The Zoning of Post-War Austria

Harrison Holbrook


December 3, 2015


The Zoning of Post-World War Austria

It was clear from the beginning the four Allied Powers viewed Austria in a different light than other Nazi controlled countries. The question becomes, what made Austria different from other European countries? The short answer is a combination of the strong central government known as the Second Republic of Austria, the lack of communist support in Austria, and the overarching objective to reestablish Austria as its own country. The Declaration of Moscow on November 1, 1943 stated the goal of the three powers (Great Britain, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and the United States) was to free Austria of Nazi control and restore it as a sovereign nation (Erickson 106). In order to do this it was assumed that all three powers would share in the occupation (Erickson 106). As the war continued interests began to sway and the Declaration of Moscow began to lose footing. This was due to military needs of the United States changing and history of rivalry in the Baltic States between the USSR and Great Britain (Erickson 107).

There was a fear of the East of those in the West that the USSR could continue to move into Western Europe, thus there had to be a buffer between East and West. During the Yalta Conference in February 1945, the three powers eventually agreed on the zones, and carved out a sector for France from Great Britain and the United States’ zones (Erickson 112). The USSR received eastern Austria, the United States received upper western Austria, and Great Britain got lower western Austria (Erickson 112). The capital, Vienna, was split into four equal zones similar to Berlin, and each power would occupy one zone. The center of the city however was controlled by all four powers equally, which was one of the major differences between Berlin and Vienna (113). Each power had its own motives when it came to the occupation of Austria.

Once Austria was liberated in 1945, the United States had turned its attention to defeating the Japanese in the Pacific. Because of this the U.S. did not want to worry about deploying soldiers into Austria and continued with the joint occupation as was implied in the Declaration of Moscow (Erickson 107). Also, the United States was hesitant to get in between the British and the Soviets due to their past rivalry in the Baltics (Erickson 107).  However, intervention was needed in order to prevent further altercations between the nations. Great Britain urged the United States to continue with the previous plan which included joint occupation in order to secure a buffer between the iron curtain and Western Europe, and eventually President Roosevelt decided it was their moral duty to help occupy Austria in the interest of world peace (Erickson 108). In 1945, after victory in the Pacific, the United States decided it could redeploy troops in order to occupy Austria along with the Soviets and Great Britain (Erickson 108).

The post-war Soviet plan was simple; create USSR friendly governments around its border, and exploit these governments in order to quickly recover from the war which had devastated it (Hillhouse 91). Austria was viewed by the USSR as an opportunity to strengthen the country’s economy through industry. The Soviets also began helping the communist party in Austria gain power in hopes of creating Soviet- friendly government (Hillhouse 92). What the Soviets did not anticipate was the strong central government of Austria which controlled the entire country.

As soon as the Third Reich fell the Austrian government was scrambling to establish what they would eventually call the Second Republic of Austria. Adhering to the Yalta Agreements, Austria began establishing a new democracy with the aid of the Soviets (Hillhouse 84). Austria was able to form a central government which would govern the entire country; something that differed from how Germany was governed. The central government was one of the biggest reasons Austria did not split into two states as Germany did (Hillhouse 84). The powers allowed this government because they did not look at Austria as a country that cooperated with the Nazis, but rather an occupied country. On June 28, 1946 the Allied Commission adopted the New Control Agreement for Austria. This allowed, among other things, the central government the right to submit legislature to the Allied Commission, and if it is not unanimously vetoed within thirty days, then the bill is enacted. This allowed the government to work independent of the Allied Powers (Hillhouse 87). The strength of the Second Republic of Austria greatly hindered the political aspirations of the Soviets.

The interesting part with how the Soviets continued its occupation in future years is how it shifted its interests from Austrian politics to oil fields in the Soviet controlled zone (Hillhouse 94).  This was very typical of post-war USSR; exploit the country you’re occupying. If their political aspirations had gone as planned, then one could only assume that more exploitation would have occurred. It bears striking resemblances to how the United States occupied Iraq following the September 11 attacks in New York City. We go to exterminate terrorists (Nazis), but then continue to occupy that country while trying to establish our form of government. That country also conveniently has oil that we can exploit, and with help from the friendly government we just established.

Austria was handled differently from other European countries following World War II due to its role in the war and its unique location, right between the Eastern and Western powers. All four powers agreed Austria deserved to be a free country, but only needed occupation for it to get back onto its feet.  While the interests of the occupying powers differed, the zoning did achieve one of its main objectives which was to create a buffer between the Western world and the Eastern world.  This buffer also secured Austria as a sovereign country as opposed to Germany which had been split due to communist support within the country, and the lack of a strong central government. The Austrian culture reflects the neutrality of the country, focus is on the arts, social change and being very welcoming to outsiders.  This was another result of the zoning, allowing to the country to develop as a free democracy, while recovering from the war.

















Annotated Bibliography

Hillhouse, Raelynn J. “A Reevaluation of Soviet Policy in Central Europe: The Soviet Union and the Occupation of Austria.” Eastern European Politics and Societies (1989): 83-104. Print.

Raelynn J. Hillhouse is a former teacher of political science at the University of Michigan and the University of Hawaii. She earned her undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, and her PhD from Michigan. She also worked as a United States foreign affairs analyst. She has been published numerous times and seems to be very credible. I will use her when discussing the politics of Austria, as well as what the Soviets plan was.

Erickson, Edgar L. “The Zoning of Austria.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 106-13. Print.

Erickson was a professor of history at the University of Illinois and had been published many times regarding European politics. This will be useful when explaining the different interests in Austria between the four powers.




One thought on “The Zoning of Post-War Austria

  1. Gregory Johnson

    For The Arab Spring: Harrison does a great job of outlining the motives of each allied country after WW2, and their intentions with Austria. The Western powers were concerned that if the USSR was given too much power, that they would begin to take or influence more parts of Europe. To compromise, Austria was split up essentially to create a buffer zone between the rest of Europe, and the Eastern Block/Russia. After the Nazis were defeated, the US wanted to focus all attention on finishing the war with Japan. We weren’t able to step away from Austria though, because Britain wanted us to stay and oversee interactions between them and the USSR. This is somewhat similar to the peacekeeping role America tries to take, or at least puts up the façade of doing in several countries in the Arab world. We stayed around to make sure future governance of the area yielded positive results for ourselves and our allies. Motives were definitely a bit different then though, we were trying to smother the spread of communism for the most part then. Now we claim to want to establish democracy as a valid reason for staying in a Middle Eastern countries, but of course there are hidden motives behind that. Who will rule this nation once there is peace? This is another parallel we can see in Austria after WW2, and Arab countries, specifically Libya since that’s the country relevant to my paper. Beyond that, lets look at the things left behind. Austria has had and is still having quite a time repatriating assets to their rightful owners after they were taken away by the Nazis. In Libya, the same question stands. How will all of Gaddafi’s fortunes be brought back to Libya, and from there how will they be redistributed?


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