The proclamation of the Austrian Republic in November 1918, with the consequent collapse of the Habsburg monarchy, not only deprived the Church of its role, but also brought about the advent of a national identitarian debate in the newly-formed state, bitterly renamed as the “state that nobody wanted”. Thus, the image of Austria started a process of reshaping from its former imperial multiethnic identity to a “never-ending” search for a national “Austrian” identity; the sense of being Austrian soon turned into an element of class and political division, undermining the foundations of democracy. After the Second World War and the physical and mental ruins of 1945 for a society that had lived a seven-year black-out following economic collapse and civil war, the end of democracy, and the crimes of National Socialism, Austria restarted what would be a successful process of national identity construction. A parliamentary democracy was rebuilt, based on a twofold political consensus and, thanks to American support, an economically successful republican society came into being. This was how Austria became a nation whose shared and common values were further strengthened when the country became a member of the European Union. Thus, adopting Andreas Khol’s quote, “from the country that nobody wanted, Austria has become a state that everyone wants”.
About the author:
Luca Lecis is Associate Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Cagliari. His research activity has been directed in particular to the study of contemporary Austria and Austrian society in the twentieth century and to the relationship between the Catholic Church and Austrian Catholics and politics. Among his publications: From Euro-optimism to Euro-scepticism. Austria’s Long March towards European Integration (1945–2005), in: Guido LEVI – Daniela PREDA (eds.), Euroscepticisms. Resistance and Opposition to the European Community/European Union, Bologna 2019, pp. 449–460; Soixante-dix ans après la Seconde Guerre mondiale. L'’heure zéro’ en Autriche: continuité ou rupture?, in: Allemagne d’aujourd’hui, n. 224 (2018), pp. 104–112; Dal ‘total control’ all’indipendenza. L’Austria nel contesto della Guerra fredda 1945–1955, Perugia 2016; La costruzione dello stato-nazione in Austria. Una “comunità immaginata”?, in: Ricerche di Storia Politica, n. 3 (2014), pp. 337–350; Colla-teralismo e disimpegno. Chiesa e cattolici in Austria tra autoritarismo e democrazia, 1932–1952, in: Revue d’Histoire Ecclésiastique, n. 108 (2013), pp. 876–907.
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