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Samnaun coat of arms
State : SwitzerlandSwitzerland Switzerland
Canton : canton of Grisonscanton of Grisons Graubünden (GR)
Region : Engiadina Bassa / Val Müstair
BFS no. : 3752i1 f3 f4
Postal code : 7563
Coordinates : 822 419  /  203347 coordinates: 46 ° 56 '38 "  N , 10 ° 21' 38"  O ; CH1903:  822 419  /  203347
Height : 1846  m above sea level M.
Height range : 1452–3293 m above sea level M.
Area : 56.28  km²
Residents: 767 (December 31, 2018)
Population density : 14 inhabitants per km²


Location of the municipality
Haidersee Lago di Cancano Lago di Livigno Lago die S. Giacomo-di Fraéle Reschensee Stausee Kops Silvretta-Stausee St. Moritzersee Italien Österreich Region Albula Region Maloja Region Plessur Region Prättigau/Davos Samnaun Scuol Tarasp Val Müstair Valsot ZernezMap of Samnaun
About this picture

Samnaun ( Rhaeto-Romanic Samagnun ? / I or Samignun ? / I ) is a political municipality in the Engiadina Bassa / Val Müstair region , on the eastern northern edge of the Swiss canton of Graubünden . The community consists of the five fractions Compatsch, Laret, Plan, Ravaisch and Samnaun. Samnaun is a Swiss customs exclusion area . Audio file / audio sample Audio file / audio sample

History of the Samnaun valley

Historic aerial photo by Werner Friedli from 1954

The history of Samnaun is closely linked to that of the Lower Engadine . The first settlers who came to the Samnaun Valley between 800 and 1000 AD in search of new pastures came from the Lower Engadine. Romansh was spoken almost exclusively in families until around 1800. Today the Samnaun people speak a Tyrolean dialect , which actually comes from South Bavarian and - with this very special coloring - can only be found in this valley.

The Samnaun served as a Maiensäss and was later a fraction of the Ramosch community. Therefore the history of Samnaun is largely identical to that of the Lower Engadine. The names of places, fields and mountains are evidence of the old Rhaeto-Romanic culture.

The only connections to the outside world were the passes to the Engadin and Paznaun and an ox-cart path via Spiss to Pfunds . A brisk trade with neighboring Tyrol developed over this ox-cart route .

Despite the cultural influence from Tyrol, the linguistic conditions in Samnaun remained the same for centuries. Romansh was spoken almost exclusively in families until around 1800. The last Samnauner who was still familiar with the Romance language died in 1935.

The centralization of Swiss customs in 1848 put an abrupt end to trade with Tyrol. The residents of Samnaun lost an important source of income. They submitted - first in 1888, then again in 1892, this time supported by the Ramosch district office and the canton of Graubünden - an application to the federal authorities to exclude Samnaun from the Swiss customs area. In 1892 the Federal Council complied with this request and Samnaun became duty-free. The Federal Council justified its decision primarily with the lack of a direct access road via Swiss territory to Samnaun and with the increase in the price of food for the valley due to customs. The duty-free status should initially only be granted until a direct connection road to Switzerland is built. This was opened in 1912. After that, the status was extended and today secures many jobs not only in the Samnaun Valley, but also in the surrounding regions of the Lower Engadine and the Upper Court .

coat of arms

Samnaun coat of arms
Blazon : « In red a continuous silver ( white ) cross , with two silver shells on top . »
Reasons for the coat of arms: The shells are gifts of St. James , patron of the parish church of Samnaun-Compatsch, patron of the community of Samnaun. The cross is a reference to the border community of Samnaun. The shells as a symbol of Saint James the Elder , the patron of the parish church of Compatsch, are thus connected to the cross as a reference to the border community .


Exclusion zone


Due to its geographical location, the only access road ran through Austrian soil until 1912. That is why Samnaun became a Swiss customs exclusion zone ; only the Austrian customs are at the border crossing. The duty-free shopping in Samnaun is especially worthwhile for gasoline, cigars, high-quality spirits, cosmetics, jewelry, butter, sugar and perfume. In addition to the winter attractions, the village has therefore become a tourist attraction. Tourists from Switzerland must declare and declare goods that exceed the exemption limits when crossing the border in Martina .

The suppliers do not have to declare the goods imported into Samnaun and can resell them to local resellers at a correspondingly lower price. Although the municipality levies its own taxes, these are significantly below the Swiss customs rates. A lawsuit against these taxes was dismissed by the Swiss Federal Court.

When the Swiss VAT was introduced on January 1, 1995, the abolition of Samnaun's duty-free status was discussed. Based on an expert opinion that the municipality had commissioned from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich , which showed the negative effects on the economy and jobs in this structurally weak area, and because duty-free tourism would probably have migrated to Livigno , the duty-free status was granted Although retained, the Swiss VAT with a standard rate of currently 7.7% and the reduced rates of 3.7% for hotels and 2.5% for groceries, books, etc. have also been introduced in Samnaun.

In order not to have to invest millions of francs in the construction of new customs facilities, the income is estimated in the single-digit millions and is transferred to the Federal Tax Administration in Bern by the municipality from the income from the duties on duty-free products . In contrast, in the not far away Italian customs-free area Livigno, no VAT is charged.


Samnaun operates a ski area linked by the mountain ridge and the border - the Silvretta Arena - with the Austrian municipality of Ischgl in the state of Tyrol . This is one of the largest ski areas in the Eastern Alps. Samnaun used the first double-decker cable car .


Until the expansion of the connection to the neighboring Tyrolean Spiss to a road suitable for vehicles , which took place in 1830, Samnaun had a connection with the outside world almost exclusively via the neighboring Val Sampuoir and the Fuorcla Salèt crossing . However, by the middle of the 19th century at the latest, this connection between the fraudsters lost its importance.

The Samnaunerstrasse leading from Vinadi over Swiss soil to Samnaun in 1912 can only be used with vehicles up to a maximum vehicle width of 2.3 m and a maximum vehicle height of 3.0 m. The Samnaunerstrasse is also at risk of falling rocks and is not safe for winter. The main access route is the better developed road on Tyrolean soil via Spiss.

From the western end of Samnaun, a path leads up to the Zeblasjoch at an altitude of 2539 meters, where the border with Austria is crossed.

Samnaun is connected to the Postbus connected -Liniennetz. The SamnaunBus connects all villages in the valley with one another.


Language relations

Samnaun is the only municipality in Switzerland that belongs to the Bavarian language area .

The special topographical location and relationship to the neighboring Tyrol as well as the emigration of the Reformed led in the 19th century to the fact that the Samnaun residents gave up their former Graubünden Romanesque mother tongue Vallader . The language change from Graubünden Romance to German began around 1820; In 1860, according to the census, 10 households spoke Romansh compared to 68 German, in 1870 one household declared itself to be Romansh-speaking. When Robert de Planta and Florian Melcher recorded the Romansh from Samnaun for the newly founded Dicziunari Rumantsch Grischun between 1899 and 1910 , they only encountered individual speakers. The last person to speak Romansh is Augustin Heiss, who died in 1935.

Instead of Rhaeto-Romanic, the Oberinntal dialect, a Tyrolean dialect, was used . The vocabulary of the Samnaun dialect is therefore recorded in the dictionary of Bavarian dialects in Austria .

The number of population groups is recorded in the following table from 1980 to 2000:

Languages ​​in Samnaun
Language group 1980 census 1990 census 2000 census
number proportion of number proportion of number proportion of
German 569 95.31% 619 97.02% 695 93.54%
Romansh 4th 0.67% 10 1.57% 6th 0.81%
Italian 1 0.17% 3 0.47% 6th 0.81%
Residents 597 100% 638 100% 743 100%

Portuguese, Serbs and Croatians have now immigrated to Samnaun. Their share of the population in Samnaun was around 2% each in 2000.

Religions and denominations

Since 1530 there have been supporters of the Reformation in Samnaun . Since only a part of the citizens joined it, Samnaun was an equal parish for several centuries ( Reformed and Catholics in the same place). In the first half of the 19th century, the Reformed minority had emigrated or become Catholic due to the influence of the Capuchins and Tyrol.

The Brother Klaus Chapel is still half owned by the Roman Catholic parish and half by the Reformed parish Tschlin - Strada - Martina . The latter looks after the diaspora in Samnaun and is responsible for the pastoral care of tourism.

Origin and nationality

Of the 824 residents at the end of 2005, 675 (= 81.9%) were Swiss citizens. At the end of 2015, 604 of the 733 inhabitants (= 82.4%) were Swiss citizens; At the end of 2018, of 742 residents, 602 Swiss citizens (83.6%).

Culture of the Samnaun valley

The culture in Samnaun is shaped by its location in the triangle . Many cultures have left their traces over centuries, which are still alive today in different customs or the language.

General information on culture

The geographical remoteness of Samnaun brought with it a language change from Romansh to German. The Samnaun people are the smallest minority in Switzerland in terms of language . The Tyrolean dialect of the locals belongs to South Bavarian linguistically . Field names are still reminiscent of the Romanesque ancestors today.

Born in Samnaun, Father Maurus Carnot was a priest, poet and teacher. The Father Maurus Carnot Foundation collects and publishes his works.


A number of customs used to be very much alive in Samnaun. Today the customs are limited to two occasions reserved for children.

On New Year's Day, after Mass, the children go to all the houses by saying “Miar winscha enck a glickseiligs, guads nuis jour” the New Year's wishes to the adults. The children receive a small coin as a symbolic thank you.

Another custom relates to the evening before St. Nicholas' Day . The children of every village visit - dressed as Kläuse and Schmutzlis , equipped with cowbells - every family in their village. In the houses they sing songs and recite poems. As a thank you, they receive money and sweets. This custom is called « Clauwau ».

This custom has taken on a new dimension in Samnaun. The Clau Wau Santa Claus World Championship is taking place at the start of the winter season.

Other customs that are no longer practiced today:

More or less in every household one or more pigs were slaughtered earlier in January / February. On this occasion, the neighbors and relatives were invited to eat sausage or bacon. In the course of the evening the company received a visit from masked boys and girls from the village, the so-called "Maschgerern". The boys performed performances in disguised voices and teased this or that guest. After their "introduction" they received a sample of the butcher's from the hosts. Another custom of the Samnaun valley was connected with engagement . According to old tradition, this could only be celebrated on St. Stephen's Day. If the bride and groom were in agreement, the rule that applied to them was that their promise had to be kept secret until the time for the public announcement came. A week before Christmas, the bride ordered a large pear bread from a reliable relative or from the baker , which was secretly carried into her house on the evening before the festival. On the morning of St. Stephen's Day , the bridegroom appeared in the company of several men from his family with a few bottles of wine in the house of the woman he loved. Here the solemn act of engagement took place. The bride had the right to stick the knife into the bread, while the groom cut it up and offered everyone present one of them along with a glass of wine. This custom went down in Samnaun's history as the so-called “pear bread slicing”.




In the 19th century, the phenomenon of the Samnaun dwarfs occurred as a result of a genetic defect .


  • Paul Eugen Grimm: Samnaun. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . June 20, 2012 .
  • Otto Gröger : The sound level of the German dialect of Samnaun compared to that of the neighboring Tyrolean dialects. In: Journal for German Dialects. 19th vol., H. 1/2 (= Albert Bachmann commemorative publication on his sixtieth birthday on November 12, 1923, dedicated by friends and students ). Edited on behalf of the board of the General German Language Association. Franz Steiner, Berlin 1924, ISSN  0932-1314 , pp. 103-144 ( JSTOR 40498221 ).
  • Erwin Poeschel : The art monuments of the canton of Graubünden III. The valley areas Räzünser Boden, Domleschg, Heinzenberg, Oberhalbstein, Upper and Lower Engadine (= Swiss art monuments. Volume 11). Edited by the Society for Swiss Art History GSK. Bern 1940, DNB 760079625 .
  • Ada Ritter: Historical phonology of the extinct Romanesque dialect of Samnaun (Switzerland, Canton Graubünden) (=  Romania Occidentalis. Volume 6). Lehmann, Gerbrunn near Würzburg 1981.

Web links

Commons : Samnaun  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Permanent and non-permanent resident population by year, canton, district, municipality, population type and gender (permanent resident population). In: bfs. . Federal Statistical Office (FSO), August 31, 2019, accessed on December 22, 2019 .
  2. Description of the coat of arms on the Samnaun community website. In:, accessed on October 13, 2016.
  3. C. Täuber: Two recently developed Graubünden valleys (Avers and Samnaun) . In: Central Committee of the Swiss Alpine Club (Ed.): Yearbook of the Swiss Alpine Club . (JSA). tape 48 , 1913, ZDB -ID 217189-2 , p. 3–47 (year series 1912/13).
  4. For the linguistic conditions and the change of language see Otto Gröger: The sound level of the German dialect of Samnaun compared with each of the neighboring Tyrolean dialects (=  magazine for German dialects. Volume 19, 1/2). Franz Steiner, Berlin 1924, pp. 103-144; Ada Ritter: Historical phonology of the extinct Romanesque dialect of Samnaun (Switzerland, Canton Graubünden) (=  Romania Occidentalis. Volume 6). Lehmann, Gerbrunn near Würzburg 1981.
  5. ^ Ada Ritter: Historical phonology of the extinct Romanesque dialect of Samnaun (Switzerland, Canton Graubünden) (=  Romania Occidentalis. Volume 6). Lehmann, Gerbrunn bei Würzburg 1981, p. 25. See also the program “Balcun Tort” on November 13, 1977 .
  6. Otto Gröger: The sound level of the German dialect of Samnaun compared with each of the neighboring Tyrolean dialects (=  magazine for German dialects. Volume 19, 1/2). Franz Steiner, Berlin 1924, pp. 103-144.
  7. Population figures in the Samnaun community. As of the end of December 2015. ( Memento from October 13, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) In:, accessed on October 13, 2016.
  8. Population figures in the Samnaun community. As of the end of December 2018. In:, accessed on May 12, 2019.
  9. ^ Homepage of the Father Maurus Carnot Foundation. In:, accessed on October 13, 2016.
  10. ^ Catholic parish church of St. Jacob. In:, accessed on November 26, 2018.
  11. Maria Hilf chapel. In:, accessed on October 13, 2016 (Source: Jürg Davatz et al .: Art Guide through Switzerland. Volume 2: Glarus, Graubünden, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz, Ticino, Uri. Text ed .: Steffan Biffiger. Ed. Von of the Society for Swiss Art History. Bern 2005, ISBN 3-906131-96-3 ).