Austria Table of Contents

Foundation of the Second Republic

As the Soviet troops advanced on Vienna, they occupied the town where Socialist leader Karl Renner lived in retirement. Despite his anti-Soviet reputation, Renner was chosen by the Soviet leaders to form and head a provisional government, apparently believing the aging politician would be an easily manipulated figurehead. Renner, however, established authority based on his leadership role in the last freely elected parliament, not on the backing of the Soviet Union. Conditions did not permit the members of the old parliament to be summoned, as had been done in 1918, so Renner turned to the leaders of the three nonfascist parties that the Soviet leaders had already allowed to become active and established a provisional city administration in Vienna in early April. The three parties consisted of the Socialist Party of Austria (Sozialistische Partei Österreichs--SPÖ), a reorganization of the SDAP; the Austrian People's Party (Österreichische Volkspartei--ÖVP), a reorganization of the CSP; and the Communist Party of Austria (Kommunistische Partei Österreichs--KPÖ).

Renner apportioned ministries in the provisional government's cabinet roughly based on the political balance of the pre-1934 era, but the nationalist bloc was excluded and Communist representation increased. The SPÖ held ten ministries; the ÖVP, nine; and the KPÖ, only three, but these included the important ministries of interior, which controlled the police, and of education. Three additional ministries were held by members without party affiliation. Because of widespread distrust of the Communists, Renner created undersecretary positions for the two other parties in the Communist-headed ministries.

On April 27, 1945, the provisional government issued a decree nullifying the Anschluss and reestablishing an independent, democratic Republic of Austria under the 1920 constitution as amended in 1929. Germany had yet to surrender, however, and the formation of a provisional government in Soviet-occupied Austria surprised the Western Allies, who had yet to enter Austria. The Western Allies feared that the provisional government was a puppet of the Soviet Union and declined to recognize it. This decision left the Renner government dependent on the Soviet Union but forced it to allow the provisional government the means to establish reasonable credibility so Western acceptance could be won. Thus, as pre-1938 political figures became active in the areas occupied by United States, British, and French troops, the Renner government was allowed to establish contact with them despite initial Soviet plans to seal off its occupation zone.

Custom Search

Source: U.S. Library of Congress