The First Austrian Republic (German: Republik Österreich) was created after the signing of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye on 10 September 1919—the settlement after the end of World War I which ended the Habsburgrump state of Republic of German-Austria—and ended with the establishment of the Austrofascist Federal State of Austria based upon a dictatorship of Engelbert Dollfuss and the Fatherland’s Front in 1934. The Republic’s constitution was enacted on 1 October 1920 and amended on 7 December 1929. The republican period was increasingly marked by violent strife between those with left-wing and right-wing views, leading to the July Revolt of 1927 and the Austrian Civil War of 1934.
In September 1919, the rump state of German-Austria– now effectively reduced to the Alpine and Danubian crownlands of the Austrian Empire – was given reduced borders by the Treaty of Saint Germain, which ceded German-populated regions in Sudetenland to Czechoslovakia, German-populated South Tyrol to Italy and a portion of the Alpine provinces to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (Kraljevina Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca, or SHS, also known as Yugoslavia). Despite Austrian protests this treaty also forbade Anschluss, or union of Austria with Germany, without League of Nations consent. The Allies were not willing to allow a defeated Germany to expand its borders by absorbing what remained of Austria. With this route closed, German-Austria changed its official name to the Republic of Austria.
The new state managed to block two land claims by its neighbours. The first was the south-eastern part of Carinthia, which was inhabited partly by Slovenians. It was prevented from being taken over by the new SHS-state through a Carinthian plebiscite on October 10, 1920, in which the majority of the population chose to remain with Austria. The second prevented land-claim was Hungary’s claim to Burgenland, which, under the name “Western Hungary”, had been part of the Hungarian kingdom since 907. It was inhabited mostly by a German-speaking population, but had also Croat- and Hungarian-speaking minorities. Through the Treaty of St. Germain it became part of the Austrian Republic in 1921. However, after a plebiscite which was disputed by Austria, the provincial capital city of Sopron (German Ödenburg) remained in Hungary.
The Treaty of Saint Germain angered the German population in Austria who claimed that it violated the Fourteen Points laid out by United States President Woodrow Wilson during peace talks, specifically the right to “self-determination” of all nations. Many of them felt that with the loss of 60% of the territory of the prewar empire, Austria was no longer economically and politically viable as a separate state without union with Germany. Austria now found itself a small, landlocked country of about 6.5 million people. Vienna, with its population of almost 2 million, was left as an imperial capital without an empire to feed it. Only 17.8 percent of Austria’s land was arable; the vast majority of arable land in the former Austrian half of the empire was now part of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.
For much of the early 1920s, Austria’s survival was very much in doubt. This was partly because, unlike its former Hungarian partner, Austria had never been a nation in the true sense of the term. Although the Austrian state had existed in one form or another for 700 years, it had no real unifying force other than the Habsburgs. The provincial identities of Tyroleans, Carinthians and others were much stronger than any sense of national identity.