VIENNA -- When Mayor Helmut Zilk celebrated German unification by hoisting Germany's flag atop Vienna City Hall, he was besieged by telephone callers protesting what they considered an unwelcome reminder of the Anschluss, the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938.

That evening, 200 young people, chanting "Hail German-Austria!" staged a boisterous, torch-lit march through the heart of the Austrian capital.

Apart from these minor incidents, this month's merger of East and West Germany appears to have sparked little response in Austria, the German-speaking remnant of the multinational Hapsburg Empire that was long prey to the destabilizing pull of its powerful neighbor.

Many Austrians, recalling that Adolf Hitler was one of their countrymen, believe the equanimity with which they have greeted unification bodes well for their national future and that of Central Europe. At the same time, anxieties are emerging over the importance of German investors to the Austrian economy, and about what some see as a German tendency to make little distinction between Germans and Austrians.

Opinion polls taken here show a steady rise in the belief that the Austrians constitute a separate nation from the Germans. Seventy-four percent of those questioned earlier this year said the Austrians form their own nation. Less than half thought that was the case 25 years ago.

Today, only 5 percent rejected Austrian nationhood, and 20 percent thought Austrians were on the way to regarding themselves as their own nation. Dismissing critics of his flag-waving action on Oct. 3, Viennese Mayor Zilk said he was proud that Austrians now had a healthy national identity, secure enough to congratulate the Germans on overcoming decades of division.

"At no time in our history have we Austrians had a better and more self-confident relationship to the Germans," said Andreas Khol, a conservative member of parliament and adviser to Foreign Minister Alois Mock. "Friends in Germany make jocular remarks, now that eastern Germany is back, 'When will you come?' And I tell them, 'Ha ha, when will you come and join us when we re-form the empire?' And then the story is over."

Such sanguine views are not universal. Austrian historians were dismayed when their German colleague Karl-Dietrich Erdmann, prior to the merger of East and West Germany, wrote that those and Austria represented "three states, two nations, one people." Plans by the German government to include Austria in the new German History Museum in Berlin have also evoked unease in Vienna.

Some Austrians argue that a new economic Anschluss is already in high gear. An estimated 40 percent of Austria's industry is controlled by German investors and 45 percent of exports are directed to the West German market. The schilling is pegged to the German mark and over the last three years, German media giants have gained control of 70 percent of Austria's daily newspaper circulation.

"I would say that all the pieces are set for a gradual absorption of Austria into the bigger German empire," Hans Thalberg, former head of Austria's diplomatic mission in East Berlin, said in an interview. "I am very doubtful whether in the year 2000 there will be an Austrian Republic the way we have come to know it. It may be formally independent, but formally, not more. It will be an outpost of Germany toward the East."

Ambassador Alfred Missong, director of Vienna's state-supported Diplomatic Academy, charged that Austrians had "suppressed" public debate about the relationship to Germany, for fear of reawakening historic resentments on both sides.

"On the one hand, it is wrong to always say that the Germans are evil, that they threaten our security and our existence," Missong said. "On the other, it is wrong to act as if the problem did not exist at all. I believe that we must learn from our historical experiences and draw the consequences to consciously set out on a new path."

However, as Austria presses its application to join the European Community, the government is more responsive to a need to convince the 12-nation economic grouping that Austria is not merely a tool of German interests.

Former European Commission president Gaston Thorn has said some in the community regard Austria as an "extension of the German economic realm." Such worries are aggravated by right-wing Freedom Party chief Joerg Haider, whose backers include pan-Germanists lingering in Austria.

Haider drew criticism from larger parties when he gave an address in Munich last month challenging Austria's policy of "permanent neutrality." Adopted in 1955 in exchange for regaining national independence, neutrality was instrumental in promoting Austria's postwar sense of separateness from Germany. "Neutrality extricated us from German history," said Missong, "and pointed the way for our own foreign policy, and it was also a factor in creating an Austrian identity that was separate."

Missong added that to preserve this separateness, Austrians needed to cultivate aspects of their culture and traditions that make them unique. "We must not see ourselves as an offshoot of the Germans, but having our own strengths. Then we can look calmly into the future."