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A History of Oberösterreich

Austria before 1918 means the Habsburg Empire. The Habsburg Empire was called the Austrian Empire from 1804 onwards. The Austrian Empire became the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867. If your ancestors said they came from "Austria" they did not necessarily come from within the boundaries of modern Austria. They came from the Habsburg Empire, a multi-national, multi-ethnic conglomerate.

In prehistoric times Upper Austria was more thinly settled than Lower Austria, although traces of Palaeolithic occupation have been found on the old road northward over the Pyhrn pass, along the Krems valley to Linz and on to Cäeské Budêjovice in the Czech Republic. The province became more populous only with the coming of the Celts, who began to work the great deposits of salt and created the more advanced Iron Age culture named after Hallstatt, then the principal salt working area (material in the Hallstatt museum).

The Roman period brought intensive settlement (place names with "Walchen" in them) along the Danube and in the fertile upland regions, particularly around Wels.

After the battle of Augsburg in 955 the region, which had been converted to Christianity at an early date by missionaries from Passau, was finally secure against invasion from the east. New settlers were now brought in, mainly by the Bishops of Passau and the noble family of Wels-Lambach, later Margraves of Steyr.

Although Upper Austria was now safe from further attacks from the east, it suffered from the conflicts between the Habsburgs and Bavaria which were fought out here. In the first half of the 15th century, too, the territories north of the Danube suffered under Hussite raids; and Upper Austria was also ravaged by the Peasant Wars of 1525 and 1625 (stories of the popular hero Fadinger, and the dice-game known as the Frankenburger Würfelspiel).

During the 17th century the region saw much fighting between opposing armies. The various wars of succession with Bavaria brought further battles, but also, in 1779, the acquisition of the Innviertel (which was temporarily occupied by the Bavarians during the Napoleonic Wars but returned to Austria by the Congress of Vienna in 1815).

In 1784 Emperor Joseph II made the "Province on the Enns" into an independent crown province, and in 1861 Upper Austria was elevated to the "Archduchy of Austria on the Enns" and an elected provincial parliament was set up. From the end of the First World War Upper Austria became a federal province of Austria.The revolutions of 1918 passed more quietly in Upper Austria than in other parts of the country. It was largely unscathed by the Second World War, with the exception of Linz and Steyr, which suffered heavy air raids.

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The area of Upper Austria was included in the Roman province of Noricum. In 1156 it was made a duchy by Frederick I and given to the Babenberg dukes of Austria. The province was invaded by the Turks in the 16th cent. It was a site of battles during the Thirty Years War (1618–48) and during the campaigns of Napoleon I.

The first reference to Oberösterreich appeared in 1264, discussing a region above the Enns River partitioned by King Ottokar II of Bohemia. Formally, it was called "Österreich ob der Enns" (Austria above the river Enns).

In 1490, the area was given a measure of independence in the form of status as a principality, but this was taken away in 1564 at the hands of the Habsburgs. In 1918, the name Oberösterreich was first formally used. When Austria was annexed by Adolf Hitler, Upper Austria became the Reichsgau of Oberdonau. After 1945, it reverted to its earlier name.

Austria and the Holy Roman Empire

The territory of Austria originally known as the Celtic kingdom of Noricum, was a long time ally of Rome. It was occupied rather than conquered by the Romans during the reign of Augustus and made the province Noricum in 16 BC. Later it was conquered by Huns, Rugii, Lombards, Ostrogoths, Bavarii, Avars (until c. 800), and Franks (in that order). Finally, after 48 years of Hungarian rule (907 to 955), the core territory of Austria was awarded to Leopold of Babenberg in 976. Being part of the Holy Roman Empire the Babenbergs ruled and expanded Austria from the 10th century to the 13th century.

Battle of Vienna 1683

After Duke Frederick II died in 1246 and left no successor, Rudolf I of Habsburg gave the lands to his sons marking the beginning of the line of the Habsburgs, who continued to govern Austria until the 20th century.

With the short exception of Charles VII Albert of Bavaria, Austrian Habsburgs held the position of German Emperor beginning in 1438 with Albert II of Habsburg until the end of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 14th and 15th century Austria continued to expand its territory until it reached the position of a European imperial power at the end of the 15th century until the end of the Habsburg monarchy in 1918.

Modern history

Just two years before the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, in 1804 the Empire of Austria was founded, which was transformed in 1867 into the dual-monarchy Austria-Hungary. The empire was split into several independent states in 1918, after the defeat of the Central Powers in World War I, with most of the German-speaking parts becoming a republic. (See Treaty of Saint-Germain.) Between 1918 and 1919 it was officially known as the Republic of German Austria (Republik Deutschösterreich). After the Entente powers forbade German Austria to unite with Germany, they also forbade the name, and then it was changed to simply Republic of Austria. The democratic republic lasted until 1933 when the chancellor Engelbert Dollfuß established an autocratic regime oriented towards Italian fascism (Austrofascism).

Austria became part of Germany in 1938 through the Anschluß and remained under Nazi rule until the end of World War II. After the defeat of the Axis Powers, the Allies occupied Austria until 1955, when the country became a fully independent republic under the condition that it would remain neutral (see: Austrian State Treaty). Austria also became a member of the UN in the same year. After the collapse of communist states in Eastern Europe, Austria became increasingly involved in European affairs, and in 1995, Austria joined the European Union, and the Euro monetary system in 1999.


Austria became a federal, parliamentarian, democratic republic through the Federal Constitution of 1920. It was reintroduced in 1945 to the nine states of the Federal Republic. The head of state is the Federal President, who is directly elected. The chairman of the Federal Government is the Federal Chancellor, who is appointed by the president. The government can be removed from office by either a presidential decree or by vote of no confidence in the lower chamber of parliament, the Nationalrat. The Parliament is in Vienna.

Upper Austria (de: Oberösterreich) is one of the nine states or Länder of Austria. Its capital is Linz. Upper Austria borders on Germany and the Czech Republic, as well as on the other Austrian states of Lower Austria, Styria, and Salzburg. With an area of 11,980 km2 and 1.3 million inhabitants, Upper Austria is the third largest Austrian state; Vienna and Lower Austria have more inhabitants, while Styria and Lower Austria are larger in area.

Administrative Divisions

Upper Austria is traditionally divided into four regions: Hausruckviertel, Innviertel, Mühlviertel, and Traunviertel. Administratively, the state is divided into 15 districts (Bezirke), and three Statutarstädte.


Braunau am Inn
Kirchdorf an der Krems
Ried im Innkreis

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