Austria Geography and Population

Austria is a Federal State of Central Europe ; it extends in the NE part of the Alpine system and borders on the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany.

Physical characteristics

According to ehotelat, the Austrian territory is elongated in the sense of parallels, narrow to the West, where it is practically identified with the axial chain of the Alps, of a crystalline nature, and widened to the East, where it includes, in addition to the ‘external’ Alpine chains, of a sedimentary nature, also a wide foothill strip (Danube plateau, Viennese basin, Pannonian hills) and, at the extreme N, a strip of Bohemian reliefs. The morphology fully complies with this figure, with longitudinal mountainous folds separated by deep but open valley furrows: a country, therefore, easily traversable in the OE sense, not equally, however, in the NS sense, also due to the considerable altitude of the passes (with the exceptions of the Brenner, 1375 m, and a few others, especially in the eastern ranges). The geological structure is typical of the Alpine system: the corrugation, which took place during the tertiary era due to tangential thrusts from the S, raised granite and schist masses of ancient origin in the center, at the edges of which limestone, sandstone and marl ranging from from the Paleozoic, in the southern belt, to the Tertiary itself; Quaternary alluvial coverings are found in the valley bottoms and in the eastern Marchfeld plain. Although we can calculate a very high average altitude (about 1000 m), peaks of particularly considerable height are missing: the maximum peak is that of the Grossglockner, in the High Tauern, which does not reach 3800 m; extensive, however, the glaciers, the largest of which is the Pasterze. The sedimentary chains exceed 3000 m only in Vorarlberg, while, proceeding towards the E, they progressively descend into the Bavarian, Salzburg and Austrian Alps, to the North the southern outer belt consists of the Carnic Alps and the Karavanke Alps, also below 3000 m.

From the hydrographic point of view, the Austria it falls almost entirely within the Danube basin: pushed N by the mighty Alpine tributaries, this great river runs through the Austrian territory for about 350 km, but only marginally, from Passau, where it receives the Inn and becomes navigable, on the border with Slovakia, just downstream from Vienna. Other main tributaries are the sub-tributary Salzach (through the Inn), the Enns and the Drava, which, born in Italy, at the Sella di Dobbiaco, and crossed a series of basins including that of Klagenfurt, reaches the main river only in Croatian territory. Leaning against the Bohemian reliefs, which sometimes affects with suggestive gorges, the Danube receives only modest water supplies, and therefore its regime depends on the spring-summer floods and the lean winter rivers that descend from the Alps, linked to the rainfall and to the melting of the snows. Only the Vorarlberg belongs to the Rhine basin, while a limited portion of the Austria Inferiore sends its waters, drained by the Vltava, to the Elbe River.


There are two fundamental factors that condition the human geography of the Austria, within the current borders: on the one hand, the morpho-altimetric configuration, which obviously favors, in the distribution of the population, the valley bottoms and the intermontane basins; on the other hand, the drastic territorial limitation of 1919 after the dismemberment of the Habsburg empire, which made it a ‘macrocephalous’ state, with a capital disproportionate to the new territorial dimensions.

The country it has always recorded a slow but steady demographic progress due above all to foreign immigration, largely coming from the countries of the Balkan area and from Turkey. Between 1986 and 1996 the number of foreigners residing in Austria more than doubled, passing from 4 to 9% of the total population; in the early 2000s it reached 10% (mainly from Hungary, the former Yugoslav countries and Turkey). The distribution of the residents is characterized by a notable irregularity: the highest densities, with the exception of the Viennese Bundesland, which actually coincides with the urban agglomeration of the capital, occur in the western regions, thanks to the growing economic integration with neighboring Germany. The percentage of urban population remains around 66% (2004),

Distributional imbalances are somewhat mitigated by being the Austria an almost entirely alpine country, for which the mountain does not represent a marginal area, but the heart of the territory, and is therefore better able to keep the population from a real exodus, thanks also to a relatively solid and widespread urban framework, which has its roots in medieval times, when the location of mineral resources and the needs of trade gave rise to numerous centers, not only in the main valleys. This determines a well-articulated regional structure, polarized by cities such as Bregenz and Dornbirn (Vorarlberg), Innsbruck (Tyrol), Salzburg, Klagenfurt (Carinthia).), Graz (Styria) and Linz, as well as, of course, Vienna, which attracts much of the Danube valley and the outer Alpine area to itself.

The rural settlement, in turn, is linked to the kinds of life of the different original ethnic components (mainly Germanic and Slavic), from which land and housing structures derive in some cases clearly diversified; small properties and scattered settlements prevail in the northern and south-eastern belts, while also in the internal mountain cantons there are isolated nuclei, on which however, for obvious environmental reasons, very large portions of agricultural or grazing land gravitate. One of the major attraction factors is represented by modern industrial locations, corresponding to the widest valley bottoms and major urban nodes: they have drained labor from the primary sector, giving rise to the most consistent internal population movements. The phenomenon excluded only some regions such as, for example, the Burgenland, which remained linked to extensive agricultural structures and without cities capable of stimulating a new organization of the territory.

The dominant religion is the Catholic Christian (73.6%), together with minor communities of Protestants and Muslims and a large percentage (12%) of those who declare that they do not follow any religion.

Austria Geography and Population