Look to the West Volume VIII: The Bear and the Basilisk

I think I finally understand why the Societists Ottomans will use the name Eternal State when they take power.
Really powerful wording in this chapter for how the Ottoman Empire sees and does things.
I think one of the official names of the Ottoman Empire was "The Eternal State" already, which would emphasize the continuity even more.
You go, Greece!

I hope Greece's existence in the present day, even if we know it's small, means it never actually gets conquered.

Can someone remind me if the Combine has actually gotten involved by October 1923, or is it still limited to “liberating” areas in Africa and Nustrana?

It's those areas and Spain they are currently active in, but they're not in direct conflict with any of the warring countries just yet.
I'm still trying to process that the ASN is apparently in a position to strongarm Mecca.

"Subjects are reminded that the A.S.N. possesses no authority of its own beyond that which their national government chooses to allow. " (If said government knows what's good for it.)
I'm still trying to process that the ASN is apparently in a position to strongarm Mecca.

"Subjects are reminded that the A.S.N. possesses no authority of its own beyond that which their national government chooses to allow. " (If said government knows what's good for it.)
I'm assuming the Ottomans are not having a very good time of things by the present day.


Please note that I am currently recovering from my Covid vaccine jab, so while I have this week's update pre-written (see below) next week's may be delayed, depending on how things work out.


From: “A Century of War” by Daniel Bates (1987)—

The Ottoman attack on Greece caught much of Europe’s diplomatic establishment offguard. The fact that Constantinople had mobilised had not been missed by spies and observers, of course, but foreign governments had expected the Ottomans to either join the war on one side or another, or else to remain in a state of armed neutrality and to bide their time, considering their options. What had not been predicted would be an orthogonal move which ignored the alliance frameworks which had grown up, in favour of pursuing a foreign policy objective that all but experts on the region had assumed was long settled – the abolition of an independent Greek state and the return of its lands to The City’s control.

This move was widely portrayed, by both Cannae/“Protocol” and Vitebsk Pact writers, as a bizarre, quixotic and illogical action driven by the cutthroat politics of the Porte and/or the obscure machinations of the oriental mind, which no logical European statesman could possibly be expected to have predicted. This view, fairly obviously born of a defensive attitude (many of said statesmen, or those associated with them, went on to be the historians and writers in question) still colours impressions of the Ottomans’ role in the Black Twenties to this day.[6] Those who still support such a notion may attempt to invoke a Diversitarian worldview to defend their position, but to my mind that smacks of Soviet thinking, raising arbitrary barriers rather than understanding the very real differences between nations. There was nothing illogical about Ottoman policy in the Black Twenties, or at least, no more illogical than that of any of the other powers. The attack on Greece, pushed primarily by the strong personality of the Valide Sultan, Mehveş Sultan, was a bold and audacious but carefully calculated move. It was one which had unforeseen consequences, but these arose from the unexpected tide of events that swept the world in the middle of a crisis which, at that point, ‘merely’ seemed to be another global conflict like the Pandoric War. If anyone in this discussion has an excuse for failing to foresee events, it is certainly not those historians writing about Turkish policy with years of hindsight.

Mehveş Sultan’s calculation was simple. With her son Murad X presiding over a technologically modernised empire, her goal – like those of other Ottoman statesmen and –women – was to pursue policies that would gradually rewind the clock until the reversals of the Time of Troubles were undone and the Porte regained its former height. Some such acts had already been successfully accomplished in the preceding decades, most notably the reconquest of Algiers and the restoration of almost all North Africa to direct Ottoman control. In the Pandoric War, the Ottomans had lost Trebizond and Varna but had regained Servia from Danubia. This mixed result had led to the execution of the wartime Grand Vizier, the Arab-born Abdullah Seyyid Pasha, and his replacement by Sennari-born Fadil Karim Pasha. Until Fadi Karim’s own fall from grace in 1911, he had pursued an African-focused policy, attempting to annex Sennar and Darfur – a policy he was unable to achieve given foreign pressure against it, but those vassals did drawn closer to Constantinople – and gain influence in Kitara on the Moon Lakes.[7]

A new Ottoman expansion in Africa, or regaining further influence and control in Arabia, were therefore other possible policy directions, but Mehveş Sultan saw a key difference. Depending on the international situation, it was plausible that either of these policies could be enacted in the future without risking major war. It was, of course, impossible to reclaim Trebizond or Varna without going to war with Russia, most probably by joining the Cannae powers, which would tie Constantinople’s hands in too many other theatres. Under normal circumstances, attacking Greece would lead to conflict with Greece’s foreign protectors, which at different times had been Italy, France, Russia, or some combination of the three.

But, Mehveş Sultan calculated, the empire now faced a unique, perhaps never-repeated, international situation. Italy and France were both at war with Russia and keen to at least keep the Ottomans from joining the other side; even now, the Orsini government in Italy was using the Ottomans’ Sinai Canal to send reinforcements to help Scandinavians and Persian-Omanis attack the Russians in Erythrea and Abyssinia. The Russians, on the other hand, were fighting on too many fronts at once, giving way in both North America, Lapland and Poland, struggling to put down revolts in Tartary, and slowly and bloodily advancing south in Persia. It was the proximity of the latter front that had initially given the Ottoman government pause, but Russia’s travails convinced Mehveş Sultan that the way was now clear. For the first time in decades, the Ottomans could attack, invade, even conquer and annex Greece without seriously fearing reprisals from foreign powers. And this was an opportunity Mehveş Sultan, and Grand Vizier Ferid Ibrahim Pasha, intended to seize with both hands.

On the morning of October 15th 1923, newspapers across Europe made space among the other war news to report on the ‘Aegean Outrage’ of the Ottoman surprise attack on Greece. It later emerged that a formal declaration of war had been delivered, but in such a way that meant the government in Nafplion did not read it until the first bombs were falling – it remains a Heritage Point of Controversy whether this was deliberate or not. Public opinion across Europe and North America was confused; there was a general undercurrent of sympathy for ‘plucky little Greece’, and perhaps a sense that the Turks were exploiting the war for their own dastardly ends, but there was certainly little public will for military intervention given what was already going on. One exception to this was California with its sizeable emigré Greek population, whose government went beyond a diplomatic protest and placed sanctions on any Californian company trading with the Ottomans. Of course, this may also have been an attempt by Prime Minister Rodriguez’s government to distract the public from the plague that was spreading from Cometa across the Adamantine Republic...

The plague would go on to play a crucial role in the fate of the Ottoman Empire, but for now it remained a distant concern for most of those papers. The public were vaguely aware that the plague was ravaging China and Siam, and had now broken out via trade ships into places such as Bengal, the Philippines and the Societist-ruled East Indies, but only California typically made headlines as a place closely connected with Europeans and Americans. In past pandemics, plague or influenza had typically broken out of China and slowly moved westwards through Russia into Europe, spread out over a number of years; this time things were different. Paradoxically, Russia’s withdrawal from certain contested areas in northern China, and China treating them as military occupied until they could be processed, acted as an unintentional firebreak that delayed the plague spreading into what would later become Vostok Russia. Historically, the plague’s short incubation period had made it much harder for the disease to spread significant distances by sea – by the time an infected ship crossed the Atlantic or Pacific, its crew would already be either dead or recovered. But steam engines had came along since the last big plague; the world had shrunk, and now plague could not only reach Manila, Calcutta or Zon7Urb1 [Batavia/Jakarta], but also as far as Cometa.

This state of affairs meant that the plague ultimately travelled by sea routes faster than land routes, contrary to the former historical norm. In October 1923 it was already in a position to indirectly affect the war, as an infected ship from French Bisnaga had brought the plague to the Persian port cities of Gwadar, Chabahar and Bandar Abbas.[8] It is believed that early reports of this outbreak played a role in Shah-Advocate Jafar Karim Khan Zand’s heavy decision made only three days after the Ottomans attacked Greece. The Shah had been gloomy about Persia’s prospects ever since the Russians broke through Mashhad about one year earlier, but had encouraged his armies to fight a gruelling defensive retreat ever since, in the hope that French or American breakthroughs on other fronts might bring the Russians to the negotiating table first. But it became clear that the French were focused on Belgium first, and though the Americans and Germans were pushing the Russians back, it would take much longer to achieve the kind of decisive, war-ending battle that Persia needed to save her.

Since taking Tehran and Semnan at the end of 1922, the Russians had rapidly swept south across the Dasht-e Kavir, the Great Salt Desert, one of the few parts of Persia whose terrain was a good match for the feared ‘Tsar’s Armart Legions’.[9] The Persians and their French allies were unable to hold the Russians and had quickly fallen back to a defensive line on the Kohiud Mountains, but this in turn proved unsustainable and the final stand was made on the more punishing Zagros Mountains to the south.[10] The French journalist Thierry Martin observed that the ancient Sumerians and Akkadians had thought the entrance to their Hell lay in the Zagros Mountains; many young Russian men would be consigned there by Persian and French artillery and bayonets as they fought in the miserable mountain warfare.[11] Though the Zagros Line was strong, falling back to it had required surrendering most of Persia to the advancing Russians, including key cities such as Isfahan, Yazd and Kerman, to say nothing of the Shi’ite holy city of Qom. (Mindful of past controversies, Russian General Sergei Yakushkin was careful to ensure his men did not loot the city and risk enraging the local populace, using ruthless methods of military justice when he felt they were required).

After months of fighting and hundreds of thousands of casualties on both sides, the Russians were unable to break the Zagros Line to take the Persian capital of Shiraz, yet three-quarters of Persia was now under Russian occupation. Only the heartland of Fars and an arc stretching from Ilam (the Biblical Elam) to Hormuz, the lands south of the Zagros Mountains, remained under the control of the Shah-Advocate. Though frequently subjected to French entreaties to keep fighting, it was clear to Jafar Karim Khan Zand that the French had already written off his country and essentially just wanted to maintain control of these coastal lands as a foothold to support fighting elsewhere. He had no desire to spend more Persian blood for the whims of foreign powers. As said above, other factors undoubtedly affected his decision. The Zand dynasty had kept its throne for so long through Shah-Advocates showing compassion for their subjects, and continuing to fight through a hopeless and bloody war, with plague spreading in the rear, was not in line with that policy.

Finally, there was the Ottoman attack on Greece. This certainly impacted on the Shah’s decision; historians and analysts disagree on whether it was more a case of calculation or sheer pique. For one, the Ottomans’ effective use of aero power might encourage the Tsar to move past fear of the bad press of the Shiraz atrocity, and unleash an aerial armada on the Zagros Line to try to break through. More generally, Persia, the Ottomans and Russia had been in an unstable, three-way equilibrium for more than two centuries, and the Persians were not about to let the Ottomans use Persia’s own conflict with the Russians as a distraction. Though the details remain debated, Persia had refused to join the Ottomans in the Pandoric War and utilised Russian distraction to expand her influence in Tartary, ultimately helping to precipitate this conflict; now, she would not let the Ottomans make a similar exploitation. Furthermore, she could use it to her own ends, as the Shah-Advocate and his foreign minister, Reza Zaki Zand, quickly realised.

The Persians had already maintained a spy network in Paris before the war for the usual reasons, and this had naturally been expanded and deepened to ensure the Shah knew at a moment’s notice if the French were considering throwing his country under the multi. Though the later destruction of Russian records makes it difficult to tell, many analysts believe the Persian court had better knowledge of French policy machinations at this time than the Russians’ own spy network were able to obtain. The Shah had known about the August Crisis and the Cazeneuve government’s Belgian troubles before many European leaders, passed to him in code through Lectel messages ostensibly about stock prices. He had known about the formation of the new triumvirate war coalition and the ascension of the Duc de Berry as Dictateur before it was announced. Now, he knew that the French government was struggling to find a response to the Ottoman attack on Greece.

Héloïse Mercier, France’s first Foreign Ministress, was key in this response. It was not that her actual calculation differed from that of Cazeneuve or King Charles; France certainly could not afford another war, and Italy, whose government might otherwise have pushed for aid to Greece, was paralysed by needing to use the Sinai Canal (as Mehveş Sultan had correctly deduced). Orsini made the agonised decision that, though Italy had spare Mediterranean firepower to lend the Greeks which had thus far been of little use, he could not abandon thousands of Italian troops in Erythrea to an uncertain fate if Constantinople closed the canal. It was clear that the Cannae or ‘Protocol’ position had to be a stern diplomatic condemnation of the Ottomans together with an admission that nothing would actually be done to help the Greeks; but how to square the circle of such a position looking inherently contemptible and weak?

Mercier solved the problem by ably manipulating the French press to her ends, and was fortunate that the press in England, Germany and Italy tended to follow suit. At present, the public were growing outraged because newspapers were carrying stories of past Ottoman atrocities, notably against Armenians and Bulgarians after the Pandoric War, and suggesting the same might be in store for the Greeks. Mercier responded by throwing open the archives of the Tuilleries, and her team of assistants was able to produce many formerly suppressed accounts of recent Greek atrocities in the same vein (albeit usually on a smaller scale and committed by bandits without state sanction). The fact French subjects had been involved in some of these – with an amicable, quiet compensation agreed at the time by the Leclerc government to avoid tensions in the Protocol during the Pandoric War – shifted public opinion drastically. Mercier also used her position as the first senior cabinet ministress in French history to attack the Greeks over supposed misogyny, and contrasted this with the high profile of Mehveş Sultan. While still condemning the Ottomans’ actions, she managed to insert a Cytherean front into the debate and confuse public opinion into (mostly) not interpreting French disapproving neutrality as a weak stance. Rather, France would not get involved in this sordid affair between two indistinguishably brutish, oriental nations.

Mercier’s cynical, masterful move did not reflect her own personal views, of course, which she made clear in her diaries for future generations, but it did have an unexpected effect on the war. In the immediate aftermath of the Pandoric War, Tsar Paul – then Tsarevich Paul – had negotiated with Mercier (then Mademoiselle Rouvier) and her future husband concerning the fate of the Ottoman Empire. In an incident which only became known many years later (again through Mercier’s diaries), the usually suave Paul had been driven to foul language and near-violencce by her steadfast diplomatic defence of France’s position.[12] Whether it be pure misogyny or other factors, the case had left Paul with a lasting dislike of Mercier (as she later became), even a quarter-century later. This had already become clear in the tone of some rhetoric coming out of Petrograd since Mercier entered the French government.

Here and now, Reza Zaki Zand calculated that this left the Tsar open to manipulation. Secret negotiations were held with Russian representatives in Behbahan without France’s knowledge, and a treaty was signed, to take effect on November 4th 1923. This saw Persia capitulate to Russia in return for retaining her pre-war borders, other than relatively small concessions in Azerbaijan. However, Persia would release all her vassals, effectively allowing Russia control over Khiva, which is what the war had ostensibly started over, and would assume a neutral posture but allow Russian troops free passage through the country at all times. Most contentiously, Russia would be given extraterritorial sovereignty over certain key ports to allow Indian Ocean naval bases to be constructed, and be permitted to construct railway lines linking these to her own network. It was a punishing peace, but it could have been so much worse. In the course of the negotiations, Reza Zaki was able to successfully manipulate the Tsar – even though the talks were being carried out by proxy – with lurid allusions to how Persia’s participation in the war had supposedly been down to the she-devil Héloïse Mercier seducing the Shah, much to his own distress. The Tsar eagerly lapped up this ludicrous story as a confirmation of his own prejudices, making his advisors uncomfortable as he propounded conspiracy theories that every world event since his meeting with Mercier in 1900 had been part of a grand plan to spite him.

In this mindset, the Tsar danced to the tune that Reza Zaki had set for him, and therefore incidentally changed the course of the history of the twentieth century. Convinced that destroying Greece was part of Mercier’s supposed grand plan, he became convinced that he had to prevent it. It remains unclear if Paul actually shared any sympathy with the romantic faction in the Soviet which held it was Russia’s duty to protect the Orthodox Greeks from the Turk; it would not be in character with many of his previous decisions. Perhaps it really was all out of spite.

Regardless, as Russia successfully knocked Persia out of the war and finally had an unambiguous victory, she could have made many logical choices. She could have focused on subduing the remains of the Tatar insurgency and perhaps even tried to rescue her former position in Pendzhab, though it was most likely too late by this point. She could have focused on sending troops to Poland and Finland to drive back the ‘Bouclier’ nations before they could finish subduing Belgium and shift all their forces eastward. (And indeed this did happen to some extent, but it could have been greater). She could also have sent her forces west to try to save Russian North America from the Americans, now steadily advancing as their mobilisation was complete and early logistical problems had been resolved. She could even have decided to spare some resources for dealing with the plague that was beginning to sweep across the world.

Instead, in a war against many of the great powers of the world, she decided to pick a new fight with another one.

Paul declared war against the Ottoman Empire, and the Russian Black Sea Fleet mobilised for immediate combat as troops were quickly shifted, now with access to Persia as a staging ground as well as the traditional border regions. It was undoubtedly a foolish and rash move, but few could have predicted how it would ultimately turn out. In the meantime, the rest of Reza Zaki’s plan came to fruition. The Russians had thought they were weakening Persia when they forced her to give up her vassals, but this backfired; by releasing Oman, the thalassocracy was left free to continue the fight against Russian Erythrea, secure in her defence with help from the Scandinavians and Italians. A second loophole concerned the Khanate of Kalat. This important state, dominated by ethnic Balochis, had been a key Persian subject and ally for many years, and in the closing part of the Long Peace had largely benefited from Persian funding for internal improvements. The titular Khan, Mir Ahmad III Khan Ahmadzai, agreed to Reza Zaki’s plan and played his role to perfection. Ostensibly and publicly, he repudiated Persian ‘imperial domination’ of Kalat and promised that, freed of such subordination, Kalat would fight on, unlike those ‘cowards’. The reality, of course, was that this simply allowed the Shah-Advocate an excuse for not impounding the French troops and arms in Persia as the Russians had demanded in the treaty; they could not very well prevent the French simply withdrawing to Kalat and continuing to fight on from there. Though the Russians made a few half-hearted attempts to attack the French in Kalat from Persia, in practice this meant that an entire French army had escaped to fight another day.

But the Russians, and others, did not fully grasp the full details of Reza Zaki and the Shah-Advocate’s plan until February 1924, at which point both war and plague had spread further. Some had expected the Shah-Advocate to abdicate in the immediate aftermath of the peace treaty, as had happened with the King of Poland and the Emperor of North America after the end of the Pandoric War. Concerned that the Persians might claim the treaty had only been made by Jafar Karim Khan Zand personally and would not apply to Persia in general after he vacated the throne, the Russians demanded he remain in power for the present – albeit in a rather vaguely-worded clause of the treaty, after all they could scarcely complain if the Shah was run over by a multi crossing the street. In February 1924, after several months in which the plague control measures of now-neutral Persia had been praised in comparison to some other countries, the Shah-Advocate made a shock announcement. As the Russians had demanded, he would not abdicate; but he believed he had failed the nation, and the people, the same people who elected the Majlis (parliament), should be able to give their views on his conduct. He therefore proclaimed a referendum would be held on the continuation of the Zand monarchy, and that in the event of a no vote, a provisional government would be appointed to decide the future direction of the country’s rule.

The move was a political masterstroke. The Shah knew he was in no danger of losing the vote, as though the war had been bloody and the peace punishing, the Persian people were well aware that it had been far better than they had feared; they also approved of the handling of the ongoing plague through quarantine measures. But while his own position was secure, it implicitly put pressure on the Russians, whose own monarchy remained almost entirely absolute and whose popularity was growing more threadbare as war and plague war on. The Persian monarchy referendum had nothing to do with strengthening Persia and everything to do with weakening Russia, allowing for a future opportunity in which Persia might break free through Russian infighting. Indeed, the Russian ‘occupiers’ attempted to prevent the vote, but Russia was fighting on so many fronts by this point that they barely had enough troops left in Shiraz to send one peasant conscript to wave a gun at the Shah’s head.

In March the Persians voted to retain the monarchy by an 81-19 margin, a majority likely bolstered by less than democratic headman bloc voting and bribery in the countryside. However, in 1983 the analyst Mariam Alizadeh argued that even only looking at the more democratic vote in the cities, the Shah would still have been retained by around a two to one margin. Semnan was the only major city to vote against the Shah, though the vote was close in Isfahan, perhaps because of the sensation that the city had been abandoned when the decision had been made to fall back to the Zagros Line. Despite state censorship, pamphlets circulated in Russia (and some other countries) asking the question of which parts of their own country might dare vote against their own monarchies, given the choice...

[6] Like the author of the previous segment, for instance.

[7] See Part #255 in Volume VII.

[8] Some of these are really in the Persian allied state of Kalat, but are treated as Persian-run (or, in practice, sometimes Omani-run, as they were for many years in OTL under a lease agreement).

[9] Dasht-e Kavir means Low Plains in Farsi, Great Salt Desert is an alternative name rather than a translation.

[10] The name of the mountain range north of Isfahan has varied over time, and is today usually called the rather uninspired ‘Central Iranian Range’; Kohiud is one of a number of names applied vaguely on contemporary maps of the period.

[11] Recall that late 19th and early 20th century Europeans in TTL have more of a fascination with ancient Babylon rather than ancient Egypt, in part due to when translations became possible and the actions of different archaeologists. So this is not so obscure as it seems; however, Martin is strictly incorrect in describing the mythological underworld in question as a ‘hell’ given its nature.

[12] See Part #250 in Volume VI.
The Tsar's decision to open up a new front when the two existing ones are going badly is really surprising. Is he sane? I expect that this will set off alarm bells both inside and outside Russia.
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That was ingenious on Persia's part. Glad to see Russians and Ottomans duking it out for basically no reason. :D

China treating them as military occupied until they could be processed, acted as an unintentional firebreak that delayed the plague spreading into what would later become Vostok Russia.

Does this mean that Vostok Russia will include both Siberia and Russian America?
You know, I wonder if maybe the Emperor made the classic mistake of believing his own propaganda? Russia was the undisputed winner of the Pandoric War, the entire world quaked in terror of the Dread Armart Legions, and then under his guidance Russia actually gets into another war on a similar scale and it's, uh, something of a dud. So, what next? How do you save things?

Well, a victory in Persia is a good start. If you can call it that. The thing is, the sources we've had so far have been very careful to stress that Russia and France have both been obsessed with their global struggle, so I would be willing to bet the Russians haven't really been paying attention to domestic Ottoman politics, and are thinking "Well, we defeated the Ottomans easily last time, what could possibly go wrong?" so thus, unable to achieve a decisive victory in Europe, they're turning to secondary theatres they think they can win in and opening new fronts there.

Point is, maybe the Tsar really is mad and acting out of spite, but it really does seem to me like this is the kind of mistake governments have made all the time in the past.

More importantly though, get well soon Thande!
You know, I wonder if maybe the Emperor made the classic mistake of believing his own propaganda? Russia was the undisputed winner of the Pandoric War, the entire world quaked in terror of the Dread Armart Legions, and then under his guidance Russia actually gets into another war on a similar scale and it's, uh, something of a dud. So, what next? How do you save things?

Well, a victory in Persia is a good start. If you can call it that. The thing is, the sources we've had so far have been very careful to stress that Russia and France have both been obsessed with their global struggle, so I would be willing to bet the Russians haven't really been paying attention to domestic Ottoman politics, and are thinking "Well, we defeated the Ottomans easily last time, what could possibly go wrong?" so thus, unable to achieve a decisive victory in Europe, they're turning to secondary theatres they think they can win in and opening new fronts there.

Point is, maybe the Tsar really is mad and acting out of spite, but it really does seem to me like this is the kind of mistake governments have made all the time in the past.

More importantly though, get well soon Thande!
On the other hand, up to this point, Russia seemed to be acting cautiously. Insofar as you can speak of caution when you're planning to basically conquer the world of course :). Ceding territory to China to buy its neutrality is not something an overconfident country would do. Nor is focusing on a single front while accepting setbacks on the others. And the war in general does not seem to have gone quite well enough to lead to overconfidence. Maybe the Tsar was overconfident all along and was just barely persuaded to be cautious at first, but the Persian capitulation is the point where he decides that he no longer needs to listen to his advisors at all. Whatever is going on inside the Tsar's head the funny thing is that, based on the hints about the future that have been dropped, it seems that he will actually get away with this.
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From: “A Critical History of European Societism” by E. Alcuin Jones (1987)—

The Ottoman attack on Greece placed Archking Leopold III of Danubia into what might be an even more difficult position than that of his relative, King Carlo of Italy. Italy certainly had problems, such as being forced to choose between her historic commitment to Greek independence and the Turkish ‘bootheel on our neck’ (as Prime Minister Orsini put it) of being able to close the Sinai Canal and cut off Italian troops in the Horn of Africa. But, fundamentally, she did not face the additional complication of sharing long borders with both the Ottomans and their swiftly-proclaimed enemies, the Russians. Danubia’s positioning could have a major strategic effect on this new conflict of what would later be called the Black Twenties.

From the personal standpoint of Leopold, Carlo enjoyed the advantage of being able to partly devolve the decision (and therefore the blame) on Orsini and his elected government.[13] Though more concessions had been made to the power of the elected Volksrats in Danubia after the loss of the Pandoric War, the Archking still possessed more personal power, which also carried the responsibility. Since the Panic of 1917, he had grown increasingly dependent on ramshackle coalition governments in the four Volkrats comprised of a combination of inward-looking conservative or moderate reformist doradists – and, famously, the local Societist Party. Though the titular office of Chancellor rotated between the Volksrats, in practice the primary power in the land was Prince Friedrich von Starhemburg, leader of the Catholic Social Party or ‘Golden Party’ in the Austrogerman Volksrat. The KSP had opposed the Pressburg Pact with Germany before the Pandoric War, a position that had seemed vindicated by the loss of that war. The party had also regarded France with suspicion since the Marseilles Protocol was first proclaimed by Leclerc, and Starhemburg had been one of the first to refer to ‘the French Vulture’ some years previously.

Though Starhemburg was certainly no Societist – in his diary he described the disciples of Sanchez as ‘useful idiots’ – he shared their desire to remained neutral in the war, and perhaps even some of their ideas about making Danubia less internally divided between formally separated ethnicities. He regarded Danubia’s principle foes as lying not without, but within. Firstly came the Mentians demanding more rights for the people, whom Starhemburg blasted as ‘crypto-neo-Schmidtists’ who wanted nothing more than for Germany to claim all the German-speakers in Danubia and drive the rest into the Black Sea. His justification for this claim was the fact that the success of the High Radicals in Germany had led to some admiration from Mentians in Danubia, who had similarly attempted to co-opt parts of the Danubian nobility to their cause. Starhemburg’s second set of enemies within were the revanchists who wanted war against the Ottomans to reclaim Servia, war against the Russians to reclaim East Muntenia, or (in the case of the younger and more crazed ones) both at once.[14]

It was this latter group who were to send Danubian politics down an unexpected path, a path that would initially upset the European apple-cart, but would go on to be a surprising thorn in the side of international Societism. During the First Interbellum, the revanchists had given rise to many secret societies and less than secret pressure groups, the latter of whom marched with alarmingly increased frequency following the Pandemic of 1917. The economic devastation had produced a whole new crop of angry young men ready to take their own misery out on any target that presented itself, whether it be undesirable minorities like Romanies or Jews, the Danubian nobility supposedly holding them back, or the foreign foes who had taken Servia and East Muntenia. The Societists were also well aware of this, and just as they had in the former UPSA, they ran soup kitchens and other support, frequently staffed by pretty young female stalwarts, whose goal was to acquire the energy of the angry young dispossessed men for their own cause.

It is important to understand that at this point, there was no strict division between the ‘Viennese School’ Societists and any other – though such a division is often conceptually proclaimed from the beginning of the twentieth century, this is very much a hindsight action by academics. As far as Zon1Urb1 was concerned, there was no difference between the Societist chapters in Zone 6 (roughly the Danube watershed, the Balkans and the Black Sea coastline) and those that were also enjoying success in the part of Zone 11 that called itself the Iberian Peninsula. It is true that some alarm bells probably started to ring in Amigo Alfarus’ head when the Societists in Danubia entered government after the Panic of 1917 and began ‘creatively’ interpreting his orders, but for now this remained at a lot level of distinction. This was about to change.

By October 22nd 1923, the Archking had hemmed and hawed for a week about the Ottoman attack on Greece, while making no formal move beyond an ineffectual diplomatic condemnation. Greek representatives had travelled to Vienna to plead for their case in the name of Leopold’s Hapsburg relative King Constantine. It was clear that a Russian counter-attack would not come soon enough to save Greece from the Ottomans; Greek Crete was already on the verge of falling, a far cry from the decades-long siege of the seventeenth century, and Ottoman troops were pouring into Attica despite the desperate actions of the outnumbered Greek defenders. Only Danubia was in a place to launch an attack on Servia, or elsewhere in Ottoman Rumelia,[15] that might give Constantinople pause and slow down her assault on Greece sufficiently to buy time.

At the same time, following the Russian declaration of war, Leopold had received demands from the Russian Ambassador, Prince Georgy Dashkov, that Danubia allow Russian troops to traverse her territory to attack the Ottomans. Though Russia could attack Bulgaria directly through her Romanian puppet state, many more strategic possibilities would be opened up if she could cross the Danube farther west. Dashkov’s ultimatum also included language about the mistreatment of the Servs under Ottoman rule since the Danubians had unceremoniously ‘abandoned’ them, and it was clear that if this new war resulted in success, Danubia would not be ‘trusted’ with such stewardship ever again.

It was a bold and foolhardy stance from the Russians, possibly influenced by the Tsar’s alleged anger at Madame Rouvier, and likely alienated those who might otherwise have supported them. One of the revanchist secret societies, the Brotherhood of the Iron Chain, desired a patriotic attack on the Ottomans but had no time for such Russian posturing. According to state police documents later declassified, it appears that the Brotherhood (which included many prominent figures in, primarily, Austrogerman society) were actually more concerned by a false rumour that Archking Leopold would roll over to the Russians and let them through – and not, as many assumed, because of a belief that he would remain neutral. This false impression was one which was, naturally, later encouraged by the Societists, who were keen to portray the Iron Chainers as bloodthirsty, war-mad traitors.

It was on the night of October 23rd that the plot was hatched. Leopold, never the strongest of men, attempted to take his mind off the Russian ultimatum via a quiet game of cards with some childhood friends of low station, retired men who had served as court servants to his father. Such an unofficial social engagement required an unmarked steam-mobile trip late at night, and a betrayal (its source still unknown) led the Iron Chainers to intercept the mobile, overcome Leopold’s two trusted bodyguards and kidnap the Archking. Starhemberg, at this point Chancellor in name as well as de facto in power, received an ultimatum that Leopold would only be released if the government first issued a certain statement. Traditional historiography focuses on the fact that this statement contained an intent to declare war against the Ottoman Empire, but what is frequently ignored is that it actually devoted far more space to a defiant repudiation of Russia’s demands for passage of troops. This provides a hint, as noted above, that the Iron Chainers’ priorities were rather different to what traditional histories have suggested.

Starhemberg refused to cooperate with the Iron Chainers’ demands and began planning a counter-move. Though the government initially attempted to cover up the kidnap of the Archking, rumours rapidly escaped and soon people were panicking and rioting on the streets of Vienna and beyond. It was as though war had come to Danubia after all. The Russian Embassy was firebombed by a mob, and Starhemberg himself went to supervise the fire-fighting effort, knowing that if Dashkov or others were slain, even the presently overstretched Russia might be able to produce some consequences. Meanwhile, it was his Societist uneasy allies, led by Franciskus Hordulanus (aka Kertész Ferenc) who, with the help of the state police, successfully tracked down where the Iron Chainers were holding the Archking hostage. In an operation worthy of one Alfarus’ own Celatores, the shaken Leopold was rescued unharmed – though many Iron Chainers were killed in the process.

Both operations were successful, but Starhemberg was struck in the temple by a thrown rock while leading troops to subdue the mob attacking the Russian Embassy, and was hospitalised. Though he eventually recovered, he was therefore out of the political equation at a crucial time. Hordulanus and the Societists were quick to seize the credit for rescuing the Archking, and were given an outpouring of public support. Leopold was ably manipulated into calling fresh elections, supposedly calling on the people for their decision in response to the Ottoman attack and Russian ultimatum. Three weeks later, the Four Folks had elected Volksrats with Societist majorities (or a strong plurality in the case of the Austrovlachs). Despite many attempts to claim voter fraud later on, it does appear the election was largely free and fair, merely opportunistically called. Starhemberg’s Golds had been squeezed out of power, and the war parties reduced to the opposition. Danubia would remain neutral, and focus on ‘internal reforms’ with Sanchezista values moderated by terms such as ‘Societism with Danubian characteristics’. For example, Martial Latin would further be promoted as a default language (rather than only used in certain contexts) as opposed to changing to the Novalatina as proclaimed by the Biblioteka Mundial.

Later, the event would be termed the Grauputsch or ‘Grey Coup’ by German commentators, though there is really no getting away from the fact it was, if anything, a counter-coup of sorts. Much as many Europeans might decry Danubia’s unexpected turn to Societism, we must not forget that such a reaction was nothing compared to the slow dawning realisation by Alfarus that now he had a rival for leadership of the so-called Liberated Zones. A rival which, contrary to Combine propaganda founded on the assumption that Societism had arisen in the former UPSA from the ashes of the inevitable failure of democracy, had been conditionally elected into power by the people...

[13] Following the Panic of 1917 and putting down the ensuing riots, reforms were passed to allow a single central parliament to draw the cabinet from. This is in contrast to the previous practice of having four separate parliaments for the former states that were united into Italy (North Italy, Naples, Rome, and Tuscany), and the King appointing a cabinet from members of each. The four state parliaments still exist with control over most domestic affairs, despite their disparity in size that will eventually lead to later reforms. Note that while Italians do now elect a national parliament in Rome, the franchise for doing so is heavily limited by property requirements considerably stricter than those for the state parliaments.

[14] ‘East Muntenia’ is here used to refer to the part of Wallachia that Russia annexed to her puppet Kingdom of Romania after the Pandoric War. Muntenia is a historical term describing approximately the eastern two-thirds of Wallachia, commonly compared to ‘Wallachia proper’ or ‘Greater Wallachia’; the remaining third in the west is called Oltenia or Lesser Wallachia. Essentially, the Danubians have control of all Oltenia and half of Muntenia (including Bucharest), while the Russian-backed Kingdom of Romania, ruled from Jassy, has the other half of Muntenia.

[15] ‘Rumelia’ is used here in the broad sense of ‘Turkey-in-Europe’, i.e. all Ottoman-controlled territories on the European continent.

Not as long an update this week due to me expending some buffer while I was recovering from my vaccine jab (I'm fine now) but glad we didn't run out altogether.
"Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the Archking?" ;)

I wonder if they are going to keep the Archking? After all, a monarch is a very natural thing for a country to have.
well, we've been getting hints about the whole Societist Danubia situation for a while, so now we're getting a look at how it happened.

Excellent chapter as always.