Europe's Anomalous Neutral Zone: Neutral Moresnet - Blog! - Two-Fisted History

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Europe's Anomalous Neutral Zone:
Neutral Moresnet

Moresnet

I love geopolitics.  Specifically, nationalism.  Even more specifically, Micronationalism.  Brexit  The idea of city-states and the smallest number of like-minded and similarly cultured people ruling themselves gives me goosebumps.  This story isn't quite an example of Micronationalism. But I think it'll be a good lead-in to what I think will be something of a mini-series on historical Micronationalism.

The French Revolution and the Rise of Napoleon dramatically changed the landscape of Europe.  After the defeat of the Little Corporal, the Congress of Vienna gathered representatives from nearly every European nation in an effort to put Europe back together again.  Several new nations came out of the Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars among them was the new United Kingdom of the Netherlands, formed from what had been the Dutch Republic and the Austrian Netherlands.

One of the Francekey goals of the Congress of Vienna was to create and maintain a balance of power in Europe so that Imperialism within Europe would be prevented, and peace would exist between the Great Powers.  One problem popped-up along the Dutch/Prussian border.  Both the Prussians and Dutch generally agreed that most of their common borders Status quo ante bellumshould be 'status quo ante bellum.'  There was one sticky wicket, however. . .

The District of Moresnet.

In the district of Moresnet was located a zinc mine.  Zinc is used to make brass, commercial bronze, solder, & nickel silver among other things.  Of course both the Dutch and Prussians wanted this mine for their own.  Neither could come to an agreement, however, and in 1816, they signed a treaty dividing Moresent into three pieces.  The town of Moresent went to the Dutch, and the creatively-named town of Neu Moresnet went to the Prussians.  Meanwhile, a near-triangular swath of land in-between containing the town of Kelmis (and the Zinc mine) Kelme means zinc spar would become a neutral territory.  It would be called 'Neutral Moreset' and be jointly-ruled by a Dutch & Prussian Commissioner.

 

Map

 

Neutral Moresnet was the only place outside of England where zinc ore was processed.  As such, the mine's owners, the Societé des Mines et Fonderies de Zinc de la Veille MontagéThey built schools and provided healthcare became very prosperous.  Essentially, the Societé became an influential part of the region's government.

For the first quarter century, only a handful of people lived in Moresnet.  The mines attracted many workers, however, and within two decades, the population increased by over 2,000.  In 1830, the Southern half of the Netherlands seceded from the Kingdom and became the Kingdom of Belgium.  The Netherlands transferred the governmental rights to Belgium shortly thereafter.  Until 1847, Many Prussians and Belgians fled to Moresnet to escape conscription.  That year, however, Belgium extended the draft to Belgians living abroad.  Meanwhile, after 1855, Prussia stopped considering citizens who left for Moresnet as an emigrant.

By 1885, the zinc mine had dried up and it looked as though Moresnet's days were numbered.  The Doc's alive!Dr. Wilhelm Molly, a doctor who had immigrated to Moresnet, loved his new home as many of its residents did, and worked to build Moresnet into an independent nation.

 

Dr. Molly

 

In 1886, Molly organized a postal service and began issuing Moresnetian postage stamps.  The Belgians quickly put an end to this, prohibiting the independent post and declaring that it was a state monopoly.  Twenty years later, Belgium closed all of its casinos.  Moresnet was granted permission to capitalize on this development by building its own casino, although it was strictly regulated by the Belgian-German Council.Casino  Eventually the casino was shut down when Kaiser Wilhelm II threatened to give Moresnet to Belgium if they didn't close down their gambling emporium.

The last shot for Moresnet was in 1908 when Dr. Molly proposed making Moresnet the first nation to adopt Esperanto as its official language.  Many of the locals learned Esperanto, and after the World Congress of Esperanto declared Moresnet as the capital of Esperanto, Esperantists from around the world flocked to Moresnet.

Germany had tried for decades to annex the territory which it had considered its own. The Germans had tried to 'convince' the Belgians to cede Moresnet to them.I'll make them an offer they cannot refuse.  Among other acts of sabotage, they would cut phone & power lines to Belgium and would block appointments of new municipal officials.

By 1914, this was all moot as Germany invaded France and drove through Belgium to do it.  By war's end, the bell tolled at last for Neutral Moresnet as the Versailles Treaty gave total control of the region to Belgium.

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Tags : History Micronationalism Europe FrenchRevolution Napoleon

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