Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)


Capital : Vienna (Wien)

Size: 32 400 sq m Popn: 7 884 000

Osttirol, Steiermark (Styria)


One of the main phases of Celtic culture is named after Hallstadt in what is now Austria and they had settled most of the country by 200 BC. The area south of the River Danube was conquered by Rome in 14 BC. Under the Roman Empire, the province of Noricum covered much of the same territory as modern Austria. After the fall of Rome, it was occupied by Vandals, Goths, Huns, Lombards and Avars and became part of the Ostrogothic kingdom until it was taken over by the Franks under Charlemagne, who conquered the Avars around 791 and established the East Mark. During the C9th and 10th, Magyar invasions from the Hungarian Plain defeated the Bavarians to the north in 907 and weakened the Frankish Empire. 'Ostmark' and Styria remained part of the East Frankish kingdom under Otto I and with Carinthia and Carniola to the south came under Habsburg control. In 983, the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto II, granted Ostmark to the House of Babenburg, which ruled it until 1246.

The first Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf I, seized Austria and made his son its duke in 1282. The Holy Roman Empire lasted until 1806 and during this time, most dukes of Austria (archdukes from 1453) were elected by the Emperor. By the reign of Rudolf IV (1356-65) various factors had combined to strengthen Habsburg influence and Austria, Poland, Hungary and Bohemia were all important territorial powers. Austria was part of the short-lived Empire of Matthias Corvinus of Hungary towards the end of the C15th but was to become part of Emperor Charles V's huge Habsburg Empire in the early C16th. Austria gained control of Bohemia in 1526 and became an important focus of resistance against the Turks, whose besieging of Vienna in 1529 was unsuccessful.

The Archduchy of Austria was one of the few small states to remain powerful after the Thirty Years' War (1618-48) which had not touched Austria. It had, however, weakened its rulers and their power was increasingly based on Habsburg lands elsewhere, including Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands. During the French ascendancy of 1648-1715, there were fears that the Austrian Habsburgs would lose the title of Holy Roman Emperor to Louis XIV. In 1683, a second Turkish siege of Vienna failed and by 1697, Hungary was liberated from the Ottoman Empire and became part of the Ottoman dominion. As a result of the struggle with Louis XIV, the Habsburgs gained control of the Spanish Netherlands and Milan in 1713.

The last male Habsburg in direct descent died in 1740 and his daughter, Maria Theresa, became Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary but the Elector of Bavaria was elected HRE as Charles VII. Frederick II of Prussia seized Silesia and was followed by the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-8). When Charles died in 1745, Maria Theresa's husband was elected HRE as Francis I but Frederick retained Silesia, blocking Joseph II's attempts to unify Germany. Maria Theresa's grandson, Archduke Francis, succeeded in 1792, and also became HRE. He alternated between being an ally and an opponent of Napoleon, and proclaimed himself Emperor of Austria in 1804, dropping the title of HRE, which had lost significance, in 1806.

Austria joined Britain and Russia in a coalition of anti-revolutionary powers during the French Revolution but this failed to prevent Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz in 1805 and Austria was ruled directly from Paris until the fall of Napoleon in 1815. Under the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, France kept the Austrian Netherlands which it had annexed in 1797, but Lombardy and Venetia went to Austria, which, with Hungary, remained a Habsburg dominion. Under Metternich, Austria strongly resisted any concessions to nationalism but was forced to resign and escape to England when the grievances of the various nationalities led to rebellion. By 1851, the revolts had been crushed but Venetia was lost to Italy as a result of the Seven Weeks' War with Prussia. In 1867, Emperor Franz Joseph established the dual monarchy of Austro-Hungary and the Hungarians managed to gain equal status with the German-speakers. Other nationalists such as the Czechs wanted autonomy within the Habsburg Empire. The Austro-Hungarian Empire also included territories which became Czechoslovakia and parts of Poland, the Ukraine, Romania, Yugoslavia and Italy. The Treaty of Berlin in 1878 gave Austria the administration of the Balkan territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina although it remained nominally Turkish until Austria annexed it in 1908.

The Balkan peoples were more strongly nationalistic than others, playing a large part in the outbreak of the First World War. The Austrian heir-presumptive, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, were killed by Bosnian terrorists at Sarajevo in June 1914, precipitating an Austrian attack on Serbia. The war led to the destruction of the Habsburg Empire with Austria becoming a republic which only included Vienna and its immediately surrounding provinces, the Peace of Saint Germain in 1919 made this official. Despite a Treaty of Friendship with Italy in 1930, Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938 to become part of the 'Grossdeutsches Reich' as it was considered an 'Aryan' country by Hitler.

After the war, it returned to its 1920 constitution with a provisional government under Dr. Karl Renner. It was divided into four occupation zones by the USSR, USA, Britain and France which remained until Austria was formally recognized as an independent state in 1955. Austria was a founder member of the European Free Trade Association in 1960 but it was the EC countries which became dominant and Austria applied to join in 1994/5. Kurt Waldheim, the former UN secretary general became president in 1986 but the controversy over his wartime German army service led to diplomatic isolation from many countries.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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