Austria is located at the Eastern end of the Alps in the middle of Central Europe. Bordered by Germany and The Czech Republic to the North, Hungary and Slovakia to the East, Italy and Slovenia to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Austria is landlocked but dissected at its Northern third by the longest and most commercially significant river on the European continent- the Danube.
The Republic of Austria is comprised of 9 federal provinces: Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Styria, Salzburg, Vorarlberg, Tyrol, and the capital city and 9th federal state, Vienna.
Although there is evidence of human settlement in Austria as far back as 23,000 B.C., it was not until the first century AD that Vienna was established as one of the northernmost outposts of the Roman Empire that any historical record appears. By 300 AD Vienna was a thriving center of northern Roman trade, but with the decline of the Roman Empire it was repeatedly overrun by various Germanic and Celtic tribes.
In 803 AD Charlemagne conquered the Danube territories and brought them into the hands of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1278 Rudolf II of Habsburg took control of what is now Austria and began one of the longest dynastic rules in European history- the Habsburg Empire. The Habsburgs were able to accumulate vast land wealth through savvy political marriages, and by the 15th century had established power throughout much of central Europe and stretching even as far as the Iberian Peninsula. With the help of their Polish Allies, the Habsburgs successfully deterred attacks from the Ottoman Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries and by the 19th century, the by then “Austro-Hungarian Empire” had become the dominant power on the European continent.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the proliferation of nationalist movements throughout Europe threatened the stability of the multi ethnic and multi national Austro-Hungarian territories. The assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist in 1916 marked the beginning of World War I and the eventual dissolution of the Habsburg Empire.
Turbulent economic and political times followed the end of World War I and in March of 1938, Hitler marched into Austria and officially annexed it as a part of the Third Reich. After World War II Austria established the Second Austrian Republic, based on a constitution from 1920, and after a protracted occupation by USSR, US and other Allied Powers troops, was finally granted independence in 1955.