Gregory Brown
513 Agnes Arnold Hall
Department of Philosophy
University of Houston
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German Wien, Czech Viden, Hungarian Bécs,

city and Bundesland (federal state), the capital of Austria. Of the country's nine states, Vienna is the smallest in area but the largest in population.

An introduction to Vienna, Austria.

Modern Vienna has undergone several historical incarnations. From 1558 to 1918 it was an imperial city—until 1806 the seat of the Holy Roman Empire and then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1918 it became the capital of the truncated, landlocked central European country that emerged from World War I as a republic. From 1938 to 1945 Austria was a part of Hitler's “Greater? Germany, and Vienna became “Greater? Vienna, reflecting the Nazi revision of the city limits. In the decade following World War II, Austria was occupied by British, French, American, and Soviet forces, and Vienna was divided into five zones, including an international zone, covering the Innere Stadt (“Inner City?). In 1955 the State Treaty, by which the country regained independence, was signed with the four occupying powers, and Vienna became once again the capital of a sovereign Austria.

Vienna is among the least spoiled of the great old western European capitals. Its central core, the Innere Stadt, is easily manageable by foot and public transportation. In a city renowned for its architecture, many of Vienna's urban prospects remain basically those devised over several centuries by imperial gardeners and architects. The skyline is still dominated by the spire of St. Stephen's Cathedral and by the giant Ferris wheel in the city's chief park, the Prater. The city suffered heavy damage in the last months of World War II, and much rebuilding was done after the war. Nevertheless, the character of Vienna as a whole remains much the same as in the years before 1914.

Viennese Lebenskunst (“art of living?) has survived changing rulers and times. It is still possible to live in Vienna at almost the same pace and in much the same style as it was a century ago. The same music is played in the same rebuilt concert halls, and a theatrical or operatic success still stimulates lively conversation. One can drink the same sourish local wines in the taverns on the outskirts of town, consume the same mountains of whipped cream at Sacher's and Demel's, and sample the same infinite varieties of coffee in countless cafés. Thick woolen suits and overcoats in shades of green, gray, or brown loden cloth and colourful dirndl dresses are still the fashion. It is even possible for tourists, and for others on festive occasions, to ride in a traditional fiacre, the two-horse carriage driven by a bowler-hatted coachman.

Austria's capital has avoided many of the problems—financial crises, social unrest, urban decay—that afflict other European cities. Its people enjoy an enlightened health and welfare system, which originated in the reforms of Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Joseph II in the 18th century. A city of green parks with ponds, cafés, and playing bands; opulent stores and elegant shopping streets; banks, bookshops, and crowded theatres; and boulevards for leisurely sauntering—Vienna is an invigorating distillation of human energy and imagination.


The ancient city and medieval growth

Traces of human occupation of the site of Vienna have been found dating as far back as the Paleolithic period. The area was subsequently inhabited by the Illyrians and then the Celts. In 16–15 BC the Romans, under the future emperor Tiberius, occupied the foothills of the Alps, and in the next century the Celtic town of Vindobona (Celtic: “White Field?; later to become Vienna) became a strategic Roman garrison town. (The Roman camp is believed to have covered the area around the present Hoher Market.) Vindobona grew to about 15,000 inhabitants and became part of a widespread network of trade and communications. Emperor Marcus Aurelius is said to have died in Vindobona in 180 AD fighting off attacks by the Germanic tribes. The Romans were swept away in the turmoil of the 5th-century invasions, but enough of Vindobona remained to serve as the nucleus of the medieval city. The Bavarians occupied the area, and the people became Christianized. The city's name was recorded in 881 as Wenia and in 1030 as Wienis.

The dukes of Babenberg, a Frankish dynasty, were overlords of Vienna from 1156 to 1246. The city developed into an important trading centre, where crusaders on their way to the East bought provisions and equipment. In the 13th century, walls were built around the city, and Vienna remained largely confined within the walled area until the 1700s. The Babenbergs kept a brilliant court and encouraged artists like the famous minnesinger Walther von der Vogelweide.

In 1246 the last male of the Babenberg family died. In the ensuing struggle for domination, the king of Bohemia, Otakar II, became overlord of what was to become Austria. Otakar established himself as a powerful central European prince, and by 1276 he was at war with the German king, Rudolf I of the Habsburg dynasty. When Otakar fell in battle in 1278, the Habsburgs took over his domain and retained it for more than 600 years. The capital city flourished, trading with Trieste, Venice, and Hungary; nevertheless, economic decline attended the numerous disputes over inheritance within the Habsburg family. In 1485, under siege by Matthias I Corvinus of Hungary, the city fathers surrendered in the hope of bettering their status. When Corvinus died five years later, Vienna reverted to the Habsburg emperor, Frederick III.

Development of imperial Vienna

During the Renaissance, Vienna was a leader in science and fine arts, and the university (1365) was a centre of humanism. When Charles V became Holy Roman emperor in the 16th century he entrusted his Austrian territories to his brother, the future emperor Ferdinand I. Seeking to increase their liberties and economic position, the Lower Austrian Diet rebelled against their regent. Ferdinand responded by condemning the leaders of the insurrection to death, and in 1526 he issued an ordinance that stripped the city of almost all its rights. In the same year, he inherited the kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary and, accordingly, the task of fighting the Turks, who commanded large parts of Hungary. Turkish forces besieged Vienna in 1529 but were successfully beaten off. When Ferdinand was crowned emperor in 1558, Vienna regained its political status and became the administrative seat of numerous kingdoms that the Habsburgs acquired by marriage.

The Reformation swept through Europe during the 16th century, arousing heated opposition from the Roman Catholic church. In an attempt to stem the controversy, the imperial Diet, in the Peace of Augsburg (1555), recognized the right of Lutheranism to exist but decreed that the regional princes were to determine which form of Christianity their subjects must follow. Because the Viennese were required to remain Roman Catholic, many of the great number who had become Protestant had to leave the city. It was during this period that new fortifications were built to replace the medieval city walls and the Hofburg was enlarged with the addition of new courts. The splendid secular buildings of the Baroque era proclaimed Vienna's stature as an imperial residence and one of the great world capitals.

In 1679 the bubonic plague struck the city, killing nearly a third of its population. Then, during the summer of 1683, Vienna suffered a second Turkish siege, this one led by the grand vizier Kara Mustafa. The Viennese defenders, together with imperial troops under Charles of Lorraine, held off the Turkish army, which was defeated with the help of relief forces led by John III Sobieski, king of Poland. Shortly thereafter Prince Eugene of Savoy succeeded in driving the Turks out of Hungary.

With the Turkish threat at an end, there followed an upsurge of building, particularly in the devastated suburbs. Between 1700 and 1730 a city of palaces and stately homes emerged. A second line of fortifications, the Linienwall (“straight rampart?), was built in 1704–06 to give the suburbs protection. In the densely built-up Innere Stadt old houses either had upper stories added or were demolished and replaced by Baroque structures. Hildebrandt, J.B. Fischer von Erlach, and Fischer von Erlach's son Joseph Emanuel were the great Viennese architects of the time, and their achievements are still evident in some of the city's best buildings.

During this period, immigrants arrived from other parts of the empire, and new factories heralded the city's transition from trade to manufacturing. The arts also received fresh energy, as instanced by Joseph Anton Stranitzky's newly created Viennese Impromptu Theatre, which opened with the character masque of Hanswurst.

The male line of the Habsburgs died out with Charles VI in 1740, but by the terms of the Pragmatic Sanction his daughter Maria Theresa gained the right of succession and reigned until 1780. She established compulsory primary-school attendance; separated the university from the church, bringing it under state control; and reorganized the economy, the army, and the judiciary. Her son and successor, Joseph II, was typical of the Enlightenment's absolute monarchs and continued in her reforming spirit. His Edict of Toleration guaranteed religious freedom to Protestants and Jews. He instituted many humanitarian measures, improved government and education, and supported the arts. Some of his actions, like the dissolution of the monasteries, brought him into conflict with the church. By the time Joseph died in 1790, there were 300 factories in Vienna, the population had increased to 235,000, and the built-up area had increased 10-fold since the Turkish siege. Gluck, Haydn, and Mozart had ushered in Vienna's first golden age of music; Beethoven and Schubert would carry it into the next century.

In 1804 Francis II declared himself emperor of Austria and in 1806 resigned his former imperial crown, thus bringing to an end the Holy Roman Empire, which had long been essentially a German monarchy. Napoleon's armies occupied Vienna in 1805 and again in 1809. Inflation and state bankruptcy followed the Napoleonic Wars. Politically, however, Vienna held a central position in the restoration of Europe at the Congress of Vienna (1814–15) under the leadership of the powerful statesman Prince Metternich.

By 1845 Vienna had 430,000 inhabitants. The aspirations and cultural interests of the middle class were growing, finding artistic expression primarily in the simple and commonplace forms of the Biedermeier style of decoration and furniture design. Joseph Lanner and the elder Johann Strauss enlivened the city with Viennese waltzes. The revolution of March 1848 in Vienna brought to an end Metternich's authoritarian rule. A second uprising, in October, was put down by the imperial army of Francis Joseph. The city continued to grow culturally as the Austrian (later the Austro-Hungarian) imperial capital.


Evolution of the modern city

Vienna's inner ramparts were razed in 1857 and the city ditches filled in. They were replaced by the Ringstrasse, opened in 1865. The stately public buildings and parks along this great avenue emerged over the years. In other parts of the city old structures were demolished and new ones built. The drinking-water supply was improved with springwater; the Danube was regulated; and, later, gas and electric works were built. New regulations in 1859 established full freedom of trade. Vienna's economy grew rapidly, and with it the city's population.

In 1861 Vienna was granted city self-government through a freely elected city council, which acquired a liberal majority. The suburbs were brought under the city administration in 1890. Three years later the Linienwall was dismantled and a second ring road, the Gürtel, built in its place. Musical Vienna flourished under the composers Brahms, Anton Bruckner, Hugo Wolf, and Mahler. Operetta became established as a characteristic Viennese art form through the music of the younger Johann Strauss, Franz von Suppé, Franz Lehár, and Emmerich Kálmán.

At the turn of the century, with nearly 2 million inhabitants and an area of 105 square miles, Vienna began to spread to the left bank of the Danube. The capital city had become a fertile breeding ground for ideas that—for good or bad—were to shape the modern world. Among the thousands who flocked to Vienna seeking work or a vocation was the young Adolf Hitler. Having failed there as an art student, he adopted notions of Greater German nationalism and was influenced by both the rhetorical style and the virulent anti-Semitism of Vienna's mayor, Karl Lueger. In contrast, Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, was living in the city at the same time. In Vienna as well were Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler, at work developing their far-reaching psychiatric theories.

Artistic activity reached new heights in the early 20th century. In architecture, painting, and design, the Sezessionstil (German: Jugendstil) movement (Art Nouveau) provided means for young artists to rebel against pretentiousness in the Viennese art establishment, including the style of architecture on the Ring. Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, and Josef Hoffmann were prominent architects and designers of the new school; among the painters were Gustav Klimt, Alfred Kubin, Oskar Kokoschka, and Egon Schiele. Viennese music continued to break new ground with the works of Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, and Anton von Webern. Influential writers included Arthur Schnitzler, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and Karl Kraus.

During World War I the city's population swelled to 2,239,000 with an influx of refugees. Francis Joseph died in 1916; his successor, Charles, was forced to abdicate at the end of the war. The Habsburg monarchy fell, and a German-Austrian republic was proclaimed in November 1918. In 1919 general suffrage produced a Social Democratic majority in the city council. The party introduced numerous reforms in housing, education, public welfare, and health care. The city became recognized internationally as a forerunner of the modern welfare state. In 1922 Vienna was made a federal province of Austria, the mayor of the city also serving as the governor of the province.

Economically and politically the young republic was on shaky ground. The Social Democrats (Marxist) and their Christian Social (conservative) opponents carried politics into the streets and trained their own armies. Mass political demonstrations were answered with savage repression, and in 1933 the Austrian chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuss, dissolved Parliament and set up an authoritarian regime. His government's decision to fire upon Viennese workers defending their apartment blocks (1934) was seen by many as a final betrayal of democracy. Disillusioned with party politics and drawn toward their fellow countryman Adolf Hitler in neighbouring Germany, many Austrians adopted the old idea that they were not only linguistically but also politically German and ought to unite with Germany. On March 12, 1938, the German army occupied Austria. A few days later, Hitler proclaimed the Anschluss; Greater Vienna, now including the province of Lower Austria, became a German province.

The Austrians soon became disenchanted with their new masters and, while fighting with Germany in World War II, developed a new sense of independence and nationhood. In April 1945 Vienna was taken by Soviet troops. In September the city, like the country as a whole, was divided into four zones of occupation by the Allied powers. Vienna emerged from the war with nearly a quarter of its buildings either partially or completely destroyed. The city's population had fallen to 1,322,000. The immense task of providing food and shelter, repairing the transportation network, and rebuilding the city began under the mayors Theodor Körner (1945–51) and Franz Jonas (1951–65), both of whom later became presidents of the republic. The Austrian State Treaty was signed in the Belvedere on May 15, 1955, leading to independence and the withdrawal of all Allied occupation troops.

Vienna's geographic position at the heart of Europe has been devalued three times in the 20th century: in 1918, when it became the top-heavy capital of a small republic; in 1938, when the takeover by Germany reduced it to a German province; and in 1945, when the Iron Curtain came down some 50 miles to the east. But to a large extent the city remains a focal point of East–West contacts. A neutral state since 1955, Austria has become important as a major international meeting place and conference centre. On the outskirts of Vienna, across the Danube, the modern buildings of the Vienna International Centre, or UNO-City, include the offices of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. With the rise of the UNO-City, Vienna has become competitive with New York City and Geneva as a seat of world organizations.

Additional reading

General descriptions of Vienna include Christa Esterházy, Vienna (1966); Joseph Wechsberg, Vienna My Vienna (also published as Sounds of Vienna, 1968); and Martin Hurlimann, Vienna (1970; originally published in German, 1968). The city's historical geography is presented in Wiener Stadt- Und Landesarchiv, Ludwig Boltzmann Institut Für Stadtgeschichtsforschung, Historische Atlas von Wien (1981– ), issued in parts. Photographs of Vienna with accompanying essays may be found in Maria Neusser-Hromatka, Beautiful Vienna, 8th ed. (1969; originally published in German, 1959); Anton Macku, Vienna (1957; originally published in German, 1956); Inge Morath et al., Bilder aus Wien: der liebe Augustin (1981); Anna Giubertoni, Claudio Magris, and Toni Nicolini, Austria (1981), with Italian text; and Günter Düriegl, Wien auf alten Photographies (1981). Hans Pemmer and Nini Lackner, Der Prater: von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, 2nd ed. rev. by Günter Düriegl and Ludwig Sackmauer (1974), describes the Prater. Aspects of city life are discussed in E. Bodzenta, I. Speiser, and K. Thum, Wo sind Grossstädter daheim?: Studien über Bindungen an das Wohnviertel (1981). Leopold Redl and Hans Wösendorfer, Die Donauinsel: ein Beispiel politischer Planung in Wien (1980), analyzes economic conditions and municipal government.Vienna's intellectual and cultural life is discussed by Marcel Brion, Daily Life in the Vienna of Mozart and Schubert (1961; originally published in French, 1959); and by William M. Johnston, Vienna, Vienna: The Golden Age, 1815–1914, trans. from Italian (1981); Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (1979), on the growth of modern art and thinking out of the political and social disintegration of turn-of-the-century Vienna; Robert Waissenberger (ed.), Vienna, 1890–1920 (1984, originally published in German, 1984); and Mark Francis (ed.), The Viennese Enlightenment (1985). Viennese artists and musicians are portrayed in Peter Vergo, Art in Vienna 1898–1918: Klimt, Kokoschka, Schiele, and Their Contemporaries (1975, reissued 1981); Kirk Varnedoe, Vienna 1900: Art, Architecture, & Design (1986); Egon Gartenberg, Vienna: Its Musical Heritage (1968); and Richard Rickett, Music and Musicians in Vienna, 2nd ed. (1981). Erna Lesky, The Vienna Medical School of the 19th Century (1976; originally published in German, 1965), gives an account of Viennese medicine in its heyday.Overviews of Vienna's history are provided by Peter Csendes, Geschichte Wiens (1981); Walter B. Goldstein, 1000 Jahre Wien und die Habsburger: eine europäische Legende (1981), focusing especially on the house of Habsburg; Inge Lehne and Lonnie Johnson, Vienna—The Past in the Present: A Historical Survey (1985); and Paul Hofmann, The Viennese: Splendor, Twilight, and Exile (1988), a cultural history. Important events and times are further examined in Historischen Museum Der Stadt Wien, Die Türken vor Wien: Europa und die Entscheidung an der Donau, 1683 (1982); R. John Rath, The Viennese Revolution of 1848 (1957, reprinted 1977), a dramatic reconstruction of events; Frederic Morton, A Nervous Splendor: Vienna, 1888/1889 (1979); John W. Boyer, Political Radicalism in Late Imperial Vienna: Origins of the Christian Social Movement, 1848–1897 (1981); and Robert Pick, The Last Days of Imperial Vienna (1975). Studies of the Jewish community in Vienna include Ivar Oxaal, Michael Pollak, and Gerhard Botz (eds.), Jews, Antisemitism, and Culture in Vienna (1987), a collection of essays; and George E. Berkley, Vienna and Its Jews: The Tragedy of Success (1987).

Blake Ehrlich

Roland John Hill

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