Puzzle 27

John Baez

Which neutral territory in Europe flirted with making Esperanto its official language before the Germans invaded?

A: Moresnet. This was a sliver of land only 3.5 square kilometers in size:

Here we see:

  1. the Netherlands in orange,
  2. Belgium in yellow,
  3. Moresnet in blue,
  4. Prussia in green.
Moresnet, also called "Neutral Moresnet", was formed 1816 as a compromise between the Netherlands and Prussia, who were fighting over a zinc mine on its territory. It was annexed by the Germans in 1915, during World War I. Its existence formally ended in 1919 when the Treaty of Versaille awarded this territory to Belgium.

However, in the early 1900s, several attempts were made to establish Moresnet as a more independent entity. In 1908, one Dr. Wilhelm Molly proposed making Moresnet the world's first Esperanto-speaking state and renaming it "Amikejo" - "place of friendship". A number of a residents learned Esperanto, and a rally was held in support of the idea on August 13th. Apparently almost all the citizens attended!

One can still see many of the stones marking the borders of Moresnet, and there is a small museum in the nearby town of Neu-Moresnet commemorating its history. Moresnet had a not-quite-official flag:

Thanks to the ambitious Dr. Molly, the region also issued its own stamps for a period of 2 weeks, after which local commissioners put a stop to it.


Damen's website is wonderful, a true labor of love. For example: it's also available in Esperanto.

In 1990, Fred Dijs made a 48-minute documentary about the rise and fall of Moresnet, Het vergeten land van Moresnet.

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