Styria


Styria
   / Steiermark
   Styria is known to Austrians as the Green Mark (Eng.: march) because of the lush hues of that color that are seen there in the spring. Although today it is one of Austria’s most industrialized provinces, it has retained the spectacular rural scenery that has long drawn much local tourism and large numbers of retirees to the region. The capital city of Graz has traditionally been second only to Vienna in its cultural and intellectual life. Its university, founded in 1585 as a center of Jesuit scholarship during the Catholic Counter-Reformation of the late 16th and 17th centuries, has attracted many illustrious scholars from the German-speaking areas.
   Styria has an extensive prehistory. In the fourth century BCE, Celts settled the region and founded a kingdom called Noricum, which the Romans turned into a province of the same name when they conquered it in 15 BCE. The eastern reaches of today’s Styria were in yet another province, Pannonia. Christianity appeared in the area in the fourth century CE. By the beginning of the ninth century, it was under the ecclesiastical supervision of the bishop of Salzburg. Both the Avars and alpine Slavs penetrated the area in the last quarter of the sixth century and established their control over a territory called Karantania. Combining with the Slavs to drive the Avars from Karantania around the middle of the eighth century, the Bavarian Duke Odilo became its ruler. In 803, now part of the Frankish Carolingian Empire, Styria was made a Mark, though it was still technically part of Bavaria. For the following century and a half, Styria was divided into three separate administrative districts. Around 1050 a new dynasty, the Otakars, who called themselves the counts of Steyer after their family castle, became counts of Styria. They would give the region its present name. Throughout the 12th century, they gradually reunited the province. Count Otakar III (1129–1164) is generally acknowledged as the father of the Styrian principality. In 1180, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa raised Styria to the status of an independent duchy, thus breaking the tie with Bavaria for good. When the Otakar line died out in 1192, Styria passed to the Babenbergs of Austria. In 1276, Styria came under Habsburg control.
   Throughout these many changes, Styria retained its juridical independence and a strong sense of provincial identity. A well-developed structure of estates, dominated by the local nobility and prelates, added to the duchy’s sense of territorial distinctiveness. These developments became particularly important in the 16th century, as Styria became a center of Austrian Protestantism during the Reformation. The great astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) taught in a Protestant high school in Graz.
   The Habsburg family custom of dividing their lands among their sons furthered the separateness of Styria. The last of these, in 1564, was especially important. Graz became the capital of Inner Austria, which included modern Carinthia. It was a front-line border between Christendom and the Ottoman Empire. The territorial arrangement lasted until 1619; the court in Graz of Archduke Charles (1540–1590), Emperor Ferdinand I’s youngest son, and his wife, Archduchess Maria (1551–1608) of Bavaria, became a cultural and religious center. Both devout Catholics, Charles and his wife inaugurated measures to roll back the tide of the Lutheran reform in the area. Their son, Emperor Ferdinand II, acted as the political spearhead of the Counter-Reformation throughout central Europe during the first decades of the 17th century. He would reunite the Austrian Habsburg lands once again.
   Following World War I, Styria lost a significant amount of territory to Slovenia, then part of what would become the new kingdom of Yugoslavia. Among the excisions was the province’s second largest city, Marburg, today’s Maribor. During the interwar period, Styria was a hotbed of right-wing activity with an especially large and well-armed Heimwehr. A center of heavy industry because of its rich iron and coal deposits, Styria, including the city of Graz, was heavily bombed after 1943 by the Allies. At the very end of the war, the Nazi armies and the Soviet forces fought pitched battles in parts of the province. During the Allied occupation, it was under the control of Great Britain.
   The deindustrialization of the latter decades of the 20th century has much reduced the Styrian industrial infrastructure. However, the service sector of the provincial economy has shown considerable vitality.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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