Burgenland

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This article is about the Austrian state Burgenland. For the German district, see Burgenlandkreis.
Burgenland
Image:Burgenland Wappen.PNG
State AT-1 (ISO)
Capital Eisenstadt
Governor Hans Niessl (SPÖ)
Area
 - Total
Ranked 7th
3,966 km²
Population
 - Total (2001)
 - Density
Ranked 9th
277,569
70/km²
Image:Burgenland Landesflagge.PNG
The state flag of Burgenland
Image:Karte oesterreich burgenland.png
The state of Burgenland on the map of Austria

Burgenland (Hungarian Várvidék, Őrvidék or Felsőőrvidék, Croatian Gradišće, Slovenian Gradiščansko) is the easternmost state or Land of Austria. It consists of two Statutarstädte (towns with a charter) and seven districts with in total 171 municipalities. It is 166 km long from north to south but much narrower from west to east (only 5 km wide at Sieggraben).

Contents

[edit] Geography

Burgenland is the 7th largest of Austria's 9 provinces (Bundesländer), at 3,966 km². The highest point in the province is Geschriebenstein, at 884 metres, the lowest point is 114 metres, near Apetlon.

Burgenland has a very long border: To the west it borders the Austrian provinces of Niederösterreich and Steiermark. To the northeast it borders Slovakia, Hungary to the east and Slovenia to the farthest south.

Burgenland shares with Hungary one of two lakes without natural outflow in Europe, the Neusiedler See; the other one being Lake Balaton, in Hungary.

[edit] Politics of Burgenland

Burgenland's provincial assembly (Landtag) has 36 seats. At the election held on 3 December 2000, the SPÖ won 17 seats, the ÖVP won 13 seats, the FPÖ won 4 seats, and the Green Party won 2 seats. The provincial government is a coalition of the SPÖ and the ÖVP. The voting age for regional elections in Burgenland was reduced to 16 in 2003. In an election held on October 9 2005, the SPÖ won 19 seats, giving them a majority. The ÖVP retained its 13 seats, the Green Party retained its 2 seats, and the FPÖ fell to 2 seats.[1]

[edit] Administration

In Burgenland there are 2 Statutarstädte and 7 districts. From north to south:

Image:Karte Aut Bgld.png
The districts of Burgenland

[edit] Statutarstädte

These combine the attributes of district and city.

[edit] Districts

[edit] History of Burgenland

[edit] Between Hungary and Austria

The first inhabitation of Burgenland dates back to the Stone Age. During the Roman Empire it formed the core of the province of Pannonia. After the battle at Augsburg (955), Germanic settlers started to inhabit the area. In 1043 a peace treaty between Kaiser Henry III and King Aba Sámuel of Hungary fixed the western border of Hungary along the Leitha river. The territory of the present-day Burgenland became the western border-zone of Hungary until 1920.

The majority of the population was mainly Germanic except the Hungarian border-guards of the frontier (gyepű). Germanic immigration was also continuous in the Middle Ages from the neighbouring Austria. In the 16-17th centuries German Protestant refugees arrived in Western Hungary to take shelter from the religion wars of the Holy Roman Empire.

After 1440 the territory of present-day Burgenland was occupied by the Habsburgs of Austria, and in 1463 the northern part of it (with the town of Kőszeg) became a mortgage-territory according to the peace treaty of Wiener Neustadt. In 1477 King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary reoccupied, but in 1491 it was mortgaged again by King Ulászló II of Hungary to Kaiser Maximilian I. In 1647 Kaiser Ferdinand II returned it to Hungary. In the 17-18th centuries wealthy Catholic landowner-families, for example the Esterházys and Batthyánys dominated the region.

After the demise of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy in 1918, the German inhabitants of Deutsch-Westungarn intended to join Austria. According to the 1910 census 291,800 people lived on the territory of present-day Burgenland. Among them 217,072 were German-speaking (74%), 43,633 Croatian (15%) and 26,225 (9%) Hungarian. Roma people were counted according to their mother language.

The decision about Deutsch-Westungarn was fixed in the peace treaties of Saint Germain and the Trianon. Despite diplomatic efforts by Hungary, the victorious parties of World War I set the date of Burgenland's official unification with Austria as August 28 1921. In fact, the occupation by the Austrian police and customs was stopped on the same day, hindered by sharpshooters who offered armed resistance with the support of Hungary.

[edit] 1921: The ninth state of Austria

With the help of Italian diplomatic mediation, the crisis was almost resolved in the autumn of 1921, when Hungary committed to disarm the sharpshooters by November 6 1921, with the caveat of a poll about the unification of certain territories, including Ödenburg (Sopron), the designated capital of Burgenland, and eight other communities. The poll took place from the 14th to the 16 December, and resulted in a clear (but doubted by Austria) vote of the people for Hungary.

Contrary to the other ('Cisleithanian') present Austrian states, Burgenland did not constitute a specific Kronland. Because of its different historical roots at the time of its formation it did not have its own 'regional' political and administrative institutions such as a Landtag (representative assembly) and Statthalter (imperial governor).

On July 18 1922, the first elections for the parliament of Burgenland took place. To cope with the changeover from Hungarian to Austrian jurisdiction, a lot of interim arrangements were made. The parliament decided in 1925 on Eisenstadt as the official capital of Burgenland, and moved from the various provisional estates throughout the country to the newly built Landhaus in 1929.

The first Austrian census in 1923 registered 285,600 people in Burgenland. The ethnic composition of the province slightly changed: the percentage of Germans increased compared to 1910 (227,869 people, 80%) while the percentage of Hungarians rapidly declined (14,931 people, 5%). This change was due to the emigration of the Hungarian civil servants and intellectuals after the union with Austria.

In 1923, emigration to the United States of America, which started in the late 19th century, reached its climax; in some places up to a quarter of the population went overseas.

After the Nazi German Anschluss of Austria, the administrative unit Burgenland was dissolved and integrated into the districts of Niederdonau (Lower Danube) and Steiermark (Styria).

In addition to the oppression of the Jews, the ethnic groups Roma and Sinti also suffered from the people's xenophobic delusion; despite the fact that the Indian origin of these ethnics actually made them, according to the Nazi logic, "Aryan".

The policy of Germanization had effects on other ethnic minorities especially Croatians and Hungarians. Minority schools were closed and the use of native language discouraged.

The Nazis began, with the help of mostly Jewish forced labour and committed inhabitants, to build the Ostwall (Eastern Rampart), which showed itself utterly useless at the time Soviet troops crossed the Hungarian-Austrian border and began to invade Austria. In the last days of the Nazi regime a lot of executions and death-marches of the Jewish forced labourers took place.

[edit] Minefields 1945-1970

As of October 1, 1945, Burgenland was reestablished with Soviet support and given to the Soviet forces in exchange for Steiermark (Styria), which was in turn occupied by the United Kingdom.

Under the Soviet occupation, people in Burgenland had to stand a time of serious mistreatment and an extremely slow economical progression, the latter induced by investor-discouraging presence of the Soviet troops. The Soviet occupation ended with the signing of the Austrian Independence Treaty of Vienna in 1955 by the Occupying Forces.

The brutally defeated Hungarian Revolution on October 23 1956 resulted in a shockwave of Hungarian refugees at the Hungarian-Austrian border, especially at the Bridge of Andau (Brücke von Andau), who were received by the inhabitants of Burgenland with an overwhelming amount of hospitality.

In 1957, the construction of the "anti-Fascist Protective Barrier" resulted in a complete bulkheading of the area under Soviet influence from the rest of the world, rendering the Hungarian-Austrian border next to Burgenland a deadly zone of mine fields (on the Hungarian border) and barbed wire, referred to as the Iron Curtain. Even during the era of the Iron Curtain, local trains between the north and south of Burgenland operated as "Corridor trains" (Korridorzüge) – they had their doors locked as they traversed Hungarian territory.

Starting in 1965 and finishing in 1971, the minefields were cleansed because people were often harmed by them, even on the Austrian side of the border. This could well be taken as a sign of the Soviet Union towards opening the borders to the Western countries, starting in the late seventies.

[edit] Wine and Iron Curtain

Despite Burgenland (especially the area around Neusiedler See) always producing excellent wine, some vintagers in Burgenland added illegal substances to their wine in the mid-1980s. When this was revealed, the wine export of Austria broke down completely. After recovering from that scandal, vintagers in Austria, not only in Burgenland, started focussing on quality and mostly dropped the production of poor quality wine.

Image:Mock&Horn.jpg
In the summer of 1989, the foreign ministers of Austria and Hungary, Alois Mock and Gyula Horn, ceremoniously cut through the border defences separating their countries.

On July 27 1989, the Foreign ministers of Austria and Hungary, Alois Mock and Gyula Horn, cut the Iron Curtain (in German: "Eiserner Vorhang") in the village of Klingenbach in a symbolic act with far-reaching consequences. Thousands of East Germans used this possibility to flee to the West. Again, the inhabitants of Burgenland received them with great hospitality. Later, this was often referred to as the starting shot of the German reunification.

In 2004, the complete opening of the borders in conjunction with Hungary joining the European Union has brought back the historical denotation of Burgenland being a bridge between the western and eastern territories in Central Europe.

[edit] Minorities

Burgenland has notable Croatian (29,000 - 45,000) and Hungarian (5,000 - 15,000) population residing in it.

Hungarians are living in the villages of Oberwart/Felsőőr, Unterwart/Alsóőr and Siget in der Wart/Őrisziget. The three villages together are called Upper Őrség (Hun: Felső-Őrség, German: Wart), and they have formed a language island since the 11th century. The other old Hungarian language island in Oberpullendorf/Felsőpulya has almost disappeared today. The Hungarians of Burgenland were "őrök" ie. guards of the western frontier, and their special dialect is similar to the Székelys in Transylvania. Their cultural centre is Oberwart/Felsőőr.

The Croatians arrived after the devastating Ottoman war in 1532, when the Ottoman army totally destroyed some parts of the territory. Their resettlement by estate-owners was finished only in 1584. They have preserved their strong Catholic faith and their language until today, and in the 19th century their national identity grew stronger because of the influence of the National Revival in Croatia. Between 1918 and 1921 Croatians opposed the planned annexation of West-Hungary to Austria, and in 1923 seven Croatian villages voted for a return to Hungary. The Croatian Cultural Association of Burgenland was established in 1934. In the Nazi era (1938-45) the Croatian language was officially prohibited, and the state pursued an aggressive policy of Germanization. The Austrian State Treaty of 1955 guaranteed minority rights for every native ethnic minority in Austria but Croatians had to fight for the use of their language in schools and offices even in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2000 51 new bilingual village name-signs were put out in Burgenland (47 Croatian and 4 Hungarian).

The language of the Croatian minority is an interesting 16th century dialect which is different from standard Croatian. In minority schools and media the local dialect is used, and it has had a written form since the 17th century (the Gospel was first translated to dialect-Croatian in 1711). Today the language is endangered by assimilation, according to the UNESCO "Red Book". The Croatians of Burgenland belong to the same group as their relatives on the other side of the modern Hungarian border.

[edit] Name

The region wasn't an independent territorial entity so it didn't have any name before 1921. Until the end of the First World War the German-speaking western borderland of Hungary was sometimes unofficially called Deutsch-Westungarn (German West Hungary).

The name Vierburgenland (Land of Four Castles) was created in 1919 by Odo Rötig, a Viennese resident in Sopron/Ödenburg. It was derived from the name of the four Hungarian vármegye (in German Komitate, 'counties') known in Hungarian as Pozsony, Moson, Sopron and Vas, or in German as Pressburg, Wieselburg, Ödenburg and Eisenburg. After the town of Pozsony/Pressburg was assigned to Czechoslovakia the number vier was dropped, but the name was kept because it was deemed to be appropriate for a region with so many old frontier castles. The Burgenland name was officially adopted by the first provincial Landtag in 1922.

In Hungarian the German name is generally accepted but there are three modern alternatives used by minor groups. The Hungarian translation of the German name, Várvidék was invented by László Juhász, an expert of the region in the 1970s and it is becoming increasingly popular especially in touristic publications. The other two names Őrvidék and Felső-Őrvidék derive from the name of the most important old Magyar language island, the Felső-Őrség. This microregion is around the town Felsőőr/Oberwart so these new names are a bit misleading however they are sometimes used.

The Croatian and Slovenian names Gradišće and Gradiščansko are translations of the German name.

[edit] Symbols

Heraldic description of the coat-of-arms of Burgenland:

Or, standing upon a rock sable an eagle regardant wings displayed gules, langued of the same, crowned and armed of the first, on his breast an escutcheon paly of four, of the third and white fur, fimbriated of the field, and in dexter and sinister cantons two crosslets paty sable.

The arms were introduced in 1922 after the new province was created. They were composed from the arms of the two most important medieval noble families of the region, the Counts of Nagymarton and Fraknó (Mattersdorf-Forchtensten, eagle on the rock) and the Counts of Németújvár (Güssing, three bars of red and white fur).

The flag of the province shows two stripes of red and gold, the colours of the coat-of-arms. It was officially confirmed in 1971.

[edit] Sources

[edit] External links


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