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Speech at the Second Esperanto Congress

Said by Lewis Lazar Zamenhof

on the 28th of August of 1906 in Geneva (Switzerland)

Dear ladies and gentlemen:

I hope I fulfill the wish of everyone present if at the moment of opening our Second Congress I express in the name of all of you my hearty thanks to the brave Swiss land for the acceptance which they showed to us, and to His Honor the President of the Helvetic Confederation, who kindly accepted our delegation two months ago . Special greetings to the city of Geneva, which many times before has inscribed its name with glory in history because of several important international affairs.

Let me also express in the name of all of you my thanks to the organizers of this congress, the generous Swiss esperantists who have worked so tirelessly for the last year, founding in practically all the Swiss cities Esperanto groups and who so diligently did everything they could to prepare our congress; to the Central Providing Organizing Committee who, above all in the person of their President, worked with so much energy and took care so diligently of the arrangements; and last, but not least, thanks to all those unknown friends who by means to their generous contribution to the Central Office gave a solid ground for more important jobs.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

At the opening of our congress you expect a special speech, perhaps something official, something nonchalant, pale and unsatisfying, like ordinary official speeches. But I cannot give you that address. I don't like such dissertations, but specially now, in the present year, this kind of colorless speech would be a great sin from my part. I come from a land where many millions of people are fighting with difficulty for their freedom, for the most elementary and human liberty, for the rights of man. However, I cannot talk about that, since while particular persons you all are following the difficult fight in the great crowded country, however as esperantists that fight cannot touch you, and our congress has nothing to do with political affairs. But besides the political conflict, in that land it is being made something that we, as esperantists, cannot fail to treat: in that land we see a cruel battle among the peoples. There is no attack from a man from a country to that from another because of purely political interests of the fatherland -there are natural children from the same country attacking like fierce beasts natural children of the same country just because they belong to another people. Every day many human lives are destroyed because of political battles, but many more lives are extinguished in fights against peoples. It is terrible the state of affairs of the multilingual Caucasus, terrible the state of things in Easter Russia. Cursed, a thousand times hate among peoples be cursed!

When I was a child, at Byalistock, I watched in pain the mutual unfamiliarity which divided the natural offspring of the same land and city. And I dreamed that after a number of years everything would be different and better. Those years have already passed, but instead of my beautiful dreams, I saw a terrible truth: in the streets of my distressed birth city, men armed with axes and iron bars threw themselves like cruel animals against peaceful citizens whose only fault was speaking another language and have another religion, different from those in the cruel wild ones. That's why they broke the skull and poke their eyes out of women and children, useless old people and helpless children! I wouldn't like to tell you more details about the sick butchery in Byalistock; as esperantists I will tell you just that the walls among peoples are still high and thick, and we fight against those walls.

It is known that the Russian people is not to be blamed for that beastly massacre at Byalistock and many other cities, since the Russian people have never been cruel nor blood thirsty; it is known that Tartarians or Armenians are not responsible for the constant butchery, because both peoples are peaceful and do not wish to force their government upon anybody, and the only thing they want is to be left alone, living in peace. We know now clearly that the blame is on a group of depraved criminals who, by means of different and dishonest maneuvers, of widespread lies and artificial denigration they created hate among one people and the other. But, could the greatest lies and calumnies be believed if peoples knew one another well enough, if they were not separated by high and thick walls which prevented them from communicating freely and seeing that the members of other peoples are people exactly equal to our people, that their literature does not defend such horrible crimes, but they have the same ethics and the same ideals as we do? Break, break the walls among the walls, give them the ability to know one another and communicate freely by means of a neutral foundation, and only then those horrors which we can see in so many places could disappear!

We are not so naive as some believe us to be, to think that the neutral basement will turn men into angels, we know very well that evil men will stay evil; but we believe that communication and knowledge based on a neutral basement will keep at least the masses away from those atrocities and crimes which are not caused by evil will, but sheer ignorance and alien pressure.

Now, when in several places in the world the fight among peoples has become so cruel, we, the esperantists, must work with more energy than ever. But so that out work is fruitful, we must understand the inner idea of Esperanto. We all refer to it often unconsciously in our speeches and books, but we have never spoken about it clearly. It is high time that we speak clearly and precisely about it.

From the declaration unanimously accepted at the Congress at Boulogne we know what esperantism is in practice; from that declaration we also know that esperantist is called every person who uses the language Esperanto regardless the ends for which he or she uses it. Therefore, esperantist is not only the person who uses Esperanto only and exclusively for practical reasons, but it is also esperantists the one who uses Esperanto to win money through it, esperantist is also the person who uses Esperanto just for fun, Esperantist is even the person who uses Esperanto for evil, hateful purposes. But besides the practical side, a must for everyone and already proven at the declaration, the esperantism has also another side, not compulsory, but much more important, the idealistic flank. This flank can be explained in the degree and way most varied by the esperantists themselves. To avoid conflict, the esperantists decided to leave everyone in complete freedom to accept the inner idea of esperantism in the way and degree which is desired in every case, or -if wished- even not accept this idea at all for esperantism. To free the first esperantists from the responsibility for facts or ideals of other esperantists, the Boulogne Declaration defined the Essence of Official Esperantism, accepted without hesitation by everybody, and these words were added: Any other hope or reverie linked by any person to esperantism is his or her own private matter, for which esperantism is not liable. But unfortunately the word private was understood by some esperantist friends in its meaning of forbidden, and in that way instead of preserving the idea of the inner idea of Esperanto and the possibility of develop it, they wanted to kill it thoroughly.

WE, who fight for Esperanto. But we, who fight for Esperanto, have given the world, by our own will, the full right to stare Esperanto only from its practical slant and use it just for our usefulness, what -of course- entitles nobody to demand that we all consider Esperanto just like a practical thing. Unfortunately in the last times among esperantists appeared those voices who say: Esperanto is just a language; elude link esperantism to any idea, even privately, because otherwise we will annoy those people who do not like that other idea. Oh, some words! For fear of annoying people who use Esperanto just for practical things for themselves, we must yank out of our hearts the most important part of esperantism, the most sacred, the idea which is the main purpose and origin of Esperanto, the star which has guided us all, fighters for Esperanto. Oh, no, never! With energetic protest I reject that demand. If we, the first fighters for Esperanto, are forced to avoid in our deeds any ideal, in anger we will burn everything which we have written in favor of Esperanto, with pain we will do away with the works and sacrifices of our whole life, we will throw away the green star which lies in our chests and will shout with abomination: With that Esperanto which must serve only commercial aims and practical utility we do not want to have anything in common! It will come the time when Esperanto , once possession of the whole human kind, will lose its quality of idealism; then it will became just a language, will not be fought for, just a profit will be made through it. But now, when nearly every esperantist are not yet helped by Esperanto, but they must still help Esperanto, fight for it, we all are fully conscient that our work for Esperanto makes us think not about its practical usefulness, but the meaning the language has in itself the sacred and important idea. This idea -you all feel it very well- is fraternity and justice among all peoples. This idea has come with esperantism since the very first moment of its birth till the present moment. It has induced the creator of Esperanto when he was just a child, when twenty-two years ago a reduced circle of school boys from several different peoples we celebrated the first life sign of the future Esperanto, they sang together a song which repeated after every stanza the words malamikeco de la nacioj, falu, falu, jam estas tempo (hate of nations, fall, fall, fall, it is high time!). Our anthem sings the new feeling which came to the world (nova sento kiu venis en la mondon), every book, word and fact by the originator and by the present esperantists always inspire with complete visibility this same idea. We never hide our idea, we have never had the ghost of a doubt about it, since we keep on talking about it, and we always work hard about it. Why on earth, then, those people who see in Esperanto just a language have joined us? Why were they not afraid that the world would blame them for the serious crime, in the name of their wish, to help the impending unity of mankind? Will they not see that their words are hostile to their own feelings and that they are unconsciously dreaming of just the same thing as we all are, though because of such an unfair fear of those foolish attackers they have to deny it in pain?

If I have spent most of my life in great suffering and sacrifice, not reserving for myself even the copy rights -did I do it because of any kind of practical usefulness? If the first esperantists exposed themselves patiently not only to mockery, but also to great inconvenience, and for example a poor teacher suffered for a long time even hunger only to be able to save some money for propaganda for Esperanto -did they do because of practical reasons? If often people who were on the verge of death wrote to me stating that Esperanto was the only comfort in their ending life, were they by any chance doing it just for its practical usefulness? O, no, no, no! Everyone had in mind the inner idea included in esperantism; they all liked Esperanto not so much because it draws near the bodies, but because it also brings their hearts together.

Do you remember how strongly we all were enthusiastic in Boulogne-sur- Mer? All participants in that congress keep nicest and most enthusiastic memory in their lives; everyone calls it the Unforgettable Congress: What, then, made the participants in the congress so enthusiastic? Perhaps the amusement in itself? No, everybody can have much better amusement on their own, listen to theater plays and songs which are much better and which are performed not by unskillful amateurs, but experienced professionals! Were we moved by the talent of the speakers? No, we had none of them in Boulogne. The fact that we understood one another? But at any national congress we already understand one another with the same easiness, and however we are not enthusiastic about that. No, you all know that we were not excited by the amusements in themselves, nor the mutual understanding in itself, nor the practical usefulness which Esperanto showed, but the inner idea of esperantism, what we all were feeling inside our hearts. We all were feeling that the walls among peoples started falling, we were feeling the spirit of fraternity with all human kind. We realized that there is a long way as far as the final disappearing of those walls, but we felt that the ghost of a better future was flying before our eyes, a ghost still too blurry, but which from now on will get more and more solid and powerful.

Yes, dear colleagues! To the world indifferent to Esperanto it may be just a question of practical usefulness. Any one using Esperanto or working for it is an esperantist, and any esperantist is entitled to see in Esperanto just a single language, a dead tool for international understanding similar to the navy flag code, even if it is more perfect. Those esperantists surely do not come to our congresses, or if they do, they come with exploring purposes, to get some practice or to discuss coolly purely linguistic questions, merely academic ones, and will not participate in our joy or enthusiasm, which probably will seem naive and childish to them. But esperantists who do not belong to our goal from their heads, but from their hearts, those will always feel and prefer about Esperanto, most than anything its inner idea; they will not be afraid that the world calls them mockingly uthopians, and nationalistic chauvinists even will attack their ideal as if it were a crime; they will be proud of those name of utopians. Every new congress will strengthen love for the inner idea of esperantism in them, and little by little our yearly congresses will become the Constant Party of Mankind and Human Fraternity.

L.L. Zamenhof

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