Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Renner, Karl (1870–1950)

Austrian socialist theoretician, politician, author of the First Austrian Republic's constitution, and president of the Second Austrian Republic (1945–1950). Born in Unter-Tannowitz in Moravia (present-day Doini Dunajovice in the Czech Republic), Karl Renner earned a law degree at the University of Vienna in 1898 and, along with Otto Bauer, formulated the Austro-Marxist school of thought in his many writings. In 1907, Renner was elected to parliament as a representative of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party (SPÖ). He quickly rose to prominence as a theorist and practitioner of Austrian socialism.

When the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed in 1918, Renner emerged as the leader of the interim state chancellery and led the Austrian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. As head of the Austrian government until June 1920, he was largely responsible for the basic outline of the constitution of the Austrian Republic. He served in parliament until it was dissolved in 1934, which included a term as president of parliament from 1931 to 1933. He was one of the most prominent advocates of Anschluss (union with Germany) in 1938.

In April 1945, Red Army forces entering Austria found Renner and brought him to Vienna to form a provisional government. Fearing that he was a Soviet puppet, the Western Allies refused to recognize the regime. Renner, however, constructed a cleverly balanced cabinet that won Western support. The three major political parties—the SPÖ, the Austrian Communists (KPÖ), and the conservative People's Party (ÖVP)—were represented, but each minister worked with two undersecretaries from the other parties. This along with Renner's habit of not allowing food or drink in meetings until a consensus was reached helped ensure political balance in postwar Austria.

Renner was chosen as the first president of the Second Republic of Austria following the elections of October 1945. He continued in office until his death in Vienna on 31 December 1950.

Timothy C. Dowling


Further Reading
Carafano, James. Waltzing into the Cold War. The Struggle for Occupied Austria. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2002.; Mück, Hugo. Die Zweite Republik [The Second Republic]. Vienna: Lind, 2004.
 

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