- The capital of Styria, Graz, with a population of around 240,000, is the second largest city of Austria. Its highly diversified economy has become far livelier since the reintroduction of free markets in eastern and southeastern Europe after 1989. The fracturing of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s brought a stream of refugees into Austria who used Graz both as a transit point for travel to the north and west and as a natural site for relocation.Archaeological digs in and around the city have turned up artifacts from the New Stone Age. The Romans, who entered the region around 16 BCE, laid down an important thoroughfare that touched upon what are today the western outskirts of the city. Slavic tribes left their mark on the names of places, rivers, and mountains. The name of the city itself is derived from a common Slavic term for a fortification or castle. Bavarian settlement began after the middle of the 10th century. The first documentary mention of the town dates from 1128; a castle from the 12th century also stood on the Graz Castle Hill and served as the seat of a local government. Margrave Otakar III established a market near the center of modern Graz around 1160. In 1172, the market of Graz was mentioned; by 1286, it was called a town. In 1379, the Habsburgs made the city one of their residences and administrative centers, but it was in the 15th century that Frederick III, himself the offspring of the Styrian line of his house, made the Graz castle a real city residence. To protect it from the aggressive Ottoman Empire, he also expanded the fortifications around the settlement considerably. Following a three-way territorial division among Ferdinand I’s sons, Graz became the administrative capital of Inner Austria. The government of Ferdinand’s youngest male heir, Archduke Charles (1540–1590), and his devoutly Catholic Bavarian wife, Archduchess Maria (1551–1608), took the first determined steps during the last decades of the Reformation toward recapturing the heavily Protestantized Austrian lands for Roman Catholicism. The University of Graz was founded in 1586 by the Jesuits to serve as a center for the educational program that the order brought to the Counter-Reformation. Though Charles and Maria’s son, Ferdinand II, moved his court to Vienna, he is buried in the Styrian capital. Until 1749, Graz was the capital for the entirety of Inner Austria, which included Carinthia and Carniola, today Slovenia, as well as Styria. As the Ottoman threat subsided in the last half of the 17th century, Graz was both built and rebuilt in the Baroque style. Remains of the period are still to be seen in the central part of the city, despite the destructiveness of Allied bombing in World War II, during which 16 percent of the city’s buildings were completely destroyed. Even after the region’s industrialization, which began with the development of rail transportation to the city in 1844, Graz was, and is, known as Pensionopolis, because its comparatively mild climate and moderate price scale attracted many retirees, especially those from the military and civil service. Its economy received considerable support from the Nazis in the latter years of World War II, as they tried to move German industrial production within the shelter of Austria’s mountains. The mines of the so-called Iron Mountain (Erzberg) were considerably modernized as a result of these attentions. Prior to the Anschluss, the Austrian Nazi movement was especially well-organized and entrenched in Graz among civil servants and university students and faculty.Though Graz and its environs remain important manufacturing centers for iron and steel products, precision instruments generally, paper, chemicals, and some textiles, the economy of the city and region had shifted over to service industries by 1991. But the most notable change in the city has been its growing significance as a cultural and intellectual center. The university itself has long attracted a wide variety of foreign students, especially from southeastern Europe. Austrian participation in the European Union, however, has forced the country to open its borders to students from all member states; the medical school at the University of Graz now attracts many young people from the Federal Republic of Germany, where there are strict limits on the number of people who can study to become physicians.In the years between 1950 and 1970, Graz also began the systematic renewal of its historic inner districts. In 1988, led by City Councilman Herbert Strobl, the local government embarked on a drive to stimulate the local economy by promoting cultural tourism. The strategy was to buy art not for installation in museums, but rather for display in conventional urban spaces, both internal and out-of-doors. The emphasis has been on the contemporary; during certain times the streets and courtyards of the city become impromptu galleries for a wide variety of artifacts. Indoor arenas, such as the Graz Opera, are turned over to correspondingly experimental music and theater. The event cooperates with other seasonal musical and cultural festivals such as the Styrian Autumn (Steirischer Herbst) and the Styriade. In 1999, United Nations Educaational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named Graz one of its World Cultural Heritage Sites, a distinction that was lavishly celebrated in the city’s presentations in 2003.See also Graz Group.
Historical dictionary of Austria. Paula Sutter Fichtner. 2014.
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