Influence of the Church

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Austria: Small is beautiful, Attractions for Industry, Influence of the Church, Shot That Started a War, Magnificent Capital City, Vienna, Kitzbuhel, Lower Austria, Linz, Salzburg, Graz

Influence of the Church

Influence of the Church

With 88 per cent of the population Roman Catholic, the Church is a powerful influence. Crucifixes and statues of the Virgin are conspicuous outdoor features, especially in the mountain villages. The rural areas also contain the best examples of the traditional farmhouses, which vary from region to region. Examples of each type can be seen together in the Osterreichisches Freilichtmuseum (Austrian open air museum) near Graz.

The country's emphasis on regionalism -typical of a mountain culture where each valley developed largely in isolation from its neighbours - is reflected in Austria's political structure. The country is a federation of nine Lander, or states, each with its own government. Each Land is represented in the Federal Council, which is responsible for national and international affairs. National government has been in the hands of the Austrian Socialist Party since 1970. It is heavily involved in providing public housing and in the administration of 82 profitable nationalised industries ranging from steel and chemicals to transport.

Internationally, Austria is firmly neutral -a political buffer between the NATO countries of Western Europe and the Warsaw Pact countries of the Soviet bloc. It is not a member of NATO or the Common Market, nor of their eastern counterparts. As a result, the capital, VIENNA, has become one of the world's great meeting places. The International Centre, in Vienna's Donaupark (Danube Park), is the third major UN complex in the world after New York and Geneva. International agencies, such as the Industrial Development Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, all have their headquarters there. As a neutral state, Austria also attracts refugees - particularly from Communist Czechoslovakia. Not surprisingly, Vienna is host to a number of refugee agencies, among them the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration and the United Nations Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees.

Neutrality, like the sparkling elegance of Vienna, is a product of Austria's turbulent history. Settled originally by Celts in about 500 BC, the land that is now Austria was fought over by Romans, Vandals, Visigoths, Huns, Hungarian Magyars and Germanic tribes. Then, in 1246, a remarkable Swiss-Alsatian family came to power - the Hapsburgs. They made Vienna their capital and built around it an empire that by 1530 included Hungary, the western part of Czechoslovakia, northern Italy, the Netherlands and the whole of Spain. The head of the family in each generation was usually elected Holy Roman Emperor, and Hapsburg power endured for more than 600 years.

Next: Shot That Started a War

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