist policies of Prime MinisterKarl Hohenwart (1871) while Prince Adolf of Auersperg became the new Prime Minister (1871–1879). Andrassy's appointment caused concern amongst the conservative Court Party (Kamarilla), but he worked hard to restore relationships between Berlin and Vienna, culminating in the Dual Alliance (Zweibund) of 1879.
In 1878, Austria-Hungary occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina, which had been cut off from the rest of the Ottoman Empire by the creation of new states in the Balkans following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 and the resulting Congress of Berlin (June–July 1878). The territory was ceded to Austria-Hungary, and Andrassy prepared to occupy it. This led to a further deterioration of relations with Russia and was to lead to tragic consequences in the next century. Austrian troops encountered stiff resistance and suffered significant casualties. The occupation created controversy both within and without the empire and led to Andrassy's resignation in 1879. This territory was finally annexed in 1908 and put under joint rule by the governments of both Austria and Hungary.
The departure of the Liberal Government and of Andrassy from the Foreign Office (k. u. k. Ministerium des Äußern) marked a sharp shift in Austria-Hungary's foreign policy, particularly in relation to Russia, Count Gustav Kálnoky(1881–1895) Andrassy's Conservative replacement pursuing a new rapprochement.
The second half of the nineteenth century saw a lot of construction, expansion of cities and railway lines, and development of industry. During the earlier part of this period, known as Gründerzeit, Austria became an industrialized country, even though the Alpine regions remained characterized by agriculture. Austria was able to celebrate its new found grandeur in the Vienna World Exhibition (Weltausstellung) of 1873, attended by all the crowned heads of Europe, and beyond. This period of relative prosperity was followed by the 1873 Stock market crash.
The second half of the nineteenth century saw a lot of construction, expansion of cities and railway lines, and development of industry. During the earlier part of this period, known as Gründerzeit, Austria became an industrialized country, even though the Alpine regions remained characterized by agriculture. Austria was able to celebrate its new found grandeur in the Vienna World Exhibition (Weltausstellung) of 1873, attended by all the crowned heads of Europe, and beyond. This period of relative prosperity was followed by the 1873 Stock market crash.
Politics and governance
Liberalism in Cisleithania 1867–1879
Political parties became legitimate entities in Austria from 1848, apart from a brief lapse in the 1850s. However the structure of the legislative body created by the 1861 February Patent provided little scope for party organisation. Initial political organisation resembled the cleavages in Austrian culture. Since the time of theCounter-Reformation the Catholic Church had assumed a major role in the political life of the empire, in conjunction with the aristocracy and conservative rural elements. Allied against these forces were a more secular urban middle class, reflecting the Enlightenment and the French Revolution with its anti-clericism(Kulturkampf). Other elements on the left were German nationalism, defending Greater German interests against the Slavs, and found support amongst urban intelligentsia. However party structure was far from cohesive and both groupings contained factions which either supported or opposed the government of the day. These parties reflected the traditional right/left split of political vision. The left, or Liberal (Deutschliberale Partei) factions were known as the Constitutional Party (Verfassungspartei), but both left and right were fragmented into factions (Klubs). Without direct elections there was no place for constituency organisation, and affinities were intellectual not organisational. Nor, without ministerial responsibility, was there a need for such organisation. The affinities were driven by respective visions of the representative institutions. The left derived its name from its support in principle of the 1861–7 constitution and were the driving elements of the 1848 revolution, the right supported historic rights. The left drew its support from the propertied bourgeoisie (Besitzbürgertum), affluent professionals and the civil service. These were longstanding ideological differences (Pulzer 1969). The 1867 elections saw the Liberals take control of the lower house under Karl Auersperg (1867–1868) and were instrumental in the adoption of the 1867 constitution and in abrogating the 1855 Concordat (1870).
Suffrage progressively improved during the period 1860–1882. The selection of deputies to the Reichsrat by provincial legislatures proved unworkable particularly once the Bohemian diet effectively boycotted the Reichsrat in an attempt to acquire equal status with the Hungarians in a tripartite monarchy. As a result suffrage was changed to direct election to the Reichsrat in 1873.
Even then by 1873 only six percent of the adult male population were franchised (Hacohen 2002). The initial divisions into Catholic, liberal, national, radical and agrarian parties differed across ethnic grounds further fragmenting the political culture. However there was now emerging the presence of extra-parliamentary parties whereas previously parties were purely intra-parliamentary. This provided an opportunity for the disenfranchised to find a voice. These changes were taking place against a rapidly changing backdrop of an Austrian economy that was modernising and industrialising and economic crises such as that of 1873 and its resultant depression(1873–1879), and the traditional parties were slow to respond to the demands of the populace. By the election of 1901, the last election under the defined classes of franchisement (Curia) extraparliamentary parties won 76 of the 118 seats.
This era saw anti-liberal sentiments and declining fortunes of the Liberal party which had held power since 1867 apart from a brief spell of conservative government in 1870–1. In 1870 Liberal support for Prussia in the 1870Franco-Prussian War displeased the Emperor and he turned to the Conservatives to form a government underCount Karl Sigmund von Hohenwart (1871). Hohenwart was the conservative leader in parliament, and the Emperor believed his more sympathetic views to Slavic aspirations and federalism would weaken the Austro-German Liberals. Hohenwart appointed Albert Schäffle as his commerce minister and drew up a policy known as the Fundamental Articles of 1871 (Fundamentalartikel). The policy failed, the Emperor withdrew his support and the Liberals regained power.
The Liberal party became progressively unliberal and more nationalistic, and against whose social conservatism the progressive intellectuals would rebel (Hacohen 2002). During their 1870–1 opposition they blocked attempts to extend the dual monarchy to a tripartite monarchy including the Czechs, and promoted the concept of Deutschtum (the granting of all rights of citizenship to those who displayed the characteristics of the solid German Bürger). They also opposed the extension of suffrage because restricted suffrage favoured their electoral base (Hacohen 2002). In 1873 the party fragmented, with a radical faction of the Constitutional Party forming the Progressive Club (Fortschrittsklub), while a right-wing faction formed the conservative Constitutionalist Landlordism (Verfassungstreue Grossgrundbesitz) leaving a rump of 'Old Liberals' (Altliberale). The result was a proliferation of German Liberal (Deutschfreiheitlichkeit) and German National(Deutschnationalismus) groups.
Political realignment 1879
While Liberal achievements had included economic modernisation, expanding secular education and rebuilding the fabric and culture of Vienna, while collaborating with the Administration (Verwaltung), after 1873 a progressive series of schisms and mergers continued to weaken the party which effectively disappeared by 1911.
The Liberal cabinet of Adolf Auersperg (1871–1879) was dismissed in 1879 over its opposition to Foreign Minister Gyula Andrássy's (1871–1879) Balkan policy and the occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which added more Slavs and further diluted German nationalism and identity (Staatsnation). In the ensuing elections theLiberals lost control of parliament and went into opposition, the incoming government under Count Edward Taaffe (1879–1893) basically consisting of a group of factions (farmers, clergy and Czechs), the "Iron Ring" (Der eiserne Ring), united in a determination to keep the Liberals out of power.
Andrassy, who had nothing in common with Taaffe, tended his resignation on the grounds of poor health and to his surprise it was accepted. His name was raised again when the new Foreign minister, Haymerle died in office in 1881, but Taaffe and his coalition had no time for a Liberal foreign minister (let alone a Hungarian andFreemason), and he was passed over in favour of Count Gustav Kálnoky (1881–1895).
However the Liberal opposition filibustered leading the government to seek electoral reform as a strategy to weaken their position, which was enacted in 1882. Despite this, the coalition, nominally conservative and committed to anti-socialism passed a series of social reforms over the decade 1880-1890, following the examples of Germany and Switzerland. These were reforms which the Liberals had been unable to get past a government strongly tied to the concept of individual's rights to self-determination free from government interference (Grandner 1997). Such measures had the support of both the Liberals, now the United Left (Vereinigte Linke 1881) and the German National Party (Deutsche Nationalpartei 1891), an offshoot of theGerman National Movement (Deutschnationale Bewegung). The electoral reforms of 1882 were the most influential in that it enfranchised proportionally more Germans.
Social reform now moved to become a platform of conservative Catholics like Prince Aloys de Paula Maria of Liechtenstein, Baron Karl von Vogelsang, and Count Egbert Belcredi (Boyer 1995). The era of electoral reform saw the emergence of Georg von Schonerer's Pan-German League (Alldeutsche Vereinigung) (1882), appealing to an anti-clerical middle class, and Catholic social reformers such as L. Psenner and A. Latschka created the Christian Social Association (Christlich-Sozialer Verein) (1887). Around the same time F. Piffl, F. Stauracz, Ae. Schoepfer, A. Opitz, Karl Lueger and Prince Aloys Liechtenstein formed the United Christians (Vereinigten Christen) to advocate Christian social reform. These two organisations merged in 1891 under Karl Lueger to form the Christian Socialist Party (Christlichsoziale Partei, CS).
However the Taaffe government's policy of ethnic inclusiveness fuelled nationalism amongst the German-speaking population. The Liberals had maintained the strong centralism of the absolutist era (with the exception of Galicia in 1867) while the Conservatives attempted a more federalist state that ultimately led to the fall of the Taaffe government in 1893, including a second attempt at Bohemian Ausgleich (Tripartite monarchy) in 1890 (Grandner 1997).
On the left the spread of anarchical ideas and oppressive government saw the emergence of a Marxist Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs, SDAPÖ) in 1889 which succeeded in winning seats in the 1897 elections which followed further extension of suffrage in 1896 to include peasants and the working classes.
Universal male suffrage (1907)
The universal male suffrage introduced in 1907 by Minister-President Freiherr von Beckchanged the balance of power, formally tilted towards German Austrians, and revealed that they were now a minority in a predominantly Slavic empire. In the 1900 census, Germans were 36% of the Cisleithanian population but the largest single group, but never acted as a cohesive group (nor did any other national group), although they were the dominant group in the political life of the monarchy. Germans were followed by Czechs and Slovaks (23%), Poles (17), Ruthenians (13), Slovenes (5), Serbo-Croats (3), Italians (3) and Romanians 1%. However these national groups, especially the Germans were often scattered geographically. The Germans also dominated economically, and in level of education.
The post reform 1907 parliament (Reichsrat) was elected along national lines, with only the Christian-Social and Social Democrat parties predominantly German. However Austria was governed by the Emperor who appointed the Imperial Council of Ministers (Ministerrat), who in turn answered to him, parliament being left free to criticise government policy. Technically it had the power to legislate from 1907, but in practice the Imperial government generated its own legislation, and the Emperor could veto his own minister's bills. The major parties were divided geographically and socially, with the social democrats base being the towns, predominantly Vienna, and having a very different perspective to the devout but illiterate peasantry in the countryside. The latter were joined by the aristocracy and bourgeoisie in supporting the status quo of the monarchy.
The 1911 elections elected a parliament that would carry Austria through the war and the end of the empire in 1918. However, the effectiveness of parliamentarism was hampered by conflicts between parties representing different ethnic groups, and meetings of the parliament ceased altogether during World War I.
The initial years of the nineteenth century following the Congress of Vienna, up until the revolution of 1848 was characterised by theBiedermeier period of design and architecture, partly fueled by the repressive domestic scene that diverted attention to domesticity and the arts.
With the reign of Franz Joseph (1848–1916) came a new era of grandeur, typified by the Belle Époque style, with extensive building and the construction of the Ringstrasse in Vienna with its monumental buildings (officially opened May 1, 1865, after seven years). Architects of the period included Heinrich Ferstel(Votivkirche, Museum für angewandte Kunst Wien), Friedrich von Schmidt (Rathaus), Theophil Hansen (Parliament), Gottfried Semper (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Kunsthistorisches Museum,Burgtheater), Eduard van der Nüll (Opera) and August Sicardsburg (Opera).
1897 saw the resignation of a group of artists from the Association of Austrian Artists (Gesellschaft bildender Künstler Österreichs), headed by Gustav Klimt who became the first president of this group which became known as the Vienna Secession or Wiener Secession (Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs). The movement was a protest against the historicism and conservatism of the former organisation, following similar movements in Berlin and Munich. Partly this was a revolt against the perceived excesses of the earlierRingstrasse era, and a yearning to return to the relative simplicity of Biedermaier. From this group Josef Hoffman and Koloman Moser formed the Vienna Arts and Crafts Workshop (Wiener Werkstätte) in 1903 to promote the development of applied arts. The Secession became associated with a specific building, theSecession Building (Wiener Secessionsgebäude) built in 1897 and which housed their exhibitions, starting in 1898. The Secession as originally conceived splintered in 1905 when Klimt and others left over irreconcilable differences. The group however lasted until 1939 and the outbreak of the Second World War.
Architecturally this was the era of Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) and the contrasting work of men like Otto Wagner(Kirche am Steinhof) known for embellishment and Adolf Loos, who represented restraint. Art Nouveau and the modern style came relatively late to Austria, around 1900, and was distinguishable from the earlier movement in other European capitals.
One of the prominent literary figures was Karl Kraus, the essayist and satirist, known for his newspaper "The Torch" (Die Fackel), founded in 1899.
On the musical scene, Johan Strauss and his family dominated the Viennese scene over the entire period, which also produced Franz Schubert, Ludwig van Beethoven, Anton Bruckner, Johannes Brahms, Arnold Schoenberg, Franz Lehár and Gustav Mahler amongst others.
By the opening years of the twentieth century (Fin de siècle) the avant garde were beginning to challenge traditional values, often shocking Viennese society, such as Arthur Schnitzler's play Reigen, the paintings of Klimt, and the music of Schoenberg, Anton Webern and Alban Berg and the Second Viennese School (Zweite Wiener Schule).
Austria in the First World War 1914–1918
Nationalist strife increased during the decades until 1914. The assassination in Sarajevo by a Serb nationalist group of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to Franz Joseph as Emperor, helped to trigger World War I. In November 1916 the Emperor died, leaving the relatively inexperiencedCharles (Karl) in command. The defeat of the Central Powersin 1918 resulted in the disintegration of Austria-Hungary, and the Emperor went into exile.
German Austria and the First Republic (1918–1933)
Republic of German-Austria (1918–1919)
The First World War effectively ended for Austria on November 3, 1918, when the defeated army signed theArmistice of Villa Giusti at Padua following the Battle of Vittorio Veneto. (Technically this applied to Austria-Hungary, but Hungary had withdrawn from the conflict on October 31, 1918, and most other states within the empire, such as Czechoslovakia and the South Slavs, had also done so.) Austria was forced to cede all territory occupied since 1914, plus a considerable amount of other territory, and the allies were given access to Austria. The empire was thus dissolved.
The Provisional National Assembly (Provisorische Nationalversammlung für Deutschösterreich) met in Vienna from 21 October 1918 to 19 February 1919, as the first parliament of the new Austria, in the Lower Austria parliamentary buildings (Niederösterreichische Landhaus). It consisted of those members of the Reichsrat (Imperial Council) elected in 1911 from German speaking territories with three presidents, Franz Dinghofer (German National Movement, GDVP), Jodok Fink (Christian Social Party, CS) and Karl Seitz (Social Democratic Workers' Party of Austria, SDAPÖ). The National Assembly continued its work till 16 February 1919 when elections were held. On 30 October it adopted a provisional constitution and on November 12 it adopted German Austria (Deutschösterreich) as the name of the new state. Since the Emperor, Charles I (Karl I) had stated on November 11 that he no longer had "auf jeden Anteil an den Staatsgeschäften" (any share in the affairs of state), although he always said that he never abdicated. Austria was now a republic.
However the provisional constitution stated that it was to be part of the new German Republic proclaimed three days earlier. Article 2 stated: Deutschösterreich ist ein Bestandteil der Deutschen Republik (German Austria is part of the German Republic).
Karl Renner was proclaimed Chancellor of Austria, succeedingHeinrich Lammasch and led the first three cabinets (12 November 1918 – 7 July 1920) as a grand coalition of the SDAPÖ, CS, and GDVP. The latter was composed of a large number of splinter groups of the German National and German Liberal movements, and were numerically the largest group in the assembly.
On November 22 Austria also unsuccessfully laid claim to all the former German speaking territories of the former Hapsburg Empire in Czechoslovakia (German Bohemia and parts of Moravia), Poland (Austrian Silesia) and the South Tyrol, annexed by Italy. However Austria was in no position to enforce its claims against either the victorious allies or the new nation states that emerged from the dissolution of empire.
On 19 February elections were held for what was now called the Constituent National Assembly (Konstituierende Nationalversammlung). Although the Social Democrats won the most seats (41%) they did not have an absolute majority and formed a grand coalition with the second largest party, the Christian Socialists. On 12 March the National Assembly declared "German Austria" to the part of the "German Republic".
Thus, in the aftermath of the war the Empire was broken up based loosely on national grounds. In the words of the then French Prime Minister, Georges Clemenceau—Ce qui reste, c'est l'Austriche (The rest is Austria). Austria, with its modern borders, was created out of the main German speaking areas. From an Empire of 50 million people it was reduced to a country with a population of 6.5 million.
Large sections of the population and most representatives of political parties were of the opinion that this "residual" or "rump state" – without its previous Hungarian agricultural sector and Bohemian industry would not be economically viable. The journalist Hellmut Andics (1922–1998) expressed this sentiment in his book entitledDer Staat, den keiner wollte (The state that nobody wanted) in 1962.
Austria's exact future remained uncertain until formal treaties were signed and ratified. This process began with the opening of the Peace Conference in Paris on 18 January 1919 and culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Saint Germain on 10 September that year, although the National Assembly initially rejected the draft treaty on 7 June.
The First Republic, 1919–1933
Treaty of Saint Germain 1919]
The fledgling Republic of German-Austria was to prove short lived. The proposed merger with the German Empire (Weimar Republic) was vetoed by the Allied victors in the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (10 September 1919) under Article 88 which prohibited economic or political union. The allies were fearful of the long held Mitteleuropa dream—a union of all German speaking populations. The treaty was ratified by parliament on 21 October 1919. Austria was to remain independent, and was obliged to be so for at least 20 years.
The treaty also obliged the country to change its name from the "Republic of German Austria" to the "Republic of Austria" (Republik Österreich), i.e., the First Republic, a name that persists to this day. The German-speaking bordering areas of Bohemia and Moravia (later called the "Sudetenland") were allocated to the newly foundedCzechoslovakia. Many Austrians and Germans regarded this as hypocrisy since U.S. president Woodrow Wilson had proclaimed in his famous "Fourteen Points" the "right of self-determination" for all nations. In Germany, the constitution of the Weimar Republic explicitly stated this in article 61: Deutschösterreich erhält nach seinem Anschluß an das Deutsche Reich das Recht der Teilnahme am Reichsrat mit der seiner Bevölkerung entsprechenden Stimmenzahl. Bis dahin haben die Vertreter Deutschösterreichs beratende Stimme.—"German Austria has the right to participate in the German Reichsrat (the constitutional representation of the federal German states) with a consulting role according to its number of inhabitants until unification with Germany". In Austria itself, almost all political parties together with the majority of public opinion continued to cling to the concept of unification laid out in Article 2 of the 1918 constitution.
Although Austria-Hungary had been one of the Central Powers, the allied victors were much more lenient with a defeated Austria than either Germany or Hungary. Representatives of the new Republic of Austria convinced them that it was unfair to penalize Austria for the actions of a now dissolved Empire, especially as other areas of the Empire were now perceived to be on the "victorious" side, simply because they had renounced the Empire at the end of the war. Austria never did have to pay reparations because allied commissions determined that the country could not afford to pay.
However, the Treaty of Saint Germain also meant that Austria lost significant German-speaking territories, in particular the southern part of the County of Tyrol (now South Tyrol) to Italy and the German-speaking areas within Bohemia and Moravia to Czechoslovakia.
End of grand coalition and new constitution (1920–1933)
The grand coalition was dissolved on 10 June 1920, being replaced by a CS- SDAPÖ coalition under Michael Mayr as Chancellor (7 July 1920 – 21 June 1921), necessitating new elections which were held on 17 October, for what now became the National Council (Nationalrat), under the new constitution of 1 October. This resulted in the Christian Socialists now emerging as the strongest party, with 42% of the votes and subsequently forming Mayr's second government on 22 October as a CS minority government (with the support of the GDVP) without the Social Democrats. The CS were to continue in power till end of the first republic, in various combinations of coalitions with the GDVP and Landbund (founded 1919).
The borders continued to be somewhat uncertain because of plebiscites in the tradition of Woodrow Wilson. Plebiscites in the regions of Tyrol and Salzburg between 1919–21 (Tyrol 24 April 1921, Salzburg 29 May 1921) yielded majorities of 98 and 99% in favour of a unification with Germany, fearing that small Austria was not economically viable. However such mergers were not possible under the treaty.
On 20 October 1920, a plebiscite in the Austrian state of Carinthia was held in which the population chose to remain a part of Austria, rejecting the territorial claims of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to the state. The German-speaking parts of western Hungary, now christened Burgenland, joined Austria as a newstate in 1921, with the exception of the city of Sopron, whose population decided in a referendum (which is sometimes considered by Austrians to have been rigged) to remain with Hungary. The area had been discussed as the site of a Slavic corridor uniting Czechoslovakia to Yugoslavia. This made Austria the only defeated country to acquire additional territory as part of border adjustments.
Despite the absence of reparations, Austria under the coalition suffered hyperinflation similar to that of Germany, destroying some of the financial assets of the middle and upper classes, and disrupting the economy. Adam Ferguson attributes hyperinflation to the existence of far too many people on the government payroll, failure to tax the working class, and numerous money losing government enterprises. The fascists blamed the left for the hyperinflation; Ferguson blames policies associated with the left. Massive riots ensued in Vienna in which the rioters demanded higher taxes on the rich and reduced subsidies to the poor. In response to the riots, the government increased taxes but failed to reduce subsidies.
The terms of the Treaty of Saint Germain were further underlined by the Geneva Protocols of the League of Nations (which Austria joined on 16 December 1920) on 4 October 1922 between Austria and the Allies. Austria was given a guarantee of sovereignty provided it did not unite with Germany over the following 20 years. Austria also received a loan of 650 million Goldkronen which was successful in halting hyperinflation, but required major restructuring of the Austrian economy. The Goldkrone was replaced by the more stable Schilling, but resulted in unemployment and new taxes, loss of social benefits and major attrition of the public service.
Politics and government
Emerging from the war, Austria had two main political parties on the right and one on the left. The right was split between clericalism and nationalism. The Christian Socialist Party, (Christlichsoziale Partei, CS), had been founded in 1891 and achieved plurality from 1907–1911 before losing it to the socialists. Their influence had been waning in the capital, even before 1914, but became the dominant party of the First Republic, and the party of government from 1920 onwards. The CS had close ties to the Roman Catholic Church and was headed by a Catholic priest named Ignaz Seipel (1876–1932), who served twice as Chancellor (1922–1924 and 1926–1929). While in power, Seipel was working for an alliance between wealthy industrialists and the Roman Catholic Church. The CS drew its political support from conservative rural Catholics. In 1920 the Greater German People's Party (Großdeutsche Volkspartei, GDVP) was founded from the bulk of liberal and national groups and became the junior partner of the CS.
On the left the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Austria (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs, SDAPÖ) founded in 1898, which pursued a fairly left-wing course known as Austromarxism at that time, could count on a secure majority in "Red Vienna" (as the capital was known from 1918–1934), while right-wing parties controlled all other states. The SDAPÖ were the strongest voting bloc from 1911–1918.
Between 1918 and 1920, there was a grand coalition government including both left and right-wing parties, the CS and the Social Democratic Workers' Party (Sozialdemokratische Arbeiterpartei Österreichs, SDAPÖ). This gave the Social Democrats their first opportunity to influence Austrian politics. The coalition enacted progressive socio-economic and labour legislation such as the vote for women on 27 November 1918, but collapsed on 22 October 1920. In 1920, the modern Constitution of Austria was enacted, but from 1920 onwards Austrian politics were characterized by intense and sometimes violent conflict between left and right. The bourgeois parties maintained their dominance but formed unstable governments while socialists remained the largest elected party numerically.
Both right-wing and left-wing paramilitary forces were created during the 20s. The Heimwehr (Home Resistance) first appeared on 12 May 1920 and became progressively organised over the next three years and the Republikanischer Schutzbund was formed in response to this on 19 February 1923. From 2 April 1923 to 30 September there were violent clashes between Socialists and Nazis in Vienna. That on 2 April, referred to asSchlacht auf dem Exelberg (Battle of Exelberg), involved 300 Nazis against 90 Socialists (Steininger 2008). Further episodes occurred on 4 May and 30 September 1923. A clash between those groups in Schattendorf,Burgenland, on 30 January 1927 led to the death of a man and a child. Right-wing veterans were indicted at a court in Vienna, but acquitted in a jury trial. This led to massive protests and a fire at the Justizpalast in Vienna. In the July Revolt of 1927, 89 protesters were killed by the Austrian police forces.
Political conflict escalated until the early 1930s. The elections of 1930 which returned the Social Democrats as the largest bloc turned out to be the last till after World War II. On May 20, 1932 Engelbert Dollfuß Christian Social Party Agriculture Minister became Chancellor, with a majority of one.
Dictatorship: Federal State of Austria (1933–1938)
Engelbert Dollfuss (1933–1934)
1933: Dissolution of parliament and the formation of the Patriotic Front
Dollfuss and the Christian Social Party, moved Austria rapidly towards centralized power in the Fascist model. He was concerned that German National Socialist leader Adolf Hitler had become Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, after his party had become the largest group in the parliament and was quickly assuming absolute power. Similarly the Austrian National Socialists (DNSAP) could easily become a significant minority in future Austrian elections. Fascism scholar Stanley G. Payne, estimated that if elections had been held in 1933, the DNSAP could have secured about 25% of the votes. Time magazine suggested an even higher level of support of 50%, with a 75% approval rate in the Tyrol region bordering Nazi Germany. The events in Austria during March 1933 echoed those of Germany, where Hitler also effectively installed himself as dictator in the same month.
March coup d'etat
On March 4, 1933 there occurred an irregularity in the parliamentary voting procedures. Karl Renner (Social Democratic Party of Austria, Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs SPÖ), president of the National Council(Nationalrat: lower house of parliament) resigned in order to be able to cast a vote on a controversial proposal to deal with the railroad strike that was likely to pass by a very small margin, which he was not able to do while holding that office. Consequently the two vice-presidents representing the other parties, Rudolf Ramek(Christian Social Party) and Sepp Straffner (Greater German People's Party) also resigned for the same reason. In the absence of the President the session could not be concluded.
Although there were procedural rules which could have been followed in this unprecedented and unforeseen event, the Dollfuss cabinet seized the opportunity to declare the parliament unable to function. While Dollfuss described this event as "self-elimination of Parliament" (Selbstausschaltung des Parlaments) it was actually the beginning of a coup d'etat that would establish the "Ständestaat" (Austrofascism, Austrofaschismus) lasting to 1938.
Using an emergency provision enacted during the First World War, the Economic War Powers Act (Kriegswirtschaftliches Ermächtigungsgesetz, KWEG 24. Juli 1917 RGBl. Nr. 307) the executive assumed legislative power on March 7 and advised President Wilhelm Miklas to issue a decree adjourning it indefinitely. The First Republic and democratic government therefore effectively ended in Austria, leaving Dollfuss to govern as a dictator with absolute powers. Immediate measures included removing the right of public assembly and freedom of the press. The opposition accused him of violating the constitution.
An attempt by the Greater German People's Party and the Social Democrats to reconvene the Council on March 15 was prevented by barring the entrance with police and advising President Wilhelm Miklas to adjourn it indefinitely. Dollfuss would have been aware that Nazi troops had seized power in neighbouring Bavaria on March 9. Finally, on March 31, the Republikanischer Schutzbund (paramilitary arm of the Social Democratic Party) was dissolved (but continued illegally).
Dollfuss then met with Benito Mussolini for the first time in Rome on April 13. On the 23rd, the National Socialists (DNSAP) gained 40 per cent of the vote in the Innsbruck communal elections, becoming the largest voting bloc, so in May all State and Communal elections were banned.
On May 20, 1933, Dollfuss replaced the "Democratic Republic" with a new entity, merging his Christian Social Party with elements of other nationalist and conservative groups, including the Heimwehr, which encompassed many workers who were unhappy with the radical leadership of the socialist party, to form the Patriotic Front(Vaterländische Front), though the Heimwehr continued to exist as an independent organization until 1936, when Dollfuss' successor Kurt von Schuschnigg forcibly merged it into the Front, instead creating the unabidingly loyal Frontmiliz as a paramilitary task force. The new entity was allegedly bipartisan and represented those who were "loyal to the government".
The DNSAP was banned in June 1933. Dollfuss was also aware of the Soviet Union's increasing influence in Europe throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, and also banned the communists, establishing a one-party Austrofascist dictatorship largely modeled after Italian fascism, tied to Catholic corporatism and anti-secularism. He dropped all pretence of Austrian reunification with Germany so long as the Nazi Party remained in power there.
Although all Austrian parties, including the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDAPÖ) were banned, Social Democrats continued to exist as an independent organization, including its paramilitary Republikaner Schutzbund, which could muster tens of thousands against Dollfuss' government.
In August 1933, Mussolini's government issued a guarantee of Austrian independence ("if necessary, Italy would defend Austria’s independence by force of arms"). Dollfuss also exchanged 'Secret Letters' with Benito Mussolini about ways to guarantee Austrian independence. Mussolini was interested in Austria forming a buffer zone against Nazi Germany. Dollfuss always stressed the similarity of the regimes of Hitler in Germany andJoseph Stalin in the Soviet Union, and was convinced that Austrofascism and Italian fascism could countertotalitarian national socialism and communism in Europe.
Dollfuss escaped an assassination attempt in October 1933 by Rudolf Dertill, a 22-year old who had been ejected from the military for his national socialist views.
1934: Civil war and assassination
Despite the putsch, the SPÖ continued to seek a peaceful resolution but the new Austrofascist regime ordered the headquarters of the party to be searched on 12 February 1934, provoking the Austrian Civil War, in which the weakened party and its supporters were quickly defeated and the party and its various ancillary organisations were banned.
On 1 May 1934, the Dollfuss cabinet approved a new constitution that abolished freedom of the press, established one party system and created a total state monopoly on employer-employee relations. This system remained in force until Austria became part of the Third Reich in 1938. The Patriotic Front government frustrated the ambitions of pro-Hitlerite sympathizers in Austria who wished both political influence and unification with Germany, leading to the assassination of Dollfuss on 25 July 1934.
Kurt Schuschnigg (1934–1938)
His successor Kurt Schuschnigg maintained the ban on pro-Hitlerite activities in Austria, but was forced to resign on 11 March 1938 following a demand by Adolf Hitler for power-sharing with pro-German circles. Following Schuschnigg's resignation, German troops occupied Austria with no resistance.
Anschluss and unification with Germany (1938–1945)
Although the Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of St. Germain had explicitly forbidden the unification of Austria and Germany, the native Austrian Hitler was vastly striving to annex Austria during the late 1930s, which was fiercely resisted by the Austrian Schuschnigg dictatorship. When the conflict was escalating in early 1938, Chancellor Schuschnigg announced a plebiscite on the issue on March 9, which was to take place on 13 March. On 12 March, German troops entered Austria, who met celebrating crowds, in order to install Nazi puppetArthur Seyss-Inquart as Chancellor. With a Nazi administration already in place and the country integrated into the Third Reich as so-called Ostmark, a referendum on 10 April approved of the annexation with a majority of 99.73%.
As a result, Austria ceased to exist as an independent country. This annexation was enforced by military invasion but large parts of the Austrian population were in favour of the Nazi regime, and many Austrians participated in its crimes. The Jews, Communists, Socialist and hostile politicians were sent to concentration camps, murdered or forced into exile.
Just before the end of the war, on 28 March 1945, American troops set foot on Austrian soil and the Soviet Union's Red Army crossed the eastern border two days later, taking Vienna on 13 April. American and British forces occupied the western and southern regions, preventing Soviet forces from completely overrunning and controlling the country.
The Second Republic (since 1945)
In April 1945 Karl Renner, an Austrian elder statesman, declared Austria separate from Germany and set up a government which included socialists, conservatives and communists. A significant number of these were returning from exile or Nazi detention, having thus played no role in the Nazi government. This contributed to the Allies treating Austria more as a liberated, rather than defeated, country, and the government was recognized by the Allies later that year. The country was occupied by the Allies from 9 May 1945 and under the Allied Commission for Austria established by an agreement on 4 July 1945, it was divided into Zones occupied respectively by American, British, French and Soviet Army personnel, with Vienna being also divided similarly into four sectors—with an International Zone at its heart.
Though under occupation, this Austrian government was officially permitted to conduct foreign relations with the approval of the Four Occupying Powers under the agreement of 28 June 1946. As part of this trend, Austria was one of the founding members of the Danube Commission formed on 18 August 1948. Austria would benefit from the Marshall Plan but economic recovery was slow.
Unlike the First Republic, which had been characterized by sometimes violent conflict between the different political groups, the Second Republic became a stable democracy. The two largest leading parties, the Christian-conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) and the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) remained in a coalition led by the ÖVP until 1966. The Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ), who had hardly any support in the Austrian electorate, remained in the coalition until 1950 and in parliament until 1959. For much of the Second Republic, the only opposition party was the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), which includedGerman national and liberal political currents. It was founded in 1955 as a successor organisation to the short-lived Federation of Independents (VdU).
The United States, although only one of the four occupying powers, had the resources and the intention of restructuring Austrian popular culture. In journalism, for example, it sent in hundreds of experts (and controlled the newsprint), closed down the old party-line newspapers, introduced advertising and wire services, and trained reporters and editors, as well as production workers. It founded the Wiener Kurier, which became popular, as well as many magazines such as Medical News from the United States, which informed doctors on new treatments and drugs. The Americans also thoroughly revamped the radio stations, in part with the goal of countering the Soviet-controlled stations. On an even larger scale the education system was modernized and democratized by American experts.
Independence and political development during the Second Republic
The two major parties strove towards ending allied occupation and restoring a fully independent Austria. TheAustrian State Treaty was signed on 15 May 1955. Upon the termination of allied occupation, Austria wasproclaimed a neutral country, and "everlasting" neutrality was incorporated into the Constitution on 26 October 1955.
The political system of the Second Republic came to be characterized by the system of Proporz, meaning that posts of some political importance were split evenly between members of the SPÖ and ÖVP. Interest group representations with mandatory membership (e.g., for workers, businesspeople, farmers etc.) grew to considerable importance and were usually consulted in the legislative process, so that hardly any legislation was passed that did not reflect widespread consensus. The Proporz and consensus systems largely held even during the years between 1966 and 1983, when there were non-coalition governments.
The ÖVP-SPÖ coalition ended in 1966, when the ÖVP gained a majority in parliament. However, it lost it in1970, when SPÖ leader Bruno Kreisky formed a minority government tolerated by the FPÖ. In the elections of 1971, 1975 and 1979 he obtained an absolute majority. The 70s were then seen as a time of liberal reforms insocial policy. Today, the economic policies of the Kreisky era are often criticized, as the accumulation of a largenational debt began, and non-profitable nationalized industries were strongly subsidized.
Following severe losses in the 1983 elections, the SPÖ entered into a coalition with the FPÖ under the leadership of Fred Sinowatz. In Spring 1986, Kurt Waldheim was elected president amid considerable national and international protest because of his possible involvement with the Nazis and war crimes during World War II.Fred Sinowatz resigned, and Franz Vranitzky became chancellor.
In September 1986, in a confrontation between the German-national and liberal wings, Jörg Haider became leader of the FPÖ. Chancellor Vranitzky rescinded the coalition pact between FPÖ and SPÖ, and after new elections, entered into a coalition with the ÖVP, which was then led by Alois Mock. Jörg Haider's populism and criticism of the Proporz system allowed him to gradually expand his party's support in elections, rising from 4% in 1983 to 27% in 1999. The Green Party managed to establish itself in parliament from 1986 onwards.
The SPÖ–ÖVP coalition persisted until 1999. Austria joined the European Union in 1995 (Video of the signing in 1994), and Austria was set on the track towards joining the Eurozone, when it was established in 1999.
In 1993, the Liberal Forum was founded by dissidents from the FPÖ. It managed to remain in parliament until 1999. Viktor Klima succeeded Vranitzky as chancellor in 1997.
In 1999, the ÖVP fell back to third place behind the FPÖ in the elections. Even though ÖVP chairman and Vice Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel had announced that his party would go into opposition in that case, he entered into a coalition with the FPÖ—with himself as chancellor—in early 2000 under considerable national and international protest. Jörg Haider resigned as FPÖ chairman, but retained his post as governor of Carinthia and kept substantial influence within the FPÖ.
In 2002, disputes within the FPÖ resulting from losses in state elections caused the resignation of several FPÖ government members and a collapse of the government. Wolfgang Schüssel's ÖVP emerged as the winner of the subsequent election, ending up in first place for the first time since 1966. The FPÖ lost more than half of its voters, but reentered the coalition with the ÖVP. Despite the new coalition, the voter support for the FPÖ continued to dwindle in all most all local and state elections. Disputes between "nationalist" and "liberals" wings of the party resulted in a split, with the founding of a new liberal party called the Alliance for the Future of Austria(BZÖ) and led by Jörg Haider. Since all FPÖ government members and most FPÖ members of parliament decided to join the new party, the Schüssel coalition remained in office (now in the constellation ÖVP–BZÖ, with the remaining FPÖ in opposition) until the next elections. On 1 October 2006 the SPÖ won a head on head elections and negotiated a grand coalition with the ÖVP. This coalition started its term on 11 January 2007 withAlfred Gusenbauer as Chancellor of Austria. For the first time, the Green Party of Austria became the third largest party in a nation-wide election, overtaking the FPÖ by a narrow margin of only a few hundred votes.
The grand coalition headed by Alfred Gusenbauer collapsed in the early summer of 2008 over disagreements about the country's EU policy. The early elections held on September 28 resulted in extensive losses for the two ruling parties and corresponding gains for Heinz-Christian Strache's FPÖ and Jörg Haider's BZÖ (the Green Party was relegated to the 5th position). Nevertheless, SPÖ and ÖVP renewed their coalition under the leadership of the new SPÖ party chairman Werner Faymann. In 2008 Jörg Haider died in a car accident and was succeeded as BZÖ party chairman by Herbert Scheibner and as governor of Carinthia by Gerhard Dörfler.