Map of Austria ( Click the map to enlarge it! )
Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The territory of Austria covers 83,855 square kilometres (32,377 sq mi) and has a temperate and alpine climate. Austria's terrain is highly mountainous due to the presence of the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 metres (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 metres (12,461 ft).The majority of the population speaks German,which is also the country's official language. Other local official languages are Croatian, Hungarian and Slovene.
The origins of Austria today date back to the time of the Habsburg dynasty as a part of the Holy Empire of German Nation; Austria became one of the great powers of Europe. In 1867, the Austrian Empire was reformed into Austria-Hungary.
The Habsburg (Austro-Hungarian) Empire collapsed in 1918 with the end of World War I. The First Austrian Republic, a German State, was established in 1919. In the 1938 Anschluss, Austria was occupied and annexed by Nazi Germany.This lasted until the end of World War II in 1945, after which Nazi Germany was occupied by the Allies and Austria former democratic constitution was restored. In 1955, the Austrian State Treaty re-established Austria as a sovereign state, ending the occupation. In the same year, the Austrian Parliament created the Declaration of Neutrality which declared that the Second Austrian Republic would become permanently neutral.
Today, Austria is a parliamentary representative democracy comprising nine federal states.The capital and largest city, with a population exceeding 1.6 million, is Vienna.Austria is one of the richest countries in the world, with a nominal per capita GDP of $43,723 (2010 est.). The country has developed a high standard of living and in 2010 was ranked 25th in the world for its Human Development Index. Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1955, joined the European Union in 1995, and is a founder of the OECD. Austria also signed the Schengen Agreement in 1995, and adopted the European currency, the euro, in 1999.