—  State of Austria  —


Coat of arms
Country  Austria
Capital Eisenstadt
 – Governor Hans Niessl (SPÖ)
 – Total 3,961.80 km2 (1,529.7 sq mi)
 – Total 284,900
 – Density 71.9/km2 (186.3/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 – Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
ISO 3166 code AT-1
NUTS Region AT1
Votes in Bundesrat 3 (of 62)
Website http://www.burgenland.at

Burgenland (Croatian: Gradišće, Hungarian: Őrvidék, Felsőőrvidék or Várvidék, Slovene: Gradiščanska, Prekmurian: Gradišče) is the easternmost and least populous 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). The region is a part of the Centrope Project.



Burgenland is the 7th largest of Austria's 9 states, or Bundesländer, at 3,962 km². The highest point in the province is Geschriebenstein, at 884 metres, the lowest point is 114 metres, near Apetlon.

Burgenland borders the Austrian provinces of Niederösterreich and Steiermark to the west, to the northeast it borders Slovakia, Hungary to the east and Slovenia to the farthest south.

Burgenland and Hungary share the Neusiedler See, known for its reeds and shallowness, as well as the mild climate throughout the year. The Neusiedler See is Austria's largest lake serving as a large tourist attraction bringing ornithologists, sailors, and wind and kite surfers into the region north of the lake.


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 9 October 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]

Administrative divisions

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

The districts of Burgenland


These combine the attributes of district and city.



Through the history, territory of present-day Burgenland was part of the Roman Empire, the Hun Empire, the Kingdom of the Ostrogoths, the Italian Kingdom of Odoacer, the Kingdom of the Lombards, the Avar Khaganate, the Slavic State of Samo, the Frankish Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Austrian Empire, the Austria-Hungary, the Austria, and the World War II German Empire.

Prehistory and antiquity

First Indo-European peoples appeared in this region around 3300 BC. Since the 4th century BC, the area was dominated by Celts and in the 1st century AD it became part of the Roman Empire. During Roman administration, the area was part of the province Pannonia, and later part of the provinces Pannonia Superior (in the 2nd century) and Pannonia Prima (in the 3rd century). During the late Roman Empire, Pannonia Prima province belonged to larger administrative units, such are Diocese of Pannonia, Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum and Praetorian prefecture of Italy.

Early Germanic states

Ostrogothic Kingdom in Pannonia

First Germanic people that settled in this region were the Ostrogoths, who came to Pannonia in 380 AD. The Ostrogoths became allies of the Rome and were allowed to settle in Pannonia with task to defend Roman borders. In the 5th century, the area was conquered by the Huns, but after their defeat, an independent Kingdom of the Ostrogoths in Pannonia was formed. Territory of present-day Burgenland became part of the Italian Kingdom of Odoacer, but in the end of the 5th century, the Ostrogothic king Theodoric conquered this kingdom and restored Ostrogothic administration in western Pannonia.

In the 6th century, territory of present-day Burgenland was included into another Germanic state, the Kingdom of the Lombards. However, the Lombards subsequently left towards Italy and area came under control of the Avars. Briefly, in the 7th century, the area was part of the Slavic State of Samo, but was subsequently returned to Avar control. After Avar defeat in the end of the 8th century, territory of present-day Burgenland was included into the Frankish Empire. After the battle at Augsburg (955), new Germanic settlers started to settle in the area.[citation needed]

Medieval Kingdom of Hungary

In 1043 a peace treaty between Henry III, who married later in the same year 1043 Agnes de Poitou a daughter of the Duke of Aquitaine, and King Samuel Aba of Hungary, whose descendants owned large estates in western Slavonia and whose relative married later a daughter of Agnes of Poitou, fixed the western border of the Kingdom of Hungary along the Leitha and Lafnitz rivers, among others, but large parts of the territory of todays Burgenland were owned since that time until 1360 (Treaty of Brétigny in 1360) by the most noble family of the House of Gilet, which came from the Duchy of Aquitaine in Medieval France during Robert II of France, therefore Fraknó (Forchtenstein) became owned by the Curia Regia (Royal Court of Hungary) in 1360. The current coat of arms of Burgenland imitates the coat of arms of the judge of the Curia Regia in 1360. On 20th of September 1058 Agnes of Poitou and Andrew I of Hungary, whose son later married a daughter of Agnes of Poitou, met to negotiate about the border-zone.[1] The territory of the present-day Burgenland remained the western border-zone of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary until the 16th century.

The majority of the population was Germanic except the Hungarian border-guards of the frontier March (Gyepű). Germanic immigration was also continuous in the Middle Ages from the neighbouring Austria.

Habsburg administration

Habsburg mortgages in Burgenland between 15th and 17th centuries

In 1440 the territory of present-day Burgenland was controlled 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 retaken the area, but in 1491 it was mortgaged again by King Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary to Emperor Maximilian I. In 1647 Emperor Ferdinand II returned it to the Kingdom of Hungary (which itself was Habsburg possession in this time).

In the 16th century, medieval Kingdom of Hungary lost its independence and its north-western part that was not conquered by the Ottoman Empire was included into Habsburg Monarchy. This Habsburg possession was known as Royal Hungary and it included territory of present-day Burgenland. In the 16-17th centuries German Protestant refugees arrived in Western Royal Hungary to take shelter from the religious wars of the Holy Roman Empire, particularly from the repression of the Reformation in Austrian territories, then ruled by the staunchly Roman Catholic Habsburgs. After Habsburg military victory against Ottomans in the end of the 17th century, Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary was enlarged to include much of the territory of former medieval Kingdom of Hungary. In the 17-18th centuries the region of Burgenland was dominated by the wealthy Catholic landowner-families, for example the Esterházys and Batthyánys. In 1867, Habsburg Monarchy was transformed into the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary and German-speaking population of Burgenland found itself within the Hungarian part of the Monarchy.

Dissolution of Austria-Hungary

After the demise of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy in 1918, the German inhabitants of Deutsch-Westungarn (German Western Hungary, Burgenland) 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-speaking (15%) and 26,225 (9%) Hungarian-speaking. Roma people were counted according to their mother language.

The area had also been discussed as the site of a Czech Corridor to Yugoslavia. 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 establishment of the Austrian police control and customs was stopped on the same day, hindered by sharpshooters who offered armed resistance with the support of Hungary.

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 14 December to 16 December, and resulted in a clear (but doubted by Austria) vote of the people who inhabited these territories 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 18 July 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 under the Nazi regime. The KZ Lackenback concentration camp for Gypsies was located in the area, as was KZ Zwaten.[2]

The policy of Germanization had effects on other ethnic minorities especially Burgenland Croats 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.


Burgenland under Soviet occupation, 1945-1955

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 endure a period of serious mistreatment and an extremely slow economic 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 crushed 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 1970s.

Wine and Iron Curtain

Despite Burgenland (especially the area around Neusiedler See) always producing excellent wine, some vintners in Burgenland added illegal substances to their wine in the mid-1980s. When this was revealed, Austria's wine exports dwindled dramatically. After recovering from the scandal, vintners in Austria, not only in Burgenland, started focusing on quality and mostly stopped producing poor quality wine.

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.

After 1990 Burgenland regained its traditional role as a bridge between the western and eastern parts of Central Europe. Cross-border links were strengthened with the joining of Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia the European Union in 2004. All three countries became part of the Schengen zone in late 2007 when border controls finally ceased to exist in the region.


Burgenland has notable Croatian (29,000 - 45,000) and Hungarian (5,000 - 15,000) populations.


The Croats arrived after the devastating Ottoman war in 1532, when the Ottoman army destroyed some settlements in their ethnic territory. The emigration in great haste of the Catholic remained population of western Slavonia into the Burgenland was - as far as possible - organized by the estate owners. In the files of the Parliament of Croatia (sabor) are found for this period numerous references to such resettlements. As reported in the spring of 1538 by the Ban of Croatia, Petar Keglević, who himself owned large estates in western Slavonia, that the country's population at the Ottoman border was preparing to emigrate.[3] 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 Croats 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 Croats 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 erected in Burgenland (47 Croatian and 4 Hungarian).

The Burgenland Croatian language 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 this dialect in 1711). Today the language is endangered by assimilation, according to the UNESCO "Red Book". The Croats of Burgenland belong to the same group as their relatives on the other side of the modern Austrian-Hungarian border.


Hungarians live 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" i.e. guards of the western frontier, and their special dialect is similar to the Székelys in Transylvania. Their cultural centre is Oberwart/Felsőőr. Another distinct Hungarian group were the indentured agricultural workers living on the huge estates north of Neusiedler See. They arrived mainly from the Rábaköz region. After the dissolution of the manors in the mid-20th century this group ceased to exist.

Roma and Jews

In addition to Germans, Croats and Hungarians, Burgenland used to have substantial Roma and Jewish populations, wiped out by the Nazi regime. Before their deportation during 1938, the traditionally very religious Burgenland Jews were concentrated in the famous "Seven Communities" (Siebengemeinden / Sheva kehillot) in Eisenstadt, Mattersburg, Kittsee, Frauenkirchen, Kobersdorf, Lackenbach and Deutschkreutz, where they formed a substantial part of the population: e.g., in Lackenbach, 62 % of the population was Jewish as of 1869. After the war, Jews from Burgenland founded the Jerusalem haredi neighbourhood of Kiryat Mattersdorf, reminding of the original name of Mattersburg, once a centre of a famous yeshiva.


There is also a small number of Italians in Burgenland, whose ancestors came to Burgenland mostly as builders of castles and fortified churches in the 17th Century.[4][5] For example, in the little town of Spitzzicken have been in the year 1686 10 families with Italian surnames and 12 families with Croatian surnames. The inhabitants of Spitzzicken got special privileges of personal freedoms at their settlement.[6]


As the region wasn't a territorial entity before 1921, it never had an official name. Until the end of World War I the German-speaking western borderland of the Kingdom of Hungary was sometimes unofficially called Deutsch-Westungarn (German West Hungary). The historical region included the border city of Sopron in Hungary (or "Ödenburg" in Austrian-German).

The name Vierburgenland (Land of Four Castles) was created in 1919 by Odo Rötig, a Viennese resident in Sopron. It was derived from the name of the four vármegye of the Kingdom of Hungary (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 Slovene names Gradišće and Gradiščansko are translations of the German name. The village of Jennersdorf is no more than 5 kilometers from the Slovenian, as well the Hungarian borders (see the United Slovenia movement).

Alternatively, the Serbs, Czechs and Slovaks call the western shores of the Neusiedler See (lake) surrounding the town of Rust Luzic' or Lusic. However, the descendants of Luzic Serbs, Bosniaks, Croats, Czechs and Slovaks were eventually assimilated into the ethnic German or Hungarian cultures over four centuries.

The province has a long history of Slavic, as well Austrian-German and Hungarian-Magyar settlement. The province's easternmost portion (the shores of the Neusiedler See) carried its own topographical term Seewinkel in Austrian-German. This is the least Austrian-German influenced area since the Hungarian and Slovak borders are less than 10 kilometers away.


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). [2]

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.

Burgenländische Gemeinschaft

Candid of 2007 winner

The Burgenländische Gemeinschaft was founded in 1956, hoping to unite those from Burgenland who have emigrated and now span the globe. The main goals include fostering Burgenland unity, establishing a global community, organizing family trips and gatherings, and reinforcing a sense of homeland attachment. Efforts are also being made to ensure the security of important Burgenland historical documents. Since its inception over 50 years ago, regional chapters have spread throughout the world, with large communities in USA, Canada, Argentina, Switzerland, and Germany. In the USA alone, Burgenländische Gemeinschaft services over 20,000 people. [3]

Also notable is the annual "Miss Brüderschaft der Burgenländer" competition, held in a gala style event in New York. The current title is held by Lillianna Baczeski of Southbury, CT, having received the title from the 2006 winner, Jennifer Tuifl. [4]


Seefestspiele Mörbisch

The cultural offerings are diverse and especially in the summer famous for the Seefestspiele Mörbisch and the Nova Rock Festival with numerous international popstars.

The permanent exhibition at Forchtenstein Castle shows an impressive collection of the dukes of Esterházy, at whose court at Esterházy Palace worked the world famous musician Joseph Haydn, who composed from the Burgenland Croatian folk-song "V jutro rano se ja stanem" ("In the morning I rise up early") the melody of "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" ("God save Franz the Emperor"), which became the melody of todays national anthem of Germany.[7] There are also cultural events organized by the minorities such as Croatian or Hungarian folk evenings.


External links


  1. ^ Landeschronik Niederösterreich: 3000 Jahre in Daten, Dokumenten und Bildern, Seite 104, Karl Gutkas, C. Brandstätter, 1990.
  2. ^ Christine O'Keefe. Concentration Camps.www.tartanplace.com/tartanhistory/concentrationcamps.html
  3. ^ Kölner geographische Arbeiten, Ausgaben 15-18, Seite 69, Geographisches Institut der Universität zu Köln, 1963
  4. ^ Residenzen und Landsitze in Wien, Niederösterreich und dem Burgenland, Seite 55, Laurin Luchner, Band 1 von Schlösser in Österreich, Hubert Häusler, Beck Verlag, 1978, ISBN 9783406045073
  5. ^ Kroaten im Burgenland: eine Dokumentation, Seite 155, Fritz Robak, Europaverlag, 1985.
  6. ^ Vom Ethnos zur Nationalität, Seite 123, Andreas Moritsch, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, 1991.
  7. ^ Slavonic and East European review, Volume 34, page 2, University of London. School of Slavonic and East European Studies, Committee of American Scholars, Sir Bernard Pares, Robert William Seton-Watson, Harold Williams, Norman Brooke Jopson, Published by the Modern Humanities Research Association for the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, 1955.

Coordinates: 47°30′N 16°25′E / 47.5°N 16.417°E / 47.5; 16.417

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