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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 at 0:02

2 Answers 2

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 history.stackexchange.com/questions/2726/… –  T.E.D. May 20 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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