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Vienna  
 
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The capital of Austria, Vienna is also the country's largest city, as well as its political, economic, and cultural center, and the undisputed hub of Austrian gay and lesbian life. The city has a population of approximately 1.7 million, of which 10 percent, or about 170,000 people, are estimated to be homosexual.

While Vienna does not have predominantly gay and lesbian neighborhoods, the city has developed a diverse glbtq scene, with cafés, bars, dance clubs, bathhouses, sports clubs, guest houses and hotels all catering to the diverse needs of the community.

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Early History of the Austrian Habsburg Dynasty

Founded around 500 B.C.E. and originally a Celtic settlement, the area that is now known as the city of Vienna became a Roman military outpost (named "Vindobona") by the first century B.C.E. It was later abandoned by the Roman Empire in the late fourth century C.E. and subsequently overrun by multiple empires, including the Franks, the Magyars, and the Babenberg Dynasty.

In 1282 Rudolf of Habsburg, an obscure Swiss nobleman who had earlier been elected King of Germany, as Rudolf I, in 1273, proclaimed Vienna, and the land around it, a Habsburg family possession, and it was to remain the heart of the Habsburg power--with a few brief interruptions only--until 1918. Under the Habsburg Dynasty, Vienna grew into a leading cultural center for arts and sciences, particularly during the reign of Empress Maria Theresia, in the eighteenth century.

One of the first and most prominent figures in early Viennese gay history is François-Eugène, Prince of Savoy-Carignan (1663-1736), a French-born officer who came to Vienna at the age of 20 to offer support in the rescue of the city, which was at that time besieged by the Ottoman army. Historically known as Prince Eugene of Savoy, he quickly distinguished himself in a cavalry battle at Petronell, in Lower Austria, on July 7, 1683, and led multiple victorious military campaigns in the years following.

Prior to Prince Eugene's arrival in Vienna, the French King Louis XIV had refused his request to join the royal troops, presumably due to the Prince's notoriously flamboyant behavior, his well-known affection for young men, and his predilection for appearing in public dressed in women's clothing.

Nonetheless, Eugene managed to build his military career and expand his power base during the reigns of three Austrian Habsburg emperors. In 1714, he began construction of his summer palace, Schloss Belvedere, one of Vienna's finest examples of baroque architecture. Structural details of the palace directly refer to Prince Eugene's military victories against the Ottoman Empire by imitating the form of Turkish army tents in the green roofs of the building. Prince Eugene died in his sleep at the palace in 1736.

Emperor Charles VI (1685-1740), father of Empress Maria Theresia, is also a noted figure in the city's gay history. Charles was rumored to have had an intimate friendship with Count Michael Johann Althan III, who was one of the closest members of the introverted Emperor's inner circle. Although few details are known about the nature of the relationship, Charles lavished several palaces on Althan in Vienna, apparently so that the two men could remain close at hand, and once wrote to Althan as "my truest servant, my heart's friend, who loves me as I have loved him for nineteen years in true, profound friendship."

Archduke Ludwig Viktor (1842-1919), known affectionately as "Luziwuzi" among his friends, was also the cause of scandal for the House of Habsburg. The younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph, Ludwig Viktor was notorious for his openly homosexual relationships and penchant for cross-dressing. He frequently visited the Centralbad indoor swimming pool (today the gay Kaiserbründl bathhouse) and caused widespread gossip when an officer of the Austrian army slapped him in the face after the Archduke had made sexual advances. After the incident, the Emperor was forced to forbid Ludwig Viktor to stay in Vienna. He was exiled to Schloss Klessheim near Salzburg where he died in 1919, at the age of 76.

Other Significant Nineteenth-Century GLBTQ Cultural Figures

From the late eighteenth to the mid-twentieth century, Vienna's culture--in particular, its music--was famous worldwide. Such illustrious composers as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, and Gustav Mahler resided in Vienna, while the city was the birthplace of Johann Strauss (father and son), Arnold Schoenberg, and Franz Schubert.

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Prince Eugene of Savoy, one of the most prominent glbtq figures in early Viennese history. Portrait by Jacob van Schuppen.
  
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