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The Austrian State Treaty 1955 and the Development of a New Austrian Nation

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The Austrian State Treaty 1955 and the Development of a New Austrian Nation

Lindsay Young
June 1, 2006
History 512.05 Europe since 1950
Prof. Carole Fink
T.A. Amanda Rothey In terms of history, 25 years is the equivalent of nothing more than a fraction of a second. However this mere quarter century, since the signing of the Austrian State Treaty on May 15, 1955, may be the most influential period in shaping the Austrian nation which we are familiar with today. During this time the small alpine country was most recognized for their policy of active neutrality in foreign relations.[pic] With its flexibility and its initiatives in many fields of international politics, it can be regarded as one of the great successes in Austria’s rise in the international system. This positive evaluation of postwar foreign policy is widely shared by the Austrian people.[pic] The 1955 Austrian State Treaty and the policy of active neutrality as well as other factors were important in underpinning the strong popular allegiance to the principles of a new Austrian identity and to the establishment of Austria as an independent nation.
A Decade of Negotiations for Austrian Independence With the Moscow Declaration of November 1, 1943, the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union declared that Austria, the first free country to fall victim to Hitlerite aggression, would be liberated from Germany and with that reestablished as a free and independent nation. Two weeks later, the French Committee for National Liberation, agreed to this declaration.[pic] Throughout the postwar negotiations, the three Western Powers consistently adhered to this objective. The Soviet Union, however, resorted to one ploy after another to prevent the conclusion of a treaty until it suddenly dropped its opposition in the spring of 1955. The first major disagreement over Austria among the occupying powers occurred in 1945 when the Soviet authorities began seizing valuable properties in their zone of occupation on the basis that these were German external assets to which they were entitled to by the Potsdam agreement.[pic] In direct opposition, the Western Powers insisted that these actions in fact violated the Potsdam agreement which stated that Austria would be exempt from paying reparations. Their protests were of no consequence and negotiations were suspended for over a year. They began again in January 1947, when special deputies appointed by the Foreign Ministers of the Four Powers to draft a treaty held their first meeting.[pic] In the years that followed, hundreds of meetings were held by the deputies, by a Four-Power Austrian Treaty Commission, and by the Foreign Ministers themselves to debate outstanding issues on the Austrian treaty question. In the majority of these meetings, little or no progress was made, as Soviet demands for treaty terms, prior to 1955, were clearly too difficult. The Western Powers believed that independence and political and economic stability were dependent on one another and refused to give into Soviet demands which would permanently impair either.[pic] Perhaps the key issue which plagued the treaty negotiations from the early postwar period until the final series of meetings on the treaty was the definition of German assets in Austria. The Soviet Union demanded the exploitation of a large and vital segment of the Austrian economy, including properties acquired by the Germans through plunder and force.[pic] The western powers believed this to be contrary to their understanding of what constituted German assets and they themselves renounced their share in German assets in Austria as part of a general settlement of this issue.[pic] There were other issues as well. Until after the break between the Kremlin and the Communist government of Marshal Tito, the Soviet Union backed Yugoslav claims to Austrian reparations and Austrian territory, The Soviet government abandoned these claims after it broke with the Yugoslav government in 1948.[pic] Later, at the Berlin Conference of Foreign Ministers of 1954, when consideration of the Yugoslav claims was a matter of history, the question of troop withdrawals became paramount. Even though Austria offered to refrain from joining any military coalition or permitting the establishment of foreign military bases on its soil, in an effort to meet Soviet reservations in these spheres, the Soviet Foreign minister insisted on terms which would leave the occupation forces in Austria indefinitely.[pic] The Soviet Foreign Minister also demanded that the Western Powers evacuate Vienna with their occupation forces, which would in effect have left the capital city isolated in the Soviet Zone. Both Austria and the Western Powers rejected these demands on account that they would have rendered Austrian independence illusory.[pic] Still other issues, real or feigned, which the Soviet Union brought into the treaty negotiations over the years included: alleged revival of Nazism in Austria; alleged remilitarization of Austria; Soviet claims against Austria for relief supplies provided immediately after the country’s liberation; the Trieste question; and the problem of a German treaty.[pic] The impasse on the Austrian treaty finally came to an end a year after the Berlin Conference of 1954, as a result of a change in Soviet attitude. The change occurred against a background of significant changes in Europe. Stalin died in 1953 and the group of men who then inherited power, including Nikita Khrushchev appeared to be revising certain former Soviet policies.[pic] Also the Trieste issue had been settled, allowing British and American troops to leave that area and the Paris Pacts creating a Western European Union and admitting West Germany to NATO had been signed and ratified.[pic] The Soviet Union now abandoned its insistence on the prior conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany; agreed to the withdrawal of their troops from Austria; and agreed to turn back the properties it held in Austria in exchange for Austrian payment in goods and cash.[pic] On this basis a conclusion was reached. The treaty was signed in Vienna on May 15, 1955, by Austria, France, Great Brittan, the United States, and the Soviet Union.[pic] This marked the commencement of ten trying years of four-power military occupation and arduous negotiations with many frustrating periods of deadlock, in which Austrian became a pawn in the cold war battles between east and west.
Austria’s Policy of Active Neutrality in International Affairs Neutrality is not a component part of the Austrian State Treaty. At the final negotiations in Moscow, the Austrian government’s delegation only made a binding agreement to become permanently neutral at the moment the last foreign soldier was off Austrian soil.[pic] This was done in order to insure that Austria would be the sole determinant of its neutral policy. Austria has been committed to permanent neutrality under international law since 1955.[pic] This special case of neutrality is unprecedented and unique in the history of Europe, both in its legal basis and in its practical application. In terms of legality, the country’s neutral status is under a special, inner-Austrian legal guarantee, which means that it was made a component part of their federal constitution on October 26, 1955; the date which is now celebrated as Austria’s National Holiday.[pic] As far as practical implementation of Austrian neutrality is concerned, it differs both from Swedish and Swiss neutrality. According to the Austrian interpretation, neutrality includes, Austria’s obligation to refrain from interfering in the internal politics of other nations.[pic] This is a clear difference from Swedish neutrality in that Sweden never hesitated to take very definite stands on events in other countries. The difference between Swiss and Austrian neutrality consists in Austria’s pursuit of active neutrality, while Swiss neutrality can be considered an absence of policy.[pic] There are many examples of an active foreign policy and of skillful negotiation tactics on the part of the Austrian government in the difficult political environment after the end of the Second World War. The uprising in late autumn 1956 of the Hungarian population against the communist regime and its bloody repression by the Soviet army were to become the first major test of Austrian neutrality in which a very active foreign policy orientation can be attributed to the government in Vienna and to he Austrian people.[pic] Austria’s behavior during the Hungarian uprising was courageous and even provocative towards the Soviet Union, especially when compared to the restraint of the West. The firm and clear position adopted by the Austrian government and the decisive measures taken to secure its borders and to safeguard neutrality were fully supported by the Austrian population.[pic] Austria’s very positive international image in the West and the international community at large, in absorbing and caring for the Hungarian refugees , was above all due to the spontaneous outpouring of help on the part of the Austrian people. This contribution of the population to foreign policy clearly shaped and reinforced the government’s decision to speak out against any form of ideological neutrality in this conflict.[pic] Another success story in the history of Austria’s policy of active neutrality is its role in the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) process. With this Austria sought to help transform relations to its Eastern European neighbors in the direction of strengthening détente in Europe. Together with other European neutrals, Austria contributed decisively to the preparation and passage of the Final Act of the CSCE in Helsinki in August 1975.[pic] The government in Vienna concentrated its efforts on persuading the United States and other Western Countries to take an active part in the CSCE, even though it was initially proposed by the Soviet Union.[pic] By actively using their independence from existing blocs and groups to set up communication between opposing interest and in supporting the search for solutions, Austria was able to help insure that the CSCE process was completed. They even held one of the follow up conferences in Vienna (1986-89).

A Young Nation Hardly any other country in Europe has had more lessons to learn during this century than Austria. Hardly any country has had its sense of identity more profoundly disrupted, before so convincingly finding its way through a process involving great sacrifice to freedom and independence, democracy and prosperity. This deeply divided history presents itself to us when today, on the 50th birthday of the Second Republic we draw up a balance and consider how we are to relate to that legacy from the past.[pic] Nation-building in post-war Austria occurred in a later stage of societal development. The Austrian population had already experienced the influence of modern nationalism; however this earlier experience was centered on German cultural images. The challenge of postwar Austria was a transformation of the existing national consciousness of an already politicized modern population. Modern Austrian national identity, or its development after the dawning of the Second Republic, has often been described as divided or even schizophrenic. This is partly due to a long history of identifying with German culture, as well as an abrupt need to escape identification with German National Socialism.[pic] Austria’s identity has many contradictory aspects. It is sometimes seen from the viewpoint of its imperial past, a great European power, full of stories of the Habsburgs and their rule over most of Central Europe for so many centuries. It is sometimes perceived as the hotbed of Nazism, from which came many racist and genocidal and ideas leading to Holocaust. It is sometimes defined by its complex relationship to Germany, which in times of the Anschluss was not just a neighbor, but a part of. And sometimes Austria is even seen as a small country, not unlike Switzerland, that has been able to develop a practice of combining internal welfare and external security. For the purposes of this paper and post 1945 Austria, only the last of these images holds true.[pic] Nazi Germany's annexation (Anschluss) of Austria into the Third Reich in March 1938 proved to be an impetus for the development of Austrian national consciousness. Austrians increasingly focused on the historical and cultural differences between Austrian and German traditions--or the uniqueness and singularity of an "Austrian nation"--and on the idea of an independent Austrian state.[pic] It is one of those quirks of history that the experience of being "German" in the Third Reich was instrumental in awakening feelings of Austrian nationalism for many Austrians, who, by the end of World War II, wholeheartedly endorsed the idea of Austrian independence from Germany. This idea involved rejecting the concept of one "German linguistic and cultural nation" for the sake of two German-speaking nations: one German and the other Austrian. Immediately after Austria’s restoration in 1945, considerable differences can be seen among the three national political parties on how the national issue would be addressed. Whilst the Austrian People’s Party and the Communist Party of Austria were committed to the idea of building a unique Austrian nation, the Socialist Party of Austria still was not publicly backing the notion of an independent Austrian nation.[pic] The idea of an independent Austrian in the Second Republic combined social stability, economic gains, as well as the birth of a new political culture. This in itself is remarkable if only for the reason that it occurred so rapidly. However, this rebirth would not be possible with out the acceptance of certain sustaining myths, including the willingness to forget the sins of the past.[pic] The Myth of Austrian victimization at the hands of both Nazi Germany and the Allies became the unifying theme of Austrian official memory and a key component of national identity in postwar Austria.[pic] After World War II, many Austrians sought comfort in the myth of Austria as the Nazis' first victim. Although the Nazi party was promptly banned, Austria did not have the same thorough process of de-Nazification at the top of government which was imposed on Germany for a time. Lacking outside pressure for political reform, factions of Austrian society tried for a long time to advance the view that the Anschluss was only a forced annexation.[pic] This view of the events of 1938 has deep roots in the ten years of Allied occupation and the struggle to regain Austrian sovereignty: The victim theory played an essential role in the negotiations on the Austrian State Treaty with the Soviets, and by pointing to the Moscow Declaration Austrian politicians heavily relied on it to achieve a solution for Austria different from the division into East and West in Germany.[pic] The State Treaty, alongside with the subsequent Austrian declaration of permanent neutrality marked important milestones for the solidification of Austria's independent national identity during the following decades.[pic] The restoration of Austrian independence in 1955 set the conditions for the development of a new Austrian national identity. Allied policy, which formulated the reestablishment of an independent Austrian state as a war objective and distinguished between the treatment of Austrians and Germans as well as the Allied occupation of Austria from 1945 until 1955 contributed to promoting attitudes of national cohesiveness and a desire for independence. After the State Treaty of 1955 arranged for the end of the Allied occupation and a subsequent proclamation of Austria's permanent neutrality, Austrians increasingly identified themselves with their country and saw it as a state with traditions and a history distinct from those of Germany. Although a persistent right-wing minority in Austria continued to insist on "Germanness" as being one of the attributes of being Austrian, ever more Austrians came to identify with the Austrian nation in the decades after World War II. Seventy-nine percent did so by 1990, compared with 47 percent in 1966.[pic] In this respect, Austria is a "young nation." The Austrian State Treaty of 1955 is arguably the most important document in contemporary Austrian history, if not all of Austrian history. The date it was ratified, remains today the Austrian National Holiday and is one of the first common unifying successes in Austrian memory. The related declaration of permanent neutrality was written into the Federal Constitution and its active utilization, allowed a small nation to play a big role in the easing of east and west tensions. These factors along with the victim myth became engrain in Austrian national consciousness and contributed greatly to the development of a new Austrian identity.


1. Karl Herbert Schober, “Foreword,” in The Austrian Solution: International Conflict and Cooperation, ed. Robert A. Bauer (Virginia: The University Press of Virginia, 1982), VII-VIII. 2.Helmut Kramer, “Austrian Foreign Policy from the State Treaty to European Union Membership (1955-95),” in Austria 1945-95: Fifty Years of the Second Republic, ed. Kurt Richard Luther and Peter Pulzer (Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company, 1998), 161. *3. United States Department of State, The Austrian State Treaty: An Account of the Postwar Negotiations Together with the Text of the Treaty and Related Documents (Washington D.C.: Department of State Publication 6437, 1957), 92-93. 4. United States Department of State, 6. 5. United States Department of State, 12-13. 6. United States Department of State, 1-2. *7. Bruno Kreisky, “The State Treaty,” in The Struggle for a Democratic Austria, ed. Matthew Paul Berg (New York: Berghahn Books, 2000), 267-269. 8. United States Department of State, 8-9. 9. United States Department of State, 15-16. 10. United States Department of State, 94. 11. United States Department of State, 2. 12. United States Department of State, 17-19. 13 Bruno Kreisky, 261-264. 14. United States Department of State, 19-20. 15.Bruno Kreisky, 275. *16. John MacCormac, Treaty Approved: Foreign Ministers Omit Clause on War Guilt, Back Neutrality,” The New York Times, 15 May 1955, pp.1. 17. Fritz Bock, “Austrian Neutrality,” in The Austrian Solution: International Conflict and Cooperation, ed. Robert A. Bauer (Virginia: The University Press of Virginia, 1982), 156-157. 18. John MacCormac, 1. 19. Bruno Kreisky, 280-281. 20. Fritz Bock, 157. 21. Fritz Bock, 157-158. 22. Helmut Kramer, 164-166 23. Bruno Kreisky, 277. 24. Helmut Kramer, 165. 25. Helmut Kramer, 166-167. 26. Fritz Bock, 160. 27. Edward Timms, “Austrian Identity in a Schizophrenic Age: Hilde Spiel and the Literary Politics of Exile and Reintegration,” in Austria 1945-95: Fifty Years of the Second Republic, ed. Kurt Richard Luther and Peter Pulzer (Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company, 1998), 47-49. 28. Edward Timms, 47. 29. Peter Thaler, The Ambivalence of Identity: The Austrian Experience of Nation-Building in a Modern Society (Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2001), 5-7. 30. Peter Thaler, 23. 31. Edward Timms, 86. 32. Edward Timms, 64. 33. Peter Utgaard, Remembering and Forgetting Nazism: Education, National Identity and The Victim Myth in Postwar Austria (New York: Berghahn Books, 2003), 2. 34. Peter Utgaard, 13-15. 35. Ernst Bruckmuller, “The Development of Austrian National Identity,” in Austria 1945-95: Fifty Years of the Second Republic, ed. Kurt Richard Luther and Peter Pulzer (Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company, 1998), 83-84. 36. Ernst Bruckmuller, 85. 37.Ernst Bruckmuller, 90-92.


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