Austria Environment and History


47% approx. of the Austrian landscape is characterized by woods and forests: if in the subalpine environment (Lower Austria and Bohemian Massif) the tree species are mainly represented by broad-leaved trees such as elm and beech, in the western sector conifers predominate (spruce, stone pine, larch) and the rich pastures, where the typical fauna of Central Europe thrives, represented in particular by marmots, more widespread in Tyrol, and herbivores such as hares, deer, chamois and ibex, the latter already threatened by extinction and returned in large numbers at the beginning of the 21st century thanks to a careful work of repopulation. Brown bears survive in the mountainous areas of Carinthia and Styria. The north-eastern sector, in which the steppe predominates, is the kingdom of small rodents, including the squirrel, the citello and the hamster. Protected areas make up 21.8% of the Austrian territory. There are numerous nature parks, mainly concentrated in Lower Austria, Styria and Burgenland. Of particular note is the Hohe Tauern National Park, one of the largest in Europe, established in 1971 and divided between the provinces of Salzburg, Carinthia and East Tyrol; the marshy area at the Neusiedl lake (bordering on Hungarian territory for a small stretch of its southern shore), which houses approx. 300 varieties of birds and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO; the valley of Thaya; the Limestone Alps (Kalkalpen); the Nockberge National Park. The Donau-Auen National Park deserves particular mention, which extends on both banks of the Danube, from the surroundings of Vienna to Hainburg, on the border with Slovakia, established in 1996 thanks to the mobilization of environmentalists, to safeguard an area of particular naturalistic value in which the construction of a hydroelectric power plant was planned. Indeed, in Austria not only the Greens (die Grünen) are very active and well represented in parliament, with 17 seats in 2004, but the whole population is sensitive to environmental issues: precisely on the basis of a popular referendum, held in 1978, a federal law was issued prohibiting the exploitation of nuclear energy, a ruling which was followed by the establishment of an ecological fund to encourage the use of alternative sources, such as solar energy. In addition, the use of leaded petrol was banned (1999) and separate waste collection is practiced in the cities. The legislation to protect the environment, often stricter than the directives issued by the EU, however, has not been able to prevent the Austrian forest heritage from being damaged due to the presence of pollutants in industrial waste. Another problem is represented by the Temelin nuclear power plant (Czech Republic),


The oldest remains of Austrian prehistory date back to the middle Paleolithic; there are also several traces of the upper Paleolithic, found in various prehistoric sites. Among these we remember the site of Aggsbach, in Lower Austria, dated between 25,000 and 23,000 years from today, with fauna represented by mammoths, reindeer, deer, horses, etc.; and that of Langmannersdorf with two inhabited structures, hearths and a concentration of mammoth bones, dated around 20,000 years and with a lithic industry similar to the Gravettian. Finally, the Willendorf site is famous, where two female statuettes were found, suggestive examples of furniture art. With the Neolithic the Austrian territory experienced the cultural vicissitudes of the various currents radiating above all from the Balkan Peninsula and Eastern Europe, especially through the valleys of the Danube and its tributaries, which introduced agriculture and ceramic production and gave birth to various regional facies, which developed even more so with the subsequent metal ages. In later times, the Hallstatt cultural complex of the early Iron Age was of great importance.


Inhabited by Illyrian lineages, the territories that currently constitute Austria were formerly included in the Rezia and the Noricus; only in a document of Otto III of 996 does the Latin term Austria appear to indicate the eastern mark of the empire (Östmark), dependent on the Duchy of Bavaria, created by Charlemagne as a bulwark against the Avars (803). We ignore the extension of the brand and the first period of its history. It is known to be ruled by Margraves who fought validly against the Bulgarians and the Hungarians. During the struggle between Otto II (973-83) and his brother Henry the Quarrelsome of Bavaria, the eastern brand was taken from the Margrave Burcardo, an ally of Henry, and was given to Leopoldo of Babenberg. The twelve Margraves of the Babenberg family organized and expanded the eastern brand. Placed to defend the empire from the incursions of the Hungarians and the Bohemians, the Margraves Leopold I and his son Henry I (994-1018) set up their headquarters in the east, in Pöchlarn, to better face the enemy. Adalbert I (1018-55) brought the borders of Austria to the course of the Thaya and the Leitha. Since the Babenbergs were related to the Swabians, Leopold IV (1136-41) obtained the Duchy of Bavaria and the title remained with the Babenbergs even when Bavaria passed to Henry the Lion; Austria thus became a duchy. For the Privilegium minus (1156) in Austria the only jurisdiction was that of the duke, who had to fight for the empire only on the borders of Bavaria. Having in 1186 Ottokar IV of Styria left his duchy to Leopold V of Babenberg (1177-94), from 1192 Styria was united to the Duchy of Austria. With Leopold VI (1198) the capital was brought to Vienna (1230). The marriage of Frederick II (1230-46), the last of the Babenbergs, with Agnes heir of Otto IV of Andechs-Merania, added the County of Istria to the duchy. On the death of Frederick II (1246) the Babenberg inheritance passed, not without struggle, to Ottokar II of Bohemia, who reunited Austria, Styria, Carniola and Carinthia under his dominion. According to globalsciencellc, the election of Germany’s king Rudolph of Habsburg (1273) marked the decline of Ottocaro who, rebelling, was defeated and killed (1278); his son Wenceslaus II obtained from the victor only the fiefs of Bohemia and Moravia. Rodolfo’s sons, Alberto and Rodolfo, had the fiefs of Austria and Styria in 1282. Thus began the Habsburg rule, which lasted until 1918.

Austria Environment and History

About the author