Geography of Austria

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Austria is a small, predominantly mountainous country in Central Europe, approx. between Germany, Italy and Hungary. It has a total area of 83,859 km², about twice the size of Switzerland and slightly smaller than the state of Maine.

The landlocked country shares national borders with Switzerland (164 km) and the tiny principality of Liechtenstein (35 km) to the west, Germany (784 km) and the Czech Republic (362 km) and Slovakia (91 km) to the north, Hungary to the east (346 km), and Slovenia (311 km) and Italy (430 km) to the south (total: 2563 km).

The westernmost third of the somewhat pear-shaped country consists of a narrow corridor between Germany and Italy that is between thirty-two and sixty km wide. The rest of Austria lies to the east and has a maximum north–south width of 280 km. The country measures almost 600 km in length, extending from Lake Constance (German Bodensee) on the Austrian-Swiss-German border in the west to the Neusiedler See on the Austrian-Hungarian border in the east. The contrast between these two lakes – one in the Alps and the other a typical steppe lake on the westernmost fringe of the Hungarian Plain – illustrates the diversity of Austria's landscape.

Seven of Austria's nine provinces have long historical traditions predating the establishment of the Republic of Austria in 1918: Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Styria, Carinthia, Salzburg, Tyrol, and Vorarlberg. The provinces of Burgenland and Vienna were established after World War I. Most of Burgenland had been part of the Kingdom of Hungary, but it had a predominantly German-speaking population and hence became Austrian. Administrative and ideological reasons played a role in the establishment of Vienna as an independent province. Vienna, historically the capital of Lower Austria, was a socialist stronghold, whereas Lower Austria was conservative, and both socialists and conservatives wanted to consolidate their influence in their respective provinces. Each province has a provincial capital with the exception of Vienna, which is a province in its own right in addition to being the federal capital. In Vienna, the City Council and the mayor function as a provincial parliament and provincial governor, respectively.[citation needed]


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