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
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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