Saturday, March 7, 2015

Paris Police Learn Esperanto

We're ready.
Where are the Esperantists?
Large, unruly crowds of Esperantists, that’s what the Paris police were concerned about. Sure, they gave their reasons, but do we really take them seriously? In all seriousness, they very well may have been concealing their real reason. After all, there were concerns in 1914 about anarchists using Esperanto. Gavrilo Princip, the man whose actions set off World War I, was an anarchist, though probably not the Esperanto-speaking kind (despite that his name works beautifully in Esperanto).

And the Paris police had an ample reason to learn Esperanto. In 1914, the Esperanto movement was still in its franca periodo (French period), the era in which Paris was the center of the Esperanto movement (France still has a strong Esperanto movement). And the upcoming Universala Kongreso was scheduled to occur in Paris that year.

The New York Times, in their article of March 8, 1914 (but datelined March 7), made it clear that this was something of a starter program, and it doesn’t appear that the police were about to go from “arretez!” to “haltu!

Paris Officials Hope to Aid Foreigners Through Universal Language.
Special Cable to the The New York Times.
PARIS, March 7.—Several French Police Commissaries and other officials have begun to study Esperanto. M. Mouton, who is the head of the Criminal Investigation Department, takes lessons three times a week from an Inspector who is proficient in that universal language. Police Inspector Miguière was the first French policeman to take up Esperanto, with a view to introducing it on the force.

It is hoped that the city will soon have Esperanto-speaking policemen on service in the streets, where it is believed they might frequently be able to help foreigners.
Foreigners who speak Esperanto, of course, though it is entirely possible that in 1914 the proportion of Esperanto speakers among tourists to Paris was much higher than it is today. For that matter, in 1910 Washington, D.C., the police also learned Esperanto, so that they might help non-English-speaking attendees of 1910 Universala Kongreso there. News reports of the era don’t mention any particular great need among the Esperantists for the assistance of the police.

Though, in the end, the police needn’t have bothered. The 1914 Universala Kongreso is the only one that was cancelled at the last minute. Some guy named Gavrilo Princip shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand, thus starting World War I, ending peaceful travel in Europe.
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