Celts settled the land known today as Austria around 400 BC. The Roman Empire controlled the area by 15 BC and held it for hundreds of years. Charlemagne gained control of Austrian lands in the late 700s. Later, the central countries and territories of Europe became part of Austrian civilization through wars and alliances, forming the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire was a powerful force in Europe. It was home to over 50 million people and known as a center of science, art, and music. It was often noted for its gaiety. But World War I brought stunning defeat and the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed into a fraction of what it was. Austria was annexed to Nazi Germany in the late 1930s in the Anschluss. After the Nazi defeat and at the end of WWII in 1945, Soviet, British, French, and American troops occupied Austria until 1955. Austria became a member of the United Nations and European Union in 1995 and still remains a gateway nation between Eastern and Western Europe.
The Pentecostal movement in Austria began in the 1920s, but was interrupted by WWII. After the war, many people of German descent immigrated to Austria, and many were placed in refugee camps. Pentecostal believers from Yugoslavia were among those in the camps and they ministered to fellow refugees. Pastors from the U.S. such as Edwin Waldvogel and Joseph Wannenmacher came on short-term trips to work with the existing believers. In 1946 the “Freie Christengemeinden” (Free Christian Assembly) of Austria was established among refugee camp churches. A mass migration of believers to neighboring countries diminished the Assembly’s numbers, but a strong body of believers still remained.
The Movement Today
In 1967, Robert and Roberta Crabtree came from the United States to work with the Freie Christengemeinden, but the focus of their ministry was primarily in Yugoslavia. Greg and Sandie Mundis arrived in Austria in 1980, and working together with the national church, growth started to take place. The Freie Christengemeinden reports the following statistics for Austria: 27 churches and six outstations, 26 national ministers, 3,930 members and adherents, and two extension Bible schools with 48 students.
Additional Facts About Austria
- Capital: Vienna
- Area: 32,386 square miles
- Population: 8.8 million
- Languages: German
- Agriculture: Livestock, grains, potatoes, asparagus, apples, and cherries
- Industry: Machinery, iron, steel, tourism, chemicals, textiles, wood and paper products, and mining
- Currency: Euro