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History of Vienna



Vienna has a long and varied history, which began when the Roman Empire created a military camp in the area that is known today as Vienna. From that humble beginning, Vienna grew from the Roman settlement known as Vindobona to an important trading site in the 11th century. It became the capital of the Babenberg dynasty and subsequently of the Austrian Habsburgs, under whom it became one of Europe's cultural hubs. During the 19th century as the capital of the Austrian Empire and later Austria-Hungary, it temporarily became one of Europe's biggest cities. Since World War I, Vienna has been the capital of the Republic of Austria.


Roman beginnings and early middle ages

As is shown by the pre-Latin, the Celtic name for the civilian settlement in the area was Vindomina, which demonstrates that the region must have been inhabited even in pre-Roman times. The Romans created a military camp (occupied by Legio X Gemina) during the 1st century on the site of the Innere Stadt of present-day Vienna. The settlement was raised to the status of a municipium in 212. Even today, the streets of the First District show where the encampment placed its walls and moats. The Romans stayed until the 5th century.

Roman Vindobona (the name means "good wine") was located in the outskirts of the empire and thus fell prey to the chaos of the Völkerwanderung. There are some indications that a catastrophic fire occurred around the beginning of the 5th century. However, the remains of the encampment were not deserted, and a small settlement remained. The streets and houses of early medieval Vienna followed the former Roman walls, which gives rise to the conclusion that parts of the fortification were still in place and used by the settlers. The first documented mention of the city during the middle ages dates to 881 when a battle apud Weniam was fought against the Magyars. However, it is unclear whether this refers to the city or the River Vienna. Early Vienna's centre was the Berghof.

Byzantine copper coins from the 6th century have been found several times in the area of today's First District, indicating considerable trade activity. Graves from the 6th century were found during excavations next to the Berghof, in an area around "Salvatorgasse" (a side street off of Marc-Aurel-Straße). At that time, the Langobards controlled the area. Slavs and Avars followed later. The Salzburg Annals mention a battle against the Magyars at a location called Wenia in 881, which may be a reference to Vienna. Emperor Otto I defeated the Magyars in 955 in the Battle of Lechfeld. This allowed early Vienna to start to develop towards the middle ages.


The Babenbergs

The Babenberg family ruled Austria and developed Vienna during the High Middle Ages. In 976, the Margraviate of Austria was given to the Babenberg family. Vienna lay at its border to Hungary. Vienna was an important site of trade as early as the 11th century. In the Exchange of Mautern between the Bishop of Passau and Margrave Leopold IV, Vienna is mentioned as a Civitas for the first time, which indicates the existence of a well-ordered settlement. In 1155, Henry Jasomirgott made Vienna his capital. In 1156, Austria was raised to a duchy in the Privilegium Minus, with Vienna becoming the seat of the duke. During that time, the Schottenstift was founded.

The events surrounding the Third Crusade, during which King Richard the Lionheart was discovered and captured by Duke Leopold V the Virtuous two days before Christmas of 1192 in Erdberg near Vienna, brought an enormous ransom of 50,000 Silver Marks (about 10 to 12 tons of silver, about a third of the emperor's claims against the English. Richard had been extradited to him in March 1193). This allowed the creation of a mint and the construction of city walls around the year 1200. At the subway station Stubentor, some remains of the city walls can still be seen today. Because he had abused a protected crusader, Leopold V was excommunicated by Pope Celestine III, and died (without having been absolved) after falling from a horse in a tournament.

In 1221, Vienna received the rights of a city and (Stapelrecht) as a staple port. This meant that all traders passing through Vienna had to offer their goods in the city. This allowed the Viennese to act as middlemen in trade, so that Vienna soon created a network of far-reaching trade relations, particularly along the Danube basin and to Venice, and to become one of the most important cities in the Holy Roman Empire.

However, it was considered embarrassing that Vienna did not have its own bishop. It is known that Duke Frederick II negotiated about the creation of a bishopric in Vienna, and the same is suspected of Ottokar Přemysl.


The Habsburgs

In 1278, Rudolf I took control over the Austrian lands after his victory over Ottokar II of Bohemia and began to establish Habsburg rule. In Vienna, it took relatively a long time for them to establish their control, as partisans of Ottokar remained strong for a long time. There were several uprisings against Albert I. The family of the Paltrams vom Stephansfreithof was foremost among the insurgents.
In 1280, Jans der Enikel wrote the "Fürstenbuch", a first history of the city. With the Luxembourg emperors, Prague became the imperial residence and Vienna stood in its shadow. The early Habsburgs attempted to extend it in order to keep up. Duke Albert II, for example, had the gothic choir of the Cathedral of Saint Stephan built. In 1327, Frederick the Handsome published his edict allowing the city to maintain an Eisenbuch (iron book) listing its privileges.
Rudolf IV of Austria deserves credit for his prudent economic policy, which raised the level of prosperity. His surname the Founder is due to two things: first, he founded the University of Vienna in 1365, and second, he began the construction of the gothic nave at Saint Stephan's Cathedral. The latter is connected to the creation of a metropolitan chapter, as a symbolic substitute for a bishop.

The time of inheritance disputes among the Habsburgs resulting not only in confusion, but also in an economic decline and social unrest, with disputes between the parties of patricians and artisans. While the patricians supported Ernest the Iron, the artisans supported Leopold IV. In 1408, the mayor Konrad Vorlauf, an exponent of the patrician party, was executed. After the election of Duke Albert V as German King Albert II, Vienna became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Albert's name is remembered for his expulsion of the Jewish population of Vienna in 1421/22.
Eventually, in 1469, Vienna was given its own bishop, and St. Stephan's Church became a cathedral. During the upheavals of the era of weak Emperor Frederick III, Vienna remained on the side of his opponents (first Albert VI, then Matthias Corvinus), as Frederick proved unable to maintain peace in the land vis-à-vis rampaging gangs of mercenaries (often remaining from the Hussite Wars).

In 1522, under Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor the Blood Judgment of Wiener Neustadt led to the execution of leading members of the opposition within the city, and thus a destruction of the political structures. From then on, the city stood under direct imperial control. In 1556, Vienna became the seat of the Emperor, with Hungary and Bohemia having been added to the Habsburg realm in 1526. During this time, the city was also recatholicized after having become protestant rather quickly. In 1551, the Jesuits were brought to town and soon gained a large influence in court. The leader of the counterreformation here was Melchior Khlesl, Bishop of Vienna from 1600 onwards.


Turkish Wars

In 1529, Vienna was besieged by the Ottoman Turks for the first time (First Turkish Siege), although unsuccessfully. The city, protected by medieval walls, only barely withstood the attacks, until epidemics and an early winter forced the Turks to retreat. The siege had shown that new fortifications were needed. Following plans by Hermes Schallauzer, Vienna was expanded to a fortress in 1548. The city was furnished with eleven bastions and surrounded by a moat. A glacis was created around Vienna, a broad strip without any buildings, which allowed defenders to fire freely. These fortifications, which accounted for the major part of building activities well into the 17th century, proved decisive in the Second Turkish Siege of 1683, as they allowed the city to maintain itself for two months, until the Turkish army was defeated by the army led by the Polish King Jan Sobieski. This was the turning point in the Turkish Wars, as the Ottoman Empire was pushed back more and more during the following decades.


18th century

The following period was characterized by extensive building activities. In the course of reconstruction, Vienna was largely turned into a baroque city. The most important architects were Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. Most construction happened in the suburbs (Vorstädte), as the nobility began to cover the surrounding land with garden palaces, known as Palais. The best known are the Palais Liechtenstein, Palais Modena, Palais Schönborn, Palais Schwarzenberg, and the Belvedere (the garden palais of Prince Eugene of Savoy). In 1704, an outer fortification, the Linienwall, was built around the Vorstädte.

After the extensive plague epidemics of 1679 and 1713, the population began to grow steadily. It is estimated that 150,000 people lived in Vienna in 1724, and 200,000 in 1790. At that time, the first factories were built, the first in Leopoldstadt. Leopoldstadt also became a site where many Jews lived, as they had been driven out of their 50-year old ghetto in 1670. Hygienic problems began to become noticeable: Sewers and street cleaning began to develop. Also in this time, the first house numbers (the Konskriptionsnummern) were issued, and the government postal system began to develop.
Under Emperor Joseph II, the city administration was modernized in 1783: officials in charge of only the city were introduced, the Magistrate was created. At the same time, the graveyards within the city were closed.


19th century

During the Napoleonic Wars, Vienna was taken by Napoleon twice, in 1805 and 1809. The first conquest happened without a battle. Three French marshals crossed the Taborbrücke (Tábor Bridge), the only Danube bridge at that time (which of course was strongly defended), and convinced the Austrian commander that the war was already over. In the meantime, the French army could easily enter the city and was greeted by the population, rather with interest than with rejection. Napoleon allowed 10,000 men of the Vienna national guard to remain armed and left the arsenal to them when he left complete as he had found it. However, the second occupation happened only after heavy fire. Shortly after that, Napoleon suffered his first large defeat at Aspern, nearby.
After Napoleon's final defeat, the Congress of Vienna took place from September 18, 1814 to June 9, 1815, in which the political map of Europe was redrawn. The congressmembers indulged in many social events, which induced the witty Charles Joseph, Prince de Lignene to famously say: "The congress dances, but does not progress" (Le congres danse beaucoup, mais il ne marche pas). The events cost Austria a great deal of money, which was reflected in mockery about the major participants: Alexander of Russia: loves for all; Frederick William of Prussia : thinks for all; Frederick of Denmark: speaks for all; Maximilian of Bavaria: drinks for all; Frederick of Württemberg: eats for all; Emperor Francis of Austria: pays for all.
The first half of the century was characterized by intensive industrialization, with Vienna being attached to the railroad network in 1837. The French February Revolution of 1848 had an effect as far away as Vienna: On March 13, the March Revolution, which forced long-serving chancellor Metternich to resign. The city was expanded in 1850, mostly to include the area within the Linienwall. The Vorstädte thus became the 2nd through 9th districts, with the old city becoming the first. In 1858, the fortifications were demolished, and the broad Ringstraße boulevard was built in their former place. Many monumental buildings were built alongside it. The Ringstraße Style (Historicism) characterizes the architecture of Vienna to this day. The period peaked in the World Exhibition of 1873, immediately before the stock market crash, which ended the Gründerzeit ("foundation era").

In 1861, the Liberals won the first (relatively) free elections after the end of neoabsolutism. After the great flood of 1830, it was frequently considered whether there should be a Regulation of the Danube. It was finally put into practice during the 1860s. The many branches of the Danube were removed, and a straight stream was created away from the central city. The branch near the central city was made narrower and his been known under the somewhat misleading name Donaukanal (Danube Canal) since then. During that period, the population of Vienna increased sharply, mostly because of immigration. Censuses were conducted regularly from 1869 onwards, which showed an all-time high of population in 1910, with 2,031,000 inhabitants.

Around 1900, Vienna became a center of the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau, most of all with Otto Wagner and the association of artists known as Vienna Secession (after which the characteristic building at the Karlsplatz is named). In 1890, the city was expanded for a second time: the (Vororte) suburbs beyond the old Linienwall were incorporated into the town as the districts 11 to 19 (the 10th district) had been created in 1874 by the split-up of the fourth). Leopoldstadt was split in 1900, with the northern part becoming the 20th district (Brigittenau). In 1904, Floridsdorf became part of Vienna as 21st district. During those years, Karl Lueger was the leading figure of city politics. Neither his dedication to social policy can be denied, nor other merits for the municipality (such as the Wiener Hochquellwasserleitung, bringing fresh water from the mountains to Vienna and the creation of a belt of meadows and forests around the city). However, these positive aspects were coupled with his raving and rhetorically well presented anti-Semitism.


World War I and First Republic

World War I (1914-1918) did not result in an immediate threat to Vienna, but it led to a lack of supplies because of the economic embargo imposed by the entente powers, which resulted in a shortage in food and clothes. The end of the war was also the end of Austria-Hungary. On November 12, 1918, the Republic of Deutsch-Österreich was proclaimed in front of the parliament. The population was concentrated in the capital, which was often called a hydrocephalus because of this.
In 1921, Vienna was separated from the surrounding Lower Austria and became a state of its own. The left-wing Social Democrats, who had dominated since the end of the war, were now in charge of the city administration. "Red Vienna" was considered an international model. Many notable Gemeindebauten (low-cost residential estates) were built during that period.
However, the increasing economic difficulties resulted in a political radicalization and polarization of the political parties. On the social democratic side, the left-wing Republikanische Schutzbund (Republican Protective Alliance) was formed in 1923/24, which was a well-organized and equipped paramilitary group. It was opposed by the right-wing Heimwehr ("Home Guard"), which had been formed after the end of the war from local guards and similar combat units.


Ständestaat and Third Reich

The fire of the Justizpalast ("Palace of Justice") in 1927 after a judicial error following violent demonstrations, the collapse of the largest bank of the country, and finally the dissolution of parliament in 1933 marked the way to the Civil War in February of 1934. After Engelbert Dollfuß, who had been Chancellor of Austria and foreign minister since 1932, had forbidden the Nazi Party, the Communist Party and the Schutzbund in 1933, this ban began to cover the Social Democratic Party in 1934 after the February Uprising. Only the Vaterländische Front was permitted. Dollfuß created an authoritarian regime called Ständestaat and ruled without parliamentary approval (also see Austrofascism). Large projects for road constructions such as the Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße and the Höhenstraße on the Kahlenberg were initiated to create jobs.
In 1938, the Anschluss to the German Empire followed. Hitler's anti-Jewish policies fell on fertile soil in Vienna's latent anti-Semitism had increased during the early 20th century. During the Reichspogromnacht on November 9, 1938, the synagogues, the centers of not only religious, but also the Jewish social life, were destroyed.
In the course of the expansion of the city in 1938, 91 adjoining municipalities were incorporated into the city, from which the 22nd (Groß-Enzersdorf), the 23rd (Schwechat), the 24th (Mödling), the 25th (Liesing) and the 26th (Klosterneuburg) districts were created. With an area size of 1,224 km², this made Vienna the city with the largest territory in the Third Reich. The bombardments of 1944 and 1945 and the fights during the subsequent conquest of Vienna by Soviet troops in April of 1945 caused much destruction within the city. Nevertheless, many historic buildings resisted the bombardment or were reconstructed after the war. Only a few days after the war, a provisional city government and administration was created. Also, the political parties were recreated. On April 29, 1945 the parliament building passed from the occupation force to the new Austrian government, and Karl Renner announced the reinstitution of the democratic Republic of Austria. Vienna was divided into four occupation zones between the Soviet Union, the USA, the UK and France.

The first municipal elections were held in November of 1945. Among 100 seats in the municipal council, the left-wing Social Democratic Party captured 58, the right-wing Austrian Peoples Party 36, and the Communists 6. In 1946, it was decided that the expansion of city territory of 1938 should be reverted, but this law was delayed by a veto of the occupying powers and was not put into practice until 1954. Two districts remained with Vienna, namely the 22nd one (Donaustadt) north of the Danube and the 23rd one (Liesing) in the south (some other districts gained some Lower Austrian territory). On May 15, 1955, the country regained its freedom with the "Austrian State Treaty". This peace treaty was called a state treaty, because Austria had temporarily ceased to exist in 1938.
After the war, as everywhere in Western Europe, there was an enormous economic boom, among other things because of the economic aid resulting from the Marshall Plan.

Public transport in Vienna was improved by the introduction of the new Subway network, the first part of which was opened in 1978. During the 1970s, Vienna became the third official seat of the United Nations, and the UNO-City was built. At the end of the 20th century, a "skyline" consisting of several skyscrapers was created with, among others, the Andromeda Tower and Millennium Tower on the left and right side of the Danube. Furthermore, a complex of skyscrapers was planned at the site of the Wien Mitte Railway Station, which might have endangered the position of Vienna's center as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The project has since been shelved. In the municipal elections of 2001, the Social Democrats regained an absolute majority. With the Liberal Forum, not gaining enough votes, only four parties have been represented in the municipal council since then. In the 2005 elections, the Social Democrats further increased their majority.


Text Source: Wikipedia