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Austria can trace its history back to the dawn of civilization. In pre-Roman times, the country was occupied by various Celtic tribes including the Celtic kingdom of Noricum.
In Roman times, Noricum was annexed by the Romans and became a province of the Empire. In fact, most of what is now Austria (all parts to the South of the Danube River) were part of the Roman Empire.
When the Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century, Austria was invaded by tribes of Bavarians, Avars and Slavs. Most of Austria was eventually conquered by the Charlemagne in 788, and eventually became part of Eastern Francia ("Francia Orientalis"), and was given to Leopold of Babenberg in 976.
The first reference to to the name "Österreich" comes from 996, where the term "Ostarrîchi" is used to refer to the Babenberg lands (also known as "marchia Orientalis").
Beginning in the 14th century, the Habsburgs began to gain more and more land around Austria. They also acquired more and more power in the Germany (which at that time fell within the Holy Roman Empire - after 1438, every single emperor but one, of the Holy Roman Empire, was a Habsburg). Eventually, through marriage, they also acquired Spain, Spanish lands in Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the New World. Additionally, their victories over the Ottoman Turks in 1526 at the Battle of Mohacs, and again in 1683 at the siege of Vienna, eventually brought Hungary and Bohemia (the area that is today the Czech Republic) under Habsburg control.
By the 18th century however, things had begun to change. The last Spanish Habsburg, Charles II, died childless in 1700, and rule of Spain passed to the Bourbon, Philippe of Anjou (King Philip V of Spain). Moreover, following the War of Austrian Succession (1740 to 1748), Prussia began to first match, and eventually displace, the Habsburg Empire as the dominant power in German affairs.
In 1804 the Austrian Empire (German: Kaisertum Österreich) was formed by Holy Roman emperor Francis II (who became Austrian emperor Franz I), although the Holy Roman Empire itself came to an end in 1806 as a result of the Napoleonic Wars. Despite many defeats at the hands of the French during the Napoleonic Wars, the Austrian Empire eventually emerged on the winning side, and played an important part in that victory, and ended up, together with Prussia, being a leading member of the German Confederation.
In 1864, Prussia and Austria cooperated in a war against Denmark in order to free the Dutchies of Schleswig and Holstein from the Danish Crown. However, following the war, the two countries could not agree on how these provinces hould be administered, and the Prussian-Austrian War of 1866 was a result. As a result of its defeat in this war, Austria had to leave the German Confederation, and end its participation in German politics.
In 1867, the Ausgleich ("Compromise") was signed by emperor Franz Joseph and a Hungarian delegation led by Ferenc Deák. The Ausgleich provided for a Hungarian government of near equal status to the Austrian government in Vienna, presided over by a single monarch (Franz Joseph) who had responsibility the military and foreign policy. This arrangement was known as the "dual monarch", and by this arrangement the Austrian Empire became the Austria-Hungary.
The 1914 assassination of the Austrian Archduke, Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo, was the trigger that led to World War I. Austria-Hungary was among the defeated Central Powers, and the Empire broke up along ethnic lines. The German speaking parts of the Empire became the Republic of German Austria (German: Republik Deutschösterreich), but the name was changed at the insistence of the Entente powers to the Republic of Austria (German: Republik Österreich). The new state was also forbidden to ever unite with Germany.
The First Austrian Republic came to an end in 1933, when the Chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuß, shut down parliament and established an authoritarian regime in an attempt to stabilize the country - paramilitary armies belonging to the Social Democrats and Conservatives were fighting each other on the streets, and a growing Nazi movement was advocating union with Germany.
Engelbert Dollfuß was assassinated in 1934, during an attempted Nazi coup, and succeeded by Kurt Schuschnigg. In 1938 however, German troops marched into Austria, and Adolf Hitler (who himself was Austrian) proclaimed the "Anschluss", the annexation of Austria into Greater Germany.
At the close of World War II, with the defeat of the Nazi regime, Austria, like Germany, was divided into American, British, French and Soviet Occupation Zones. However, just before the surrender, Austrian politican, Karl Renner, declared the separation of Austria from Germany, and set up a Provisional Government in Vienna. This government was in fact recognized by the Allies, and as a result, Austria was treated as the first victim of the Third Reich.
In 1955, as a result of the Austrian State Treaty (German: Österreichischer Staatsvertrag) , the country regained its independence. As part of the agreements surrounding this treaty, Austria became permanently neutral, a status which it maintains to this day.
Austria joined the European Union in 1995, and became part of the Eurozone which it was established in 1999.
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