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Did Otto von Bismarck say the following?:

He who is master of Bohemia is master of Europe

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Seems odd if he thought that that he never tried to get Bohemia when he was building up the German Empire. –  Oldcat May 20 '14 at 0:02
I suspect the Bavarian Illuminati... –  Dronz Mar 6 at 1:10
Real diplomats never make such uncompromising statements. It is undoubtedly apocryphal. –  Tyler Durden Aug 10 at 18:13
@TylerDurden: It is true that Bismarck was as consummate a diplomat internationally as he was politician in Berlin. –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 10 at 18:14
Actually the quote is "He who controls Munich controls Europe." and it should be credited to Allan B. Calhamer (, inventor of the boardgame Diplomacy: ( and –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 10 at 20:55

3 Answers 3

This quote is reported as frequently quoted but unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989), which states:

"It cannot be found in the official writings and pronouncements of Bismarck. It is possible that he said it, and it was passed on orally rather than being recorded, or that he expressed the sentiment in other terms and the idea took this form as others tried to quote him."

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...or that someone else said it, and it was later attributed to Bismarck, as he was a more respected source. See… –  T.E.D. May 20 '14 at 17:34

I was too slow to compose this answer before the question was edited, but hope it's useful anyway. This addresses why Bismarck may have said this quote.

It's difficult to know Bismarck's intention given that we don't know if he said this at all, but I'd guess it's mostly to do with Bohemia's (and by extension, Czechoslovakia's) economic and industrial prowess. For the rest of this answer I'm conflating Bohemia with Czechoslovakia and examining pre-WWII situations, which I hope will not invalidate my central points. Bohemia was (is?) one of the most well-developed parts of Czechoslovakia after all.

Nazi Germany selected Czechoslovakia as one of its first countries to invade with good reason (probably the first hostile invasion given that Austria was mostly willing). Although Czechoslovakia is not one of the Great Powers, it is not far down the list, and definitely punches above its weight:

Given its industrial importance, Bohemia would have been a necessary stepping stone towards European conquest, although I'm not sure its as important as the quote makes it sound.

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Note that Bismarck lived in, and knew he lived in, a period of intense nationalism; and would have throughout his life witnessed the nationalistic and ethnic rivalries that were tearing the Austro-Hungarian Empire apart. Bismarck was too much a pragmatist to risk his legacy of a German empire by incorporating a second significant ethnic minority within its borders at such a time. –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 10 at 18:37

It's a popular quote often repeated by Czech politicians and intellectuals – for example, Czech president Havel loved to frame the Czech lands in this way.

However, many historians have tried very hard to find the original source of this quote by Bismarck and they have found nothing. The "Bismarck quote" is most likely a myth. The original creator of the myth is probably the French historian of Germany, Ernest Denis, who became a big defender of the Czechoslovak interests when he was fooled in Vienna and Budapest.

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Please explain "when he was fooled in Vienna and Budapest" –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 10 at 18:12
Hi, I won't pretend first-hand detailed knowledge here. My source was:… - The passage is: Ernest Denis and Seton-Watson became champions of our cause because, before 1914, they have been lied to by authorities in Vienna and Budapest. The assertion that the quote was probably inserted to Bismarck's mouth by no one else than Denis came from this essay: –  Luboš Motl Aug 11 at 7:42
Thank you . Perhaps deceived is a better fit than fooled. –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 11 at 11:40
Yup, I should have used that word, sorry for that. –  Luboš Motl Aug 11 at 12:59

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