1918-1920 Dictatorship

Austria Democratic, 1920-1933

Austria's constitution seemed stable. The country had been barred from unifying with Germany by the Entente's veto; it had gained respectably regained the Burgenland (Lajtabanszac, 1921) and Carinthia (1920) in plebiscites. The Emperor and his descendants had gone to Switzerland into exile and were forbidden to set foot on Austrian soil. Parliament was elected according to proportional representation; elections were dominated by 3 parties none of which was able to gain an absolute majority.
After World War I the country had lost much of it's agricultural as well as industrial base. What was left of Austria was mostly covered by the Alps; Vienna was a capital much too large in proportion to the small Austrian republic. The country had managed to suppress hyperinflation, but the economy continued to remain in a depression.
Over the next years Austria had a succession of minority CSP governments (Christian Social), with the Nationals and the SDAP (Social Democrats) in the opposition; the latter ruled Vienna. Unfortunately there was bad blood between the political parties.
As in Italy and Germany, political militias were organized - the Republikanischer Schutzbund (Republican Defense League) of the SDAP, the Heimwehr (Home Guard) and Heimatschutz (Homeland Protection), two conservative-oriented militias. The Heimwehr, dominated by Rüdiger von Starhemberg, was of special importance; he had been the driving force behind Austria's attempt to unify with Germany.
Public order occasionally broke down as the militias fought over control of Vienna, such as in the 1927 riots.

In the years 1920 to 1923, Austria experienced a strong inflation; it was terminated by a currency reform in 1923. The old currenct (1 Krone = 100 Heller) was replaced by the Schilling (1 Schilling = 100 Groschen).
The Great Depression hit Austria, as it's economy continued to be weak. Unemployment rose, doubling from 1929 by reaching 600,000 in 1933. In May 1931 a major Austrian bank, the Credit Anstalt, was bankrupt, the event threatening the republic's entire economy. The government guaranteed deposits to avoid an even wider economic disaster.
The Austrian branch of the Nazi Party gained in elections; chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss in May 1933 switched to rule by decree, thus ending parliamentary democracy. Austria practically was a dictatorship.

Library of Congress, Country Studies : Austria
Biographies from AEIOU : Ernst Ruediger von Starhemberg; Ignaz Seipel; Johann Schober, Karl Renner, Engelbert Dollfuss
Economic History of the 20th Century : Great Crash and Great Slump, by J. Bradford DeLong, scroll down, detailed on the Creditanstalt Crisis
From the Social Democratic model of "Red Vienna" to the "Ständestaat"(1918-1938), from Wien Online
Von der Regierungsverantwortung in die Illegalitaet, from SPÖ Geschichte, in German, chronology 1919-1939
Unemployment, from aeiou, with data of 1926 and 1933
DOCUMENTS Historical Population Statistics : Austria, from Population Statistics, at Univ. Utrecht
REFERENCE Article : Austria, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1924 pp.672-680, 1925 pp.683-690, 1926 pp.661-669, 1928 pp.669-677, 1929 pp.663-671, 1932 pp.668-676 [G]
Article : Austria, in : Americana Annual 1927 pp.72-75, 1928 pp.72-74, 1930 pp.86-89, 1931 pp.87-89, 1932 pp.86-88, 1933 pp.78-80 [G]
Article : Austria, in : New International Year Book 1921 pp.66-69, 1923 pp.69-72, 1925 pp.73-76, 1928 pp.75-78, 1930 pp.76-79, 1932 pp.76-78, 1933 pp.69-72 [G]
Article : Austria, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1932 pp.82-85, 1933 pp.65-66 [G]
Stephen Graham, Europe - Whither Bound ? Being Letters of Travel from the Capitals of Europe in the Year 1921 (Toronto 1922), chapters VIII : Vienna, posted online by Gutenberg Library Online

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on October 17th 2007

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