Thanks to Covid I have had a lot of free time, and have spent it getting back into writing. Among the various projects I have been working on has been an alternate history setting, the timeline of which will appear here.
Alyska has a rich a detailed history which, sadly, is little known in the western world. This is due to the long period of tension which has existed between the kingdom and the United states. As a result much of what the typical individual knows about Alyska and its people comes from an outside perspective.
What this work intends to do is remedy this situation. Presenting Alyskan history as the rich and varied tale that it is. In this work I feel uniquely qualified as a native Alyskan, being born in Novoyya Amsterdam and spending much of my life in the kingdom, witnessing much of the county’s recent history and civil war first hand.
It should be noted that this work is not intended to be a concise history of the nation, but rather tell the story of its history and provide context for the numerous other articles also included in this work. These articles cover the various monarchs, politicians, cities, battles, and other events which have shaped the nations history, and will be layered throughout the book where sensible.
A short first post I know, but hopefully it states well enough the purpose of the setting up the timeline. Additional updates will follow every Thursday hopefully, but I may post various other articles on other days. Also be warned that while I do have maps drawn up for this TL they are drawn up. On paper, so if I post a map it will be a picture of a drawing.
Before the story of Alyska can be told it must first be established what the world that existed in the region before Kublai Khan founded his great city of Aguu Khan Khot (city of the great Khan) in the vicinity of what is now Fredericksburg. Or at the very least give a basic understanding of it as we have no written sources for the period, and only incomplete oral histories from the few tribes which avoided assimilation by later waves of colonists.
In broad strokes however we have a fairly clear picture of the scene. At that time the Tlingit tribes were inhabiting the area roughly equating to the lower Dutch provinces, and were surrounded by numerous related peoples. Living simple lives and surviving off the abundance nature provided the native people of Alyska lived relatively peacefully with one another. Conflict between different tribes being rare as compared to other parts of the continent.
This lack of what we would consider warfare is likely the cause of two primary reasons. The relative lack of population density, before the introduction of agriculture to the region by the Japanese the total population of the area was likely never in excess of seventy five thousand. And also the abundance of food in the area, the salmon migration which annually cluttered the regions rivers, and large amount of fish, game, and other food sources, meant that there was seldom cause for conflict over food resources by the native tribes.
It is also likely that the various tribes of the region were all related to one another by marriage. Sharing common kin, culture, and language throughout broad parts of the country, distance between tribal territories also likely had a cause for lessening tensions between tribes. However these last two points are largely conjectural.
To the north of the Tlingit peoples lay the various groups which today we collectively group under the broad term Eskimo, people which the Tlingit migration would displace and absorb, leaving little trace of them south of the Eden river. To the south were the various tribes of American Indians inhabiting the Oregon territory. However these tribes are better detailed under a history of the United States, and so will not be covered here.
Man-made materials were foreign to the region, all tools, clothing and implements being derived from animals or plants in simplistic forms. Intricately woven baskets, beautifully crafted boats, tanned leather clothing, and carved wooden statues all being created by most tribes of the region.
Many tribes, particularly in the north, also hunted the numerous species of whale found in the waters of the region. Whale meat, blubber, and bones, were all also used for various purposes by these tribes.
The people of pre-Mongol Alyska lived lives dominated by the seasons. Spending the summer months gathering food, fuel, and preparing shelter. Much as the other peoples of much of the new world did. They lived far from the major cultural centers of the Maya peoples in the Yucatan, and lived much as they had for many thousands of years before that.
The Mongols in the new world. 1283-1300
Portrait of Kublai painted late in his life or possibly shortly after his death.
Fifth great Khan of the Mongol Empire Kublai Khan had a dream of unifying the world under his and his successors control. To accomplish this Kublai sent armies to invade Song China, Tibet, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and even the island of Java. Most of these invasions were successful and ended in Mongol rule over much of Asia and eastern Europe by the end of his reign, although due to infighting amongst the heirs of Genghis much of this empire was under the control of various other lesser Khans. Early in his reign the young Khan would finally subdue Song China, eventually making his capital in what would become the city of Beijing. Kublai was a patron of the arts, science and literature. Funding many schools and universities and encouraging a new golden age of Chinese opera, poetry and astronomy to flourish. He also encouraged the expansion of Chinese seafaring with the aim of creating a large fleet for the carrying of troops.
Each of these widely disparate fields saw considerable government funding. But it was into the navy that a majority of Kublai`s money, and interest went. A major effort went into the building of invasion fleets intended for landings on the Japanese and Indian islands. However large amounts of funding also went into the creation of a large navy intended for the defense of the coasts and protection of the trade routes. A few of these ships were even sent out on missions of exploration to chart the islands of the Pacific and arctic oceans. It was one of these ships that stumbled upon what would become known as Alyska. A report was made of the ships exploration of what was thought to be a very large land mass with few natives, abundant natural resources and wildlife.
The great Khan quickly decided that this land needed to be settled and added to the empire. Now advanced in age and feeling as if he needed to leave a legacy, and with his recent attempts at new conquest failed Kublai ordered a colony to be established immediately on the new land. Which was named Gazar Doorkh Gazar, land across the waters. Not wishing to face the wrath of the increasingly irritable Khan his ministers worked quickly to accomplish his dream and by 1283 an outpost had been founded in what would become known as Oranje bay. In fact the colony was located roughly where the modern day city of Fredericksburg would one day be founded.
The new colony, named Aguu Khan Khot, or city of the great Khan, was soon flooded with transports which over the next ten years brought over ten thousand colonists from all parts of Kublai`s empire. Though a majority of the colonies population was formed of both Han Chinese and ethnic Mongols. Farms and pastures were quickly set up but the harsh Alyskan winter and wild soil made crop yields small and livestock of meager frame. Food suppliesw for the colony had to be continually imported from China, often falling victim to Japanese pirate attacks. Making the presence of warships in the convoys a must, adding further to the expense of the colony. Upon the death of Kublai in 1294 the empire suffered a severe economic collapse. Brought about by years of inflation, costly invasions, civil wars and massive building projects. The crisis forced Kublai`s successor Temür to cut back on many of his grandfathers more grandiose projects. Such as the proposed third invasion of Japan, second invasion of Java and rumored participation in the ongoing invasion of India by other Mongol Khanates.
Unsurprisingly one of the first things to be cut by Temür would be Aguu Khan Khot. By order of the Khan himself no further ships would leave for Alyska after 1300. Until then any settler of the colony who wished was welcome to return with one of the ships and resume their life in the empire. Though their future prosperity was not in any way guaranteed.
While most of the colonists would indeed travel back with the last few merchant ships a few, perhaps roughly one thousand settlers, chose to remain. Hoping that once things had stabilized back home the empire would return once more to the region. Where they would be firmly established an in a position to achieve significant power over the colony.
This gamble, though risky, promised high rewards if successful. However the harvests of 1299, 1301, and 1302 seem to have been failures. With severe frosts and bad winters affecting the entire region. Although we have no written records it is likely that the remaining colonists would all die out by 1305, though a few colonists likely intermingled with the local tribes and lived on for some years.
The arrival of the Mongolians to Alyska had lasting effects on the native peoples inhabiting the area of their settlement. Forcing them to leave their ancestral tribal lands in search of fresh sources of food. Perhaps the worst effected of the tribes displaced by the Mongolians would be the Tlingit people, a loose collection of tribes speaking related languages which had traditionally inhabited the area chosen by the empire for their settlement.
The result of the displacement of the Tlingit people was what is known as the Tlingit diaspora. A period lasting roughly a century from between 1290 until 1390. During this period the Tlingit tribes roamed the region seeking a new home, splitting off into multiple directions in the pursuit of this goal.
One of these parts of the Tlingit tribes, dubbed by historians as the northern Tlingit, would make their way northwards from their homeland. Eventually settling in the region west of the Aria river. This area was sparsely populated and it seems that any local people were swiftly integrated in with the Tlingit tribes.
Although they could not know it at the time in just a few years the Japanese would begin settling the region east of the Aria river. And the Tlingit would come to have a close relationship with them, assimilating much of their culture and technology. The first major sign of the this would be the founding of the Tlingit royal capital of Axaa, which in time would become a major population center in the region, and the chief city of the Tlingit kingdom.
Over the coming centuries the Tlingit would be an enduring and powerful force in the region, at various times allied to the city-states to the south, and at others their chief adversary. The two groups, Tlingit and Japanese, would form a close and inter-connected trade relationship with one another and would later be the primary opponents for the European settlements which would be founded at a much later date.
But for roughly four centuries the Tlingit were the masters of the region west of the Aria river. Assimilating many of the local tribes into their number, founding numerous cities and settlements, and occasionally warring with the Japanese over resources or fishing rights, as well as defending themselves from the occasional Japanese invasion.
Despite the long length of their kingdoms reign over the region their history, culture, language, and society has been chronically underrepresented by traditional histories of the region. However in this narrative I hope that this fascinating people which so shaped the modern Alyska we know today will be covered in all the rich detail they deserve.
While the settlement of Aguu Khan Khot was brief and did not seriously affect the course of the history of the Mongolian empire as we have seen the colonies existence would have lasting effects on the native people of the region. Forcing them to pack up and move to find new lands to settle, often times far away from their initial homelands.
However, although the settlement existed only briefly and was soon abandoned by Kublai Khan’s successors, its existence was never entirely forgotten. With mention of the colony being recorded in Imperial records back in China, and several writers mentioning the colony in works centuries later.
But to the peoples around the Mongolian empire, those with no direct knowledge of the settlement, who had witnessed the fleets of ships traveling back and forth across the ocean but did not know their purpose, the settlement quickly achieved legendary status as the location of the source of the Mongolian empire wealth. Across the Pacific lay entire cities of gold which the great Khan had plundered to pay for his many wars of conquest.
It was these myths, most prevalent in Japan, that would eventually inspire bold treasure seekers to set out to rediscover the Mongolian settlements. Determined to make their fortunes and discover wealth beyond their wildest dreams. Initially self-financed these men would eventually receive funding from nobles and wealthy merchants to help them along their way.
Needless to say all of these adventures, beginning in the 1320s, would fail to find a city of gold. Or even the remains of Aguu Khan Khot. However they did not give up, and efforts would continue to be mounted until the 1350s to find a lost city of gold. Along the way some adventurers would discover something almost as valuable. And this will be the topic of the next chapter.
Theories explaining the Mongolian fleets which regularly traveled back and forth across the oceans began circulating in Japan even during the era where the colony was in existence. With many theories coming up to explain the size, number, and frequency of ships going back and forth.
The one story which attracted the most attention was the tale told by a Japanese fisherman who found an Imperial sailor drifting in the ocean. Before the sailor died he told the fisherman that the Khan had discovered a great city of gold across the ocean, and that the fleets of ships which traveled back and forth across the ocean carried the gold from the city back to the empire where it was used to finance further wars of expansion. This city also supposedly bestowed long life and good health to all who entered through its gates, and the river which ran through it had the power to miraculously heal any wounds of a person who drank of its waters.
Although most quickly dismissed this story as nonsense, the tale of a man on his death bed, or the work of an overactive imagination on the part of the fisherman, some did take the story seriously. Or at least serious enough that they would plan expeditions to find this rumored city of gold. Dreaming that they would become rich beyond their wildest dreams, and have every luxury known to man at their fingertips.
It is not known when the first voyage to discover this rumored land of gold was launched, the earliest recorded voyage dates from 1314, and makes explicit mention of the missions captain having made voyages prior to this. After roughly 1320 however a number of well financed and planned voyages would be undertaken by men commissioned by a number of Diamyo, Japanese feudal lords. The first of these expeditions was undertaken in 1322 and found nothing, turning back after sailing many days in open ocean. It is likely that currents pushed them far out into the Pacific and away from north America.
Many voyages suffered the same fate, failing to make landfall, getting blown south by winds, or being blocked by ice floes before catching sight of Alyska. However these repeated setbacks seemed only to convince people that they were on the right track, leading to still more voyages.
Alyska would be discovered by the Japanese sometime in the 1330s when a Japanese vessel, sailing northwards rather than directly east, stumbled across the emperor islands, the vessel returned to Japanese waters and reported discovering over a dozen islands before a lack of fresh water forced them to turn back.
Further voyages followed along, using the same path as this first vessel used. Each ship discovered new islands and pressed ever steadily eastwards. Naturally no lands of gold and magical medicinal rivers were discovered. Much to the disappointment of many. However the abundance of wildlife, especially salmon, was noted by many voyagers who wrote of their voyages after returning to Japan. And in discovering the rich waters of Alyska the early Japanese voyagers would uncover something worth their while.
The next post will explore the establishment of Japanese settlements in the area. Furthermore as a note ITTL Alyska is used to refer to OTL Alaska. This is just because Aly looks cooler than Ala to me, but also because Alyska was used as a spelling for Alaska in some writings during the Russian period historically. And as Russia will play an important part ITTL I have decided to keep that spelling.
Although no mythical city of gold was uncovered in the region of Alyska it was quickly noted by many voyagers that the waters off the country hosted abundant sea life. With cod, salmon, whales, and numerous other aquatic animals calling the waters of Alyska home.
This marine bounty doubtlessly fed the Japanese voyagers as they explored the coast vainly searching for their city of gold. We know from numerous preserved journals that the first sailors to the region realized the numbers of fish living in the region at least.
It is not a huge jump of the imagination to presume that after failing to find their city of gold that some ships began to load themselves up with fish they had caught in hopes to sell and at least partially make good their losses. And eventually these ships began to return, bringing with them professional fishing vessels to exploit the virgin fishing grounds for their own gain.
Between 1330-1360 increasingly large fishing fleets made their way back and forth between the Japanese home islands and Alyska on a yearly cycle. Heading out in spring and returning before winter set in. Initially only coming ashore to repair and clean their ships, or salt their catch the early Japanese settlement in Alyska existed only in the form of simple shacks built on the beach to provide temporary shelter to those who set foot ashore.
Apologies, I meant the post to be slightly longer...much longer in fact, but I have been playing Star Wars Squadrons like a mad lad and only realized an hour ago I had things to do. Next week the update will be significantly longer I promise.
Initial Japanese focus in Alyska was purely on fishing the rich waters off the coast, not settling the area. While vessels did regularly make landfall it was initially only for the purposes of replenishing fresh water, cleaning or repairing their ships, and preparing their catch for the journey back to the Japanese home islands.
In fact, no structures were built in Alyska by the Japanese until the 1340s. And these were only simple wood structures where Japanese sailors would sleep while their ships were being repaired before the return to Japan. The number of fishing vessels making the trip growing rapidly in the 1340s as the profitability of the region was fully realized.
The first permanent settlement was not made in Alyska until 1345 when Korimizu was founded. 1345 being something of an estimate, with the first written records of the site dating from 1362, by which time Korimizu was described as a fully developed town with walls and a few stone buildings. Estimates for the towns founding vary from researcher to researcher, but generally 1345 falls squarely in the middle of most experts estimates.
Korimizu began as a location where fresh supplies and repairs could be acquired by visiting fishing ships. However by 1360 the town had become a major trading hub. With fishing vessels never leaving Alyska, instead of making the return trip they had began to sell their catch to merchants in the town, who then loaded the fish onto cargo vessels which then returned to Japan. Bringing back more settlers and trade goods on the return trip to Alyska.
Within a few decades of the sites founding farmers and tradesmen had begun to arrive in the city. Establishing businesses and farms in the area and selling their wares to the local merchants and sailors. Additional settlements also sprung up along the coast, fulfilling a similar role as Korimizu for the different fishing fleets which called the gulf of Alyska home. Japanese settlement would expand rapidly in the final half of the fourteenth century, the colony attracting large numbers of people looking to start over, or escape potential death at the hands of local authorities.
In fact Alyska rapidly became a site of major appeal to Ronin, disgraced former members of the Samurai social class who had been either dismissed, or who’s lords had died and left them jobless. These Ronin would play a major role in the early history of Alyska. Transforming the disparate Japanese settlements in the region from a loose network of colonies to a well developed extension of Japanese civilization. And this age of Ronin, lasting some fifty years, will be the topic of the next section.
I am going to confess that this early part of Alyskan history is not as well developed as I would like. However we are quickly moving into parts of the timeline that I have very well mapped out. So hopefully the updates start having more material, and greater detail. I should also be able to start making some additional posts which explore side elements of the story. Things like biographies of key characters, history of various locations, and general articles on the world.