Largest federal state of Austria, bordered by the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia to the east, Burgenland to the southeast, Styria to the south, and Upper Austria to the west; area 19,174 sq km/7,403 sq mi; population (2001 est) 1,549,600. Its capital is Sankt Polten. The main towns are Wiener Neustadt and Krems. Vienna is a provincial enclave within the province.
The River Danube bisects the land from west to east. To the north of the Danube are the hilly Waldviertal region and the Weinviertal region with its wide valleys, loess soil, and amenable weather. To the east is the Vienna Basin, where Austria's most productive farmland is found. South of the river are the foothills of the eastern Alps.
The state contains approximately half of the country's arable lands. Extensive vine growing, agriculture, and stock raising takes place in the Weinviertel and Wienerwald. In addition to wine, sugar beet, and grain, there are reserves of oil and natural gas. Manufactured products include textiles, chemicals, and metal goods. Forestry, particularly in the southern half of the region, is also important.
Settlements along the Danube Gorge date back to prehistoric times. The region was occupied by Celts, conquered by the Romans, and became known as the Ostmark (Eastern March) under Charlemagne's rule. In 976, Otto II conferred the Ostmark on Leopold von Babenberg. The Babenberg rulers contributed much to the growth of the area, building cities and roads, opening trade routes, and participating in the Crusades. In 1278, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf of Habsburg conquered the Babenberg lands. Around 1450, a permanent administrative division between Upper and Lower Austria was created. Lower Austria remained a part of the Habsburg Empire until 1918, when it became a province of the republic of Austria.
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