1934 to 1938: Ständestaat in the Name of "God, the Almighty"

The proclamation of the authoritarian "May Constitution" on 1 May 1934 marked the beginning of the Ständestaat, a corporative authoritarian system under the leadership of the Fatherland Front (Vaterländische Front). Also known as Austrofascism, it meant the end of democratic parliamentarianism and party pluralism. The Constitution of 1934 was declared on the basis of a constitutional Enabling Act.

The May Constitution starts with the words "In the name of God, the Almighty, from whom all law emanates." Austria thus became a Federation based on Catholic principles and corporatism consisting of the city of Vienna which on 31 March 1934 had lost the status of an autonomous Land and eight federal Laender. The State Council, the Federal Cultural Council, the Federal Economic Council and the Laender Council were given an advisory role. The Federal Government was subject to the "leadership" (which before had been called the chairmanship) of the Federal Chancellor. By 1938, the implementation of corporatism, however, proved only partly successful.

Politics anticipating the Anschluss in 1938

On 29 July 1934 Kurt Schuschnigg became Federal Chancellor. His politics were supported by the Fatherland Front, a reservoir for nationalist, Christian and generally right-wing conservative forces. The years of the Schuschnigg government were mainly characterised by political confrontations with the National Socialists, a struggle which Austria was to eventually lose.

The political rapprochement with fascist Italy proved to be unfit for Austria’s preservation as an independent state - precisely because the rapprochement of the two fascist powers Germany and Italy was already underway. Austria eventually lost the last ally which could have assisted it against the increasing aggression of Nazi Germany. Another aspect sealing the fate of the country’s near future was the authoritarian government’s self-conception as the second German state. On the whole it is true to say that between 1934 and 1938 the way was paved for the annexation of Austria to Hitler’s Germany.

Vienna during those fateful years

The economic problems were enormous - a situation which was not really helped by slogans such as "Buy Austrian Goods". In Vienna the unemployment rate was consistently growing. Long term unemployment led to the loss of social benefits and soon the greater part of those without jobs no longer received any assistance whatsoever. On 26 January 1935, by contrast, Chancellor Schuschnigg inaugurated the first Opera Ball at the Vienna State Opera welcoming 4,000 guests to the occasion.

By the end of April 1934 a number of street names were changed. Sections of the Ringstraße were renamed to Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring or Dr.-Ignaz-Seipel-Ring (today’s Dr.-Karl-Renner-Ring). In August 1934 the Fatherland Front decreed that all towns in Austria had to name a street or square after Engelbert Dollfuß, a principle which was to be applied after 1938 except this time squares had to be renamed to Adolf-Hitler-Platz - as was the case with Rathausplatz in Vienna.

In February 1936, during the fourth Winter Olympics, Karl Schäfer won his second gold medal in figure skating. Vienna at the time was the world’s leading city in figure skating. On 16 October 1935, the first section of Höhenstraße connecting Cobenzl and Kahlenberg was officially opened; in 1936 the section from Kahlenberg to Leopoldsberg was finished. For the road’s construction workers were recruited from the newly established Labour Service which had been introduced to combat unemployment. Due to growing traffic volume, the permissible speed limit in Vienna was raised from 30 to 40 kilometres per hour.

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