Austria History: The First and Second Republic Part I

Born as a remnant of a process of separation of the non-German populations of the fallen empire, the small Austrian Republic, with its disproportionate capital, fought for two decades against serious constitutional defects and unfavorable external factors. The frail economy withstood the postwar chaos only thanks to financial aid that flowed under the supervision of the League of Nations. When it reached a certain stability (1926), the great world economic crisis occurred, which exploded in Europe precisely due to the bankruptcy of Creditanstalt, the main Austrian bank (May 1931); total disaster was averted, but remained, until the Anschluss , high unemployment. Threatened in the bud (1919) a communist threat, the class struggle flared up anyway, transcending several times a real civil war (1927, 1931) and referring to the two major parties: the Christian-social of M. Mayr, I. Seipel, R. Ramek, conservative (despite the populist varnish) and tendentially authoritarian, with a firm base in the countryside; and the Social Democrat, strong above all in Vienna, but often divided between moderates (K. Renner) and left wing (O. Bauer, J. Deutsch). Both used their own paramilitary formations: the Schutzbund, socialist workers’ militia, and the Heimwehr clerical-fascist, who ended up dominating the Catholic party. This, a majority since 1920, first governed with the support of the Pan-Germanist right and in 1933, under the leadership of the Catholic Chancellor Dollfuss, broke the delay. The Democratic and Federal Constitution of 1920, the work of the famous jurist Kelsen, was repealed; the state assumed a totalitarian and pseudo-corporate form similar to that of fascist Italy; in agreement with Mussolini, the Social Democrats were crushed by force. But the Anschluss, coveted by most in the immediate postwar period and banned by the League of Nations, was already looming on the horizon. According to thesciencetutor, a first Putsch of the Austrian Nazis (July 1934), which led to the assassination of Dollfuss, also failed due to the concentration of Italian troops at the Brenner Pass. Mussolini tied to Hitler after the war in Ethiopia, Austria, now abandoned by France and England, remained easy prey for the Third Reich. A compromise negotiated by Chancellor Schuschnigg, under growing internal and external pressure (1936), slightly delayed Hitler’s ultimatum, who invaded the country without encountering resistance, indeed amid popular enthusiasm (March 12, 1938). Fully incorporated into Germany, Austria became a mere Land . The rebirth took place already in 1945, despite the military occupation by the American, British, French and Soviet, which lasted until 1955, with the division of the country and the capital into four zones. The restoration of the old democratic constitution was followed, in the wake of the first provisional government chaired by Renner, by the stabilization of the alliance between the two large traditional parties, now called popular (Volkspartei) and socialist, with the addition of the communists until 1947. The Second Republic benefited both from the prevalence in the parties of currents willing to constructive cooperation, and from rapid economic development, thanks also to the Marshall Plan. The nationalization of key industries and large banks (1946) remained a firm point. With the Treaty of Vienna of 15 May 1955 Austria regained full independence and proclaimed perpetual neutrality. In 1966, when the Catholics won the majority, the coalition between the popular and the socialists ended. In 1970 the Chancellery passed to the socialists: thus began the long and successful “reign” of Bruno Kreisky, during which Austria experienced stability and prosperity. Despite the defeat in a referendum on the construction of nuclear power plants (1978), Kreisky remained in power until 1983, when by now tired and sick, coinciding with the loss of the absolute parliamentary majority, he handed over to F. Sinowatz., which in 1987 was replaced by Franz Vranitzky, a socialist, at the head of a coalition between socialists and popular: among the programmatic objectives of his government were set, in addition to the reduction of the budget deficit and the modernization of the economy, the protection of the environment (entered the political debate in the 1980s) and electoral reform. In 1986 the People’s K. Waldheim, former Secretary General of the United Nations, was elected President of the Republicin the previous decade: the accusations made against him of participation in war crimes committed by the Nazis in the Balkans between 1942 and facts) caused divisions within the government and a deterioration in international relations. In the political elections of 1990 the socialists (since 1991 social-democrats) regained the relative majority and confirmed the coalition with the popular in a government still led by Vranitzky who, not surprisingly, in July 1991, renewed an apology to the international community for the Austrian co-responsibility in Nazi crimes. When Waldheim’s mandate expired, another popular candidate was elected, T. Klestil (1992), but worrying signs of racism were increasingly being highlighted in Austrian society which, although linked to similar phenomena present in Germany, were fueled by the particular climate in which the country found itself.

Austria History 1

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