Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Esperanto in Sweden

Can't print them fast enough!
For the readers of the Wilmar Tribune on March 4, 1908, the strength of the Esperanto movement in Sweden might have been news, or perhaps not. Minnesota has a concentration of American whose ancestors came from Sweden or other Scandinavian countries. The Wilmar Tribune had a column of Scandinavian News, with the subhead of “Principal Events Gathered in the Old Scandinavian Countries.” Those readers possibly knew just how strong the Esperanto movement was in early twentieth-century Sweden.

And it was strong. When Esperantists in Upsala, Sweden started an Esperanto club in 1891, not only were they founding the second Esperanto group, they were founding the first that wasn’t built on the bones of a Volapük society. The 1904 Jarlibro Esperantista has slightly more than seven pages of new Esperantists from Sweden, from Aborrträsk to Yxno (Upsala itself is responsible for about fifty names).

The item in the Wilmar Tribune was tucked in with other news from Sweden, between an item on experimental farming and one on the death of two men from Bjellerup who died when their wagon tumbled on the road from Lund.
Esperanto, the best known of the artificial languages since the decadence of Volapuk, has many devotees in Sweden. Four editions of the best text book on this subject have been sold, and the fifth edition will be out in a few days. It is claimed that the whole number of copies of text books on Esperanto sold in Sweden is at least 40,000.
There were about 5.4 million people in Sweden in 1908, so that’s about one Esperanto book for every 135 people (those without books, please look on with those who do). Some of those books were shared, since (and not just for Sweden) the various address lists of Esperantists show couples, siblings, or whole families added to the lists.

[A side note: Keeping in mind the young Esperantists at the Perkins Institution for the Blind, the 1904–1906 Jarlibro Esperantista[1] has twenty-four people listed whose residence is the Blindskola Tomteboda of Stockholm.[2]]

In 1906, the magazine Lingvo Internacia had just moved from its origins as the newsletter of the Upsala Esperantist Club to its second phase as the Paris-based magazine of the Esperanto movement. In this, it took over for the Nuremberg-based La Esperantisto, and in turn it would be succeeded by Esperanto (which, unlike the other two has become wholly news of the movement, with no literary content). Even with the offices of Lingvo Internacia in Paris,[3] plenty of copies must have travelled back to Sweden.

Compared to the United States, the Esperanto movement is still quite strong. The April 2014 issue of Esperanto notes that Sweden has 125 individual members of the UEA, which works out to about 13 UEA members out of every million Swedes, while the 267 individual members in the United States makes UEA members slightly rarer than one in a million among Americans.[4] (There are 469 individual members of the UEA in France, but that still works out to 7 per million.)

  1. The early address lists of Esperantists fascinate me. Unfortunately, the way they’re constructed, the demographic data is difficult to extract. I’m not volunteering to create a database of name, sex, profession, and address.  ↩

  2. Their names:
    • Moritz Aman
    • Thure Bergsten
    • Anders Blad
    • Burstedt Petter
    • G. A. Danielsson
    • Klas Erikson
    • Ernst Gustafsson
    • Oda Hegerström
    • Amandus Johansson
    • Beda Johansson
    • Petrus Johansson
    • Albin Jönsson
    • Einar Jorg
    • Anna Kancy
    • Anna Larsson
    • Gideon Lundgren
    • Knut Lundqvist
    • Edith Månsson
    • Nancy Nilsson
    • Nils Nilsson
    • Sigrid Nilsson
    • Betty Pelin
    • Ebba Sjögren
    • Alga Tjornerg  ↩

  3. 33 Rue Lacépède, Paris V. The building at that location seems to be newer than 1905.  ↩

  4. So, if you are an American and count a member of the UEA among your friends, cherish him or her as a representative of a rare and little-known type.  ↩

You can follow my blog on Twitter (@impofthediverse) or on Facebook. If you like this post, share it with your friends. If you have a comment just for me, e-mail me at
This blog runs solely on ego! Follow this blog! Comment on this post! Let me know that you want to read more of it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...