Back when Austria was still great….

Nowadays, most people don´t even know Austria(You know that small central european country that everybody mistakes for Australia ?) but well, a hundred years ago, Austria, to be more precise Austria-Hungary(more on that later) used to be one of the most important and influencial empires in Europe, comparable to nations like Russia.

Where the name Austria came from & Early History

In Roman times, what we consider Austria today was mostly part of the province of Noricum. But in the sixth century AD, the Bavarii, a germanic people, occupied the lands until until it fell to the Frankish Empire in the 9th century. In the tenth century, an outpost of the Duchy of Bavary was established near the river Enns, called Marchia Orientalis (March of the East), to stop the advandce of avars and slavs. The German name for Austria “Österreich” is derived from the Old High German word Ostarrîchi, meaning “Eastern Realm”. The name Ostarrîchi was firrst mentioned in 966. On 17th of September of 1156, the Privilegium Minus, issued by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation(HRE), elevated the March of Austria from a borderland of the Duchy of Bavaria to an independent Duchy hold by the House of Babenberg.  When the last male member of the House of Babenberg died in 1246, and after a brief Interregnum, Rudolf I of Habsburg took over the duchy of Austria.

“Bella gerant allii, tu felix Austria nube”

The House of Habsburg would stay the ruling family of Austria for almost 700years until the end of the monarchy in 1918, and was arguably the most influential noble family in Europe. In the susequent centuries the Habsburgs would absorb neighbouring duchies not by means of war, but by means of diplomacy and marriage; in 1335 Carinthia was inherited, 1363 the county of Tyrol. The Habsburgs also at one point ruled Spain, and were almost undisturbed emperor of the HRE until its dissolution in 1804. After King Louis Jagiellon of Bohemia and Hungary was killed by Ottoman soldiers at the Battle of Mohacs in 1526 , Bohemia (Which was basically former Czechoslovakia) and the rest of Hungary came under Habsburg control. “Bella gerant allii, tu felix Austria nube” roughly translated means “Let others wage war, you shall marry lucky Austria”, which really describes the Austrian expansion through marriage on point.

The Ottomans & The Reformation

Although this was a significant gain in influence, this also brought an existential threat: The Ottoman Empire,which at the time was on the pinnacle of it´s power under Suleiman the Magnificent. In 1529 the Turks tried to siege Vienna, but ultimately failed. This was great relief for Austria, but the danger persisted for almost one and a half century. The 16th century also saw the spread of the Reformation, were most of Germany became Protestant, but Austria didn´t. This, and the Austrian policy of recatholisation(Rekatholisierung aka. burn the heretics) eventually lead to the Thirty Years War(1618-1648)  which resulted in waning Imperial Authority in most of Germany. Then in 1683, the Turks knocked on Vienna´s door again, but  were beaten back  decisively. In the following Great Turkish War(1683-1699), the Ottomans were pushed back beyond Belgrade.

The Spanish Succesion & the Pragmatic Sanction

After the Spanish line of Habsburg died out in 1700, the War of Spanish Succession(1701-1714) started between Austria and Louis the XIV of France(I guess the sun king wanted some sunny land ), which Austria ultimately won gaining the Spanish Netherlands, Lombardy, and the Kingdom of Naples, but they had to let go Spain. This, paired with the conquests in the Balkans let the greatest extension of Austria.[I wanted to add some pictures here, but edublogs doesn´t let me import pictures] Although the Habsburgs were on the peak of their power, they also were closer to extinction than ever. In 1713 Charles IV, the last male member of the Habsburg line, issued the Pragmatic Sanction( Pragmatische Sanktion), which made females eligable as emperess of the HRE. And indeed became a woman empress when he died; Maria Theresia succeeded to the throne in 1740. This, however made the Austrians look weak(why so sexist Frederick ?), resulting in the War of Austrian Succession(1740-1748) and subsequently the Seven Years War(1756-1763),  where Austria was forced to cede the rich region of Silesia to Prussia, beginning a long-lasting rivalry. Maria Theresia also made very important reforms, among which was mandatory educaation.

The Napoleonic Wars & The Congress of Vienna

Emperor Francis II.(1792-1835) found himself in the Napoleonic Wars(1803-1815). For those not familiar: In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte became First Consul of France, made France from a chaotic republic to a flurishing empire. Oh, and of course he wrecked all of Europe several times. After the Third Coalition War(1803-1806)  Austria lost even more land, and after Napoleon declared himself emperor of France in 1804, Francis declared himself emperor of Austria, because was not to be out-emperored by anyone. Afterwards he  resigned the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire which then ceased to exist. Peace didn´t last, and in 1812 Napoleon tried to invade Russia with his Grande Armée of 650.000 men. But we know that nobody invades Russia. As the Army marched towards Moscow, men were slowly burned away by the winter and Russia´s scorched-earth tactics , finally of the once Grande Armée only 27.000 men returned and Napoleon was subsequently defeated in the sixth coalition war, and banished to an island. But he returned, and ……. was defeated again at the famous battle of Waterloo, and banished to an island that was even farther away so that he couldn´t return for sure. Following the Napoleonic wars was the Congress of Vienna(Wiener Kongress), which was supervised by the famous austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich, and redrew the borders of Europe and made a Pseudo- Holy Roman Empire, but without emperor.(German Confederation)

The decline of the Empire

In 1866, Austria lost the Austro-Prussian War after a crushing defeat at the Battle of Königsgrätz and had to leave the German Confederation. But that´s not all, no the Prussians also had the audacity to form Germany. And that without Austria, which made Austrians very discontent at the time. (But now we´re well over that, thank god we don´t have to share a country with those damn Piefkes) Following this defeat, the Austro-Hungarian dual-monarchy was formed, which managed to reduce nationalist tensions, but they still boiled over when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the austrian throne was assasinated by a serbian nationalist in 1914.

The END of the Empire.

Austria blamed Serbia and subsequently declared war. I mean it´s just Serbia how bad can it be ? Turns out it can be very bad: After Austria declared war on Serbia, Russia said:” Wow, you can´t do that bro, you know, Panslavism and stuff”. So Russia declared war. Then Germany said” Wow you can´t do that bro, so I´ll just declare war on you and France and help out my old pal Austria-Hungary. But to make a night in Paris possible for my troops I´m going to have to make a small detour through Belgium,” so Germany declared war on them. But that triggered the United Kingdom and so they said:” Bloody Hell chap you can´t do that, Belgium´s neutral”. So the UK declared war as well.” The UK is in the war? “Let´s join and get some Egypt back”, said the Ottoman Empire. All of Europe´s at war with each other ? Doesn´t matter the Schlieffen Plan can´t possibly fail can it ?Spoiler Alert: The Schlieffen Plan failed, and so German, Britain, France and Austria dug in trenches and threw men and Artillery shells at each other. Just as it looked like they were gonna do that forever(aka 1917), the USA entered the War on France´s side so that they could bring some DEMOCRAZY to Austria and Germany, and because of that ( and their starving population that was dying of the flu) they surrendered on the 11th of November 1918. Following this peace deal, Austria was divided into numerous small states, and Austria itself got the borders it had today.

 

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