|Heidentor aka "Pagan's Gate"|
From an overall historical point of view, the Austrians could seem more like an old rival than a kindred people. The region of the eastern Alps and north of the Adriatic Sea has long been a tri-cross-cultural area between the Italo-Roman speaking world, the German-speaking world, and the Slavic-speaking world. For example, some parts of the north Balkans are more culturally and politically tied to Russia than to nearby Austria or the Veneto; in most ways, the tri-Veneto area has more in common with Rome than to St. Moritz; and in general, Austrians would tend to see themselves as being more ethnically tied to Scandinavia than to the nearby Venetians or Slovenes.
By the "two Austrias" I mean the original, and actually proper term "Austria," state within the old Langbard Kingdom... which was approximately the northeast Italian peninsula between Lombardy and the tri-Veneto area. Much later, the term "Austria" was clumsily resurrected as the English-language nickname for Österreich... or the Austria we know today.
Five thousand years ago, there would have been no difference at all between peoples of this region. They would have all been proto-European. The early stream of Teutonic migration formed the loosely defined Celtic culture, which later overran the general Lombardo-Venetian area. Still, approximately three thousand years ago, there was little difference. I'm guessing that this would have also included the north Balkans as well. Without going into the entire history of it.... a later "final push" of Teutonic tribes burst into Switzerland, Austria, Bavaria, Hungary, Bohemia, etc.... an equally intense migratory push of Slavic tribes moved into the Balkans... and--of course--the march of the Roman Empire overtook generally all of what is now "Italy."
The Roman province of "Raetia" was north of the Alps, even though the original "Raetians" were an ancient people who lived in a much larger area at one time. Although a clear lingo-ethnic divide was established between the three, each clearly influenced the other two. For example, in the Middle Ages when parts of the Friul were decimated by plagues, Slavic people were invited in to repopulate, and there is a clear Slavic influence in the Friulian dialect. Also in the Middle Ages, Cimbrians from Bavaria migrated into the Veneto, and many Cimbrian villages were still very linguistically and culturally distinct until the Fascist era. That particular brand of nationalism actually destroyed regional culture. One modern Camunian surname is "Mitterpergher," which is probably of Cimbrian origin, meaning "a person from the middle of the mountain"... and with the old-Bavarian spelling for "mountain person".... "pergher" rather than "berger."
During the Roman era, the Romans did most of the pushing, while the Germanic tribes took over that role in the early Middle Ages. Of course, the ancient territorial struggle between Germans and Slavs occurred over a very long time. In the first century, the Romans established a military base on the Danube River, in what is now Austria, called Carnuntum. This camp served as a trading center, as well as a political headquarters for further Roman expansion. This particular Celtic kingdom was called Noricum. Interestingly, in typical passive-aggressive Roman political style, they used a regional Celtic name.. which was apparently "Karnuntum" originally. I'm not absolutely certain, but it appears that a migration of northern Teutons--separate from the regional Celts--later invaded and destroyed Carnuntum.
The Teutonic destruction of this Roman expansion was glorified in Guido von List's late 19th century book 'Carnuntum'. This book has not been translated into English to my knowledge, so I can't vouch for it in any way... although I would like to read it. For some reason, List was fascinated by what is apparently the leftover opening gate to Carnuntum... after the invading Teutons demolished the walls, or perhaps this occurred over a longer period. That leftover ruin is now called "Heidentor," or evidently "Pagan's Gate" in German. Ironically, "Pagan's Gate" could be seen as a monument to both the Romans and the Germans. To List, I think it represented a regional Austrian symbol of the glory of past victory. Also, there were many old legends surrounding the ruin. In List's day, historians and archeologists didn't know anything about ancient German-Celts. It actually got it's name in the Middle Ages because it was once thought to have been constructed by ancient pagans. Austria is now reconstructing Carnuntum if you would like to look that up.
|Flag of Lombardy-Venetia|
As far as the later colonial aggression of the Habsburgs... I mean lets face it, this was basically a soft dictatorship in which the average citizen of Austria-Hungary was not really responsible for national/monarchial policy anymore than a Roman citizen was responsible for Roman imperialism. The Austrian soldiers stationed in Lombardy-Venetia could, at times, be brutal... but probably not any more brutal than other occupations. It could be said with certainty that during pre-Roman times---which would have been pre-Teutonic and pre-Slavic times as well---this tri-cultural region would have been largely of the same people. Nobody there spoke Italian, German, or Slavic back then. Three very aggressive peoples came later and staked their territorial claim, and consequently the past etho-cultural dynamic was forgotten.