Austria with eagle flag 10 x 15 cm
Austria (German: Österreich) officially the Republic of Austria (German: Republik Österreich), is a landlocked country in Central Europe and Danubian Europe. It borders both Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The capital is the city of Vienna on the Danube River.
The origins of Austria date back to the ninth century, when the territory of Upper and Lower Austria became increasingly populated. The name "Ostarrichi" is first documented in an official document from 996. Since then this word has developed into Österreich.
Austria is a parliamentary representative democracy comprising nine federal states and is one of six European countries that have declared permanent neutrality and one of the few countries that includes the concept of everlasting neutrality in its constitution. Austria has been a member of the United Nations since 1955 and joined the European Union in 1995.
The German name Österreich is derived from Old German Ostarrîchi "Eastern Territory". The name was erroneously Latinized as "Austria" (Latin auster "south wind", metaphorically "south" thus australis "southern" and so on. There is no evidence for the region being called "South" anything in any other language). Reich can also mean "empire," and this connotation is the one that is understood in the context of the Austrian/Austro-Hungarian Empire, Holy Roman Empire, although not in the context of the modern Republic of Österreich. The term probably originates in a vernacular translation of the Medieval Latin name for the region: Marchia orientalis, which translates as "eastern marches" or "eastern borderland", as it was situated at the eastern edge of the Holy Roman Empire (and of the Duchy of Bavaria, respectively), that was also mirrored in the name Ostmark, for a short period applied after the Anschluss to Germany. However, Friedrich Heer, one the most important Austrian historians in the 20th century, stated in his book Der Kampf um die österreichische Identität (The Struggle Over Austrian Identity), that the Germanic form ostarrîchi was not a translation of the Latin word, but both resulted from a much older term originating in the Celtic languages of ancient Austria: More than 2,500 years ago, the major part of the actual country was called Norig by the Celtic population (Hallstatt culture); No- or Nor- meant East or Eastern, whereas Rig is the related to the modern German Reich; realm (among other things). Accordingly, Norig would essentially mean ostarrîchi and Österreich, thus Austria. The Celtic name was eventually Latinized to noricum, when the Romans conquered and Romanized the country that later became Austria. The name of Noricum was then used to designate the Roman province.
The current official designation is the Republic of Austria (Republik Österreich). It was originally known after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1918 as under the name Republic of German Austria (Republik Deutschösterreich) , but the state was forced to change its name by the Treaty of Saint Germain to "Republik Österreich" "Republic of Austria". The name "Republik Deutsch-Österreich" can be found on early 1920 stamps and Money. The name was changed again during the Austro-fascist regime (1934–1938) , into Federal State of Austria (Bundesstaat Österreich) , but restored after regaining independence and the birth of the "Second Austrian Republic" "Zweite Republik"(1955 – present).
During the period of monarchy, Austria was known as the Austrian Empire (Kaisertum Österreich) ; however no official designation existed since the empire was strongly multiethnic. After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the empire became known as Austria-Hungary reflecting the dual monarchy character.
The flag of Austria has three equal horizontal bands of red (top), white, and red. The Austrian flag is possibly the oldest national flag design in the world. The Danish flag and the Austrian flag are said to be the oldest in use.
Duke Friedrich II (1210-1246), the last of the Babenberg dynasty, who was nicknamed the "Quarrelsome" or the "Warlike", designed a new coat of arms in red-white-red in the year 1230 in his attempt to become more independent from the Holy Roman Empire.
Legend: According to legend, the flag was invented by Duke Leopold V of Austria (1157–1194) as a consequence of his fighting during the Crusades. After a fierce battle, his white battle dress was completely drenched in blood. When he removed his belt, the cloth underneath was untouched by it, revealing the combination of red-white-red. So taken was he by this singular sight that he adopted the colors and scheme as his banner.