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The earliest settlers in the Vienna Basin were Celts. They were succeeded by Germanic warriors from the North who were so fierce that the Romans built fortifications against them on the Southern bank of the Danube. The Roman fortress of Vindobona was the basis of what we now know as Vienna's inner city. The Romans withdrew as their empire disintegrated, giving rise to the Germanic nation called Österreich, meaning “Eastern Realm”.

Österreich, called Austria in English, became a medieval power by virtue of the country's diverse economy and the diplomatic skill of the Viennese aristocracy. By marriage and inheritance as well as by military conquest, Vienna become the seat of an empire stretching from the Eastern Alps into Hungary and Bohemia.

Austria's imperial family, the Habsburgs, intermarried with the Hungarian royal family and continued to expand into Slavic territory. At the same time, the Ottoman Turks were advancing on Europe from their stronghold in Asia Minor. On two separate occasions during the Renaissance, the Austrians stopped the Turkish onslaught at the walls of Vienna.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire grew until it covered the territory of many Western and Southern Slavic tribes, including the Czechs, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The discontent of the subjugated Slavs would eventually be the downfall of the Empire.

The Hungarians were the first to successfully revolt against Austrian rule, however, achieving a more balanced partnership with the Habsburgs in the 19th century. This led to the prosperous period of the Dual Monarchy. Vienna was at this time not only a strong influence on the neighboring Hungarians and Slavs, but was in turn influenced by them.

The Habsburg Empire came to an end in the summer of 1914 with the assassination of its heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by a Serbian nationalist. As the Habsburgs retaliated against the Slavic rebels, an ambitious German Empire mobilized to defend their Austrian cousins and to strike against their Russian archenemy in the East. Soon all of Europe was embroiled in the Great War, a cataclysm that lasted until 1918. During this war and its sequel two decades later, Vienna was a war zone.

As a result of its ill-fated alliance with the German Kaiser and then with Adolf Hitler, Austria lost most of its territory. Vienna became the capital of a country much reduced in size but still vibrant in culture. Thanks to timely assistance from the West and to the hard work of the Austrian people, Vienna thrived during the post-war years, gradually advancing from a centralized economy to a free-market system. During the Cold War, Vienna's position beside the Iron Curtain made it a portal to Eastern Europe. Vienna played host to the extensive diplomatic apparatus of neighboring Communist countries and of the United States.

The headquarters of many international bodies were established in Vienna, including the Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC) and several United Nations organizations, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Austria was a latecomer to the European Union but an economically mature one, acceding to full membership in 1995. Austria adopted the euro as its national currency when the Eurozone came into effect. Vienna is today a beautiful and comfortable home on the Danube to nearly two million residents. It is also an attractive destination for discerning tourists who come to savor the rich musical and architectural traditions of Vienna.
 

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