Austria, officially the Republic of Austria is a landlocked East Alpine country in the southern part of Central Europe. It is composed of nine federated states (Bundesländer), one of which is Vienna, Austria’s capital and largest city. It is bordered by Germany to the northwest, the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia to the northeast, Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. Austria occupies an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi) and has a population of nearly 9 million people. While Austrian German is the country’s official language, many Austrians communicate informally in a variety of Bavarian dialects.
Austria initially emerged as a margraviate around 976 and developed into a duchy and archduchy. In the 16th century, Austria started serving as the heart of the Habsburg Monarchy and the junior branch of the House of Habsburg – one of the most influential royal dynasties in history. As an archduchy, it was a major component and administrative center of the Holy Roman Empire. Early in the 19th century, Austria established its own empire, which became a great power and the leading force of the German Confederation, but pursued its own course independently of the other German states following its defeat in the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. In 1867, in compromise with Hungary, the Austria-Hungary Dual Monarchy was established.