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

Speaking of threats to core Russian territory, any thoughts on Societist Yapon? Since they're this TL's North Korea their societism must be even further from the mainstream than Danubia. I have an amusing suspicion that OG Sanchezismo would be interesting, instituting Old Eurasian and without any of that Zone nonsense, but also without any democracy, isolating both black and grey Societism at a stroke.
 
I feel like Societism is going to collapse some day? Since they are basically the society from The Giver, that's fun. I'd like to see the British Societist League before being outlawed.
 
I feel like Societism is going to collapse some day? Since they are basically the society from The Giver, that's fun. I'd like to see the British Societist League before being outlawed.
I mean Meridian Societism is going to collapse under nuclear fire but it's implied Danubia Societism still exists in the modern day
 
Speaking of threats to core Russian territory, any thoughts on Societist Yapon? Since they're this TL's North Korea their societism must be even further from the mainstream than Danubia. I have an amusing suspicion that OG Sanchezismo would be interesting, instituting Old Eurasian and without any of that Zone nonsense, but also without any democracy, isolating both black and grey Societism at a stroke.
OG ?
 
Suggesting that Societism as envisioned by Sanchez isn't the Societism that actually emerged under the Combine. See Marxism vs. Leninism.
This. Just to use my two examples, Sanchez thought Novalatina was a stopgap until researches could reconstitute proto Indo-European and the entire concept of Zones and the Doctrine of the Last Throw only came after his death. The PIE is funnier to me because Japanese has no ties to the language, so adopting it as a lowest common denominator language would stand out even more in a sea of Latin derivatives.
 
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This. Just to use my two examples, Sanchez thought Novalatina was a stopgap until researches could reconstitute proto Indo-European and the entire concept of Zones and the Doctrine of the Last Throw only came after his death. The PIE is funnier to me because Japanese has no ties to the language, so adopting it as a lowest common denominator language would stand out even more in a sea of Latin derivatives.
Got it, makes sense.
 

Thande

Donor
Not really in the mood to write today thanks to the news about Prince Philip's passing (RIP) but fortunately I had managed to get a bit ahead with the buffer, so see next post for the next update.
 
284.2

Thande

Donor
From: “Europe - From Pandora to the Sunrise” by A. K. Dalziel and Alice Fielding (1980)—

Historians argue over whether the offensives of autumn 1923 or spring 1924 should be considered as the last ‘pre-plague’ offensive of the European war. In reality there was no strict dividing line, of course, with reports of plague cases gradually mounting from a background problem in generals’ minds to becoming the all-encompassing focus of political leaders in multiple countries. Precisely when this shift happened in a particular country also varied, and this was, naturally, responsible for some of the more peculiar events and ultimate outcomes of the war. More than once, the Black Twenties would see a country internally consumed by the plague crisis hit by the armies of one which was still carrying on as though nothing was amiss. What came from such a clash depended strongly on whether the aggressor nation genuinely had not been laid low by the spreading plague yet, or whether its military and political leaders were merely trying to dismiss or downplay the crisis.

Following the defeat of Persia and the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war in October 1923,[8] Tsar Paul, now supreme commander of Russian forces, ordered four new offensives. In practice, this was an over-ambitious target, and what had been envisaged as simultaneous punches ended up trickling out over a period of six months. It was clear to most observers that the Russians were overstretched. The abandonment of Czechosilesia and slow retreat through Poland, the defeats in Pendzhab and North America, and the dismissal of a briefly-considered plan to force Persia to host troops that would attack the Ottomans through Mesopotamia – all were illustrative of the fact that not even the Tsar’s Empire had the manpower to fight on so many fronts simultaneously. Nonetheless, Paul and the Imperial Soviet remained defiant. New and harsher conscription initiatives were announced, leading to protests and pushback which would lead to wooden riot bullets being used on crowds and the controversial imprisonment of opposition leaders such as Privy Councillor Ulyanov.[9] The Soviet also contradicted previous policies, and upset many traditionalists in the Orthodox clergy and elsewhere, by calling on women to work in the factories due to the ensuing shortage of male workers. Some analysts believe this shift in many urban women to the workplace, besides having long-term social consequences for Cythereanism in Russia, may also have affected how the plague spread when it arrived in Russia.

Reflecting Paul’s mercurial desire to intervene against the Ottomans in a manner that was symbolically swift and dramatic – if not actually that helpful to the beleaguered Greeks – the first of the four offensives to be launched came from Trebizond. The ancient city, historically important both for Christianity and the Byzantine Empire specifically, had been conquered by Russia in the Pandoric War, with the new border formed by the surrounding Pontic Mountains. The attack was deemed the Sankt-Evgeny (St Eugene) Offensive, as the titular saint (who had been martyred by Emperor Diocletian seventeen centuries before) was associated with Trebizond and famed for destroying a graven image there. Russian propaganda linked this to the idea of casting down the ‘false idol’ of the Ottoman sultanate. It is worth noting that Russian code names at this time (like many in other countries) were often rather obvious, and many counter-intelligence agents were able to match a plan to a location from the name alone, hampering the Russians’ efforts.

The St Eugene Offensive was launched in November 1923. The Russian forces under General Belosselsky[10] were largely unprepared thanks to the short notice of the assault, but the Russians had also been fortifying the Pontic peaks ever since the end of the Pandoric War. Whether it be an aggressive war for further expansion, or a defensive one against the Ottomans out for revenge, it was clear conflict would occur sooner or later. While Belosselsky’s troops had dwindled since the Stavka had been stripping soldiers from such redoubts for the fronts elsewhere, the opposing Ottomans under Kemal Fevzi Pasha had also suffered from strength being transferred for the attack on Greece. The Ottomans enjoyed a slight advantage in strength and the terrain favoured the defenders, so it was testament to Belosselsky’s tactical abilities that the Russians were actually able to obtain a small breakthrough and take the fortress town of Karahissar.[11] Kemal Fevzi blamed his own failure on supposed espionage and betrayal by the Armenians of the region, launching a brief pogrom which lent moral strength to the Russians’ position and hampered Madame Rouvier’s attempt to make the conflict look greyer. Fortunately for the Armenians, Kemal Fevzi’s pogrom would be short-lived; unfortunately for them (and everyone else) this would be because the plague would soon rip through and lead to such matters being temporarily forgotten.

Paul had hoped for a simultaneous attack against the Ottomans from Varna, but this had been hampered by a number of factors. Varna was less fortified than Trebizond, bringing up new troops took time. Many soldiers travelled by transport across the Black Sea rather than by the logistics-choked railway, leaving them at the mercy of Ottoman ironsharks. It was very clear that pre-crisis Russian plans for a future anti-Ottoman war had relied heavily on the assumption that Danubia could either be persuaded to join the war as an ally to regain Servia, or at least bullied into allowing Russian troops to stage from her territory. In practice, the Grauputsch and the refusal of the Societist-led government to get involved severely hampered the freedom of the Russians to act. They were left with only a narrow and imperfect frontier over which war could be staged.

The Ottoman commander in the region, Ahmet Ismail Pasha, saw he had a brief window of opportunity in which to take advantage of the Russians’ difficult position before they could even launch their ‘Sankt-Nikolai’ (St Nicholas) Offensive. Though his own forces were limited due to the commitment to Greece, he staged a daring and strikingly modern attack using protguns as armoured spearheads to open the way for infantry forces and trap pockets of enemy troops. In fact, Ahmet Ismail’s tactics were very similar to what the Germans had feared the ‘Tsar’s Armart Legions’ would achieve in their front of the war, and it is a testament to General Reimanov’s lack of counter-protgun weapons that the approach worked in this case. It is uncertain whether Ahmet Ismail was aware of this and acted accordingly, or if he was merely acting out of boldness and gambling he was right. Regardless, the Ottomans launched a counter-offensive from Rustchuk[12] that drove west, captured Dobrich/Bazardshik and trapped Reimanov’s army against the Black Sea to the east and the Balkan Mountains to the south. A desperate evacuation staged from the Crimea managed to rescue about half of the trapped Russian soldiers by sea, but the remainder were forced to surrender.

This would only be the first of Ahmet Ismail’s victories. By February 1924, the Ottomans had successfully taken Nafplion and King Constantine had fled to the Ionian Islands, which Italy informally protected as a Greek government-in-exile.[13] This not only represented a triumph for the Porte, but also freed up forces to be transferred elsewhere – in particular the naval and aero forces that had been so decisive. The plague entered Anatolia at this time and ensured that such reinforcements would be squandered against Belosselsky, but the brilliant Ahmet Ismail in the still-untouched Balkans was able to use them to his advantage. The still-reeling Russians and their Romanian allies were beaten back to Constantsa[14] and, using his aero forces to counter them in a way that made Russian observers take frantic notes, Ahmet Ismail was able to make bridgeheads and cross the Danube with surprisingly little loss. For the first time in almost exactly one hundred years, Ottoman forces were operating in Wallachia. Many stories from war journalists and travellers abound, telling of greybeard peasants digging up long-buried Ottoman flags or costumes and knowingly telling their grandchildren that they always knew this day would come, asking which Phanariot prince would be appointed this time. Exaggerated those these tales likely are, the return of the Porte to this region had a huge alienistic effect on public opinion. Just as Mehveş Sultan had hoped, the Empire would no longer be seen as a fading power by the Europeans. Or so it seemed.

It would be farther north that the Russians would struggle longest to assemble their troops for the new offensives, although perhaps it is better not to count St Nicholas and Varna as an offensive at all. Since Czechosilesia fell in February 1923, the Germans had been advancing through Poland – at first slowly and cautiously, always fearing the hammer of a Russian counter-attack might fall. This, together with a focus on military rather than civilian targets, initially helped the Germans build goodwill with the Poles, who often indirectly helped them with sabotage aimed at their Russian masters. By February 1924, one year after the fall of Prague, the Germans had taken Poznan, Danzig and Thorn, and were threatening Plock and Lodz.[15] Bitter trench warfare around the latter and food shortages were starting to rob the Germans of their relatively positive image in the Poles’ eyes; the Poles, all of them from King Casimir on down, just wanted this war to be over one way or the other. Their country was divided almost in half by the front line, and families were divided and trapped, pawns in the game between Russians and Germans. It would be small comfort for them to realise that many of those Germans felt that they were, at best, bishops or knights in a game that was truly between Russia and France...

Belgium had been defeated in September 1923, but it took some time for the country to fully come under the control of the French and their ‘Bouclier’ allies. Initially it was divided into occupation zones manned by troops from the different countries of the alliance; later shifts in this policy would both be a reflection of urgent crises sweeping Europe, and causes of later crises themselves. For now, France called on her allies to aid the Germans against the Russians, sending an army herself under Marshal Antoine de Tourville. Though well-equipped, de Tourville complained his force was understrength; French public opinion was still paranoid about a(nother) last-minute Belgian air attack coming from nowhere to drop death-luft on Paris. That opinion was also debating what to do with Charles Theodore III, who was presently in house arrest in Esbjerg in Jutland.[16]

France’s allies answered the call with a range of levels of enthusiasm. The Orsini cabinet in Italy was keen to get a piece of the action, especially after the embarrassing failure to act in the defence of the Greeks, and a significant Italian force would be deployed to Breslau under the command of General Anibale Fioravanzo. Charles Grey of England, relieved by the defeat of Belgium, was receptive to arguments from his own cabinet that England likewise needed to be involved in the defeat of Russia to obtain a larger slice of the pie at the negotiating table. Rather than committing a large number of troops, however, Grey sent the Royal Navy and a force of elite Royal Strike Marines to aid the Germans and Scandinavians in the Baltic. The Imperial Scandinavian Navy was still largely consumed with aiding the country’s land troops as they fought bitterly through Lapland, although the Gulf of Bothnia freezing for five months out of the year hampered such an effort. The Russians would not launch their ‘Sankt-Pyotr’ offensive in the northern front until May 1924, by which point it was only sufficient to blunt the Scandinavians’ own attempt to cut the railway from Petrograd to Hammerfest.

But for now in the Baltic, between them, the Germans and Scandinavians had kept the Russians and Lithuanians at a stalemate. Now, the English force under the successful Admiral Hotham tipped the balance. On a bitter winter’s day in January 1924, the combined force launched a surprise attack against Karaliaučius, the great Lithuanian seaport that had, in the days of Prussia, been called Königsberg. The Lithuanians and their Russian allies were overwhelmed. Though Hotham had wanted a hit-and-run attack to merely destroy the enemy shipyards, the increasingly bold Germans committed forces from Danzig and Elbing to secure the city from land.

The Germans’ philosophy was doubtless influenced both by the fact that the Russians had continued to live up to the reputation that First Interbellum military theorists had given them, and sheer frustration by the Government and generals that Bundeskaiser Anton remained resolutely pessimistic and convinced that they would be conquered any day now. Though less well known in popular history than Anton’s earlier intransigence over entering the war, this period played a significant role in the increasing isolation of the Wettin monarchy. Up till now, the opposition conservative Treuliga party had usually backed Anton against Bundeskanzler Ruddel and the Hochrads, but now important Treuliga figures such as Gerhard von Nostitz (related to the Unification War hero) would privately share with Ruddel that the Emperor was becoming an embarrassment to them. However, at least Anton’s son Maurice, the King of High Saxony, was a far more capable and realistic figure who played a direct and dynamic part in war planning. If he had gone on to survive the plague, things might have been quite different.

The Russian offensive in Poland was launched in March 1924, months after the attacks against the Ottomans, but at least the delay meant that the forces under Marshal Aleksandr Fanlivenov were well prepared and supplied.[17] Fanlivenov is principally remembered for his impressive command of large-scale theatre logistics, but was also friends with his subordinate General Anatoly Nesterov, a brilliant tactician who had learned careful lessons from Ahmet Ismail Pasha’s successes in the Balkans. Like Ahmet Ismail, Nesterov believed that aero power could be used to clear a path for a protgun-led breakthrough assault. Prior to the main ‘Sankt-Stanislav Offensive’, Nesterov trialled his tactics with a small winter attack in December 1923 that managed to push the Germans from the outskirts of Lodz and retake Kalisz and Piotrkow.

Nesterov concluded from analysing the result that while the Germans were capable and were gaining reinforcements from their allies, said allies were not yet fully integrated into the command and control system. General Fioravanzo and Marshal de Tourville were unwilling to take orders from the German supreme command in Dresden without first asking for confirmation from their own governments via Lectel, and German complaints about this were still falling on deaf ears in Paris and Rome. The cunning Nesterov, aided by increasingly improved Russian espionage efforts via Polish agents (as Polish public opinion was starting to shift against the Germans) worked out that the allied lines might shatter if struck on the weak link between the different forces. Marshal Prittwitz was clearly not entirely blind to this possiblity, as he ensured that German forces alone manned the front lines west of Silesia and High Saxony, not wanting to risk the possibility of a quick enemy attack overrunning Dresden.

What made the difference, however, was Nesterov’s conviction that one did not have to be close to the target of Dresden in order to take it. Ahmet Ismail had showed that the fears of rapid protgun assaults were not unfounded, providing that countermeasures could be neutralised. The careful use of aero bombers to do so, in particular the new ‘flying artillery’ bombers such as the Russian Polzunov Po-24 ‘Pustelga’, could be enough to make that difference.[18] Nesterov took up a topographical map and drew a simple straight line westward, from Warsaw, to Poznan, to Frankfurt an der Oder, to Berlin. Poznan was held by half German troops, half French, a vulnerable crack in the enemy’s armour. Once the old capital of Brandenburg was taken, the Russians could wheel south to take the unprepared German capital of Dresdent from behind.

Despite some misgivings from other generals, Marshal Fanlivenov supported the bold plan, and initially, the Russians enjoyed success. The hammer blow of the aero assault around (carefully not on) Poznan shattered the allied command and control, with the French – as predicted – unwilling to trust German orders to rally at particular strong points, convinced they would be betrayed. The result was that the allies fell back, with the fabled ‘Tsar’s Armart Legions’ finally pouring through the gap in the allied front lines as had always been feared. As the Germans struggled to pull back their troops and re-establish a defensive line – and Bundeskaiser Anton loudly and publicly declared he had been right all along – the Russians seized Poznan and pushed hard for the Oder. General Fioravanzo realised what Nesterov was doing and argued, fruitlessly, that the allied forces in Silesia and Pomerania should attack from south and north (respectively) to cut off and trap the Russian salient. But, once again, the lack of unified command and control came back to bite the allies, and too few generals were able to respond to this sudden change in the speed and sense of manoeuvre to the war.

By the end of April 1924, the Germans were in the farcical situation of still holding Karaliaučius in the north and Czestochowa in the south, but with the Russians on the Oder. The allies rallied and defeated Nesterov’s initial attempt to forge a bridgehead south of Kustrin, but in May Nesterov used the last of his Pustelga force and managed to smash the Italians at Lebus. The offensive had been costly in terms of men and equipment, with the Russians having burned up most of their aero forces and a third of their protguns (or armarts) but it had nonetheless been a smashing success. Tsar Paul was already drawing up plans to award the Order of St Alexander Nevsky to Fanlivenov. As June dawned, with the Russians slowly building up their forces over makeshift bridges and the panicked allies struggling to form a new defensive line, it seemed the war might end in a decisive Russian victory after all.

Yet, as the Russians fought their way to Fürstenwalde and (according to legend) could hear the very churchbells of Berlin on the horizon, the war was entering a phase none could have predicted. Just as it had almost six centuries earlier, the plague had entered Europe for the first time through the Italian trading cities. Over the past few months, it had been burning its way northwards. And now, finally, it reached those armies in their climactic clash for the future of not only the nation of Germany, but the very continent of Europe...



[8] It is slightly misleading to describe the Ottoman Empire as ‘entering the war’ given the orthogonal nature of its policy to the broader conflict, but this reflects a tendency by historians to group together the conflicts into one (as with the Popular Wars a century earlier).

[9] Previously mentioned in Part #229 of Volume VI.

[10] Strictly speaking the family name is the hyphenated Belosselsky-Belozersky, but these writers are, mercifully, abbreviating.

[11] Today in OTL this is called Şebinkarahisar to be more precise (as ‘Karahis(s)ar’, meaning ‘black castle’, is a place name found in multiple parts of Turkey).

[12] OTL modern Ruse, Bulgaria.

[13] The Ionian Islands, formerly controlled by Venice, were retaken by the Ottomans in the Austro-Turkish War of 1799-1803 (see Part #39 of Volume I and onwards) but were then taken by the nascent Greek state during the Ottoman Time of Troubles.

[14] Given here in its Russian form, as is the case for many cases of Anglophone sources talking about the Russian-puppet Kingdom of Romania.

[15] Note the mix of German and Polish names for Polish-controlled towns and cities here, and the general failure to use Polish characters (i.e. Płock and Łódź) which reflects the general usage by most Anglophone historians in TTL – in part due to relying more on German-language sources.

[16] Which at this point was just another part of Denmark and the Scandinavian Empire on paper, so the authors are forgetting themselves.

[17] Fanlivenov is an over-Slavicised version of the Baltic German noble family name ‘von Lieven’, reflecting the cultural policies of Russia in TTL.

[18] ‘Flying artillery’ is the term used in TTL for dive bombers. The Pustelga is named after the Russian word for kestrel, in reference to that bird of prey’s tendency to hover at a high level before plunging down in a dive on its prey.
 
However, at least Anton’s son Maurice, the King of High Saxony, was a far more capable and realistic figure who played a direct and dynamic part in war planning. If he had gone on to survive the plague, things might have been quite different.

I suppose that's the final piece of the puzzle of how the German monarchy fell.
 
Prior to the main ‘Sankt-Stanislav Offensive’, Nesterov trialled his tactics with a small winter attack in December 1923 that managed to push the Germans from the outskirts of Lodz and retake Kalisz and Piotrkow.
As it happens, I attended a boarding school called Saint Stanislaus.
 
Oh, look, Lenin's back. :D

the combined force launched a surprise attack against Karaliaučius, the great Lithuanian seaport that had, in the days of Prussia, been called Königsberg
How do the German Königsbergers feel about all of this?
 
And so Tsar Paul, faced with the looming threat of encirclement and the consequences of his own Interbellum-era policies of expanding Russian power at any opportunity, launches a titanic spring offensive taking advantage of new technology and tactics aimed at bringing the war to a decisive close through splitting the allied armies at a weak point in their lines. It almost worked too, but the plague is coming and threatening to disrupt everyone's plans. Man I've gotta say, the Black Twenties feels more like OTL's WW1 than the Pandoric War did.

Tangentially? I wouldn't count Ahmet Ismaili's victories too strongly for the Ottomans, considering that we know the Turks are going to go Societist. We don't know how it happens, but with Wallachia as close to Danubia as it is, so far as the nations are concerned the Societists are about to come into possession of an unbroken line of territory running from Switzerland to the Indian Ocean. Well, at least until the war I'm thinking might break out between Danubia and the Eternal State, anyway.

Honestly, I want to take a moment to note the sheer scope of the victory the Combine is being handed here. They've been preaching about the Doctrine of the Last Throw for decades, and right now, in the middle of a titanic war, Societism has won over one empire, is on the verge of winning over a second, has been able to expand all through the former Hermandad virtually unimpeded, and this is all before any actual Celatores have fired a single shot in anger. Back in Volume VII I think there was all the talk of how Societism expanded rapidly, without any retreat, all the way down to the Sunrise War. How the nations felt like they were hanging by a thread, how almost all the strange decisions the Diversitarians make come directly out of a sense that if they do not do something drastic now Sanchez Wins and it sure looks like that's exactly the case. Societism has conquered more of the world in a little less than 30 years than some empires in OTL ever controlled in their history, and the Combine is about to get even larger.
 
Man I've gotta say, the Black Twenties feels more like OTL's WW1 than the Pandoric War did.
Given when the Pandoric War happened, that isn't especially surprising. For all that the Pandoric war was caused by a death of one person in some remote region, it was stumbled into much more accidentally than the net of alliances that spread WWI. The Black Twenties actually has two large alliance networks combating eachother, sort of (though mostly just Russia vs everyone else)
 
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