AUSTRIA: Meeting the Challenge...
Teacher Page

A "new" Central European Region. That's a key element in Austria's vision of the future — and one of the reasons why this modern-day state is working hard toward the creation of a strategic partnership with its eastern and southeastern neighbors (see Austria Map Page). So, if you're planning a course with focus on Central Europe, Austria is the place to start.

But there are other good reasons for taking notice of Austria and its people. Perhaps you want students to pay more attention to the European Union: Austria has been a member since 1995. Or maybe your curriculum includes a lesson on the Marshall Plan. Austria is a case study in how well it worked. Or, let's say the course you're teaching is World History, and your focus is on Europe, more than a millennium ago….

"Austria: Meeting the Challenge," a Learning Enrichment (LE) study unit, will help world history students trace the historic links between the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg period, and Austria today. But the unit's key emphasis is on Austria since 1945, and that makes it equally appropriate for courses in world regions, international relations, and contemporary issues. Most important, the unit has been updated to help students achieve standards of learning (SOLs) suggested by the following guidelines: Expectations of Excellence (EOE), National Geography Standards (NGS), and National Standards for World History (NSH). Thus, students using this unit should be better able to:

  • "explain why places and regions are important to individual human identity and [why they are] symbols for ... unifying society...." — "Places and Regions" (NGS)
  • "analyze the development of the nation-state and [explain] how nation-states differ from empires or other forms of political organization." — "World History Across the Eras: Standard 1" (NSH)
  • "analyze connections between the political stabilization of ... European societies and the Marshall Plan, the European Economic Community, government planning, and ... welfare states." — "Era 9: Standard 1" (NSH)
  • "describe the relationships among the various economic institutions that comprise economic systems, such as ... business firms, ... government agencies, ... [and] labor unions." — "Production, Distribution, & Consumption" (EOE)
  • "compare and analyze the ways nations ... respond to conflicts between forces of unity and forces of diversity." — "Power, Authority, & Governance" (EOE)

Depending on students' needs, you may want to preview some or all of the following terms: annexation, balanced budget, deed of transfer, economic depression, euro, financial center, grant (monetary), gross domestic product (GDP), Holocaust, humanitarian aid, NATO, parliamentary republic, per-capita gross domestic product, purchasing power parity, service industry, and totalitarian rule.

The student pages in this unit have been developed around a "widening-circles" approach to the study of modern-day societies. Austria is explored first as a nation (see Student Text Page No. 1), next as a member of a geopolitical region (Student Text Page No. 2), and finally as a participant in global affairs (Student Text Page No. 3). Running through all three pages are underlying questions: How has Austria's location influenced its history? How does an economically successful society adapt to a changing world? How might such adaptation influence its people's sense of identity and purpose? You may want to use those questions — as well as the "Key Questions" at the end of each page — to evaluate students' grasp of what they read.

As you introduce this unit to students, ask them to speculate on the kinds of issues and fields of endeavor in which a society might collectively "face and meet challenges." Apply the question to both past and present times. Then urge them to watch for examples of such "challenges" in each of the three Student Text Pages in this unit. Here's some background on the content of those pages:

1.   Student Text Page No. 1: "As a Nation." Austria's economy. "How did Austrians ... manage to build such an economy?" is the pivotal question raised in the opening lines of this page. The answer lies in subsequent paragraphs, which tell the story of Austria's "miraculous" post-war recovery. And for current information, this unit's Austria Data Page provides a profile of the country's economy today. But you might urge students to keep tabs on upcoming reports out of Vienna, too. Suggestion: Have students look for periodic short reports on Austria's economy under "Business & Economy Links" at the Web Site of the Austrian Press and Information Service in Washington, DC. See especially the links to the Austrian Institute of Economic Research and to the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies. (NOTE: Some other links on this "Business & Economy" page open German-language documents.)

The Marshall Plan. The European Recovery Program, also called the Marshall Plan, was driven as much by fear of communist expansion as by altruism (see Student Text Page No. 1). Austria, for example, was directly in the path of Soviet takeovers. Suggestion: You might have students research and report on the legislative debate leading up to passage of the ERP, noting the effect on the U.S. Congress when Czechoslovakia fell before a communist advance in early 1948 (see Austria Map Page).

2.   Student Text Page No. 2: "Within Its Region." Name origins. In recent years, some unusual tee-shirt slogans have greeted visitors to Austria: "No kangaroos in Austria" and "It's not the Outback," for example. If students tend to confuse the names of Austria and Australia (the Outback), tell them about the tee-shirts! A lesson on name derivations might help, too. Austria's name is derived from an Old German term, "Ostarrichi," meaning "East realm." "Austria" — a later, Latinized version — has the same meaning. But "Australia" comes from the Latin "Terra Australis," a term for "Southern Land." Suggestion: Ask students to reflect on such questions as: From whose point of view was each place named? What might the answer tell us about the historic evolution of cultural identities?

Holocaust restitution. On January 18, 2001, The Washington Post reported that Austria had pledged $900 million dollars within the previous year by way of compensation and restitution to Holocaust victims. Indeed, the nation has been working for years to end what (then) Austrian President Thomas Klestil has called "a dark chapter in Austria's past." You might prompt students reading the second student page to reflect on how a nation's past abuses can affect those living in the present. Suggestion: Invite students to do further research into 20th-century genocides, then write an editorial on "Coming To Terms With Ghosts of the Past."

3.   Student Text Page No. 3: "In Today's World." Global neighbors. Austria's membership in international organizations, treaties, and conventions reflects its people's strong convictions about certain issues (see Student Text Page No. 3). Examples: (1) Austria, which has had environmental protection laws since 1852, is today a dedicated member of the international Convention on Wetlands. And it supports several global agreements on such issues as Air Pollution, Biodiversity, and Hazardous Wastes. (2) Since joining the UN in 1955, Austria has participated in many of its peacekeeping missions. As of November 2000, 750 Austrians were serving as UN troops, police, or observers in more than a dozen international sites, including Bosnia, the Middle East's Golan Heights, and Cyprus. (3) The nation's co-leadership with Canada in urging a comprehensive ban on antipersonnel land mines is outstanding. Austria drafted the current treaty calling for this ban in 1996. To date, 153 nations (not yet including the USA) have signed the treaty — and more than 90 percent of them have ratified it. Suggestion: The "Geography" and "Government" segments of the CIA World Factbook page on Austria include lists of international agreements and organizations in which Austria participates. Invite students to research the purpose of each such listed group, then have a seminar on one of the final "Key Questions" on the third student page: "How will ... [Austria] balance its claim to sovereignty against arguments for joining world organizations?" (Note: The same CIA source contains brief explanations of each such organization in its "Appendixes.")

Whether you're looking for background detail or unfolding news on Austria, the Web Site of the Austrian Press and Information Service in Washington, DC, is the place to start. Europa, the EU's official Site, will help you explore Austria within the context of its partnership with 24 other EU members.

General surveys on Austria are in short supply since its 1995 admission to the EU. But the following materials — some, available on-line — should form a good short shelf on our unit topic:

"Background Note: Austria." U.S. Department of State.

Brook-Shepherd, Gordon. The Austrians: A Thousand-Year Odyssey. London: Harper Collins. 1996. An excellent, highly readable work (but expensive!). Available for purchase on-line.

History Today, 1996. The magazine ran a series of interesting articles this year on the occasion of Austria's millennium. See the October issue, especially.

Solsten, Eric, et al. Austria: A Country Study. Washington, DC: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. 1994.

Austria Student Text Page No. 1 | Austria Student Text Page No. 2 | Austria Student Text Page No. 3 | Austria Map Page | Austria Data Page

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Learning Enrichment, Inc. Content last updated: August 2004. Page last reviewed: August 2004.