What defines an Austrian?

Some people, citizens and even some members of the Austrian Parliament (namely such from a freedom party ticket) don't think of themselves as Austrian. Those people state that, although they are citizens of the Republic of Austria, their nationality and cultural identity is German. This has caused quite some turbulence in Austrian politics a couple of months ago (as well as a bit of a debate on how to correctly interpret the result of a soccer game Austria vs. Germany). It seems that the Anschluß is still present in the heart of many (especially) old people, and a few people don't think Austria is quite a country of it's own.

What is Austrian?

A guide would say: Wienerschnitzel, Mozartkugeln, The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Lippizaner Horses, the Vienna Choirboys and a couple of other tourist attractions. The problem is, that there is no proper point of definition for a Austrian National Identity. It plainly doesn't exist. CatherineB explains it quite nicely in her writeup The collapse of Austria-Hungary in World War I: "While nationalism came to bind other states together in the nineteenth century, the Habsburgs depended on the principle of Kaisertreue - loyalty to the emperor, rather than identification with the state." After the first World War had ended, there was a meme saying: "Europe is well-divided, the rest is Austria", meaning that after deducting all other terretories from it, Austria was nothing more than a landlocked leftover. While most other nations prided themselves in nationalistic movements, Austrian politicans tried to rename the newfounded republic into "Deutsch-Österreich" (German Austria). Throughout the whole inter-war era, the country stayed a big mess, with a civil war and great inner unrest, and eventually many people were quite happy when Austria was annexed by it's big brother Germany.
When the Nazi-Dictatorship was finally overthrown, Austria was occupied by allied forces, and quite busy with rebuilding. This was also the time when the tourism industry created the nowadays image of Austria as a country of picturesque nature, long snowy skiing slopes and a bit of mediterrean sleazyness. The post-war generation found a bit of liking for that image and adopted it to cater to it's needs.

Or as the Austrian Anthem says "you are the strong heart of Europe", a national identity that seems to stick to my country like glue.

What is it like to be an Austrian?

First of all, there is little to pride yourself with. The Americans have the fattest guns and the largest economy in the world, the chinese have 6000 years of cultural history, the Swiss have good cheese and the Finnish people have good vodka. But what have the Austrians got? It's laughable, but we even suck ass at soccer. Austria is a wealthy 1st world country of 8 million inhabitants with a stable economy, a stable democracy (exept for him maybe), and a fairly stable social system. When you go to school at the age of six, the state pays for your books, and you are legally entitled to drink alcohol at sixteen. As a young men of 18, you are called to serve in the army for 8 month, or 12 months of civil service. At 65, the state you will pay you a pension with the money of people who pay for their own retirement in 20 years. (Yes, this is a pyramid system). The Pope once said, when visiting mid-70s Austria, that Austria was the island of the blessed. While this is probably true, we are no different than people from other countries.

Aus"tri*an (?), a.

Of or pertaining to Austria, or to its inhabitants.



A native or an inhabitant of Austria.


© Webster 1913.

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