Hammer and Sickle: The newly introduced Schilling of the First Republic of Austria, its Coat of Arms and the Origin of its Symbols


Why does the eagle of the Austrian coat of arms hold hammer and sickle in his talons? Does he want to declare his love to Communism? This podcast goes further into this matter and will find a completely different reason.


Come along with us on our journey through the world of money. Today we are stopping in Austria. We are in the year 1931.


On January 1, 1925, the First Republic of Austria introduced the schilling. Here we look at a gold coin as it had been issued since 1916. One side states 25 schilling as the face value, the other side depicts the coat of arms of the First Republic of Austria. It features a single-headed eagle with the red heart shield, with the silver crossbar on it. The eagle wears a mural crown on the head. In its right talon, the eagle holds a sickle, in the left talon a hammer.


Um, wait a minute. Did Austria want to express its passion for communism that way?

For us, hammer and sickle represent communism.


Yet, this pictogram is not that old. It harks back to a draft dating to 1917. Back then, Lenin had arranged a competition in order to find a new coat of arms for the communist Soviet Union. The winning emblem shoes a globe with hammer and sickle. The globe is surrounded by a wreath of wheat, with the sun rising behind it. The red star gleams above. Except for the red star, actually none of those symbols was novel.


Since the time of the Romans, the globe has been the favorite feature to express the pretense that the power of a ruler extended all over the world.


The sickle and the bundle of wheat symbolized agriculture, as illustrated by this prize medal made around 1900.


The hammer was the tool of the worker, embodied by the smith we see on this prize medal from 1873 between the personifications of industry and abundance.


Thus, all elements of the coat of arms were commonplaces and that explains why they were incorporated into the coat of arms of the young Republic of Austria on May 8, 1919.

By the way, that was long before the official approval of the Soviet coat of arms. About four years later, the Central Committee voted on that.


The proper interpretation was specified in a special law on the national coat of arms and the state seal of the Republic of German Austria.


The single-headed eagle was not to be seen as a reduction of the old, double-headed Habsburg eagle. Quite the contrary, as an important aspect it was laid down that this kind of eagle had already been the legions’ symbol in the Roman Republic.


The shield in red, white, red harks back to the coat of arms of the Babenberg dynasty to which the ‘eastern realm’ – or Ostarrichi as it was called back than – was entrusted in 976.

The mural crown stood for the bourgeoisie, the sickle for the peasantry, and the hammer for the working class.


Hence, the coat of arms of the First Republic of Austria was not influenced by any Communist ideas.


On the contrary: The attempt to unite bourgeoisie, workers and peasants in one image manifested itself as early as the first provisional national coat of arms dating to 1918.

It consisted of a city tower for the bourgeoisie, the crossed hammers for the working class, and the wreath of wheat for the peasantry.


The gold coins issued after World War II depict the coat of arms of the First Republic of Austria, the striped escutcheon with the Austrian eagle who unites with his three attributes the three estates – bourgeoisie, working class, and peasantry.


That motif did not change when, on January 1, 1925, the krone was replaced by the schilling.

It was left to the austrofascist Federal State of 1934 to strip the coat of arms of all references that could be considered Communist.


How far-reaching the political ambitions of a chancellor Dollfuß were can be inferred from the eagle depicted on the new coat of arms: it is double-headed again, thus resembling the old imperial eagle.


Of course, that was unacceptable for Hitler and so any kind of national insignia was forbidden after the German annexation. In the immediate aftermath of the liberation, the provisional federal government decided to re-introduce the coat of arms of the First Republic. The coat of arms of the Second Republic, therefore, is the same as the arms of the First Republic, albeit with a small but crucial difference.


The Austrian eagle has broken the chains of National Socialism.


Thank you for listening. And you can find more podcasts about coins and money on the Sunflower Foundation Web page.

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