History

In the 10th century the area fell into the hands of Hungary, but German-speaking peasants gradually settled land between the Hungarian villages. The arrival of the Turks in the 16th century quashed both the Hungarians and the Austrian-Germans, and devastated the local population. Landlords, without anyone to tend their farms, invited substantial numbers of Croats to settle, laying the foundations for the area’s Hungarian and Croatian influences today – around 10% of the population is Croatian, and Croatian, along with Hungarian, is a recognised local language; a few small towns in middle Burgenland bear Croatian signage.

With the demise of the Habsburg empire after WWI, Austria lost control of Hungary, but it eventually managed to retain the German-speaking western region of Hungary under the Treaty of St Germain. The new province of Burgenland was born, named for the ‘burg’ suffix of the four western Hungarian district names at that time – Pressburg (Bratislava), Wieselburg (Moson), Ödenburg (Soporn) and Eisenburg (Vasvär). As Hungary was loathe to lose Ödenburg (Sopron), a controversial plebiscite held in December 1921 resulted in Sopron remaining Hungarian. Burgenland lost its natural capital, and Eisenstadt became the new Hauptstadt.