Esperanto Language Blog

History of UEA’s Esperanto congresses Posted by on Jul 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

Soon will begin the two most important weeks of the Esperanto calendar: the Internacia Junulara Kongreso (IJK) and the Universala Kongreso (UK). This year, the IJK will take place in Kiev, Ukraine on July 14-21 and then, the UK will be in Copenhagen, Denmark on July 23-30. As of this writing, 320 people have already registered for IJK. Last time the UK happened in Copenhagen was in 1975 with 1227 participants, so I imagine it will be similar this year.

I, personally, will be attending the IJK in Kiev, because I’ve already been to Denmark and I enjoy the smaller, more intimate environment of the IJK. Also, the IJK tends to be more fun, while the UK is more on the serious side… and well, the IJK is much cheaper this year, due to the economic realities of local costs in Ukraine and Denmark. I was actually surprised, because I once calculated the cost difference in attending the Internacia Junulara Festivalo (IJF) in Italy and the IJK and determined that considering everything, it would cost just slightly more to attend the IJK!

Both of these conferences are run by the Universal Esperanto Association. The UK was first held in Bologne-sur-Mer, France in 1905. Imagine attending that Esperanto conference! After the failure of the Volapük conference in 1889, people were afraid that Esperanto would also fail when participants were expected to speak in Esperanto there. You see, there were Volapük conferences in 1884 and 1887 in Germany where German was spoken as the official conference language. However, in 1889, they decided to host it in Paris and make Volapük the official language. Unfortunately, they realized people couldn’t really speak it and then some jumped to the conclusion that an international auxiliary language just wouldn’t work.

Fortunately, the first UK was a great success with 688 participants. You also have to remember how difficult and expensive it was to travel back in 1905! Another interesting thing people noted, is that at the end of the conference, they had started speaking in a neutral accent as they spoke with each other. In hindsight it makes perfect sense, but you could imagine their shock to see this evolve for themselves! Now back to the present, when I was in Rotterdam last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing the UK’s constant congress secretary about his work which you can watch with subtitles on or without subtitles below.

In 1938, the youth decided that they wanted their own international conference, so they held the IJK (then called Internacia Junular-Kunveno) in Groet, Netherlands in 1938. While there tends to be very little documented about this event, it is known to have had 203 participants and over 304 people registered. Unfortunately there are not too much in the archives about this event… could be an interesting research project for someone!

In any case, tomorrow I’m heading to IJK and blogging news from there. Is there anything you all want to learn about the event in particular?

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About the Author: Chuck Smith

I was born in the US, but Esperanto has led me all over the world. I started teaching myself Esperanto on a whim in 2001, not knowing how it would change my life. The timing couldn’t have been better; around that same time I discovered Wikipedia in it’s very early stages and launched the Esperanto version. When I decided to backpack through Europe, I found Esperanto speakers to host me. These connections led me to the Esperanto Youth Organization in Rotterdam, where I worked for a year, using Esperanto as my primary language. Though in recent years I’ve moved on to other endeavors like iOS development, I remain deeply engrained in the Esperanto community, and love keeping you informed of the latest news. The best thing that came from learning Esperanto has been the opportunity to connect with fellow speakers around the globe, so feel free to join in the conversation with a comment! I am now the founder and CTO of the social app Amikumu.