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States of Austria

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

States of Austria
Österreichs Länder / Bundesländer  (German)
Austria states english.png
CategoryFederal state
LocationRepublic of Austria
Populations294,466 (Burgenland) – 1,911,728 (Vienna)
Areas414.87 km2 (160.18 sq mi) (Vienna)– 19,178 km2 (7,405 sq mi) (Lower Austria)

Austria is a federal republic made up of nine states (German: Länder). Since Land is also the German word for "country", the term Bundesländer (literally federal states) is often used instead to avoid ambiguity. The Constitution of Austria uses both terms. Austrian states can pass laws that stay within the limits of the constitution, and each state has representatives in the main Austrian parliament.


The majority of the land area in the states of Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Vienna, and Burgenland is situated in the Danube valley and thus consists almost completely of accessible and easily arable terrain. The other five states, in contrast, are located in the Alps and thus are comparatively unsuitable for agriculture. Their terrain is also relatively unfavourable to heavy industry and long-distance trade. Accordingly, the population of what now is the Republic of Austria has been concentrated in the former four states since prehistoric times. Austria's most densely populated state is the city-state of Vienna, the heart of what is Austria's only metropolitan area. Lower Austria ranks only fourth in population density even though it contains Vienna's suburbs; this is due to large areas of land being predominantly agricultural. The alpine state of Tyrol, the less alpine but geographically more remote state of Carinthia, and the non-alpine but near-exclusively agricultural state of Burgenland are Austria's least densely populated states. The wealthy alpine state of Vorarlberg is something of an anomaly due to its small size, isolated location and distinct Alemannic culture.[citation needed]

The following ranked list of Austrian states cites official Statistik Austria population on 1 January 2015.[1] Areas are given in square kilometres, population density is expressed in inhabitants per square kilometre. For the purpose of the above list, a city is a community defined to be a city by Austrian law; a town is a community not defined to be a city. Many of Austria's cities have population figures on the order of ten thousand inhabitants; some are even smaller.

Pop. rank State Capital Population
(January 2020)
Area (km2) Pop. density
Cities Towns
1 Vienna (Wien) 1,911,728 415 4,606.6 1 0 –
2 Lower Austria (Niederösterreich) Sankt Pölten 1,684,623 19,178 87.8 76 497
3 Upper Austria (Oberösterreich) Linz 1,490,392 11,982 124.4 32 410
4 Styria (Steiermark) Graz 1,246,576 16,401 76.0 35 252
5 Tyrol (Tirol) Innsbruck 757,852 12,648 59.9 11 268
6 Carinthia (Kärnten) Klagenfurt 561,390 9,536 58.9 17 115
7 Salzburg Salzburg 558,479 7,154 78.1 11 108
8 Vorarlberg Bregenz 397,094 2,601 152.7 5 91
9 Burgenland Eisenstadt 294,466 3,965 74.3 13 158


The nine states (Bundesländer) of Austria in alphabetical order are:[2]

Coat of Arms State (Bundesland) Capital Governor (Landeshauptmann) Incumbent Party Coalition
Burgenland Wappen.svg
Burgenland Eisenstadt Governor of Burgenland Hans Peter Doskozil SPÖ SPÖ
Kaernten CoA.svg
Carinthia Klagenfurt Governor of Carinthia Peter Kaiser SPÖ SPÖ, ÖVP
Niederösterreich CoA.svg
Lower Austria Sankt Pölten Governor of Lower Austria Johanna Mikl-Leitner ÖVP ÖVP, SPÖ, FPÖ
Salzburg Wappen.svg
Salzburg Salzburg Governor of Salzburg Wilfried Haslauer Jr. ÖVP ÖVP, Grüne, NEOS
Steiermark Wappen.svg
Styria Graz Governor of Styria Hermann Schützenhöfer ÖVP ÖVP, SPÖ
AUT Tirol COA.svg
Tyrol Innsbruck Governor of Tyrol Günther Platter ÖVP ÖVP, Grüne
Oberoesterreich Wappen.svg
Upper Austria Linz Governor of Upper Austria Thomas Stelzer ÖVP ÖVP, FPÖ, SPÖ, Grüne
Wien 3 Wappen.svg
Vienna Itself Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig SPÖ SPÖ, NEOS
Vorarlberg CoA.svg
Vorarlberg Bregenz Governor of Vorarlberg Markus Wallner ÖVP ÖVP, Grüne

Federalism and state powers

Each Austrian state has an elected legislature, the Landtag, and a state government (Landesregierung) headed by a governor (Landeshauptmann or Landeshauptfrau). Elections are held every five years (six years in Upper Austria). The state constitution, among other things, determines how the seats in the state government are assigned to political parties, with most states having a system of proportional representation based on the number of delegates in the Landtag in place. The Landeshauptmann is elected by the Landtag, though in practice the governor is the leader of the majority party or coalition in the Landtag.

Vienna, the capital of Austria, plays a double role as city and "Bundesland." The mayor has the rank of a state governor, while the city council also functions as a Landtag. Under the municipal constitution, however, city and state business must be kept separate. Hence, while the city council and Landtag have identical memberships, they hold separate meetings, and each body has separate presiding officers. When meeting as a city council, the deputies can only deal with city affairs; when meeting as a Landtag, they can only deal with state affairs.

Austrian federalism is largely theoretical as the states are granted few legislative powers. The federal constitution initially granted all legislative powers to the states, but many powers have been subsequently taken away, and only a few remain, such as planning and zoning codes, nature protection, hunting, fishing, farming, youth protection, certain issues of public health and welfare and the right to levy certain taxes.

All other matters, including but not limited to criminal law, civil law, corporate law, most aspects of economic law, defense, most educational matters and academia, telecommunications, and much of the healthcare system are regulated by federal laws. There is also no judiciary of the Länder, since the federal constitution defines the judiciary as an exclusively federal matter. This centralisation follows a historic model where central power during the time of the empire was largely concentrated in Vienna.

However, the state governor (Landeshauptmann) is in charge of the administration of much of federal administrative law within the respective state, which makes this post an important political position. Furthermore, state competences include zoning laws, planning issues and public procurement on the regional level, which adds considerable weight to state politics. As a practical matter, there have been cases where states have been able to block projects endorsed by the federal government, as in the case of a railway tunnel that was to be built below the Semmering.

Austrian Länder are endowed formally and practically with a much smaller degree of autonomy than American or German states. Even so, Austrians tend to identify passionately with their respective Land and often defend what little independent governance their states have. It is not unheard of for Austrians to consider themselves, for instance, Tyrolean first, Austrian second.

Historical development

In terms of boundaries, the present-day states arose from the crown lands of Austria-Hungary, an extensive multiethnic realm whose German-speaking nucleus emerged as the Republic of Austria after the dissolution of the Dual Monarchy in the end of World War I.

The states of Upper Austria and Lower Austria are essentially equivalent to what were since 1783/84 the two autonomous halves of the Archduchy of Austria, a principality which formed the empire's historic heartland. Salzburg is coterminous with the former Austro-Hungarian Duchy of Salzburg (the former Archbishopric). Similarly, the state of Carinthia descends from the Duchy of Carinthia, the state of Styria descends from the Duchy of Styria, and the state of Tyrol descends from the Princely County of Tyrol; these states had to cede territories to Italy and Yugoslavia when Austria emerged in its present form. Also, the state of Vorarlberg had been a semi-autonomous part of the County of Tyrol since 1861.

The city-state of Vienna was a part of Lower Austria up until 1921.[3] The state of Burgenland is made up of the predominantly German-speaking area that the Kingdom of Hungary until 1921 had to cede to the First Austrian Republic after World War I as a result of the Treaties of Trianon and Saint-Germain-en-Laye.[4]

See also


This page was last edited on 27 July 2022, at 17:45
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