During my time in Vienna I heard a phrase which I do not recall in every detail. It referred to the multicultural history of the Viennese or Austrian population. It was something like

In jedem Wiener/Österreicher steckt ein bisschen was Germanisches, Slawisches, Awarisches.

Probably a quote from some Austrian literary work or artist. Does somebody know the source?

  • 4
    Not saying there are no sources you can cite for it. However it doesn't strike me as an observation or obvious fact which has a definitive source as it will be hundreds of years old Oct 14, 2023 at 4:04

2 Answers 2


I do not know whether it is a quote, but if it should be, it would not be a well-known one (see Hubert Schölnast's answer). Actually it sounds like a commonplace.

However, it reminds me of the metaphor "Völkermühle Europas" by Carl Zuckmayer. It occurs in the novel "Des Teufels General":

Und jetzt stellen Sie sich doch mal Ihre Ahnenreihe vor – seit Christi Geburt. Da war ein römischer Feldhauptmann, ein schwarzer Kerl, braun wie ne reife Olive, der hat einem blonden Mädchen Latein beigebracht. Und dann kam ein jüdischer Gewürzhändler in die Familie, das war ein ernster Mensch, der ist noch vor der Heirat Christ geworden und hat die katholische Haustradition begründet. – Und dann kam ein griechischer Arzt dazu, oder ein keltischer Legionär, ein Graubündner Landsknecht, ein schwedischer Reiter, ein Soldat Napoleons, ein desertierter Kosak, ein Schwarzwälder Flözer, ein wandernder Müllerbursch vom Elsaß, ein dicker Schiffer aus Holland, ein Magyar, ein Pandur, ein Offizier aus Wien, ein französischer Schauspieler, ein böhmischer Musikant – das hat alles am Rhein gelebt, gerauft, gesoffen und gesungen und Kinder gezeugt – und – und der Goethe, der kam aus demselben Topf, und der Beethoven und der Gutenberg, und der Matthias Grünewald, und – ach was, schau im Lexikon nach. Es waren die Besten, mein Lieber! Die Besten der Welt! Und warum? Weil sich die Völker dort vermischt haben. Vermischt – wie die Wasser aus Quellen und Bächen und Flüssen, damit sie zu einem großen, lebendigen Strom zusammenrinnen. Vom Rhein – das heißt: vom Abendland. Das ist natürlicher Adel. Das ist Rasse. Seien Sie stolz darauf, Hartmann – und Sie die Papiere Ihrer Großmutter in den Abtritt. Prost.

Translation via DeepL:

And now imagine your line of ancestors - since the birth of Christ. There was a Roman field captain, a black guy, brown like a ripe olive, who taught Latin to a blond girl. And then a Jewish spice trader came into the family, he was a serious person, he became a Christian before he married and founded the Catholic house tradition. - And then came a Greek doctor, or a Celtic legionnaire, a Grisons lansquenet, a Swedish horseman, a soldier of Napoleon, a deserted Cossack, a Black Forest seaman, a wandering miller's boy from Alsace, a fat skipper from Holland, a Magyar, a Pandur, an officer from Vienna, a French actor, a Bohemian musician - they all lived on the Rhine, fought, drank and sang and had children - and - and Goethe, he came from the same pot, and Beethoven and Gutenberg, and Matthias Grünewald, and - oh, look it up in the dictionary. They were the best, my dear! The best in the world! And why? Because the peoples there mixed. Mixed - like the waters from springs and streams and rivers, so that they flowed together into one big, living stream. From the Rhine - that is: from the Occident. That is natural nobility. That is race. Be proud of it, Hartmann - and you put your grandmother's papers in the casket. Cheers.


I have not found any literary sources on this, and I suspect there are none. I have only found this sentence:

In jedem Wiener steckt ein Massenmörder, aber man darf sich die Laune nicht verderben lassen.
There's a mass murderer in every Viennese, but you can't let it spoil your mood.

This sentence comes from the play Heldenplatz by Thomas Bernhard, but it is aimed at a completely different facet of the Viennese mentality. Vienna has repeatedly (and for good reason, in my opinion) been voted the most unfriendly city in the world (source1 source2). The grumpy disposition of the Viennese is legendary and constantly noticeable in everyday life. At the same time, however, Vienna was also voted the most livable city in the world (also for good reason as I think) (source1 source2).

While the quotation from Thomas Bernhard is a literary exaggeration, the assertion that in every Viennese there is a German, a Slav or an Avar is simply a fact. And in the case of statements about something obviously true and commonplace, one will rarely find a literary source. Sentences like »Bread is getting more and more expensive« and »Women live longer than men« can be read again and again, but they are not quotations from literary sources.

On the population development of Vienna:

Eastern Austria was in the Iron Age Celtic settlement area (Kingdom of Noricum) and was claimed by the Romans shortly before the turn of time without major fighting and was then the Roman province of Noricum. At that time the Roman camp Vindobona was built on the banks of the Danube. The Vindobona camp later became the city of Vienna.

Thus, the first Viennese were Roman legionaries, who in the course of time mixed with the original Celtic population. Noricum, however, was repeatedly attacked by Germanic tribes, and in the 4th century the Roman defenses collapsed, and Goths, Lombards and Vandals (all three Germanic tribes), and Huns (a Central Asian people with a Turkic language) settled the area around Vienna. And so the first Germanic tribes (and probably some Huns) also mixed with the Viennese population.

In the 6th century Slavs and Avars came from the east and Bavarians from the west. The traces of the Avars are lost, but it can be assumed that their genetic legacy can still be found in the Viennese blood. The Bavarians pushed the Slavs to the south, to today's Slovenia, and from that time on, the Bavarians were the dominant population group in most of today's Austria, and also in Vienna.

So, in the following centuries, today's Austria was Bavarian settlement area, which was first called »Avarian Mark« and later »Ostmark« (originally: »ostarrichi« = eastern realm) (because from the point of view of the Bavarians it is located in the east). From the name »ostarrichi« developed on the one hand the today's German name »Österreich«, but over the intermediate step »austarrichi« it became also the Latinized and today international name »Austria«.

In the following centuries, Vienna grew very slowly. In 1830, only about 400,000 descendants of the settlers just described lived in Vienna, but within less than 90 years the population suddenly grew almost sixfold. In 1916, Vienna had more than 2.2 million inhabitants and was then the fifth largest city on the entire planet. And this development was not due to the fact that the Viennese were so eager to reproduce during this period. More than half of the increase was due to immigration from the crown lands of the Habsburg Empire, especially from Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia and, of course, Hungary.

In the 19th century, Vienna was thus transformed into a melting pot of many peoples. During the two world wars, Vienna again shrank considerably. In the decades after 1945, guest workers from the Balkans and Turkey were actively brought to Austria, many of whom then stayed in Vienna. Nevertheless, Vienna continued to shrink until, by the early 1980s, only about 1.5 million people lived in Vienna. After that, there was another wave of immigration, which continues to this day. Only a few weeks ago (End of September 2023, source 1, source 2), Vienna again exceeded 2 million inhabitants. Of these, about 100,000 are Serbs, 76,000 Turks, 70,000 Germans, 55,000 Poles, 48,000 Romanians, 45,000 Syrians, 40,000 from Bosnia and Herzegovina and about 34,000 Ukrainians (source). In total, there are about 880,000 foreigners among Vienna's 2 million inhabitants.


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