1945-1949 1955-1969

Occupied Austria, 1949-1955

Status and Foreign Policy : Nominally, Austria was under Allied occupation. Austria was administrated by a democratically elected Austrian government; the role of the powers of occupation was supervisory. This being the Cold War Era, cooperation between the USSR and the western Allies was problematic; the borders separating the Soviet Zone from the American and British Zones was checked by Soviet soldiers. The western Allies had been willing to grant Austria a peace treaty and full independence in 1947; the USSR had blocked this. Thus, Austria pursued a cautious foreign policy, conscious of the fact that Austria's capital Vienna was surrounded by the Soviet Zone of occupation, where 44,000 Soviet soldiers were stationed.
The coup in Czechoslovakia, the Berlin Blockade and Soviet actions within occupied Austria caused the Austrian government, as well as the Austrian population, to be sceptical of Soviet motives and actions. Yet, to achieve complete independence it required Soviet approval.
After difficult negotiations, in 1955 Austria was released into independence; the Staatsvertrag (state treaty) contained the condition that Austria had to pursue a policy of neutrality.

Domestic Policy : In the elections of 1949, a new political party, the VdU (Union of Malcontents; conservatives, many of whom had been affected by the policy of Denazification in 1945-1948) captioned seats at the expense of the SPÖ and ÖVP. The Communists held their ground; both VdU and Communists formed the opposition; the coalition of Social Democrats and People's Party was to govern until 1966.
A law in 1950 converted bank assets frozen since 1945 into the new currency; many asset holders regarded themselves being robbed. The Communists organized mass demonstrations in an attempt to force the government to resign; it failed.
The coalition of SPÖ and ÖVP was based on the common view that the political and economic stability of the country, and the hope for an independent, democratic Austria with a free market economy depended on their cooperation. In 1952 a dispute over a proposed budget almost resulted in the break-up of the coalition - a clear sign that the threat posed by Austria's Communists and the Soviets supporting them, was perceived as having declined. The elections of 1953 brought slight losses for the ÖVP, slight gains for the SPÖ the coalition government continued, now under Julius Raab.

The Economy : In 1948-1949, Austria's economic situation had improved the economic situation considerably. The available supplies of essential items had drastically increased; the income of the average Austrian had also increased. Rationing and price controls were terminated (1950); the Black Market disappeared. Yugoslavia and the USSR came to look at Austria as a (comparatively) affluent country and tried to cash in on this wealth by increasing trade.
Austria developed Sozialpartnerschaft (social partnership), the concept of employers and trade unions solving labour disputes amicably by negotiation; labour conflicts (strikes) were rare in the Alpine republic.
In the 1940es many Austrian enterprises had been nationalized, in part because nationalization of industries was regarded an appropriate treatment of industrialists who had supported and profitted from the Nazi regime; Austrian politicians had had another motive - preventing the assets of these companies to fall into Soviet hands, as the USSR tried to claim a maximum of "German" assets in Austria which they intended to transfer to the USSR.
The state enterprises were administrated in a bureaucratic rather than businesslike manner, often forcing them to sell their products at low prices (not inflation-adjusted) which placed their customers at an advantage, but which made it impossible for them to invest.

Library of Congress, Country Studies : Austria
Wendepunkte der Entwicklung des Parlamentarismus in Österreich 2.10 Die Zweite Republik , (The Second Republic), from Austrian Parliament
Staatsvertrag, from aeiou
Austria, in : Kenneth Janda, Political Parties : A Cross-National Survey
DOCUMENTS List of Austrian Presidents, Chancellors etc., from World Statesmen
Historical Population Statistics : Austria, from Population Statistics, at Univ. Utrecht
Primary Sources of 20th century Austrian History , from Zeitgeschichte Information System : Planung und Politik der Alliierten 1940-1954 (Planning and Policy of the Allies, regarding Austria); Österreich unter alliierter Besatzung 1945-1955 (Austria under Allied Occupation, 1945-1955); Der Weg zum Staatsvertrag (The road to the Staatsvertrag); Die Grosse Koalition 1945-1966 (The Grand Coalition 1945-1966)
Control Machinery in Austria; July 4, 1945, from Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Image from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Joint allied patrol in Austria (one Soviet, one US, one British, one French officer in the same jeep)
Ernest's Story : Life under Russian Occupation, from Stories from the 1940's, Vienna
Wien im Rückblick (Vienna in Retrospect), summaries of events 1945-1961 on a day-by-day basis, from Wiens Web Service (in German) : 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, in German, secondary sources, based on sources from Vienna City Hall's Archive
Map : Austria and the Marshall Plan (featuring where Marshall aid was invested, 1948-1950), from Marshall Plan Exhibit at Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Den Haag (NL)
Österreich und der Marshall Plan (facsimile of book cover; illustrated document edition), from Marshall Plan Exhibit at Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Den Haag (NL)
"Liberators and the Liberated", "Occupiers and the Occupied", documents of Americans in Austria 1945 to 1955, from H net
UN General Assembly 7th Session 1952-1953, Resolution 613;
REFERENCE Hellmut Andics, Die Insel der Seligen (The Island of the Holy), Wien )1968) : Goldmann 1980, in German [G]
Article : Austria, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1947 pp.90-91, 1948 pp.88-89, 1949 pp.81-82, 1950 pp.82-84, 1951 pp.79-80, 1952 pp.76-77, 1953 pp.75-77, 1954 pp.75-76, 1955 pp.135-136 [G]
Article : Austria, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1952 pp.55-57 [G]

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First posted in 2000, last revised on August 20th 2008

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