By: Christer Oscar Kiselman, Uppsala, Sweden
For a full week in August of 2022, eight hundred and thirty Esperanto speakers from all
continents except Antarctica were welcomed by the City of Montréal in Québec, Canada.
An Esperanto congress can perhaps best be described as a forceful eruption of
conferences on a lot of topics, in fact on all topics of interest to human beings. Many
are presented in parallel, so that it is often hard to choose which one to attend.
Esperanto is an artificial language, intended to facilitate understanding between all
humans. The first Esperanto manual was published in July of 1887 in Warsaw, which
was then in the Russian Empire.
The booklet, which appeared in that year in Russian, Polish, French, and German,
and the following year in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English, was authored by a Jewish
scholar, L. Zamenhof, who was born in 1859 in Bialystok, then in the Russian Empire,
now in eastern Poland. Actually, Esperanto was his fourth constructed language, a fact
of some importance since each version of his conlangs was an improvement over the
previous ones. We should note that ‘artificial’ means that the language is artfully made!
During the week there were four concerts, a play, and lectures on languages including
the Indigenous Canadian language Anishinaabeg, Yiddish, and, of course, Esperanto
itself. There were seven lectures presenting in the International Congress University,
on topics including space research, chemistry, glass, and the Silk Road in Asia. Other
lectures treated bird migration, geology, and the Pythagorean Theorem. And most
importantly, there were personal meetings between old friends and new friends alike,
severely missed during two years of Zoom meetings.
The congress was initially planned to take place in 2020 but had to be postponed for
well-known reasons. This was the one hundred and seventh congress in a series
starting in 1905 and meetings every year with interruptions only during the two World
Wars. It was the second to be organized in Canada, and the fifth of the congresses held
in North America. On a personal note, it was my thirty fourth, of which two had been
virtual via Zoom. My first was in 1980.
As to participants, the record was held by the US, with Canada second, France third,
Germany fourth and the UK fifth, followed by Japan and South Korea.
Duncan Charters, Professor of Languages and Cultures at Principia College, Elsah,
Illinois, is the President of the organizing society, the Universal Esperanto Association
(UEA). He welcomed us all and also gave a talk on education.
Next year the Esperanto Congress will be held in Torino, with Fabrizio Angelo
Pennacchietti as one of the main organizers. There were hopes expressed that later a
congress could be held in Africa—if so, that would be the first time ever that Esperanto
speakers will meet in that continent.