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Rusch, Paulus - Ržiha, Franz von (9/18)
Russisches sowjetisches Befreiungsdenkmal Russwurm, Vera

Russland - Österreich

Russia - Austria: Relations between the two countries were established in the 16th century by Siegmund von Herberstein, who conducted diplomatic missions to Russia. Relations with Tsar Ivan IV (1547-1584) also existed. These relations were strengthened in the 18th century when Russia, becoming a great power, endeavoured to extend its influence to Central Europe under Peter the Great. During the Seven Years´ War (1756-1763), Austria reaped no benefits from its alliance with Russia, but bilateral relations became stronger when Poland was divided up among its neighbours in 1772. Joseph II reinforced diplomatic relations with Catherine II and travelled to Russia twice; the Russian successor to the throne, Paul, also visited Austria for several weeks in 1781/1782. Co-operation between the two nations in the Balkans increased when Austria and Russia, waged war on the Ottoman Empire. However, as the Christians in the Balkans were increasingly influenced by Russia, rivalry developed between the two powers.

During the Napoleonic Wars Austria and Russia were allies in the second and third coalition wars; however, Austria was forced to provide troops for Napolean´s campaign against Russia in 1812. In 1813, both countries allied themselves with Prussia and defeated the French. At the Congress of Vienna Austria, Prussia and Russia divided Poland amongst themselves once again, and the leaders of the three nations, Emperor Franz I of Austria, King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and Tsar Alexander I of Russia established the Holy Alliance. In 1849 Russia helped put down the uprising in Hungary; however, Austria´s attitude during the Crimean War damaged bilateral relations which, despite numerous alliances, were increasingly marked by tension in the second half of the 19th century. As a result of these tensions the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy declared war on Russia at the start of World War I. In the autumn of 1914 Russian troops took Galicia and Bukovina. However, after having been driven out in May of 1915, they advanced once again in 1916 during the Brussilov campaign. In 1918 the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed, allowing the Central Powers to occupy a large portion of the Ukraine.

During World War I many Austrians were held as prisoners of war in Russia and brought the spirit and the ideas of Russia's October Revolution home with them. After 1934 members of the Republikanischer Schutzbund fled to the Soviet Union, but many fell victim to purges during the Stalin era. In World War II numerous Austrians participated in the German Wehrmacht´s Russian campaign, especially during the siege of Stalingrad. Towards the end of the war the number of fatalities and missing persons was very high. From the end of March 1945, Soviet troops occupied eastern Austria and a sector in Vienna. The government of the Second Republic of Austria, declared on April 27, 1945, was recognised within this zone. The Austrians in the Soviet-held zone felt the period of occupation to be significantly more oppressive than in other parts of Austria as a result of numerous cases of infringement of personal rights and several outright attacks, (USIA); however, economic relations were re-established and continued to exist after 1955. With reference to the Austrian State Treaty, the Soviet Union later made use of its right of objection (for instance, when Austria intended to become a candidate for EC membership) on numerous occasions. Russia, as the Soviet Union´s successor, has also laid claim to this right. On the whole bilateral relations have developed along friendly lines in the last few decades, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many economic and cultural contacts have been established on a new basis.

Literature: H. Uebersberger, Österreich und Rußland seit dem Ende des 15. Jahrhunderts, 1906; idem, Österreich zwischen Rußland und Serbien, 1958; A. M. Drabek (ed.), Österreich und Rußland zur Zeit der Napoleonischen Kriege, 1989; Österreich und die Sowjetunion 1918-55, published by Österr.-sowjetische Gesellschaft, 1984.

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