Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

An Esperanto-speaking nation

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:sigh: Another path not taken: Neutral Moresnet was moving toward recognizing Esperanto as the national language, when…

When the mine was exhausted in 1885, doubts arose about the continued survival of Neutral Moresnet. Several ideas were put forward to establish the territory as a more independent entity, amongst which were a gambling casino and a postal service with its own stamps, though this last idea was thwarted by the local government. A casino was established in August 1903 after all such resorts in Belgium were forced to close. The Moresnet casino operated under strict limitations, permitting no local resident to gamble, and no more than 20 persons to gather at a time. The venture was abandoned, however, when the Prussian King threatened to partition the territory or cede it to Belgium in order to end the gambling. Around this same time, Moresnet boasted three distilleries for the manufacture of gin.[4]

The most remarkable initiative came from Dr. Wilhelm Molly, who in 1908 proposed making Neutral Moresnet the world’s first Esperanto-speaking state, named Amikejo (“place of friendship”). The proposed national anthem was an Esperanto march of the same name. A number of Kelmis residents learned Esperanto and a rally was held in Kelmis in support of the idea of Amikejo on 13 August 1908.

However, time was running out for the tiny territory. Neither Belgium nor Germany had ever surrendered its original claim to it. Around 1900 Germany in particular was taking a more aggressive stance towards the territory and was accused of sabotage and of obstructing the administrative process in order to force the issue. In 1914, during World War I, Germany invaded Belgium, leaving Moresnet at first “an oasis in a desert of destruction,”[5] but the Germans annexed the area in 1915.

Articles 32-33 of the post-war Treaty of Versailles of 1919 settled the matter of the “temporary neutrality” established a hundred years earlier by awarding the territory of Neutral Moresnet to Belgium, along with the German municipalities of Eupen and Malmedy.[6] The Germans briefly re-annexed the area during World War II, but it was returned to Belgium in 1944. Under Belgian administration the territory became the commune of Kelmis (La Calamine), which in 1977 absorbed the neighboring communes of Neu-Moresnet and Hergenrath.

Today, Dr. Molly’s vision of an Esperanto state inspires interest in the territory’s history among the Esperantists of the world. A small museum in Neu-Moresnet, the Göhltal Museum (Musée de la Vallée de la Gueule), includes exhibits on Neutral Moresnet. Of the 60 border markers for the territory, more than 50 are still standing.

Thanks to The Son for pointing out this little country.

Written by Leisureguy

29 February 2008 at 10:37 am

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