V IS FOR VIENNA, AUSTRIA

V

A STORY OF VITUPERATION IN VIENNA, AUSTRIA

‘A poor turnout. I thought there would have been more.’

Steiner looked out over the square. Behind the protesters the Hofburg, the Presidential Palace, sat unperturbed, protected by the line of police in riot gear. ‘How many are you counting?’

Valentina scanned the gathering, ‘A few thousand, five maybe.’

‘Last time it was over a hundred thousand.’

‘That was eighteen years ago. Times change.’

‘Not so much as you would think,’ Steiner carried on scribbling his copy in shorthand. He was one of the few journalists who still used pencil and a notebook. ‘You’re not old enough to realise these things always go in cycles.’

‘But do you think Kurz will be able to control them? He’s no older than I am.’

Steiner thought for a moment, then shrugged. ‘It depends how Strache decides to behave. He may tow the line in order to stay in power, then hope for an outright victory next time around, once he’s proved to the conservative voters that they can be trusted.’

Scuffles broke out along the line of barricades, but the police line held. The chants continued, along with the placards being waved: ‘Nazis Out!’; ‘Refugees Welcome’; ‘No Nazi Pigs!’

‘You’re putting the usual attendees?’ Valentina asked the more experienced reporter.

‘Students, Feminists, Anti-Fascist groups. Yes, the usual.’

Inside the parliament the new coalition government would have been sworn in by now. The protest had been futile beforehand, now it was nothing more than symbolic, and thanks to the low number of protesters, not a very effective symbol at that. Recent elections had failed to give any party an outright victory. The largest party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party had agreed to form a government with the support of the far-right Freedom Party, who would take a number of high-profile cabinet roles. New chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, at thirty-one, was to be the youngest government leader in the world.

‘What about the Muslims?’ Valentina asked.

Steiner shrugged, ’If it’s a protest vote then they’ll be okay. Things will settle down, just like last time.’ The Freedom Party had last been in a coalition government at the start of the millennium.

‘And if not?’

‘Nobody wants to see Austria dragged back to the last century. Austrians just want to see that the government is on top of immigration.’

‘You’re not at all worried? Why are we be the only party in Europe to have a far-right party in power?’

‘Things are different now. The European Union, the United Nations, they will ensure the rights of all citizens.’

‘I believe they said the same about the League of Nations in the 1930s.’

Steiner raised an eyebrow, ‘Now you’re being alarmist. Perhaps you should join the small band of protesters.’

‘Perhaps someone should be alarmed.’

The protest had fizzled out before it had really begun, the crowd began to disperse and drift away. ‘Well, that’s that,’ Steiner pocketed his notebook. ‘I’m off to type up my copy.’

‘I’ve already submitted mine,’ Valentina held up her tablet. Steiner was old school in more than just his conservative views.


Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.

Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today its Vienna, the capital of Austria – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.

Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.

For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.

47 thoughts on “V IS FOR VIENNA, AUSTRIA

  1. When I visited Austria, I had no clue that far-right ideology had so much support there even now. It was when I read a Gabriel Allon novel set there that I realized that countries, their people, and their challenges, are much deeper than what we see on the surface.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is perhaps worse if it is hiding underneath the surface, growing and waiting to announce itself. Hopefully there is enough resistance in Austria that it doesn’t become anything more serious.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Far right ideology seems to be getting support in more than just Austria. It has considerable support here in Australia. It seems very easy for a few shock jocks and outspoken politicians to stir up public indignation and offer simplistic answers to complicated issues. It also seems that outright winners in elections are becoming rare.

    I do hope that the cycle of public opinion moves the other way before too much harm is done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your story reminds me of the initial phase of the rise of Nazism in the 1920’s and early 1930’s. And the name Steiner reminds me of Lt. Col. Kurt Steiner, the protagonist in the book “The Eagle Has Landed” by Jack Higgins. You know, though I finally choose engineering for a career, my favourite subject in school was History especially the topic second world war. When I was a boy I was thrilled to read about the marching boots of the Nazis and the SS. It was only later when I became mature enough to understand the true horror of war and the extreme atrocities the Nazis committed, that my fascination for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis faded. It was replace by profound disgust and horror. Great article.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you made the link to the beginnings of the 2nd World War, that was how I was aiming to place this little story. Hopefully Austria and Europe remember and have learned the lesson from allowing a far-right ideology to gain a grip on power.

      Like

  4. Fascinating! I really enjoyed how you wove views into this story. I hope to come back after the A to Z when things settle down a little, so that I can read all your stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. An interesting – and I hope not prescient – story Iain. Thank you! I was wondering if you would leave Vienna to W – Wien; now I want to see what comes up tomorrow!

    And one small quibble if I may – it’s ‘toe the line’not tow. Comes from the days of Regency bare-knuckle fighting: no ring, no rounds but a line scratched in the ground which the contestants had to ‘toe’ at the start of the fight and again after being knocked down. If they couldn’t ‘toe the line’ they lost. (Can you tell I’ve just been in editorial mode on ‘Fiction Can Be Fun? 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  6. We are facing such a divisive political environment here in the United States as well. It is worrisome. But in an odd way, our younger citizens have stepped up and are seeking action, much the way people did in the 70’s. I find it reassuring that a more inclusive, accepting world is rising up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very true Laura, the voices pushing back against the hard right (and left) extremes tend to be the younger ones – which doesn’t say much for my generation!

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  7. I keep forgetting to mention how much I like the cover photos you use for each story, Iain. By the time I’ve read the story, I forget the photo. Nice job on the selections.

    Too frequently, people assume history will not repeat when the history is horrific. We think, since it was so terrible, everyone else also thinks it should never be repeated. Then, we watch it repeat.

    Emily In Ecuador

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you are spot on and we seem to be dangerously close to going through that at the moment, as though the horrors in the first half of the last century never happened… And thank you, I try to find a photo that shows the place and a bit of the atmosphere for the story I have written.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have been to Vienna and love that city but I, too, am concerned about the way people are thinking…or not thinking nowadays. Back in 1938, The Austrians, for the most part, were quite welcoming of the Nazis unlike what is shown in The Sound of Music. The other sad fact is history repeats itself because most people have a short attention span, do not look past the glitz and dislike history which i just don’t understand. I have fallen behind on your great A to Z posts but hope to read more in the next couple of days.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s sad to see that extreme right wing factions are getting momentum once again in Europe. Even in Germany those Neo Nazis are out in open and brazenly opposing the current regime. Unfortunately, history is intent on repeating itself.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Students, Feminists, Anti-Fascists = the usual, haha 😉
    Yeah, Austria seems to be more “conservative” than most other Europeans, I wonder why.

    As a “neutral Swiss” I tend to believe that the EU and UN won’t do much, local folks have to look after their citizens.

    Glad our blogging paths finally crossed here in Vienna!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, on the local level is most important, but the larger organisations should be able to step in if they see something amiss. Unfortunately they often seem too slow or unable to reach agreement. The usual = possibly a comment on the state of journalism today too! 🙂

      Like

  11. Great intermingling of the generations with their views of the past and hope/ fear for the future, as well as their grasp of technology. The undercurrent alluding to the possibility of growing facist regimes is subtle but clear.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Topical story and a subject that merits discussion. George Santayana said it best “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”.
    On another note that “low turnout” remark actually reminds me of the response to my A to Z challenge 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! My only advice is once you fall behind on the daily posts, fellow bloggers tend not to come back, just because there are so many blogs to read over the month. But the ones I have read have been good posts.

      Like

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