Famous for its spectacular mountain scenery, Austria has a strategic position at the geographical heart of Europe on the key Danube trade route.
With an area of 83,871 km², the country is mostly dominated in the west and south by mountains (the Alps). Austria’s highest point is Grossglockner mountain, with a height of 3,798 m (12,460 ft.).
The major rivers north of the watershed of the Austrian Alps are the Inn, the Salzach, and the Enns, they are tributaries of the Danube. The rivers south of the watershed are the Gail and Drau rivers in Carinthia and the Mürz and Mur rivers.
Austria is a landlocked country of over 8.5 million people (in 2015), capital and largest city is Vienna, with a population of 1.8 million people.
Once the center of power for the large Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria was reduced to a small republic after its defeat in World War I.
After being joined to Nazi Germany from 1938-1945, Austria was occupied by the Allies, who divided up the country and the capital Vienna into separate sectors.
However, the 1955 State Treaty – signed by the Allies – guaranteed Austria’s unity, ensuring it did not suffer Germany’s fate of being split between the Soviets and the Western Cold War blocs.
In return, Austria declared permanent neutrality, to which it still adheres. Austria joined the European Union in 1995 and the euro monetary system in 1999.
The capital, Vienna, is home to key international organizations, including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Austria was the 14th richest country in the world in terms of GDP (Gross domestic product) per capita in 2014, counting a well-developed social market economy and a high standard of living. Its robust service sector and its proximity to Germany provide a ready market for its steel, iron and agricultural products. The Capital city, Vienna is the fifth richest metropolis in Europe behind Hamburg, London, Luxembourg, and Brussels.
Labour movements are particularly strong in Austria and have large influence on labour politics. Next to a highly developed industry, international tourism is the most important part of the national economy.
Austria has a very rich cultural heritage. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart occupies a place of his own as composer of some of the best-loved European classical music while the works of Franz Schubert enjoy great popularity too.
In the world of philosophy and ideas, Sigmund Freud still provokes controversy while Ludwig Wittgenstein was one of the major influences in 20th century thinking. In fine art, the paintings of Gustav Klimt are widely admired.