Aerial view of Eisenstadt, Burgenland (Austria).

Aerial view of Eisenstadt, Burgenland (Austria). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Except for Vienna, the smallest Land in Austria in area;  it is the least populated.   It lies on the borders with Hungary, to which it belonged until 1920/1.    Its name comes from the castles (Burgen in German) in the region, notably those of the Hungarian magnate family, the Esterhazy.

In the 11th century there was an influx of German settlers, many from Franconia, into the borderlands between the Austrian and Styrian Marks, on the one hand, and Hungary, on the other.

In 1241, Bela IV of Hungary, his armies shattered by the Mongols, fled to Austria and ceded three counties to Duke Frederick the Warlike, very likely those of Moson, Sopron and Vas.   When Frederick died in 1246 Babenberg rule in Austria and Styria ended.   After some years of confusion Ottakar II of Bohemia gained control of the two Duchies in 1251 but in 1254 he reached a settlement with Bela IV, which included the return of the three counties to Hungary.

When Hungary was divided between the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire in the 16th and 17th centuries the area of German settlement on the western borders of Hungary lay within Habsburg Hungary.

At the Peace Conference in Paris in 1919, the government of reduced Austria argued that the region should pass to them as it was largely German in population, whilst the new Czechoslovakia argued that it should be part of a corridor divided between the Slav states of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, which the corridor would link.   The Austrian plea was accepted, and the Treaties of St Germain, with Austria, in 1919, and Trianon, with Hungary, in 1920, provided for the transfer of the Burgenland, that is, the Hungarian county of Sopron, much of that of Moson and a corner of that of Vas.  There was however considerable resistance in the district around the town of Sopron and the Austrian police were obliged to withdraw.  Italy mediated, and as a result a plebiscite was held in the Sopron area in December 1921, which overwhelmingly voted to remain in Hungary.   Both parties accepted the result early in 1922, though there were doubts about the register of voters.

Burgenland became a separate Reichsland in the Austrian Republic and remains so, though in the era of Nazi unification, 1938-45, it was divided between Niederdonau and Steiermark.

Burgenland is divided into two Stadtbezirke, Eisenstadt and Rust, and seven Landbezirke, (from north to south) Neusiedl am See, Eisenstadt-Umgebung (the environs of Eisenstadt), Mattersburg, Oberpullendorf, Oberwart, Güssing and Jennersdorf.   The Landbezirke are themselves divided into 165 Gemeinden, 9 with the status of a Stadt and 56 with that of Markt.   The capital is Eisenstadt, since 1960 also the see of a Bishopric in the province of Vienna.

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