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A Brief History of Vienna

ienna ...Wien, wien, nur du Alein...

This wonderful city is officially a thousand years old, but its history goes back even farther than the year 996!

Around 100 A.D. the Romans established a military camp along the northern border of their empire on the Danube River. This fortress served to ward off the Germanic tribes north of the river.This encampment was called “Vindobona” and was located in the area of today’s Graben, Maria am Gestade, Ruprechtskirche, and Rotenturmstrasse. As often happened, a town developed next to the military settlement. Yes, you guessed it...the town became what we now know and love as “Vienna”. Excavated ruins of “Vindobona” are open to the public. They can be found under Am Hof and Hoher Markt, in the center of Vienna.

When the Roman Empire collapsed and the Romans left, the town that grew up around the military camp remained. “Wenia” was mentioned in records in Salzburg late in the 9th Century. Within the next hundred years, Hungarians took over the area, followed by the Babenbergs. The Babenbergs...Emperor Otto I established the area which was east of his domain...hence the name Osterreich (Austria). Around 1155, The Babenbergs moved their court to Vienna. About one hundred years later, while successfully warding off an Hungarian attempt to take over the border area, the Duke of Babenberg was killed...leaving no male heir. Ottocar II, King of Bohemia took over the Babenberg lands for about 30 years.

In 1276, Rudolf I of Habsburg mounted a campaign against Ottocar and in 1278, Ottocar was killed. Rudolf gave Austria to his two sons to rule in 1282 and the Habsburgs reigned until 1918. The Habsburg reign was marked first by insurrection, war, and pestulance followed by a period of building and renewal which brought Vienna to the status of one of the most beautiful, fashionable, and glorious cities in the world.

In 1529, The Turks lay siege to the city of Vienna for the first time. Although they were unsuccessful, they remained in control of Hungary and were a serious threat for the next 150 years. During the Thirty Years War, Sweden also threatened Vienna. Around 1679, Vienna was ravaged by the bubonic plague... the infamous “Black Death” which scoured most of Europe. Then, in 1683, the Turks again lay siege to Vienna. The city was almost taken and was in desperation, when they were given help by an army of German and Polish troops. The Turks were sent in retreat and eventually driven out of Hungary and down to the Balkan Peninsula. Following the rout of the Turks, Vienna began to build and what followed is called the era of “Vienna gloriosa”.

From 1740 to 1790, Empress Maria Theresa and her son, Joseph II made many reforms in Austria and in Vienna. Among their accomplishments were the abolishment of torture, serfdom, religious intolerance, and monistaries that did not serve a charitable or social service. They founded hospitals and opened the Prater and Augarten to everyone. They established elementary education for all and created a new government administration for the empire.

In 1805, and again in 1809, Napoleon made war on Austria and occupied Vienna. He was finally defeated by Austria, England, Prussia and Russia and by 1815, the balance of power was restored by the Congress of Vienna. For another thirty years there was relative calm....until an uprising against the police-state type of government run by Metternich successfully toppled the monarchy. Democracy was short lived, however, and the military soon placed the Habsburgs back in power. At the age of 18, Emperor Francis Joseph I succeeded to the throne.

In 1857, Francis Joseph I ordered the fortifying walls around the Old Quarter to be leveled. In its place the Ringstrasse was built. This magnificant boulivard not only showcases the archetecture of the old brought the outlying districts into the city. The latter half of the 19th Century was marked by the increase in population as people flocked to Vienna

In 1916, Francis Joseph died...and within 2 years the monarchy had crumbled. With the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Republic of Austria is founded. Riddled with economic problems, the new Republic manages to survive...only to be forced into an alliance with Nazi Germany in 1938. Vienna is now a province of the Third Reich. WWII took its toll on Vienna...she was heavily bombed by the British and the Americans. Many cultural treasures as well as housing were destroyed....not to mention the tremendous loss of life...hundreds of thousands were lost while serving in the Wehrmacht...65,000 Jewish citizens died in concentration camps...and well over100,000 were forced into exile. After the war, Vienna was occupied, as was Berlin, by the four Allies. However...perminant occupation was avoided by having the Allies take turns controlling the center of the city. In 1955, all foreign military left, and Austria again became self-governing. Since then, the United Nations has chosen Vienna as the site for two of its entities: IAEA...the International Atomic Energy Agency, and UNIDO...United Nations Industrial Development Organization. In addition, Vienna has been the site of Summit meetings between the US and Soviet 1961 and again in 1979.

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