Austria is a democratic federal state, in particular a semi-presidential republic. Its nine federal states, most of which emerged from the historical crown lands, are Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Vienna. The federal state of Vienna is both the federal capital and the most populous city in the country. Other population centers are Graz, Linz, Salzburg and Innsbruck.
Austria is a mountainous country, with the Eastern Alps covering around two thirds of its surface area, which is why the country is also known as the Alpine Republic. The highest mountain in the country is the Grossglockner, which is located in the central Alps in the Hohe Tauern region. The most important settlement and economic areas are the flat and hilly regions (Alpine and Carpathian foothills, Vienna Basin, Graz Basin).
The name Austria is first recorded in its Old High German form “Ostarrichi” from the year 996. The Latin term Austria was also used from the early Middle Ages onwards. Originally a border mark of the tribal duchy of Bavaria, Austria was elevated to an independent duchy within the Holy Roman Empire in 1156. After the extinction of the Babenberg dynasty in 1246, the House of Habsburg prevailed in the battle for control of Austria. The territory designated as Austria later comprised the entire Habsburg Monarchy and subsequently the Austrian Empire, which was constituted in 1804, and the Austrian half of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary, which was established in 1867. According to a town charter dating back to 1212, the town of Enns is the oldest town in Austria.
The present-day republic emerged from 1918, after Austria-Hungary lost the First World War, from the German-speaking parts of the monarchy initially known as German Austria. The Treaty of Saint-Germain established the state border and the name Republic of Austria. This was accompanied by the loss of South Tyrol and the gain of Burgenland. The First Republic was characterized by internal political tensions, which led to a civil war and the dictatorship of the corporative state. As a result of the so-called “Anschluss”, the country was under National Socialist rule from 1938. After the defeat of the German Reich in the Second World War, Austria once again became an independent state. At the end of the Allied occupation in 1955, Austria declared its perpetual neutrality and joined the United Nations. Austria has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1956, a founding member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) established in 1961 and a member state of the European Union since 1995.