Austria History

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Political and Administrative History

The German speaking peoples of Austria are closely related to those speaking the Germanic languages in other countries. Other ethnic groups include Czechs in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, Croatians in Dalmatia and Slavonia, Poles in Galicia and Silesia, Ukrainians in Bukovina and Galicia, Italians in Tirol and Istria, Slovenes in Carinthia, Carnola and Steiermark, and Hungarians in Hungary and Slovakia.

Austria was part of the First German Empire that was created in the 10th century by Saxon kings. It was an independent duchy within the empire by 1156. It came under the rule of the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1253. The Habsburg rulers of the Empire conquered Bohemia in 1278 and ruled Austria and other parts of the empire until 1918. Austrian holdings within the empire eventually included the areas corresponding to the modern states of Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and parts of western Poland and northern Italy. Outside of the formal boundaries of the Empire the Habsburgs also ruled Hungary, Transylvania, Galicia and Croatia. They lost control over Italy and Switzerland in 1648.

In 1806 the Habsburg emperors were forced to retreat eastward from Napoleon’s advances, while the French assumed control of the remaining German territories except Prussia. At the demise of the French Republic in 1815, the German states including Austria formed a customs union, but Austria refused offers to join the Prussian Kingdom in reorganizing the German Empire. The Austrian monarchs, with their extensive holdings in the East, instead developed their own eastern (Austrian) Empire. In 1867 the Habsburgs made concessions to Hungary to form the Austro-Hungarian Empire or dual-monarchy which lasted until 1918.

After the defeat of Austria-Hungary in the First World War, its eastern territories were awarded to the new states of Poland, Romania and Hungary. Southern lands went to Yugoslavia and Italy, and northern territories were brought together to form the country of Czechoslovakia. The few remaining Austrian lands were denied permission to join with Germany, and a separate Austrian Republic was established in 1919. This lasted until the Second World War when Austrian, Czech, Polish and other areas were again added to Germany. Following the Second World War the occupational zones of Austria were combined to form the new Republic of Austria.


911-1806 Holy Roman (German) Empire Included Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Bohemia, Silesia, Tirol, Carniola, etc.
1618-1648 Thirty Years War Independence of Switzerland, Habsburgs obtain Hungary and Croatia outside the Empire.
1664-1689 Ottoman Wars Acquired Hungary, Transylvania, Banat, Slavonia, Serbia.
1772-1795 Partitions of Poland Acquired Galicia.
1792-1815 Napoleonic Wars Western areas under French rule.
1815-1866 Confederation Joins Prussia, Austria, other states.
1867-1918 Dual Monarchy Austro-Hungarian Empire.
1919-1938 Republic of Austria Lost Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Hungary, Galicia, Transylvania, Carniola, Carinthia, Istria, South Tirol, Slavonia, Dalmatia. Gained Burgenland from Hungary.
1938-1945 German Empire Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Slovenia included.
1945- Republic of Austria Restored to 1919 territory.

Population Statistics

Throughout the history of the Austrian Empire, wars, epidemics, plagues, and pestilence swept through the land, greatly diminishing the population and causing tremendous material destruction and a dramatic increase in poverty. The chaos resulting from those disasters also allowed for the displacement and destruction of many valuable parish registers.

The Black Death (1348-1350) penetrated Europe, reducing the population by about a third. Other plagues occurred in 1478, several times during the early 1600s, and again in 1648 at the close of the Thirty Years War. The Turkish invasion of Transylvania, Croatia and part of Hungary began in 1606. By 1683 they had conquered most of Hungary and Slovakia. This resulted in a massive migration from the area. However, by 1718 the Austrian army had driven nearly all of the Turks out of Hungary. Conflicts continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries with a number of Turkish and Russian wars. Napoleonic and Italian conflicts in the 19th century and the two World Wars in the 20th century (1914-1918 and 1939-1945) affected the populations and the keeping of records.

The population of the territories that would later be part of the Austrian Empire was about 6 million in the year 1500, of which about 2 million were located in what would be present-day Austria. By 1700, the Empire's population had grown to 11 million, and by 1800 there were 24 million. By 1900 there were 46 million residents of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including 6 million in what would be modern Austria. In 1950 there were 7 million residents, and in 1996 modern Austria had over 8 million inhabitants with a population density of 247 per square mile.

The area of Austria is 32,378 square miles, a little smaller than Maine. The capital is Vienna (Wien, pop. 1.5 million). Other important cities are Graz (238,000), Linz (203,000), Salzburg (144,000) and Innsbruck (118,000).[1]


  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Austria,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1987-1999.