The Roman Empire established the settlement of Vindobona on the
banks of the Danube, approximately at the location of modern Vienna’s Old Town, in the 1st century
AD. Vindobona was an important center of commerce for
approximately four hundred years, but it declined as the Roman Empire
A small settlement grew at this location and became known as Wien.
The modest village survived the fall of the Roman Empire and
prospered over the next several centuries. It, too, declined, but
was provided a new lease on life in the 12th century, when the Babenbergs established
a fortification in the area. The Habsburgs conquered the Babenbergs in the
early 13th century and it was the Habsburgs who established Vienna as an
important European capital. In addition, the Habsburg monarchs were responsible
for constructing the city’s stunning collection of palaces and grand buildings.
existence of Habsburg Vienna was threatened when it was besieged by the
Ottoman Turks in 1529 and again in 1683. While both invasions were
repulsed, the Turks were a constant threat to the city during this period.
In the 18th century many of Vienna’s finest building and churches
were constructed. In addition, this was, also, the period when the
then suburban palaces of
Schönbrunn and Belvedere were constructed. Unfortunately, in the early 19th Century Wien was
twice captured by Napoleon and his second siege damaged large
sections of the city.
Vienna and the Habsburg Empire reached its peak under the Empress
Maria Theresa. Maria Theresa and her aides arranged
marriages for her 16 children helping to spread the influence of the
Habsburgs across a wide swath of Europe from Austria through Spain.
Unfortunately, power often begets animosity and the Habsburg
and Austria suffered from wars, assassinations and the weight of history.
The second half of the 19th century appeared to be a time of growth
and promise for the Habsburg Empire,
but this promising path eventually turned into a troubled future.
For example, Emperor Franz Joseph dedicated his life and almost every waking moment to
ensuring the success and longevity of the empire.
He ordered the creation of the Ringstrasse and the construction projects
that populated the Ring with many of its grand building.
the world was changing and the Habsburgs were having a difficult time
retaining their relevance and power base.
The Emperor survived
an assassination attempt, his son and heir committed suicide, and, then, his wife (Sisi)
was assassinated by an Italian Anarchist. A few years later, Franz
Joseph's nephew and heir Archduke Franz
Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo in
1914 by the anarchist Princeps, in what became a factor leading to World
War I. Franz Joseph died in 1916 after a reign of 68 years and was
succeeded by a distant relative, but after the war, the monarchy was
the center of power for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria was
reduced to a small republic after its defeat in World War I.
annexation by Germany in 1938 , the country was aligned with the
Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) during World War II.
The Republic was occupied by the
victorious Allied forces in 1945 and ruled by France, the United
Kingdom, the Soviet Union and the United States. For
example, at the Schwartzenplatz
you will find a monument to the Soviet Armies that took part in the
liberation of Vienna near the end of World War II.
A State Treaty signed in 1955 ended the occupation, recognized
Austria's independence, and forbade the country's unification with Germany. A
constitutional law adopted that same year declared the country's "perpetual
neutrality" as a condition for Soviet military withdrawal. This
neutrality, once ingrained as part of the Austrian cultural identity,
has been called into question since the Soviet collapse of 1991 and
Austria's entry into the European Union in 1995. Present day
Austria is a prosperous country,
and entered the European Monetary Union in 1999.
Many of Vienna's most important buildings were damaged during
the last half of World War II. Over the following 50 years the buildings
and antiquities were restored and today's Vienna bears few hints of its
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