Moresnet - the story of a micronation

It was the year 1815. After Napoleon was defeated, two countries couldn't agree on their shared borders. The debate between Prussia and The Netherlands was about a zinc mine called Altenberg/Vieille Montagne. It took over a year to reach a compromise: the village of Moresnet would become Dutch, the village of Neu-Moresnet became Prussian, and the area inbetween (containing the town of Kelmis) became a condominium - a territory ruled by two authorities. Both countries were to govern the "Neutraliteit Moresnet" as it was officially called : a neutral territory of roughly the same size as Monaco. Simply put: the area became a new country (a micronation), of which the head of state was the major of the village of 256 inhabitants. After Belgium became independent in 1830, they took over the governing part of the Dutch. Considering the geographic location, the point at Vaals (in the south of the Netherlands), which is now known as the "drielandenpunt" (three-nation point) because of the meeting of three borders, was a "vierlandenpunt" (four-nation point) at that time. If you look at older maps, this position is actually marked as such.

It didn't take long for the town to understand the possibilities of the position as a self-governed state. For instance, it wasn't allowed to either of the countries (Prussia and the Netherlands) to place a military power in Moresnet. The country also wasn't allowed to have a military of its own. As a result, the inhabitants of Moresnet didn't know conscription (it wasn't until much later (1847, to be exact) one was supposed to chose between either Belgium and Prussia for military service). They also had very low taxations in Moresnet, and low import-taxes, with higher wages than in surrounding countries. And brewing your own alcohol was legal there.
As a result, the nation started growing rapidly. In the year 1858, 2572 people were living there - ten times as much as when the country was established.

One of the most intriguing figures in the history of the place was the German physician dr. Wilhelm Molly. He moved to Moresnet to start a doctors' practice. He quickly became popular because he was a good doctor for fair prices. After his successful attempt to end a Cholera-epidemy, he was more popular than ever. But he wasn't just a physician. He was also the founder of the "Kelmiser VerkehrsAnstalt", issuing stamps and such - as a symbol of independence for the country. But that wasn't all: Molly was eager to turn Moresnet into a Esperanto-state. The neutrality of the territory was suited for that, in his eyes. This new state was supposed to be called "Amikejo" - meaning "place of friends". At a propaganda-congress in 1908, local citizens and international Esperantists came together to discuss Amikejo. Shortly after, many international newspapers reported about "a new Esperanto-country"...

The first world war was the end for Moresnet. In 1914 Germany (including former Prussia) invaded the country. Oddly enough, even though they had always considered Moresnet to be Prussian/German territory, they called it "occupied territory" during the war.
After the war, in 1919, it was decided that Belgium gained control of the entire area of Moresnet. The actual zinc mine, the reason for its independence, was already depleted since 1885.

What is left of this former country is only a small museum called the Göhltal Museum. And of the original 60 poles that marked the border of the country, about 50 are still in its original position. As if the country still exists...

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