The Austrian National Anthem

Music and mountains are the perfect descriptive words for the Republic of Austria. Composers like Mozart, Hayden and Straus provide the musical background for the picture post card scenic beauty of the Austrian Alps.

Decay and decline might also be applied. The Texas sized Austro-Hungarian Empire once dominated Central Europe, stretching all the way to the Adriatic Sea, making it a naval power, has now shrunk to a landlocked 32,400 square mile republic. For a seven year period, l938-45, it disappeared completely when Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany.

Austrian national anthems have reflected these changes. The Empire was ruled by an Emperor. The national anthem "Die Kaiserhymne (The Emperor's Hymn)" was written by poet Lorenz Hascha with music by Josef Hayden. It was adopted to engender patriotic fervor among Austrian citizens when their homeland was facing a tough French army led by a military genius named Napoleon. The anthem was first played on February l2, l797 at Emperor Franz Josef's birthday party. It remained their national hymn until l9l8 when the Hapsburg Dynasty was abolished after WWI. The once mighty empire was divided into four major entities: Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia with a portion nipped off and given to Italy, blocking Austria's outlet to the Adriatic.

The Austrian Republic struggled to survive for two decades until Nazi Germany absorbed the country in l938. Then no national anthem was needed. Austria was not an independent nation.

Austria was reborn after World War II. Occupied by the victorious Allies, a new democratic nation was established. Obviously, the old "Kaiserhymne" could not be used for a republic. In April l946 the newly elected government announced a competition for a new national anthem.

The announcement listed the requirements. It must be "a song of hymn-like character paying tribute to the new; in words and music, to the Austrian state and its people." The music came from another Joseph

Hayden composition, "The Emperor Quartet."

There were thousands of entries. A federal commission reviewed them, finally selecting a poem by Mrs. Preradovic, mother of the Minister of Education, Felix Hurdes. She came from a talented artistic family. Her grandfather had been the national poet of Croatia.

The new national anthem, "Die Bundeshymne (the federal hymn)" was first published in the newspaper "Die Presse" on March 22, l947. This would lead to unexpected complications.

"Land of mountains, land of streams,

Land of fields, land of spires,

Land of hammers, with a rich future,

You are the home of great sons,

A nation blest with great beauty,

Highly praised Austria."

In the old empire, women were second class citizens. The Nazis continued this discriminatory practice. Men were builders and warriors; a woman's role was to keep the home and bear sons.

The new Austrian republic gave ladies a chance to strive for equality. A Ministry of Women's Affairs was part of the new government. A few years ago they launched an attack on the wording of the anthem, claiming it was a sexist document which discriminated against women.

The hymn refers to "Our Fatherland," but there is no mention of Motherland. There is the line "You are the home of great sons," but no mention of heroic daughters. They did not object to the melody but demanded the "Budeshymne" be rewritten to make it more gender inclusive.

These are valid points but they lost the battle. The case ended up in court. The publishing house that owned the copyright, having printed it in "Die Presse," refused to change the words. An appeal to the heirs of Mrs. Preradovic failed They refused to edit her poem. The Austrian national anthem is 60 years old, and still unchanged.

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