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In Austrian history, the First Republic encompasses the period following the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy at the end of World War I, up to World War II. Austria was a de-facto republic, as the constitution did not identify it directly as a republic, its official name was the Federal State of Austria. This period was marked by violent strife between the left and the right, as seen in the July Revolt of 1927. The Constitution of Austria was enacted in 1920 and amended in 1929. The First Republic ends with the Anschluss to Nazi Germany in 1938, or, according to some accounts with the establishment of the Austro-fascist dictatorship in 1933/34 following the Austrian Civil War. (The constitution of the Austro-fascist state did not consider Austria a republic, but only a Bundesstaat, i.e. a federal state).
In 1919, the state of German Austria was dissolved by the Treaty of Saint Germain, which ceded German-populated regions in Sudetenland to Czechoslovakia, German-populated Tyrol to Italy and a portion of southern land to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia). The treaty angered the German population in Austria who claimed that it violated the Fourteen Points laid out by United States President Woodrow Wilson during peace talks, specifically the right to "self-determination" of all nations. The new state managed to prevent two land claims from being taken by their neighbours. The first was the south-eastern part of Carinthia, which was inhabited mostly by Slovenians. It was prevented from being taken by the new SHS-state through a plebiscite on October 20, 1920, in which the population chose to remain with Austria. The second land-claim that was prevented was Hungary's claim to Burgenland, which, under the name "Western Hungary", had been part of the Hungarian kingdom since 1647. It was inhabited mostly by a German-speaking population, but had also Croat- and Hungarian-speaking minorities. Through the Treaty of St. Germain it became part of the Austrian Republic in 1921. After a plebiscite which was disputed by Austria, the city of Sopron (German Ödenburg) remained in Hungary.
After the war, Austria was governed by a coalition of left-wing and right-wing parties which had established a number of progressive socioeconomic and labour legislation. In 1920, the coalition government established the Constitution of Austria. However the new state was difficult to control, as much of the former empire's important economic regions had been taken away with the foundation of new nation-states. The matter was further complicated by the fact that a number of these new nation-states were still dependent on Vienna's banks.
Government and Politics, 1920–1932 Edit
After 1920, Austria's government was dominated by the Christian Social Party which retained close ties to the Roman Catholic Church. The party's first Chancellor, Ignaz Seipel, attempted to forge a political alliance between wealthy industrialists and the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the nation having a steady political party in power, the politics of the nation were fractious and violent, with both left-wing (Republikanischer Schutzbund) and right-wing (Heimwehr) political paramilitary forces clashing with each other. In 1927, left-wing supporters engaged in a massive protest over the acquittal of right-wing paramilitaries who were found guilty of killing a man and a child. The huge protest was known as the July Revolt of 1927. The July Revolt was put down through violence by police which killed a number of protestors. The violence in Austria continued to escalate until the early 1930s when Engelbert Dollfuß became Chancellor.
- Main article: Austrofascism
Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuß (Template:Lang-en) of the Christian Social Party took power in Austria in 1932, and moved the party and Austria towards dictatorship, centralization and fascism. In 1933, Dollfuß took advantage of an error in a bill in parliament, and his cabinet voted to dissolve the National Council and declared that parliament ceased to function.
The government was in competition with the growing Austrian Nazi party, which wanted Austria to join Germany. Dollfuß's Austrofascism tied Austria's roots with Roman Catholicism to the government, as a means to show reason to why Austria should not join a predominantly Protestant Germany. Violence escalated into civil war between Nazis, socialists, and Austrofascists.
In 1934, Dollfuß created a one-party state, to be led by the Fatherland Front. The state took complete control on employer–employee relations, and began to crack down on pro-Nazi and pro–German-unification sympathizers. The Nazis responded by assassinating Engelbert Dollfuß on July 25, 1934.
This assassination by the Austrian Nazis infuriated Austria's neighbour, Fascist Italy under dictator Benito Mussolini. Fascist Italy had good relations with Austria under Dollfuß and Mussolini suspected German involvement and promised the Austrofascist regime military support if Germany were to invade, as the Nazis had claims on Italian-administered Tyrol. Italy's support helped save Austria from potential annexation in 1934.
In 1938, Hitler had gained Italy's favour on the issue of annexation of Austria, and made clear his immediate intentions to take over the country. Schuschnigg desperately tried to avoid war with Germany, and organized a plebiscite set for March 13 to decide whether Austria would join Germany or remain independent. Schuschnigg intended to rig the vote to insure a pro-Austrian victory. Hitler responded by demanding Schuschnigg's immediate resignation, which he was pressured to accept on March 11 which the immediate threat of occupation. Schuschnigg was replaced by Austrian Nazi leader Arthur Seyß-Inquart and Germany sent in troops the next day on March 12, which took over the nation. On March 13, the First Austrian Republic was formally dissolved and became part of Germany as part of Anschluss (political union).
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