Austria, federal republic in central Europe divided into 9 provinces: Vienna, Lower Austria, Burgenland, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Tyrol, and Vorarlberg.
There are 4 geographic regions: the Austrian Alps to the West, including the country's highest mountain, Grossglockner (12,457 ft/3,797 m); the North Alpine foreland, a plateau cut by fertile valleys between the Danube and the Alps; the Austrian granite plateau, north of the Danube; and the Eastern lowlands, where the capital, Vienna, stands.
About 98% of today's Austrians are Germans ethnically and linguistically, although there are considerable differences in dialect among the provinces. About 75,000 Austrians speak Croatian, Slovene, Hungarian, or Czech only, or speak German only as a second language. The largest minority group are the Croatians, who mainly live in Burgenland. Austria's cultural contributions have been noteworthy. In the 19th century Vienna was a world center for musicians and composers. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, Anton Bruckner, and Gustav Mahler were all Austrians, while Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Strauss, and Franz Lehar spent most of their lives in Vienna. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, studied and practiced in Vienna, along with many other psychologists.
Austrian farm crops include sugar beets, potatoes, grains, grapes, fruits, tobacco, flax, and hemp; wines and beers are produced in quantity. Almost 40% of the country is forested, so wood and paper are important products. Iron ore is the primary mineral resource, but there are also deposits of lead, magnesium, copper, salt, zinc, aluminum, silver, and gypsum. Vienna, Graz, and Linz are the chief industrial centers. Tourism has helped to stimulate economic growth in recent years.
Inhabited from prehistoric times, settled by the Celts, and subsequently part of the Roman Empire, starting in the third century A.D. Austria was devastated by invading Vandals, Goths, Alemanni, Huns, and Avars. In 788 Charlemagne conquered Austria. The Babenberg family inherited it in 976 and retained it as duchy until 1246. In 1247 the Habsburgs acquired Austria, which became a central part of their empire until 1918. By the Treaty of Versailles, independent states (Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Yugoslavia) were created from the old empire, while Austria itself became a republic. In 1938 Austria was annexed by Hitler's Third Reich, regaining independence following the Allied victory in 1945. When Austria joined the European Union in 1995, this step ended the country's neutral position, maintained since World War II.