Austria is located in Central Europe and stretches from Lake Constance to Lake Neusiedl. Two thirds of the country are in the Alps. However, the population is mainly concentrated in the basin and low mountain ranges as well as the large Alpine valleys. 20% of all Austrians live in the metropolitan area of the capital Vienna alone. The largest river in the country is the Danube, which crosses the country over a length of 350 km. Animal husbandry, dairy farming, fruit growing and viticulture are the dominant agricultural branches.
Thanks to its geographical conditions, Austria has many hydropower plants and is an important electricity producer. An important economic factor is tourism, which is increasingly shifting into winter. The Brenner Pass plays a major role in transit traffic across the Alps, and was not relieved to the desired extent after the completion of the Tauern Autobahn.
Abbreviated as AT by ABBREVIATIONFINDER, Austria is a federal republic and extends for around 570 km from west to east (Fig. 1). It borders Germany in the north-west, the Czech and Slovak Republics in the north-east, Hungary in the east, Slovenia and Italy in the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein in the south-west. The name Austria goes back to the early Middle Ages: At that time the area was in the east of the Franconian Empire and represented the border area to Slavic Europe.
Important data about the country
|Surface:||83 853 km²|
|Population density:||97 residents / km²|
|Growth of population:||0% / year|
|Life expectancy (men / women):||75/81 years|
|Form of government:||Parliamentary republic consisting of nine federal states|
|Languages:||German as the official language, regionally also Slovenian and Croatian|
|Religions:||Catholics 74%, Protestants 5%|
|Climate:||humid temperate with increasingly continental influences to the west|
|Land use:||Arable land 18%, pasture land 23%, forest 39%|
|Economic sectors: (percentage of employees)||Agriculture 2%, industry 31%, services 67%|
|Export goods:||Machines, electrical and electronic equipment, vehicles, wood and paper, iron and steel, chemical products|
|Gross domestic product:||253 126 million US $ (2003)|
|Gross National Product:||US $ 26,810 / residents (2003)|
The Alpine and Danube states of Austria can be divided into three large areas:
About two thirds of the country are in the Eastern Alps. The Austrian Alps are divided into the three main ranges Northern Limestone Alps, Central Alps and Southern Limestone Alps. In the Northern Limestone Alps, such as in the Salzkammergut, there are numerous lakes on the edge of the Alps. In the partly glaciated Central Alps lies the 3798 m high Großglockner, the highest mountain in the country. A longitudinal valley zone, which is formed by parts of the Inn, Salzach and Ennstal valleys, extends between these two main lines. A second large longitudinal valley zone consisting of the Drautal and Klagenfurt Basin separates the Central Alps from the Southern Limestone Alps, of which the Gailtal Alps and the northern parts of the Carnic Alps and the Karawanken lie on Austrian territory.
The second metropolitan area is formed by the hilly and mountainous regions in the north of the country. In the northwest, Austria, with Mühlviertel and Waldviertel, has a share in the granite and gneiss highlands of the Bohemian massif, which continues in the Sauwald, in the Kürnberger Wald, in the Neustadtler Platte and in the Dunkelsteiner Wald also beyond the Danube. In some places, such as the Wachau, the river has formed narrow valley stretches. The hilly and terraced landscape of the Alpine and Carpathian foothills stretches between the Alps and the Bohemian Massif. Innviertel, Hausruck and Weinviertel are located here.
In contrast to the other two, the third large area is made up of pool landscapes formed, which shape the eastern and south-eastern parts of the country. In the far east are the Vienna Basin and the Marchfeld. The area around the shallow Lake Neusiedl is part of the Little Hungarian Lowland, and the Graz Basin belongs geologically to the Pannonian Basin.
96% of the national territory belong to the catchment area of the Danube. The Danube crosses the country over a length of 350 km. Its densely populated and agriculturally intensively used valley is an important west-east axis. Important tributaries from the right include the Lech and Inn with the Salzach, Traun, Enns and, in the south of the country, the Drau. Smaller rivers such as Krems, Kamp and March usually come from the left. The western state of Vorarlberg belongs almost entirely to the catchment area of the Rhine. In addition to numerous alpine cirque lakes and artificial reservoirs, Austria has two lake landscapes with larger glacial lakes: the Salzkammergut and the area of the Carinthian lakes. In the west, Austria has a share of Lake Constance, in the east of Lake Neusiedl.
Climate and vegetation
Austria lies in the transition area from the oceanic to the continental climate (Fig. 3). For the most part, humid westerly winds prevail and bring precipitation of 1000 to 1500 mm per year in most regions. There is an alpine climate in the Alps. On the western flanks of the mountains rainfall of up to 3000 mm per year falls. In the Vienna Basin and similarly protected leeward areas, however, it is only 500 to 600 mm. Parts of the central Alps west of the Katschberg – Silvretta group, Ötztaler, Zillertal and Stubai Alps – are glaciated, in the northern Alps only Hochkönig and Dachstein.
The tree line is between 1500 and 2000 m. Most densely forested are the slopes of the Northern Limestone Alps and the offshore zone as well as the low mountain ranges of Carinthia and Styria. The high altitudes are mainly occupied by the spruce. High alpine vegetation with grass heather and cushion plants has settled above the alpine conifers in the highest parts of the mountains. The black pines in the Steinfeld in the far east of the country are a specialty.
As the center of the Habsburg Empire, Austria was one of the major European powers from the end of the Middle Ages until the 20th century. Today the country is an efficient industrial country with an important bridge function not only between north and south, but also between east and west (Fig. 4). With the opening of the eastern borders in 1989 and the collapse of socialism in Central and Eastern Europe, Austria’s bridging function became more important. This development gave the country new impulses not only politically but also economically. The same applies to Austria’s accession to the European Union in 1995. Austria also belongs to the euro zone.
More than 40% of the area of Austria is used for agriculture. In the Alpine region and in the foothills of the Alps, due to the relief and climate, cattle breeding, dairy farming and forestry are predominant. Agriculture is particularly practiced in the area north of the Danube, in Burgenland and in southern Styria. Mainly wheat, barley, maize, potatoes and sugar beets are grown. In the climatically favorable locations – especially in the foothills of the Alps, in Lower Austria and in the Danube Valley – viticulture is practiced and fruit is grown (Fig. 5).
A profound structural change has taken place in Austrian agriculture in the last few decades, which has been accelerated by the country’s accession to the European Union. The number of small businesses and alpine pastures fell significantly, while viticulture, fruit growing and organic farming were increased.
The country’s abundance of forests has contributed to the development of modern forestry and an extensive wood and wood processing industry with a high export quota.
Mining and power generation
In the Eastern Alps, mining for salt, copper, lead and iron has a prehistoric tradition. Rock salt has been mined near Hallstatt in the Salzkammergut since the late Bronze Age, as evidenced by a remarkable mine in the market town on Lake Hallstatt. Today mining is largely unprofitable and has been severely restricted. Around two thirds of the demand for mineral raw materials are imported today. In addition to salt mining, mining for iron ore and magnesite as well as oil and natural gas production in Lower Austria are of economic importance.
The primary energy demand is covered by crude oil, natural gas, coal, hydropower and other energy sources. The generation of electricity is based on 65% hydropower, the rest on thermal power. The electrical energy comes mainly from the large storage power plants in the Montafon, the Zillertal and the Hohe Tauern. The largest run-of-river power plants are on the Inn, Danube, Enns, Mur, Drau and Salzach. After a referendum, the first and only nuclear power plant near Zwentendorf in Lower Austria was shut down.
Tauern power plants
Hydropower is Austria’s most important energy supplier. At Kaprun, Austrian Hydro Power AG, a subsidiary of the group Österreichische Elektrizitätswirtschaft AG, operates the Glockner-Kaprun storage power plant in the state of Salzburg. The Kapruner Tal, the southernmost part of which is already in the Hohe Tauern National Park, is traversed by the Kapruner Ache. In the upper section of the valley, the Ache for the Tauern power plants Glockner-Kaprun is dammed through the Moosersperre and the Drossensperre to the Mooserboden reservoir and through the Limbergsperre to the Wasserfallboden reservoir. In addition, the Pasterze glacier meltwater collected in the Margaritze reservoir at the eastern foot of the Großglockner reaches the Mooserboden through the 12 km long Möll tunnel under the Tauern main ridge. The main power plant and Limberg power plant together have an installed capacity of 332 MW.
The industrial areas are concentrated around the big cities, especially in the Vienna area, in the Upper Austrian Alpine Foreland, in the Styrian Mur and Mürz valleys, in the Graz Basin and Lower Inn Valley. Overall, the industrial structure is broad, the most important branches of industry are the food and beverage industry, machine and vehicle construction, the chemical industry, metal and oil processing and, increasingly, the electrical and electronics industry. Around a quarter of all Austrian industrial companies are still state-owned.
The main trading partners are Germany and other EU countries, Switzerland, Japan and the USA.
Like neighboring Switzerland, Austria is an important transit country. This particularly applies to north-south traffic across the Alps (Fig. 5); Since the opening of the borders to the former Eastern Bloc, east-west traffic has also become more and more important. This results in constantly growing traffic-related problems and considerable environmental pollution. The government is making efforts to shift larger parts of heavy traffic from road to rail. A base tunnel has been under the Brenner for years in conversation. Work on a 2.5 km long exploratory tunnel began in May 1999. The 58 km long Brenner Base Tunnel is to be the heart of a future high-speed connection between Munich and Verona. Only the Danube is of greater importance for goods traffic on waterways; Linz and Vienna are the largest cargo handling points. There are international airports in Vienna-Schwechat, Salzburg, Graz, Klagenfurt, Linz and Innsbruck.
Austria has become an important destination for tourists from all over the world due to its landscapes, its culture and its good infrastructure. The country is visited by around 20 million foreign guests every year – around half come from Germany – and is in fifth place in the world in terms of tourism. Tourism has great economic weight for Austria. With the equivalent of more than US $ 20 billion, it contributes almost 10% to the gross domestic product, which is also economically important in view of the clearly negative trade balance. The most visited federal states are Tyrol, Salzburg and Carinthia, the cities of Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck are also very attractive for tourists.
The great importance of tourism for Austria is not only seen positively. Deforestation and other development activities, the heavy building activity for accommodation or ski slopes and amusement parks have caused significant environmental damage. In addition, tourism does not cover all parts of the country, but especially the west of the country, thus increasing regional differences. There are also different developments between the pure winter sports and summer vacation areas. While demand continues to rise in winter, it has been falling in the summer season since 1980. In only a few areas is the season all year round.
Hohe Tauern National Park
Austria now has six national parks in different natural areas. In 1992, with the 1788 km² Hohe Tauern National Park, the largest national park in the Alps, which is also the largest in all of Central Europe, was established. It covers large parts of the main ridge of the Hohe Tauern with the Großglockner and Großvenediger and is spread over the federal states of Salzburg, Tyrol and Carinthia. Outer zones are primarily the traditional cultivated landscapes of the valley floors used for alpine farming and the forests on the valley flanks. The protective provisions primarily serve to preserve the landscape. The core zones are more strictly protected, in which any interference with nature and the ecosystem is prohibited. However, they can also be explored by tourists on designated hiking trails. In some special protection areas even this is prohibited. With such a large national park there are conflicts of use between nature conservation on the one hand and the energy industry, agriculture, forestry and tourism on the other.
800-400 BC Chr.: Bearers of the Hallstatt culture operate salt mining in the Salzkammergut.
976: The Babenbergs become margraves of the Ostmark, which in 996 is called “Ostarrichi” in a document.
1246: After the Babenbergs died out, the Bohemian King OTTOKAR II gains control in Austria.
1278: RUDOLF I of Habsburg defeats OTTOCAR II in the Battle of Dürnkrut.
1453: Austria becomes an archduchy.
1493: MAXIMILIAN I. unites the Austrian hereditary lands.
1529: The Turks besiege Vienna.
1683: After the second Turkish siege of Vienna, the great Turkish war begins.
18th century: In the War of the Spanish Succession, Austria receives the southern Netherlands, Milan and Naples-Sicily. In the War of the Austrian Succession, MARIA THERESIA can assert herself against Bavaria, France and Spain. Austria loses Silesia to Prussia in the Seven Years’ War.
1805: NAPOLEON I occupies Vienna. Austria loses the Battle of Austerlitz.
1814/15: The Congress of Vienna takes place under the direction of Prince METTERNICH. The loss of territory in Austria will be reversed.
1867: The settlement with Hungary establishes the dual monarchy Austria-Hungary.
1914: The assassination of the Austrian heir to the throne in Sarajevo leads to the First World War.
1918: After the end of the First World War, the Habsburg monarchy collapses.
1938: After the invasion of the German Wehrmacht, Austria and Germany unite to form the “Greater German Reich”.
1945: proclamation of the democratic republic of Austria, which is divided into four zones of occupation
1955: The signing of the State Treaty gives Austria independence and obliges it to be neutral.
1995: Austria joins the EU.