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

  • Thande

    From: “100 Greatest Film Scenes of the Twentieth Century” edited by A. J. Collachoff[20] (1999)—

    Number 71: The Death-luft Attack from Les Guerrières (1970) a.k.a. The Warriors (authorised English dub 1981).

    The entirety of this hard-hitting, controversial look at the bleak trench warfare of the Franco-Belgian War in the Black Twenties deserves a wider audience, but if one has to pick a single scene, this is it. Don’t listen to those who complain of historical inaccuracies – this is a Heritage Point of Controversy, after all, though newly rediscovered Russian documents might put that in danger. The Warriors follows two young French soldiers, Raoul and Félix, as they are sent to war and forge an unbreakable bond in the misery of the trenches. Occasional flashbacks show that their great-grandfathers fought across the same land in the Parthian Offensive during the Popular Wars, an element that was criticised as ‘crypto-Societist’ by the Académie des Arts but ultimately survived the censor’s scissors. And the film is all the better for it.

    I could mention a half-dozen other scenes that are worthy of inclusion in this weighty tome, but I’ll stick to the film’s shocking climax, which – according to one report – caused a riot in Lyons when a mischievous teenager painted ‘They die at the end’ in giant letters on one odeon the night before the premiere. After Félix and Raoul have become solid, well-rounded characters that we care about, after they have got their way over their tyrannical commanding officer Captain Picault in a way that suggests this is the plot arc of the filmd – both they and Picault are slain in a matter of seconds at the hands of the first Belgian death-luft attack. All their machinations, their elaborate attempts to secure ownership of a valuable looted painting after the war, come to naught in moments. The film even portrays the rolled-up painting being casually discarded into a nearby river, ruined, by the medics who come too late to rescue the dead men, and slowly fades to black on that image.

    Obviously there is some artistic licence. Prior to its shocking climax, the scene involves Raoul complaining about the elevation of ‘a girl’ to a great office of state, and Félix joking that he is as bad as the old Belgian King (Maximilian IV) in his misogyny. They are clearly meant to be talking about Héloïse Mercier, yet she became France’s first Foreign Ministress on March 22nd 1923, while the first death-luft attack depicted here took play on May 18th; the idea that even front-line soldiers would only just have heard about this is patently improbable. However, as director August Romaine said afterwards, the decision to pair these events was to create an overtone of the attitudes of the old world being swept away, not peacefully but by the violence that follows.

    The Warriors’ main controversy, however, was not such continuity matters, nor the Lyons riot, but the objections raised by the Royal Army and veterans’ organisations, who complained that the original cut of the film misrepresented the way in which soldiers were equipped. Specifically, the original ending shows the death-luft bombs being dropped by Belgian Schippers Sch-14 Adelaar bombers on the trenches, then cuts immediately to the dead soldiers on the ground as the billowing death-luft cloud fades. The Army and veterans pointed out that all French front-line soldiers had been equipped with luft masks against such a fear, and the vast majority of them had managed to don them, though some had complacently been caught offguard in the initial attack. It then transpired that the cut of the film presented to the Académie had indeed portrayed the soldiers as scrambling for masks (though ineffectually due to the aforementioned complacency) and then realistically shown them in graphically violent death throes. The Académie censors had simply cut this scene out altogether, removing the violence but also the historical accuracy of the masks’ presence.

    This sparked a huge debate over the nature of film censorship in France, and ultimately resulted in a policy change as the intended cut of The Warriors was restored. Thus this is not only a powerful scene in itself, but one which changed the world...


    From: “The Black Twenties” by Errol Mitchell (1973)—

    ...despite an inaccurate portrayal in a certain recent French film of note, which some suspect was a Trojan horse to force a confrontation with the film censorship authorities. Arguments about how well French soldiers initially responded to the attack aside, the more critical question is who ordered the attack in the first place. It is unsurprising this has become a divisive matter, to say the least, due to lost Russian records. At the time, many propagandists portrayed the Belgians’ hand as being forced by their Russian puppetmasters. The arguments for this view consist of the facts that the Imperial Stavka had certainly discussed the need to escalate the Franco-Belgian conflict to prevent French support of the successful Germans, and that the luft attack put Belgium in danger of retaliation in kind, which would be of concern to Brussels but little to Petrograd.

    However, there are also criticisms to be made of this assumption. Generally speaking, in the war the Russian Stavka only escalated when they felt there was a blow of worth to be struck. Tsar Paul could have doubled down on city bombing after Shiraz; a horrifying thought to us, but at the time the laws of war on the subject had still yet to be written. The Tsar did not, not out of humanitarian concerns, but because he felt Russia lacked sufficient weight of bombers for city bombing to inflict a meaningful defeat on enemy morale, and opened the door for the Bouclier nations to potentially use bombers in kind against Russian cities. By that metric, the death-luft attack on the trenches does not fit the pattern; it shocked the world and shifted public opinion towards the French in neutral nations, yet inflicted relatively minor damage on the French forces. Unlike the Anglo-Americans who had been caught offguard by the Societists a quarter-century earlier (and unlike how it is portrayed in a certain film), the French troops were equipped with luft-masks and weathered the attack. They took losses worse than in a regular artillery barrage or bomb raid, and a number of soldiers were left dehabilitated by burns from the Russian-produced brimstone-mustard death-luft (leading to the issue of rubberised suits alongside masks for certain troops on the front line) but the attack did far more damage to the Russo-Belgians in reputational terms than it militarily inflicted on their foes.

    For this reason, many now argue that the Belgians unilaterally launched the attack out of sheer desperation, though whether the order came from Charles Theodore III or a rogue general is questioned. The latter is supported by the fact that the attack consisted only of the Adelaar bombers and was not backed up by shells from the Belgian artillery, though there is evidence that death-luft shells did exist in storage.

    The attack was naturally received with shock not only in Paris but across the world. Many in the Grande-Parlement, especially on the opposition benches facing Cazeneuve’s new ramshackle three-party government, indeed called for retaliation in kind. The extreme remnant of the Noir party, those who refused to follow Vachaud into government, even demanded Brussels be bombed with death-luft and (with no sense of irony) that the inferior Germanics who practised such barbaric acts to be wiped from the earth.

    France’s allies, naturally somewhat more removed from the action, saw things differently. The English condemned the attack and began issuing luft-masks to people in London and the south-east of England, areas that were conceptually in bombing range from Belgium. In practice, however, Belgium had only launched a couple of cursory raids earlier in the war, with all the firepower of the Koninklijke Luchtmacht focused on defending Belgian aerospace from French attacks. The Germans reacted similarly, not wishing to endanger their informal truce along the border. It was the Scandinavians who condemned the attack most heavily, something which clearly had nothing to do with the fact that their population centres were farthest out of range from the Belgians. The general tack taken by France’s cobelligerents, especially the English and later the Americans, was that the Belgians had been forced into it by the Russians, as mentioned above. It is not clear whether Charles Grey or David Fouracre truly believed this, or whether it was a propaganda ploy – a way to turn the Belgian people against their government and provoke an uprising. Certainly, this is not a tactic that fitted in line with France’s tendency to emphasise past Belgian perfidy and hint at racial purging to restore exiled Walloons to their ancestral lands.

    Following desperate quist calls between London, Dresden and Paris, the French position shifted. The newly-appointed Dictateur, the Duc de Berry (veteran of the International Expeditionary Force to South America which had failed to strangle Societism in the cradle[21]) was inclined to listen to England’s logic. Pragmatic, he was keen on anything that would more swiftly knock Belgium out of the war and prevent a large part of the people of France from being in the crosshairs of Belgian bombers, now armed with death-luft. While the Belgians and Russians made only ambiguous noises when the Cannae Mondiale nations demanded an explanation of the death-luft attack, a plan was agreed. On June 4th 1923, after a period in which neither side made further use of death-luft in the trench warfare, the allies issued the Declaration of Colmar. This condemned anew the Belgian attack but held Russia responsible for it, portraying Belgium as a ‘captive nation’ of Petrograd. In a major shift for the tone of international diplomacy, the Cannae effectively applied the Malraux Doctrine to the very nation which it had originally been conceived against: they now argued that their cause was to liberate the Belgian people from their oppressors.

    Unsurprisingly, this was a dizzying U-turn for many French people, and was heavily targeted by Societist propaganda an example of the supposed ‘perfidy of nations’. At this time, though little known to European society, Societist activity in Europe was largely focused on Spain, partly for reasons which the Societists themselves would strenuously deny – the old cultural ties between the former UPSA and its old colonial master. A Societist play, performed in both Novalatina and Spanish, circulated throughout Spain and Portugal at this time, despite the attempts by the authorities to suppress it. Titled The Madhouse and set in a surreal fantasy landscape that suggests our own world, it features a scene in which a group of angry ‘Canfresces’ go from destroying ‘Gelba’ works of art to repairing them in an instant when a messenger alerts them. When the traveller and narrator, portrayed as the only sane man, asks why, the ‘Canfresces’ explain that the Gelba are their friends and they have always been their friends, until the time when they are not. This was only the most iconic example of Societist propaganda at that time, both inside and outside Iberia – there was also significant penetration into Ireland and Italy, whose peoples shared with the Spanish a lack of contentment in their governments’ subordination to or alignment with France and French wars.

    Even as Russia emerged victorious in Persia, the Cannae nations issued an ultimatum to Charles Theodore III to abdicate and order the Russians to leave Belgium, which was obviously ignored. The Duc de Berry then announced that France would indeed retaliate for the death-luft attack, but would target only enemy soldiers in uniform, and that any soldier who deserted would not face attack. Civilians would not be harmed and postwar Belgium would be treated as a freed colony. Initially this directive did not have much effect, but things changed once the first set of Cannae attacks rolled in from all sides. Concern over the death-luft had forced the English, Scandinavians and even Germans to agree to commit more forces against Belgium.

    What was referred to as Case Ondergang (Dutch for ‘downfall’) was launched on June 28th 1923. The French bombarded the front lines with far more death-luft than the Belgians could have brought to bear, using both bombers and artillery. Though the Belgians were also equipped with luft-masks, the sheer overpowering French resources resulted in far more deaths and in far more places, and rumours spread like wildfire. Many took up the Duc’s offer to desert, some of whom were recaptured and/or shot in the back of the head by political officers and Russian Cossacks – which did nothing to convince the rest to stay put. It was this chaos, rather than the direct damage from the death-luft, which caused holes to finally open in the the Belgians’ dense lines of trenches and forts, allowing breakthroughs from French protgun spearheads.

    Simultaneously, drawing away Belgian aero forces and making the French’s job easier, the Germans crossed the border and the English and Scandinavians attacked from the sea – initially seizing the West Frisian islands as a staging post and defeating what was left of the Belgian and Russian naval forces in the area. According to the plan drawn up in Colmar, Belgium was divided up into conceptual occupation zones, and the northern allies moved to secure their assigned areas. The English took the provinces of Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland and West-Friesland. The Scandinavians took Noord-Mönster, Oost-Friesland, Groningen, Drenthe and Overijssel. The Germans took Palts, Limburg and Luxemburg. And the remainder would go to France, taking in Brabant, Vlaanderan, Antwerpen and, of course, Luik.[22]

    Luik, né Liége, had been the most chaotic and troublesome part of the Belgian realm since it had first been welded together, more than a century before, from the Palatinate and the former Austrian Netherlands. Indeed, its history of revolt and rebellion goes back longer even than that; in 1345, a century and a half before the Novamund was discovered, the people of Liége had overthrown their prince-bishop and established a relatively democratic guild law system which had influenced the rest of the region. In and after the Route des Larmes, the Wittelsbach rulers of Belgium had tried again and again to subdue Liége, by racial purging if necessary. Yet even when the city’s original Walloon population had dwindled to a remnant and been replaced with Dutch-Flemish colonists, still ‘Luik’ remained a source of headaches for Brussels. It was as if there was something in the water.

    Now, more than a hundred years after it had rose up in support of General Boulanger’s invasion, Luik once again seized the opportunity. Its people were energised by reports (not without foundation) of abuse of its women by Russian Cossacks and Nindzhyas, armed by Cannae agents and equipped with deserting soldiers. The local government was overthrown and the Luikers proclaimed a Free Commune, offering to open their doors to Cannae forces in exchange for guarantees they would not be counter-purged from their land as Walloon groups in France were demanding. Berry and Ruddel, in a deal brokered by Mme Rouvier, seized the opportunity and agreed – though Rouvier extracted a limited right of return to assuage the Walloons’ ancestral grudge.

    The Luik Revolution began on July 14th and drastically shifted the nature of the invasion. Initially supported by the adjacent Germans staging from Cologne, later helped by the French through new aerolifts, Luik resisted a makeshift Belgian loyalist counterattack and opened a hole in the back of the enemy lines. The French armies, which had spent months at a snail’s pace trying to take Namen and Wittelsbach, were now able to wheel through Luxemburg province and link up with the Germans and Luik revolutionaries. With a large chunk of Belgium cut off from her armies and the latter in collapse, it was only a matter of time before the kingdom was knocked out of the war.

    It is likely Belgium’s last attack was not ordered by Charles Theodore III (whom, it transpired, had already fled Brussels and surrendered to Scandinavian forces on August 29th) nor by the Russians. The remaining bomber forces left Brussels in a quixotic attempt to drop death-luft on civilian targets in London, Paris and Frankfurt (as they did not have the range to reach Dresden). If whomever ordered the attack had focused all his bombers on one target, some of them might have survived to drop bombs. As it was, all were shot down long before reaching their targets – though once again the world of French film wants us to think that a brave pilot sacrificed his life by ramming the last Belgian bomber before it could drop its death-luft bomb right on King Charles’ head. Though entirely ineffectual, the move met with widespread condemnation and led to Russia formally, if belatedly, breaking ties and distancing herself from the central Belgian government. This did not stop her trying to seize power in Belgium’s overseas colonies, of course, with varying degrees of success. Some of the Russian forces in Belgium were successfully evacuated, but the vast majority were either captured or faced mob justice from vengeful Belgians.

    By September 17th 1923, the last Belgian forces in Europe had surrendered and been disarmed, and the Cannae powers had secured their occupation zones. The French people had been dubious about Berry’s move, but now the fear of air raids was gone, the triumvirate government enjoyed strong public support again and the opposition was discredited. It seemed to most that, though the ‘Belgian Question’ would remain a problem for some time and the war continued against Russia, at least most French families would no longer have to fear the potential of a deadly killer that struck in the night and stole their blood kin from them.

    How wrong they were...

    [20] The author is Californian; this is probably an anglicisation of ‘Kolichev’ – names in California are frequently derived from one language out of English, Spanish or Russian but then spelled in another due to past ethnic mixing and different powers being in vogue at different times.

    [21] As mentioned in Volume VII, even historians frequently repeat the idea that this was the IEF’s mission, when it was nothing of the sort.

    [22] These largely resemble the provinces of the Low Countries in OTL with some differences. Because Belgium includes East Frisia, the province corresponding to OTL’s Dutch province of Friesland is specified as West-Friesland. The province of Noord-Mönster is the remnant of a Belgian claim to the whole border area that would have originally included the city of Münster (Mönster in the local dialect, which has been incorporated into the Dutch usage). Palts is a Dutchified form of Pfalz (i.e. the old Electoral Palatinate, though the term here incorporates much of the surrounding area as well). Limburg and Luxemburg both describe larger areas than the OTL province and nation state by that name.
  • Thande

    Part 282: A World at War

    “And finally, a correction to yesterday’s broadcast in which we reported on the ongoing Global Games dispute over a young Panchali gymnast. Our thanks to, uh, His Excellency Mr, uh, Bhupendra...Bihari, the Panchali consul in Ultima, for his correction that the young lady’s name is pronounced Sangeeta and not Sangitta...”

    – Transcription of a C-WNB News Motoscope broadcast,
    recorded in Waccamaw Strand, Kingdom of Carolina, 20/03/2020​


    From: “A Pocket Handbook of World Religions” edited by J. B. Waites (1995)—

    With approximately 35 million adherents worldwide, overwhelmingly in the Indian states, Sikhism is one of the world’s smaller religions, comparable in size to Judaism. Like the Jews, however, the Sikhs have punched above their weight in their influence on world history, as well as frequently being defined by steadfast resistance to persecution.

    Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539). According to the Puratan Janamsakhi, in his youth he was fascinated by holy men and religious concepts, and one day went missing from his usual daily bath in the river. His family feared he had drowned, but he returned after three days to declare “God is neither Hindu nor Muslim”. He went on to found his own religious commune which would blossom into the Sikh faith. While secular historians dispute some of the hagiographic details of Nanak’s life (such as accounts of his great journeys to debate with holy men as far away as Tibet and Mecca) Nanak’s historicity is well attested. He became the first of ten human Gurus (an Indian term meaning religious teacher found in multiple faiths) who led the Sikhs. Sikhism has always been associated with Pendzhab, the Land of Five Rivers in which Nanak was born.[1]

    Historically Sikhism has frequently been compared to Puritanism, Calvinism and other Protestant movements in the context of Christianity by students of comparative religion. Sikhism emphasises asceticism and equality in the face of conspicuous consumption and caste division. Sikhism emphasises the monotheism of One God; in fact, the first words of the Sikh scripture (q.v.) the prayer called the Mool Mantra, begins with this:

    There is One God. Truth is his name. The Creator, without fear, without hate, without beginning or end. Beyond birth, self-existent, made known by the grace of the Guru.[2]

    Egalitarian Sikhism holds that the Gurus should be respected but not worshipped, and would later abandon the idea of a priesthood altogether. Sikhism has also historically been a more Cytherean force in the Indian lands (though this is sometimes exaggerated by some accounts), notably opposing the Hindu practice of suttee (a widow being burnt on her husband’s pyre) and the Muslim one of veiling women.

    In fact, as Sikhism drew on both former Hindu and Muslim converts, a major headache for the leaders of the faith was to ensure said converts did not attempt to follow two religions or sets of cultural practices in parallel. This is not helped by some radical scholars who argue that Sikhism is merely a reformed Hinduism, rather than its own faith. Some Sikh practices seem deliberately designed to force its adherents to make a choice. For example, Hindus celebrate Diwali (known in the French-speaking world as La grande fête des lumières des Indoux for political reasons) on a date around October-November according to their luni-solar calendar. This festival of lights has ancient significance to Hindus and Sikhs would be likely to join in for cultural reasons, but Sikhism instead highlights the date as Bandi Chhor Divas, the Day of Liberation, when Guru Hargobind was released from Mughal captivity and found his way home to Amritsar by the Diwali lights. This is similar to how early Christianity located Christmas to the date of the pagan festival Saturnalia in order to force people to make a choice rather than lackadaisically following both faiths.

    A related cultural issue is that while Sikhism repeatedly emphasises opposition to the caste system (and unsurprisingly a disproportionate number of Dalits or ‘untouchables’ have embraced the faith) in practice discrimination has repeatedly reared its ugly head. Nonetheless, history has conspired to ensure that Sikhism has never fallen into a mere vague syncretism or variant on existing faiths. Countless Sikhs have been martyred for their faith over the long and bloody history of Pendzhab.

    For the tenure of the first five Gurus, the Sikhs were generally regarded as a peaceful if not pacifist movement, something made more possible by the fact that they were tolerated by the inclusive Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great.[3] However, things changed after Akbar’s death and the Muslim Mughals began to persecute the Gurus, whose succession was often disputed at this point as the Sikhs became more political and administrative over their lands. The fifth Guru, Arjan, built the Harimandir (Abode of God) in Amritsar and compiled the Adi Granth or ‘first book’, the first organised written Sikh scriptures. The Harimandir, the most famous example of a Gurdwara (literally ‘Guru’s Door’, the name for a Sikh temple) is emblematic of the values of the religion. While structurally impressive, it is located physically lower than the surrounding city to emphasise humility. It is surrounded by a purifying moat of water with a single bridge to emphasise one goal – though often throughout history this has sadly been used for the more prosaic reason as being a better defence. The Harimandir has always been the symbolic target number one for persecution and suppression of the Sikhs by others, usually Muslims.[4]

    In 1563 Guru Arjan was martyred at the hands of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir for refusing to convert to Islam. He was succeeded by Guru Hargobind, who led the Sikhs on a path to militarisation to resist persecution which would later define them as a group in the eyes of others. He led the Sikhs in battle as a general and won a notable victory over the Mughals at Amritsar in 1634, at a time when the Thirty Years’ War was similarly raging in Europe over matters of faith. Conflict between the Sikhs and Mughals continued on and off, with the ninth Guru, the warrior Guru Tegh Bahadur, being martyred by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb – according to some accounts, not only because of his refusal to convert to Islam, but for defending the persecuted Hindus of Kashmir.

    The tenth and final human Guru was originally known as Guru Gobind Rai, but in 1699 became known as Guru Gobind Singh following major reforms he made to the faith. The story goes that at the spring harvest festival of Vaisakhi, with the Sikhs once again facing persecution, the Guru asked for volunteers who would die for their faith. He disappeared with each man (of a wide variety of castes) into a tent and emerged each time with a bloody sword, yet volunteers kept coming until five had disappeared. He then emerged at the end with all five still alive and well. They were the Panj Piare, the Five Beloved, who became the first of the Khalsa, the Community of the Pure that the Guru had founded within Sikhism.[5] Frequently confused with all Sikhs by outsiders, the Khalsa are Sikhs who are baptised with sugar water (amrit) stirred by a sword to emphasise that they are those who will fight and die for their faith and to defend others (Dharam Yudh, a just war of last resort against oppression). They hold to certain behavioural rules, notably wearing the ‘five Ks’ – uncut hair (kesh), a wooden comb (kangha), a steel bracelet that evolved from a bracer or knuckle-duster for combat (kara), a sword (kirpan) and short trousers suitable for combat (kachera). Contrary to popular belief, wearing a turban is not technically required for Khalsa members or other Sikhs, it is simply a convenient way to keep the uncut hair under control, a way to identify other Sikhs at a distance, and evokes the egalitarianism of the faith as it was historically associated with the upper castes in the Indian lands. Despite this, the turban has become perhaps the most recognisable symbol of Sikhism outside of those lands.

    In another attempted caste-busting measure, Khalsa members all take the surname Singh (‘lion’) for men and Kaur (‘princess’) for women. These are names associated with the upper castes, and by overwriting the followers’ original surnames, remove traces of their origins from which they might be judged. However, this has remarkably complicated modern attempts to keep track of individuals (such as the quist book!) and in practice Sikhs have had to adopt additional identifiers to prevent the need to sort through several thousand Singhs in a census record!

    Guru Gobind Rai (now Guru Gobind Singh) rather than making a human successor, said that the respect of the office of the Guru should after his death pass to the Sikh scriptures, afterwards known as the Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Gobind Singh, the last human Guru, died due to complications of wounds inflicted by a Muslim assassin sent by the Nawab of Sarhandh. Ever after the authority has been held by the book rather than by a human being.

    In addition to having a spiritual element, the Khalsa reforms also had the more pragmatic temporal reason that Guru Gobind Singh sought to replace the masand-based system of regional administration, which he felt had become corrupt. The Sarbat Khalsa was created as a legislative assembly. The Mughals launched a genocidal campaign against the Sikhs[6] and defeated Gobind’s disciple Banda Singh Bahadur at the Battle of Gurdas Nangal (1715) in which, according to some accounts, they outnumbered the Sikhs twenty to one. Despite torturing Banda Singh to death, the Mughals nonetheless were unable to permanently subdue the Sikhs, and the weakened Mughals granted the Sikhs a ‘jagir’ of land grant in 1733. Weakened by the Sikh wars among many other causes, the once-mighty Mughals were then defeated by the Persian conqueror Nader Shah. In the aftermath of this, in 1748 the Sarbat Khalsa reformed the Sikh domains into a series of ‘misls’, sometimes collectively described as the Dal Khalsa or Sikh Empire.

    But if the Sikhs had hoped for a retreat from persecution, they would not be so lucky. When Nader Shah’s Afghan protégé Ahmad Shah Durrani returned and founded the Neo-Mughal Empire, the Sikhs were in the firing line. Durrani destroyed or desecrated the Harimandir twice, only for the Sikhs to patiently rebuild it both times.[7] The Sikhs stubbornly fought their way back to independence in 1781 and an independent Sikh polity – sometimes described as a Confederacy and sometimes as an Empire, depending on whose star was in the ascendant – was reborn, dividing the two halves of the Durrani inheritance in two.[8]

    History repeated itself as the two Durrani empires clashed in civil war and weakened themselves, just as the Mughals they had conquered had. In 1811 the Battle of Ajmir between the two sides provided an opportunity for the Sikhs to gain further power and control over more of Pendzhab, naming the general Kanwaljit Singh as their Maharajah.[9] This office did not (consistently) long survive Kanwaljit’s death, being little compatible with the egalitarianism (and factional infighting) of the Sikh people. The Sikhs enjoyed a generation of relative peace and prosperity, barring the aforementioned occasional infighting, until the rise of the Mahdi and the Great Jihad once again plunged northern India into a storm of religious violence and persecution. Nadir Shah II, the son of the last effective Neo-Mughal Emperor Mohammed Shah II, attempted to direct the path of the Jihad southwards towards Hindus and Christians and away from his own lands.[10] This met with some success at first, but as the Jihad dragged on for years and new volunteer mujahideen arrived from distant climes, eventually northern India came to suffer as well.

    As before, the Sikhs fought bravely against impossible odds and survived, in part thanks to the leadership of Hari Sarandeep Singh, who rose from generalship to command. In his time the office of Maharajah was treated somewhat like that of a Roman Dictator, being a temporary appointment in time of war – which appeared to be all the time. Though different groups of mujahideen sacked Amritsar and damaged the Harimandir twice more in the 1850s and 1860s, the Dal Khalsa lived on. However, Sikh losses did tell, and Kashmir – which the Sikhs had controlled as part of their domains in the 1820s – was lost.

    Nonetheless, the weakened Sikh Empire was still intact in 1884 when a Russian exploratory mission reached Pendzhab. With most people outside India assuming the whole of the area was the devastated and lawless ‘Aryan Void’ following the depredations of the mujahideen, it was a surprise to the Russian commander, Gennady Grigoriev, to find an organised state governing a substantial territory. The canny Grigoriev argued, in his report to the Imperial Soviet on his return, that it was in Russia’s interests to ensure news of the discovery did not leak out. The Soviet agreed; surviving papers indicate Grigoriev’s argument was so persuasive that he himself was nearly liquidated to keep the secret, but those council members were argued down. The Russians were remarkably successful in keeping the secrecy Grigoriev had suggested; later scholars consider it probable that the Persian government did know the Sikhs had survived, but for their own reasons they did not share this information with their Western allies. In 1886 a Russian trade mission was sent to Amritsar, which did not go well; Grigoriev found himself lost in the court intrigue of the Sikh factions and ultimately alienated those who should have been his natural allies.

    Having decided that control over the Sikh lands would give Russia a vital foothold in northern India before the old European traders could venture north again, the Soviet agreed to launch an invasion by force. The Russo-Sikh Wars took place from 1888-1892; though the Russians were disadvantaged by operating on the end of a long supply line, they also had considerable technological superiority over the Sikhs, who were still fighting with what (in Europe) would be considered Jacobin Wars-era weapons and tactics. The Sikhs’ famed cavalry, in particular, was of little effect in the face of cingular gunfire. Despite this, the Sikhs’ courage and determination repeatedly impressed the Russian commanders on the ground, in particular General Evgeny Kurganov, who wrote on the subject to the Soviet and even directly to the Tsar. Kurganov’s account is notably distinct from how the Russians considered the Yapontsi. While the nindzhya were effective elite troops, they were looked down on as inhuman mad dogs, whereas the Sikhs met with genuine respect (though not from Grigoriev, who refused to concede it had been his own failure that had resulted in a lack of peaceful trade). According to Sikh accounts, it was also through a nindzhya assassin that Kurganov finally defeated their armies, with their commander Gurshuran Ujjal Singh being slain in such a manner before a battle – not unlike the fate of Guru Gobind Singh two centuries earlier.

    The Sikhs were effectively offered a peace in which they would be largely left to their own devices, but would function as sepoy troops and administrators for the Russians’ attempt to carve out an empire in northern India. In practice, this was largely restricted to the existing Sikh lands, Kafiristan and Kashmir, which today comprise the modern Republic of Pendzhab.[11] It was certainly a contrast to how the Russians treated subject peoples in other parts of their empire, and perhaps a measure of how much Kurganov had been impressed – or, perhaps, how much he feared it would be impossible to rule the Sikh lands if the Russians pressed too hard.

    It would be a couple of decades – admittedly with the great distraction of the Pandoric War and the rise of Societism! – before the rest of the world finally realised that the Russians were operating in northern India with the help of the Sikhs. And it would be another decade before the Russians learned that the Sikhs had not been idle, but were quietly and patiently planning for the day when they could, once again, break free...

    [1] The Russian-influenced transliteration here is obviously an ex post facto decision, and largely reflects that knowledge of the region came into the West through Russian sources in TTL. Compare to how the capital of Burkina Faso will today always be called Ouagadougou in Anglophone histories today (reflecting its later French colonial history), even when talking about a pre-colonial era, though the few English-speakers who knew of it at the time used spellings like ‘Wogodogo’.

    [2] As mentioned in the text, the exact translation of this is disputed (in OTL as well as TTL).

    [3] This simplifies things a tad – for example the third Guru, Amar Das, did call on the Kshatriya warrior caste to fight to defend justice.

    [4] Note that the text does not call the Harimandir the Golden Temple; this name only dates from 1830 in OTL, when Ranjit Singh had it rebuilt and coated in gold foil. The actual building has been rebuilt many times in both OTL and TTL due to the aforementioned persecution.

    [5] In-universe the transliterations of these terms will also be Russian-influenced, but I have kept the OTL originals from English to avoid it becoming too impenetrable.

    [6] This passes over the fact that often these campaigns were launched by nawabs who were becoming increasingly independent from Mughal control, not always by the Mughal central government.

    [7] This happened in OTL as well, though the details are different.

    [8] See Part #43 in Volume 1.

    [9] See Part #87 in Volume 2.

    [10] See Part #200 in Volume 4.

    [11] See Part #262 in Volume 7.
  • Thande

    From: “A Short History of the Indian Lands” by Alfred Parry and A. J. Kumar (1983)—

    The involvement of Bengal in the wars of the Black Twenties had, by no means, been guaranteed. The country had undergone a dizzying transformation since surviving the Great Jihad at great cost. Whereas much of India had been devastated for decades by the seemingly-endless conflict of the Jihad, Bengal lived on – yet, as the dust settled, it had become clear that substantial debts had been racked up in the process of saving her.

    Today it is easy for a history book to breezily dispose of the Privatisation of Bengal in a couple of paragraphs, as though the process was inevitable and predictable. We shall not attempt to do it justice here, but will content ourselves with the observation that it was certainly not perceived as such at the time. Many native Bengalis regarded the Privatisation as an abrogation of responsibilities by the British and American shareholders of the East India Company, not the path to independence it is now seen as. Similarly, the minority of Americans and Britons with an emotional attachment to the EIC and Bengal warned (accurately) that it would be a slippery slope towards losing control altogether. Nonetheless, more and more of the shares of the EIC passed into the hands of Bengalis, not only noblemen but also self-made industrialists. Again, this was not a planned or predictable process, but the consequence of multiple rounds of decisions made by different directors at different times for different reasons, spread over a period of almost fifty years.

    As is well known, the ultimate upshot of these decisions was that by the time of the Pandoric War, white directors of Anglo-American descent had been reduced to a plurality on the Board, and many of these had been born in Bengal and no longer felt visceral ties to those distant homeland. Whites nonetheless retained a disproportionate degree of influence, which has reduced since then but never truly disappeared. This was partly because of the wealth of old Company men being grandfathered in, but also because the diverse native peoples of Bengal tended to divide on issues and the whites could act as a casting vote. Conversely, recognition of this issue led some Bengali political commentators to build bridges between native communities in order to try to mitigate it.

    Nonetheless, at the end of the Pandoric War there was majority support for formally dissolving ties with the Hanoverian monarchy, seizing the opportunity afforded by the confusion sparked by the Third Glorious Revolution in what was then Great Britain. The Bengalis undoubtedly benefited from the ascension of Lewis Faulkner to the American presidency and his indifferent attitude towards what had once been the British Empire. Bengal lost its titular control over Natal, which became the last colony of Britain (and then England) but, now operating as an independent corporation which still enjoyed most-favoured-nation ties with its old colonial masters, went from strength to strength in the First Interbellum.

    At least, until the Panic of 1917, when (like other trading nations) Bengal was badly hit. Again in a pattern repeated around the world, mass unemployment and protests led to political upheavals. While white directors had already ceased to be a majority on the Board, reforms and public pressure meant that it was at this point that the rest of the world started being unsurprised to find Bengali interests represented at conferences by a native rather than a white man. (A similar pattern was seen in Guinea, which took much inspiration from Bengal for its own path forward). In practice, Bengal was rarely represented by one individual alone, reflecting the need to balance interests.

    The Bengal Army remained dominated by high-caste Hindus drawn from the brahmin and kshatriya castes,[12] especially Rajput Purbiya soldiers.[13] During the Great Jihad, Nurul Huq had recruited Bengali Muslims to fight for the authorities (despite being an opponent of British rule himself) and refugees from across India had also been recruited into additional forces. While these auxiliaries were eventually permitted to join the Bengal Army, they were strictly segregated and often treated as second-class. The decline of white power in Bengal mostly benefited, in the military, the high-caste Hindus, who saw their association with the military as a vital guarantee of continued influence in a nation where Muslims outnumbered Hindus. This was reflected in the army reforms that had taken place by the start of the Black Twenties in 1922. The regular Bengal Army regiments, comprised almost entirely of high-caste Hindus, were no longer led by white officers – sometimes white Bengalis still served in the officer corps of these regiments, but never as commanding officer. Conversely, all the former ‘auxiliary’ regiments comprised of Muslims (and some other groups, such as lower-caste Hindus recruited from destroyed states like Orissa) were still led by white officers. This represented only one of the many deals made by the remaining white Bengali (a.k.a. Anglo-Bengali or ‘Anglo-Bangla’) community with the Hindus on one hand, and with the Muslims on the other, in order to retain influence.

    This is not to say that Muslims and poorer Hindus were cut out of power altogether. Bengal was a true corporate state, with no elections at this point for any office higher than that of village headman. Instead of a parliament, it had an Annual General Meeting of shareholders in Calcutta which held the Board of Directors to account (and often met more frequently than its name implied). It was therefore through this means that the poor and dispossessed sought power. Building on suggestions going back to Nurul Huq himself, Muslims typically formed co-operative building societies which collectively could buy Company shares on behalf of the group as a whole, using profits to invest in buying houses. This did start a never-ending theological debate by imams about what practices were considered compatible with Islamic banking rules, but served to ensure representation by Muslims who were insufficiently wealthy to buy their own personal shares. The practice was copied by poorer Hindus, starting with people of high and middling caste from neighbouring countries who had fled the Jihad and lost everything. By 1922, the AGM was certainly not representative of all Bengalis, and was a body in which the wealthy exerted far more disproportionate power than the poor, but was arguably more democratic than titular parliamentary assemblies in many countries (such as Russia, Danubia and the Ottoman Empire).

    These political tensions were mirrored by a cultural flowering, as Bengali literature, poetry and scholarship underwent what is called the Bengali Renaissance. Though it took many years for the wider world to become aware of such works (aided by English and French translations), this explosion of art and science – like a sigh of relief after the survival from the Jihad, as one of its own poets put it – played a key role in the forging of a new, post-colonial Bengali identity.[14]

    Away from the tea-houses of Calcutta and Dacca, another form of inequality was betrayed by the formal title of the nation: the Confederacy (or Confederation) of Bengal. ‘Bengal proper’, also sometimes called the Directorate, was ruled directly by the Board of Directors (and therefore indirectly by the AGM). This was roughly the area that had formerly been under the rule of the Nawab of Bengal prior to his overthrow by the British in 1759.[15] The British had set up six minor princelings as titular zamindars (subordinate rulers) but these had been effectively ignored by everyone, and by the Great Jihad two of their lines had gone extinct and their lines formally reverted to direct Company control. Two more have disappeared since and two remain at the time of writing, yet have never been regarded as anything more than local wealthy celebrities.

    Things were quite different in ‘Outer Bengal’, the territories surrounding the Directorate which had been acquired since, especially in the upheavals of the Jihad. Lands such as Berar, Assam, Bundelkhand and Orissa[16] were governed in truth through zamindars, and their people did not enjoy the same rights as those of Bengal proper. Some analysts have compared the situation to that of the UPSA in the mid-nineteenth century, where some political forces opposed the annexation of client republics such as Cisplatina, because their wealthy patrons benefited more from a source of cheap labour lacking the rights of Meridian citizens. Tensions between the people of these lands, their rulers and the already-divided Board and AGM in Calcutta were balanced by mutual fear of external powers, especially as China began to expand her influence into northern India. The Board enjoyed relatively good relations with the International Guntoor Region (later the Guntoor Authority) despite the latter including the Circars, coastal lands which had formerly been under the control of Calcutta before the Jihad. Relations with the French, the Siamese and the Concan Confederacy were a little more cool, but it was China which Calcutta saw as the biggest interloper threat.

    This brings us back to our starting point; it was by no means guaranteed that Bengal, no longer formally tied into alliance systems through the Hanoverian monarchy, would enter the wars of the Black Twenties. Indeed, historian Peter Trafford has argued that if China had not ‘betrayed’ France through neutrality and had attacked Russia as expected, Bengal would likely have remained neutral, or perhaps even joined the other side! Calcutta’s chief concern remained Chinese influence in northern India and China’s client states were held in deep suspicion; there remains debated evidence on whether both the Bengalis and the Chinese were using subterfuge in the First Interbellum period to try to spark rebellions among each others’ vassals. A minor revolt in the Chinese client state of Gwalior in 1919 might partly be down to a Bengali plot (as some Chinese officials claimed at the time) but this might simply be an excuse for Chinese failure to respond to economic upheavals there, disrupted as almost everywhere was by the Panic of 1917.

    Bengal’s participation in the wider war was lukewarm and required bribery and pressure from the French, who wanted Bengal’s sizeable but outdated naval forces (sold by the English and Americans as they modernised) to help fight the Russo-Belgians. When the French were spectacularly defeated at the Battle of Ceylon, the Bengalis largely ceased returning France’s quists and instead focused on their own national concerns. The Russo-Belgian naval forces were not a significant threat to Bengal, providing they lacked sufficient force to engage in commerce raiding, and despite Admiral Van de Velde’s victory, he had to focus everything he had on surviving the enraged French’s counterattacks. Rather, Calcutta’s main concern was with the revolt of the Sikhs in Pendzhab against their Russian overlords. The Bengalis had become concerned with this Russian intrusion into India when made aware of it, but a deeper concern was that a successful Sikh revolt and Russian defeat might lead to the Chinese sweeping in and taking over. This would expand the zone of Chinese influence in northern India all the way to border the Persian client states of Gujarat and Rajasthan – and the Board calculated that, if Persia continued to lose to the Russians, Shiraz’s control might fade from those nations. That would then leave them ripe for the picking by the Chinese, and a domino effect could lead to a nightmare scenario in which China ruled the entirety of northern India – leading to a coast-to-coast railway and a Chinese naval base on the Arabian Gulf!

    The Board, supported by the AGM, was determined to stop this from happening, and sought to nip it in the bud by sending an armed expedition to Pendzhab. This represented a sea change in the military practices of Bengal, which had been primarily defensive since the Jihad; even when Bengal had expanded into the Aryan Void in the wake of the final collapse of the Jihad, it had been a slow and cautious consolidation. This bold stroke was very different, and required a very different general to command it – Sardar Sitaram Sinha.[17]

    Sinha was of good Bengali Kayastha stock to meet the approval of the high-caste Hindus on the Board, but he was also a maverick who had experience acting as an official observer of the Sino-Siamese front of the Pandoric War. He well understood the unusual circumstances his force found itself in. The Bengal Army was well equipped and trained, slightly behind the times compared to European or Novamundine norms but comparable to the Chinese and Siamese. But while the Bengalis had, more or less, modern weapons and tactics, they faced a journey through some of the most debatable country in the world. The Jihad had devastated the transport networks of northern India and they still had not recovered – in part because the Chinese had rebuilt them in their client states but not elsewhere, leading to new trade routes to get around the continuing decay south and west of these lands.

    Chinese-backed states like Oudh, Gwalior and Delhi would not, of course, allow a Bengali army passage through. There was the possibility of appealing to the Concan Confederacy for passage, but Sinha and the Board instead put pressure on Bhurtpore.[18] Bhurtpore was a strange anomaly, a state which had avoided falling into any sphere of influence due to lying at the competing confluence of the French-backed Concan Confederacy, the Chinese in Oudh and the Bengalis themselves. The city had been destroyed during the Jihad and partly rebuilt, though in no semblance of its former glory, and it was ruled by a prince with an extremely questionable claim of descent from its former Siniswar rulers. Money and threats changed hands until Sinha’s army was allowed through, giving passage to the debatable edge of Russian Pendzhab.

    In a move typical of the usual careful political balance of Bengal, Sinha was aided by two subordinate sardars, Guha Choudhury and Thomas Swanson. Choudhury was a Muslim, albeit descended from a Rajput family who had converted centuries before, and Swanson was a third-generation Anglo-Bengali. Though his actual ancestry was mixed, Swanson’s visible ethnicity was white, and he was brought along in part due to concerns that the Russians might not respect the Ratisbon Convention unless there was a white senior officer whose mistreatment might become a European media cause célébre. Choudhury and Swanson were there for reasons other than politics, however; they were both talented surveyors, and sought to make more detailed and accurate maps of this part of northern India than had existed since before the Jihad.[19] Some historians therefore formally, if arbitrarily, date the end of the ‘Aryan Void’ or ‘Darkest India’ cultural period to the Sinha Expedition.

    Due to the aforementioned transport difficulties, Sinha’s army was an eclectic mix of technologies. A few protguns and protcars were brought along, but not many, and regular logistical transport was provided by horses, oxen and even elephants as much as steam or sun-oil engines. Though mocked by some satirists outside India as a supposed example of being ‘backwards’, this approach stood the Bengalis in good stead when attempting to traverse regions where the roads had not been maintained for decades. Unlike coal or sun-oil, the ‘fuel’ for animal transport was one resource that did not suffer from a lack of organised human maintenance. To put the lie to the claim of being ‘backwards’, the Bengali troops were equipped with potent counter-protgun infantry weapons as a hedge against the ever-present fear of the legendary ‘Tsar’s Armart Legions’ of Russia. Some of these were of a similar design to Germany’s Firefist (which had already been copied by many nations), but more of them were a domestically built springbomb weapon. Though more difficult to use, their cheap and easy construction led to them being copied by less wealthy nations and Kleinkrieger groups as a counter to armies of protguns. Appropriately, the Bengali springbomb design would later be used by the resistance fighters seeking to clear Chinese influence from northern India.[20]

    If the army was well-armed and –led, its mission was anything but as coherent. Swanson’s journal recounts Sinha frustratedly talking to one of the Directors about how the Meridian Revolution had begun in 1782 as a consequence of the indecision of French King Louis XV.[21] A force had been sent under de Grasse and de Noailles with the idea of intervening in Spain’s existing revolts in South America, but with no clear guidance of how or on whose side. Sinha feared the same occurring once again, as the Board – based on incomplete and foggy spy reports of what was happening in Pendzhab – tried to decide what action to take with regards to the conflict between the Sikhs and Russians. Was a Russian victory inevitable and potentially leave Bengal with a hostile neighbour after future expansion, if they helped the rebels now? If the Sikhs won, would it only weaken Pendzhab so the Chinese could move in instead? Was there a moral duty to help any other Indian state resist colonialism regardless of the context or consequences? These and other positions were still being inconclusively debated at the time the expedition set forth, in March 1923. An exasperated Sinha was effectively given a free hand to do as he saw fit to advance Bengali interests, a vague order which he knew would result in him taking the blame if things developed contrary to the Board’s desires.

    Befitting its excellent organisation, the Sinha Expedition ably managed the difficult task of reaching Pendzhab, arriving in June 1923 – around the same time as the monsoon was battering Calcutta and Dacca back home. The secondary mission of mapping the area was also carried out. Chinese aerodromes from Gwalior observed the Bengali column with evident concern, though China would soon have bigger problems. Aerodromes were another technology which Sinha had elected not to attempt to employ, due to the issues associated with the long supply lines; besides, the Russians themselves could not call on aero support for the most part.

    One exception to this was that the Russians periodically sent steerable transports over the rebellious mountains of Afghanistan to help resupply their desperate forces holding out in the Sikh-besieged fortresses of Amritsar and Srinagar. This move was widely criticised in hindsight, seen as a desire by Tsar Paul and the Imperial Soviet to be seen to be doing something, and to pressure their harried soldiers not to surrender, without ever doing anything to follow up on this false hope. As it turned out, this point was crucial to Sinha’s intervention, with the help of Choudhury and Swanson’s maps. Though the fact that Sinha turned up with an army was undoubtedly helpful for making the Sikhs take notice, it was Sinha’s insight into the Russians’ position, a perspicacity born of his experience with other cultures in the Pandoric War, that made the difference. To the surprise of the Sikh commander, Surinder Raj Singh, Sinha was able to deliver a Russian surrender within days. He did so not merely by the show of force of his army, but by publicly and spectacularly having one of the supply steerables shot down by rocket fire; he allowed news of this to be leaked to Chinese spies, who fed it back through the Lectel network built throughout Oudh and Delhi. Soon publicised around the world thanks to the Chinese papers, the action was well known – and, as Sinha already knew from sending spies to meet with him, this is what the Russian commander, General Privalov, needed in order to get away with an honourable surrender. It helped that the tone of the Chinese papers had praised the Russians as heroes who had fought long after hope was lost, perhaps hoping to draw a comparison with their own occupying troops in northern India. Paul and the Soviet could not reasonably castigate Privalov’s men for their surrender; indeed, they also belatedly attempted to glorify them, but Russian public anger slowly began to grow for the perceived betrayal of the brave men.

    The publicity blaze also helped make the world aware of how Bengal had changed, the complexity of the balance of its peoples (to an extent, at least) and of its new flag, adopted in 1914. The Sinha Expedition was the first major initiative to be launched under this flag: the designers had taken the old East India Company flag of thirteen red and white stripes with the Union Jack in the canton, and had replaced the Union Jack with the old flag of the Nawab, three gunpowder barrels and a sword in red. In the eyes of the world, a tough new nation had been born.

    Sinha had therefore succeeded beyond the dreams of what the Board had hoped; the Sikhs won control of Pendzhab with Bengali help, and it seemed that a strong new ally against external colonial powers had been won. But soon Calcutta, too, would have bigger problems, and Sinha’s men would have reason to be thankful that there were no reliable transport links joining them to what was spreading through the densely-populated heart of Bengal.

    So much for the Sinha Expedition; but, thanks to the world of film, the most famous Bengali of the Black Twenties (these days) was not Sinha, or Choudhury or Swanson, or anyone in India itself at all. No, that honour falls to one Taijul Hossain...

    [12] For a very brief and over-simplified description, Hinduism has four main groups (varnas) – priest/scholar brahmins, warrior/ruler kshatriyas, merchant/farmer vaishas, and worker shudras. This is not the same as the ‘caste system’ (jati) which is more regional-based and determines vocations more precisely, but the two are often confused and intermixed in western sources.

    [13] Both these terms are quite vague and changed over time, but Purbiyas are mercenary troops from Bihar and the east of what is now Uttar Pradesh, and Rajputs is a broader term for noble warriors and rulers, whose precise origin is debated. In both OTL and TTL the Bengal Army was described as being dominated by Purbiyas, though it would be more accurate to say high-caste Hindus in general. This came to an end in OTL with the Indian Mutiny, driven in part by grievances that these soldiers’ pay and privileges had not shifted with inflation for decades, and after the Mutiny Britain turned to other groups when recruiting soldiers. Things are quite different in TTL as the old Bengal Army was the primary force resisting the Great Jihad, and has survived in its old form.

    [14] This work is implicitly attributing a Bengali Renaissance to reaction against the Jihad; unbeknownst to the writers, Bengal in OTL underwent much the same cultural flowering around the same time despite a very different set of circumstances.

    [15] Way back in Part #8 in Volume I.

    [16] This is a bit imprecise, as there wasn’t a state called ‘Orissa’ at the time and this is more of a geographic term, unlike the others.

    [17] The Persian-originated term ‘sardar’ (or ‘sirdar’), which has had various meanings throughout Indian history, is here used in the reformed Bengal Army to signify a general or field marshal. Historically ‘subedar’ was used in this meaning, but the EIC employed this rank to mean ‘captain’ (reflecting the subordinated position of the native sepoys at the time) so a different word has had to be introduced once native Bengalis were once again able to achieve high-level command positions.

    [18] Spelled Bharatpur today in OTL.

    [19] It is worth remembering that in TTL, India has never been held by a single colonial power, and thus nothing analogous to OTL’s Great Trigonometrical Survey of the nineteenth century has ever happened – thus the precise geography of much of the interior was not consistently known even before the Jihad.

    [20] The Bengali springbomb design is similar to OTL’s PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) used by British infantry in the Second World War.

    [21] Part #12 in Volume I.
  • Thande

    From: “Best of The Biograph Magazine, Volume IX (1989-1990)”, edited by Mary Mackentire[22] (1991)—

    Ever since we at The Biograph gained authorisation to use Bengali writers in translation two years ago, one of our biggest requests has been for the memoirs of Taijul Hossain. I could tell off our readers for being a host of foolish Philistines for preferring the scribblings of this raffish soldier of fortune, now immortalised in film, over the critically acclaimed writers of the Bengali Renaissance. But then I would be guilty of hypocrisy, as I devoured our extracts from his works as eagerly as any of those readers! Furthermore, in this very extract, Hossain admits to a similar feeling of guilt himself over his literary tastes, and we all love a hero we can identify with.

    For those to whom this reprinted extract is their first exposure to then-Subedar Hossain, I should provide some background. Hossain’s biographical sketch from the first edition of his memoirs describes him as ‘a rough diamond...a man whose rakish air of untrustworthiness concealed a great sense of personal honour...a man born into the wrong century, who belonged in spirit to the age of Benyovsky and Molnár’. Hossain himself expressed similar sentiments at times, wishing he had been born fifty or sixty years earlier so that he could have fought in the chaotic, opportunity-laden age of the Great Jihad in India. But it fell for him to be born into an age that was dull and stable...or so it seemed.

    Hossain joined the Bengal Army, an organisation which still somewhat discriminated against Muslims like him in favour of whites and high-caste Hindus. This was sometimes less true of wealthy Muslims, but Hossain was from a fairly poor background in the region of Sylhet. Nonetheless, he impressed his commanders (albeit sometimes in a faintly aghast way) with his resourcefulness, intelligence and quick sense of decisiveness. In 1910, when Hossain was 22 and about to achieve the rank of jemadar, his commanding officer, Captain Daniel Wilkinson, recommended the young man be detached for special operations. Wilkinson’s reasoning was twofold; firstly that Hossain’s potential was wasted in his current role, and secondly that his intelligence was frustrated by garrison duty, and this inevitably led to him capably running illicit business ventures on the side out of sheer boredom. Wilkinson’s recommendation was accepted, and Hossain was employed initially as a guard for surreptitious diplomatic missions into the Indian interior, and later as an operative in his own right.

    Hossain therefore had more experience than most in operating in ‘Darkest India’, yet ironically he would not be called upon to join Bengal’s column that penetrated to the Pendzhab during the early wars of the Black Twenties. Instead, he would find himself sent to Natal, along with his theoretical commanding officer Lieutenant Frederick George ‘F. G.’ Tickell. Here we can let Subedar Hossain take up the story in his own words...


    Tickell-sahib was then a young and naive fellow of the type who is wise enough to be fully aware of just how young and naive he is – a rarity which reminded me not to underestimate him. He was pale and Ferengi enough in appearance, yet his bloodline had not tasted the dreary grey rains of Blighty since his grandfather was in short trousers.[23] He had studied mathematics and history at the University of Monterey in California. There are two types of these book-learning lieutenants, the ones who try to cover their lack of real-world experience with bluster and defiance, and the rarer type who quietly seek to learn from their noncommissioned officers. Tickell, again, was of this type, and sought guidance from me.

    It did not take long to bring him down to my level! Tickell was, and remains, of the Wesleyan sect among Christians, many of whom have very right-thinking views on the evils of alcohol. He and I, it transpired, were both in firm agreement that, as the Chinese say, the most important rule of warfare is to know the enemy. We therefore spent a number of pleasant days studying Shaitan’s brew in great detail through the public houses of Port Natal, while we awaited orders. At the end of it, we were firmly certain that we had identified all the enemy’s tactics and blandishments so that we could resist them in future. Unless, of course, it proved necessary to keep track of any tactical innovations on his part...

    Our jests proved sour when it transpired that our orders were of similar bent and more serious import. At this time, I should briefly risk putting the reader to sleep with a brief digression about how Natal’s government was organised at the time. Natal fell into a category, like our own fair Bengal, of being left out on a limb after the Great War.[24] Blighty had fallen to revolution and America had turned inwards, leaving the status of much of the Old Empire ambiguous. We in Bengal, and the Guineans in their various forms, had mostly started running our own affairs.

    Natal was different. Natal had always been seen as an appendage of somewhere else far away, but exactly where had never been clear. By the Guineans and their predecessor Company they had always been seen as the arse-end of nowhere, as Tickell-sahib might put it in the middle of one of his more extensive research periods, somewhere to exile their directors who lost political games, like we use the Andaman Islands. But Natal had always been important to we in Bengal, and many of our own people had gone over there as labourers, fighting for rights after seeing what the great Huq-sahib achieved. After the Great War, the new divided Blighty, England proper as Tickell put it, had managed to hang on to Natal as a colony in name, but in practice she was run by the locals.

    It was a strange situation. In Africa one might expect to be surrounded by black Africans, and though there were plenty of them here, our new friend Musa Maradun told us he felt like we were the natives and he was the visitor. Indeed, whites and Bengalis were ever-present here, the former usually in positions of power (but not always) and some of the latter also increasingly important. The natives evidently still had a long way to go before obtaining such opportunities themselves.

    Of course, Musa Maradun really had no more in common with these people, relatives of the Matetwa and other southerners (Bantu, he called them[25]), than I do with a Gujarati or Tickell has with a Russian. Africa is a vast place, and he was a Hausa from the middle lands of Guinea, a good Muslim, a better one than I if I must admit it. His skin was as black as a moonless night, as the poet would have it, but his heart was as strong and pure as the diamonds that the poor labourers dug out of the hills in this country.

    It was a peculiar situation indeed. Guinea was neutral in the war, and Bengal hadn’t got involved much outside of the expedition to Pendzhab I heard about later – certainly not since the French had got a bloody nose from Van De Velde near Ceylon. But both had ended up sending soldiers to Natal to help protect it. Not from the Russians or the Belgians – the French and their allies were advancing out west, from the old Cape Republic into Povilskaja, which had expanded to include the old Belgian bits of the Cape after the Russians pulled King Max out of the fire. They were winning on that front, largely thanks to the efforts of Pérousien levies from what I heard from our other new friend, Piet Bloem. Bloem told us he was a Cape Dutchman of Boertrekker descent who had ended up working for the Natalese authorities instead – an exile’s exile’s exile, as he put it. I had heard Belgian accents before from Ceylonese ships calling in port at Calcutta before the war, and his was not so different. He was not pleased with how things were being run in his homeland or its now Russian-dominated neighbour. I recall Tickell and myself both giving worried glances towards Maradun-sahib as Bloem ranted about how the blicks were ruining everything.

    Fortunately, it transpired (as the placid Maradun told us) Bloem was referring not to black Africans, but to Societists. At this point I had heard seldom of these infiltrators sent from far South America to preach their gospel of madness; closer to home, the French were ever ranting about their plots in the Concanese lands, but I more often heard of them operating in the Guntoor Authority region. How naive we were then, viewing such things as the problems of distant lands of which we knew little and cared less.

    Bloem was an able scout and we formed a quartet, with two Natalese guides for the local terrain so these four foreigners would not get themselves lost. Our assignment from the vague Natalese military authority was to scout out the enemy. Not the Russians or the Belgians, as I said, but to the member of their alliance which – much to their embarrassment, doubtless – was arguably doing the best job of advancing on all fronts. The Matetwa Empire.

    I knew only little of that empire, then – how they were feared as a great native military power, how they had reformed their army a century ago and conquered and absorbed many neighbours since then. Bloem filled us in with more information. Under their great king Phunga, they had seized the opportunity of Portugal’s collapse, years ago, to seize parts of their former empire and obtain a coastline on the Indian Ocean.[26] There had been occasional clashes with the Natalese over the years, but largely both sides had respected peace treaties defining borders. There had also been some trade with the Scandinavians, whose colony of Gazaland also neighboured the empire, with the Italians and with the Persian-Omani trading thalassocracy.

    But things had changed in recent years. Bloem and the Natalese attributed this vaguely and unconvincingly to political developments among the Matetwa that had put brash young men in charge, willing to throw away years of peace for glory, having run out of native kingdoms to expand against. (Tickell obligingly quoted Alexander the Great weeping for having no more words to conquer – something that would be news to my neighbours’ ancestors, who saw him turn around and go home from the Indus). Reading between the lines, it was clear that the Matetwa’s shift had much more to do with France’s alliance-building, albeit as an unintentional consequence of it. With Natal, Scandinavia, Italy and Persia now all on the same side against Russia and Belgium, that had left the Matetwa isolated and surrounded. The different powers could no longer be played off against one another, as the Matetwa had successfully achieved in the past. While I later learned that some Matetwa had advocated joining the alliance and expanding into Russian Povilskaja, it was clear that was a minority viewpoint, one shouted down through fear that the alliance would inevitably turn on the Matetwa once the Russians were defeated.

    So instead, King Sojiyisa had formed an alliance with the Russians about three years earlier, and had not been idle. It was known that raw materials had been swapped via the trade route from Erythrea, dodging Persian-Omani patrols, and process-produced weapons forged in the great serf-worked factories of Yapon had been brought in to help further modernise the Matetwa army. The Natalese still had only a foggy picture of precisely what was going on since the outbreak of war, knowing only that the Matetwa had successfully occupied portions of the interior of the Cape Republic and the coastline of Natal itself. There were also rumours of Matetwa propaganda circulating about the liberation of their related peoples from foreign rule. Needless to say, said foreign rulers – these days, both white and Bengali – were getting jittery about that.

    Our mission was therefore to infiltrate the front line and observe the modernised Matetwa army in action...

    (Here we sadly must skip over a number of entertaining, informative and harrowing chapters for space reasons!)

    ...to cut a long story short, we technically succeeded in our mission (as I argued later) as we did indeed see the Matetwa army demonstrate its tactics and capabilities in great detail. It was only a minor matter that we did so via accidentally being captured (poor Bloem having caught a bullet in the process) and then provoking General Mathole into showing off his men’s skill before our polite scepticism. FG was certainly visibly impressed enough for all three of us (survivors), which was just as well considering how inscrutable Musa was.

    He (FG) had spent much of our journey raving about the Matetwa supposedly being ‘black Spartans’ or ‘black Romans’ for their martial culture and military innovations. Maybe he’d studied some of that in California, but I suspected he got most of it from battered old florin bloodies that were printed around the time the False Mahdi was starting to listen to Iblis’ foul whispers in his ear. I told him shame on him for not enjoying the great works of our own writers in Bengal, carefully implying I was talking about those worthy old poets, and not good old Anil Mukherjee and his ratiocinic detective page-turners. Anyway, I’m sure the old Matetwa had been impressive enough in the days when Phunga conquered Sofala, when (according to FG) they had used long spears and cowhide shields as their principal weapons (not sure what the Hindus back home would say about that). Now I don’t know much about the Romans, but I have heard that what really made them great soldiers was that they innovated in response to changes. I think it surprised FG, with his head full of romance, that the Matetwa were the same in that regard, at least.

    They were no longer scantily-clad spearmen moving in precise but archaic formations, though they would still adopt these for parade ground demonstrations like any other nation. Their uniforms were made with the same philosophy as ours, to take into account heat, albeit less humid than what we faced in Bengal. But they were otherwise as standardised as any, clearly made according to some manufactory process, coloured light tan and grey to match the colour of the veldt for camouflage. Fascinating traces remained of their heritage – well, I found them fascinating afterwards, from a safe distance, after we had escaped; FG had to serve for all of us at the time.

    Rather than spears, they wielded a curious design of long rifle, based on a Scandinavian design but clearly a domestic copy, with a long spike bayonet that was fixed by default. The result was that they could continue to employ their old stabbing spear tactics when needed, but could also use the weapons as firearms. From what we could tell, the Matetwa rifle was slower to reload than most modern arms, but also enjoyed a startlingly long range; Musa described them as ‘a whole army of snipers’, though probably Mathole was showing us his best troops. He told us that some of his ancestors had dismissed firearms as an ungentlemanly weapon, but they had not lasted long in the ensuing succession disputes.[27]

    In place of their old cowhide shields – though those still appeared on their flags as a symbol of their past – they wielded long metal shields shaped somewhat like an English letter H. From what I could tell, these seemed to be a combination of light tempered steel and alumium, the latter presumably supplied by the Russians.[28] One of the Matetwa soldiers showed me his shield, and I saw that ancient and modern coexisted; the back of the shield bore a sample of cowhide marked with a symbol that would historically have been on the front of the now-camouflaged shield. The shield had a wedge-like glacis shape, with the points of the ‘H’ sharp enough to be driven into the ground or even used as a weapon. According to the drills General Mathole showed us, the Matetwa would take up position, drive their shields into the ground via the sharp points of the bottom slit, and then slide their rifles through the top slit to provide covering fire while the next squad advanced. From what we learned then and later, it was a brutally effective tactic against other African peoples, whose arrows, spears and old flintlock musket balls were unable to penetrate the shields. It had proven less impenetrable against the Natalese and Cape Dutch, whose modern rifles could punch through the thin armour if they did not hit a glancing blow off the glacis. But a combination of Matetwa courage and tactical ability, and the fact that the Natalese and Cape Dutch were sending their best troops against the Russians in Povilskaja, meant that Mathole and his fellow generals had won victories.

    I need not go into the details of how we escaped; suffice to say I was surprised to find the General was also of the Umma, as were a number of his men, who had been introduced to the Book by missionaries from the Natalese Bengalis. It is never a good thing to see warfare between brethren, as the General agreed; afterwards he would probably have added it was also no good thing to see them deceive each other, whilst aiming his long rifle at my back. But we never gave him the chance.

    It was an interesting experience, on the whole. When we reported back at Port Natal, it seemed obvious to everyone that, sooner or later, we would end up fighting the Matetwa and seeing their able troops in a less cordial context. Few would have dreamed that we would first face a foe worse than any that mere men and their weapons could conjure up – and then, less than a decade later, I would find myself fighting at Mathole’s side against the threat that poor Bloem had warned us of...

    [22] A phonetic anglicisation of ‘McIntyre’.

    [23] Blighty, from bilayti ‘[foreign] province’, is a Bengali-derived nickname for Britain or England used in both OTL and TTL – albeit in TTL it is not widely known outside Bengal or Natal.

    [24] Here referring to the Pandoric War, a term that was only used in hindsight and had not become universally adopted at this point.

    [25] Of course the Bantu peoples were not originally associated with southern Africa before their migration, but Hossain is evidently unaware of this.

    [26] See Part #221 in Volume V.

    [27] This attitude was reported among the OTL Zulus during the Anglo-Zulu Wars, with those few who did have firearms typically being inexperienced with them; however, it is likely a distorted picture due to narratives wishing to present the Zulus as either racially inferior and/or an idealised vision of ancient ‘black Spartan’ warriors from a more gentlemanly era of war.

    [28] In TTL the original name ‘alumium’ has been retained for this metal, thus neatly avoiding the later disagreement between ‘aluminum’ and ‘aluminium’.
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  • Thande

    Part #283: All Greek to Me

    “Demonstrations today in Alexandria were suppressed by State police using water cannon, leading to condemnation from the ASN as being in conflict with Article One. Ezekiel Beauregard is our Near East correspondent. Mr Beauregard, can you tell the folks at home what’s going on?”

    “Yes I can, Miss Jaxon. This is all about decisions made by the government of the Free City of Mecca concerning the upcoming Hajj, the annual global Muslim pilgrimage to the city, which is due to start at the end of July this year. There are claims that the Federation has, allegedly, unfairly got its way over certain organisational matters at the expense of the State, and its people are not happy. Our younger viewers may not remember, but twenty years ago there was an attempt to resolve disputes by setting up a ruling Council for Mecca that would have representatives from Muslim nations across the world, the Ummah as their community is known.”

    “Yes, Mr Beauregard, I don’t remember that.” (laughter) “So if the Council was meant to resolve disputes like this one, what’s going on? Why isn’t it working?”

    “I’m glad you asked that, Miss Jaxon...the Muslims themselves, those who do not blame each other of course(!) lay the blame squarely at the feet of what they describe as the ASN’s constant interference with the Council making it unworkable. The ASN’s representatives, for their part, say they are merely defending Article Two and blocking attempts by the Council to resolve disputes by harmonising different interpretations of the Islamic calendar and dating of holy festivals. But Muslim critics claim that the ASN is simply irrationally prejudiced, suspicious of any other body that features representatives from multiple nations collaborating for a common goal...”

    – Transcription of a C-WNB News Motoscope broadcast,
    recorded in Waccamaw Strand, Kingdom of Carolina, 22/03/2020​


    From: “A Short History of Modern Europe” by Anders Liljekvist (1980, authorised English translation 1986)—

    Following the classical period and centuries of Roman rule, Greece had essentially won the subtler culture war through her language and culture dominating the continuing ‘Byzantine’ remnant of the Roman Empire in the East. As previously recounted in chapter 4, the Greek identity would be confused for the four centuries following the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. The Ottoman Empire was a successor to Byzantium and Rome in terms of cultural diversity and the concept that holding to language, values and creed counted for more than racial background. By the eighteenth century, Phanariot Greeks were able to rise to significant positions of power as diplomats and administrators (notably in the Romanian principalities) while retaining their Orthodox faith. This was in contrast to the rural peasantry, who were often distinguishable from Orthodox Slavs in the Empire (as opposed to those Slavs who had adopted Islam) only by language. Attempting to draw a line defining the ‘Greek’ parts of the Empire would always be a fool’s errand, for reasons that had existed long before the first Turk arrived from the steppes. When Rome was merely a small upstart republic, centuries before the birth of Christ, Greeks had colonised southern Italy, acculturated the peoples of Asia Minor and (under Alexander the Great) spread their culture as far as India. The name ‘Greece’ itself in English stems from the Latin name for the southern Italian Greek colonies, not Greece itself (‘Hellas’). In many ways, the glory that was Greece existed more in heads and hearts than in a readily definable ethnic group.

    Portions of the Greek-majority parts of the Empire would be ruled by foreign Christians for periods. Notably Crete was held by the Venetian Republic for more than two centuries after the fall of Constantinople (and had been controlled by it for two centuries before that) before it finally fell to the Turks in 1669 following the longest siege in history, the Siege of Candia (1648-1669). Less impressively, the Peloponnese peninsula comprising much of the south of Greece (then also sometimes called the Morea) was ruled by the Venetians for a few years around the turn of the eighteenth century. Venetian rule had not been particularly popular, and the Ottomans had recaptured the Morea by 1718, keen to do so as it was a rich tax farm usually under the control of the Valide Sultan (the powerful queen mother).

    This context must be borne in mind when understanding what came later. A few minor rebellions later, an independent Greek state finally broke away during the Ottoman Time of Troubles of the 1810s-20s, taking advantage of Ottoman division and public opposition to high war taxes. European support for the Greeks was often lukewarm, influenced by the writings of men like John Byron and Henri Rouvroy, who had been unimpressed with the latter-day claimants to the heritage of classical Greece. It was the Hapsburg Kingdom of (North) Italy whose intervention was most crucial, and in 1821 Archduke Joseph, younger brother of King Leopold, was crowned King of Greece following his conversion to Orthodoxy.[1] The initial Greek state consisted mostly of the Morea and the Ionian islands, with the majority of Greeks remaining under Ottoman rule, though many of the latter would flee to free Greece over the ensuing decades. Hapsburg influence through King Joseph upset the Russians, who regarded themselves as the heirs to Byzantium and the natural protectors of Orthodox peoples among the Ottomans’ ‘captive nations’. But though the Russians had made substantial gains at the Turks’ expense during the Time of Troubles – taking Moldavia, Crimea and much of the Caucasus – they were in no position to aid the distant Greeks until after this territorial change was completed, by which time the famine of 1822 had made fighting grind to a halt anyway.[2]

    The Time of Troubles ended with the division of the Empire into the weakened, Rumelia-based ‘Janissary Sultanate’ and a continuing Empire under Abdul Hadi Pasha elsewhere, a division that would leave lasting memories later on. In 1837 a dispute over a confiscated Greek ship led to renewed war between the Sultanate and Greece. During this war, the Greeks successfully took Attica, the island of Euboea and many of the Cyclades.[3] This was despite King Joseph not having much support from his Hapsburg relatives; he had burned his bridges by favouring the Greek public view during the ‘Hapsburg Fracas’ a few years earlier and diplomatically not sending many Greek soldiers to a conflict they cared little for. This was the beginning of Greece charting a more independent course, being closer to Danubia rather than North Italy in years to come, and with a large expanse of Rumelia still separating her from Danubia...

    The Greek-Janissary war ended in 1842, with the Sultanate collapsing and being re-amalgamated with Abdul Hadi’s Empire a few years later. King Joseph had opposed trying to take the de facto independent Ottoman-ruled Crete (theoretically Janissary-ruled but attempting to stay neutral), but Greek freebooters had landed there at the end of the war. Reluctant post facto support from Joseph led to only the western quarter of the island being freed from Ottoman rule, with the rest becoming a new vilayet of Abdul Hadi’s Empire, soon the only remaining faction.

    King Joseph died in 1851 and was succeeded by his son Charles, who rejected pressure from some factions at court to join the so-called Euxine War of 1861-1864 between Russia and the Ottomans. Some hoped for an opportunity to claim further Greek-populated territories such as Thessaly or the remainder of Crete, but Charles (likely rightly) believed this would not lead to support from others (Danubia had remained determinedly neutral in the conflict) and risked Greece losing independence altogether if left alone before Abdul Hadi’s rejuvenated empire. The border between Greece and the Ottomans seemed fixed at a line drawn roughly between the Ambracian Gulf in the West and the Malian Gulf in the east.

    King Charles died childless in 1874 and was briefly succeeded by his brother Leopold for four years, before Leopold’s own death led to the longer and more stable reign of his son Joseph II. Frequently compared to his namesake in terms of good governance, Joseph II, however, more resembled his uncle in terms of a disinclination towards war with the now-modernised Ottomans. He allowed limited representative government of the people, but was able to retain substantial power by playing off factions against one another. As a small nation with divided ancestral loyalties, Greece was subject to its elected politicians being influenced by multiple foreign powers. The writer Evangelos Katsouranis joked in 1890 that the majority of Greece’s economic production came from collecting all the bribes from powers such as Danubia, United Italy, Russia, Persia and even the Ottomans themselves – which all cancelled each other out in terms of influence anyway. The reality of such corruption, well known to a cynical and apathetic public, gave Joseph the licence to dismiss any prime minister he did not like on a whim and replace him with another – who was, of course, just as corrupt.

    Despite (or because of) this dysfunctional government, Greece in the second half of the nineteenth century enjoyed a new cultural flowering known as the Anagennisi (‘renaissance’), of which Katsouranis was one of the ringleaders. Greek literature, theatre and (to a lesser extent) painting became popular throughout Europe, spreading to the Novamund and (perhaps surprisingly) to the Ottoman Empire, which had many educated people who could read and write Greek (even many without Greek connections themselves). The Anagennisi helped mend Greece’s image in the western world, although it sparked an argument (both inside and outside Greece) over whether it should be regarded as a continuation of the glory of Ancient Greece, or something new altogether and worthy in its own right.

    Joseph II’s cautious course was epitomised by his positioning in the leadup to the Pandoric War, in which he rejected the Pressburg Pact alliance of the Danubians and Germans and instead, like the Italians, joined France’s Marseilles Protocol league of armed neutrality. The policy was probably motivated by the fact that joining either side would have starkly divided Greece in terms of loyalties, given there were many Russophiles in politics but ancient Hapsburg ties could not simply be cast aside so starkly. Regardless, the policy was seen as the right one in hindsight. Whereas Danubia betrayed the Orthodox Christians of Servia by abandoning that province to the Ottomans as a blood price for their entry into the war against Russia – which failed to turn the tide regardless – Greece remained intact under French protection and her economy continued to grow as a neutral trading nation.

    Joseph II died in 1912, and with him died Greece’s new golden age. His son Constantine might have been given a hopeful Greek name rather than a traditional Hapsburg one, yet he swiftly became unpopular with the people as he struggled to cope with the economic collapse of the Panic of 1917. In the end he was forced to flee the country. He was bailed out by the Russians and returned to power by the Italians. It was the Russians’ longer-term aid that made more difference, as control of the purse-strings meant that they were able to attain more influence over Greece and force the severance of the ties to France over the Marseilles Protocol. Some historians, however, argue that Constantine or his ministers successfully manipulated the Russians into doing this, and that they had been looking for an excuse to break with France as it became increasingly likely that a French-led bloc would not be neutral in the next war.

    Indeed, when war broke out in 1922, Constantine focused on attempting to preserve Greek neutrality in the face of pressure from all sides. The Russians attempted to call in their debts from their economic rescue, but while their rhetoric might speak of Orthodox solidarity, what they wanted from the agreement made such claims ring hollow even in the eyes of many longtime Russophile Greeks. Rather than promising Ottoman-ruled territories to Greece, the Russians wanted the Royal Greek Navy to prey on Italian ships in the Mediterranean.

    For once, the Russians did not seek war with the Turks, wanting to keep the Ottoman Empire neutral in their conflict with Persia. Not only would Constantinople joining the war add another front (when Russia was struggling to maintain those she already fought on) but the Ottoman army could take the Russians in the flank as they slowly, grindingly advanced south through Persia, resulting in the collapse of the only front on which she had made gains thus far. Indeed, if it had been diplomatically feasible, the Russians might even have tried to bring the Ottomans into the war on their own side. Though this was unthinkable for political reasons, the fact that Russian interests did not align with Greek ones was becoming increasingly self-evident. The Tsar seemed perfectly willing to sacrifice Greece on an altar of causing problems for Italy and the Protocol in their own backyard. His primary goal seems to have been to delay Italy’s Prime Minister Orsini sending a fleet through the Sinai Canal to India, in response to France clamouring for help after the defeat at Ceylon by the Russo-Belgians. Paul seems to have badly overestimated the extent to which recent economic aid and Orthodox solidarity might outweigh Greece’s historic ties to the nation that had done more to free her than any other – not Russia, but Italy. Idealistic monarchists also regarded Italian valour as having played the more important role than Russian funding in restoring Constantine to power.

    Conversely, however, France and the Protocol nations (again, particularly Italy) were pressuring Greece to formerly rejoin the French-led alliance, which made even less sense for Greek policy. It appears this pressure from the Protocol was more intended to counterbalance Russia’s attempts than coming with any serious expectation that Greece would declare war on Russia, but it had the unintended effect of making Constantine and his ministers feel surrounded on all sides. Constantine still sought to maintain Greek neutrality as his first principle. With this in mind, he turned back to his now-distant Hapsburg relatives in Danubia. Danubia was a state still powerful enough to stand up to Russia in armed neutrality when Roderich Kreuz had sought asylum there. Though Archking Leopold III was increasingly dependent on Pacifist Societist support in the four Volksdiets, he was still Greece’s best shot at a protector in the midst of this conflict...[4]


    At this time, Lectel rumours of the Plague ravaging the East began to edge their way into newspapers, and the first case in the Novamund was being recorded in Cometa, California. If the shaky status quo had lasted just a little longer, it is quite likely that the disruption caused by the Plague might have prevented a new front of the war opening up, a front that would change world history forever.

    The governments of France and other western powers are frequently criticised in hindsight for failing to understand the motivations of the Ottoman government at this time, which is a fair but exaggerated criticism to make. There had been recent shifts in Constantinople with the death of Said Izzet Pasha from scarlet fever and the ascendancy of the faction of the Valide Sultan, Mehveş Sultan, with the appointment of her brutish but dynamic favourite Ferid Ibrahim Pasha as Grand Vizier. In the middle of a war, it is no surprise that the significance of these obscure shifts was not noted. The French and Russian governments both saw any political developments in the Empire only through the lens of their own conflict; would the Ottomans intervene on France’s side or not? (The idea of Constantinople backing Russia, though arguably a possibly advantageous pragmatiste move given the situation in Persia, was not seriously countenanced for political reasons). What neither Paris nor Petrograd considered was the fact that the Ottomans regarded themselves as the centre of the world, lords of the horizons, the heirs to Rome, and not merely another puzzle piece in a complicated alliance system based elsewhere.[5]

    In the eyes of Constantinople, the eyes of The City itself, history was a long game. The Ottomans had ruled their empire for five centuries, and regarded themselves (to some extent) as a continuation of Byzantium under new management, which had in turn been a continuation of Rome. Some institutions of the empire dated back, at least on paper, to times when the Franks had merely been an upstart confederate tribe in the north, and the Rus a big question mark just above Scythia on the map. The Ottomans did not have the existential thinking of the Greeks, or even the Germans, the idea that their state could be swept away altogether by the horrors of modern war. They thought in terms of an old empire that might trade away Mesopotamia or the Caucasus to Persia after a lost war for a couple of centuries, then win it back again and carry on as though nothing had happened. Nothing was ever truly settled, there were no natural borders – and if there were, they represented all territory that had ever paid homage to the Sultan in the past. This attitude had been reflected in 1861, when the Ottomans had shocked France by moving in with their brand new navy and regaining Algiers, putting it under direct rule for the first time in centuries. In the eyes of an empire that had put Candia under siege for two decades, the heirs to a tradition whose bureaucracy had managed blood feuds between families that lasted longer than most nation states, those centuries were an irrelevance.

    This was a system that frequently puzzled and frustrated European and Russian observers, who often pronounced the empire as being clearly sickly and in decline, yet it seemed to defy their expectations every time and carry on regardless. Nonetheless, increasing nationalist realisation was a significant threat within the empire, just as it was to the Hapsburgs. Some historians paint the Valide Sultan’s views as being influenced by the idea that Greece represented a successful execution of the nationalist imperative and therefore an affront to the Ottoman way. However, this is likely Diversitarian hindsight. Mehveş Sultan likely did see Greece as an affront, but merely because it was territory that had not yet been reclaimed. So what if it had just celebrated the centenary of its independence? In her eyes, it was no different to the time Venice had ruled the Morea for a couple of decades. Venice was now gone as an independent state, but the empire continued; the empire always continued, and its temporary reversals would always be undone eventually.

    Any awareness that these assumptions might need revision had been badly undermined by Danubia’s desperation during the Pandoric War, when Archking Ferdinand had actually said yes to Abdullah Seyyid Pasha’s demands for the return of Servia in exchange for a declaration of war against Russia. That war had gone poorly for the Ottomans, who had lost Trebizond, but the principle had been upheld. While the French and other observers in 1922 imagined that the Ottomans might be champing at the bit to attack Russia and reclaim Trebizond, the Valide Sultan so no real difference between a war to reclaim territory lost twenty years earlier or territory lost a century earlier. Conversely, the peace party under the late Said Izzet Pasha had called for a focus on regaining influence in southern Araby, which had declined from the 1870s, or exploiting Societist-driven unrest around the Moon Lakes to take control of the Kingdom of Kitara, thus claiming new frontiers which had never before been Ottoman. None of this was regarded as being an existential threat in the same way that Germany losing Bohemia had been, and nor was the loss of any region accepted simply because it had taken place out of living memory.

    In October 1923, then, as the Plague reached California and as the Russians finally approached the gates of Shiraz in their long war, Constantinople caught the world offguard by acting without warning. A fleet of steerables crossed the Aegean Sea at the same time as a smaller aerodrome force attacked from bases near Selanik/Thessalonica. Careful to avoid the same bad press as the Russians, the Ottomans did not strike civilian targets (on purpose) but made a surprise attack on the Greek Navy in dock at Salamis. This was swiftly followed up by the Donanmasi’s own naval forces attacking the damaged and outnumbered Greeks. Two thousand four hundred and three years earlier, an outnumbered Greek naval force had defeated the Persians in the great naval battle of Salamis, an illustration of the same vast depths of time that informed the Ottomans’ attitude. But this time, through technological change or the whims of fate, their descendants failed to match the achievements of Eurybiades and Themistocles.

    The Ottomans may have been old-fashioned in terms of geopolitical attitudes, but they had demonstrated the effectiveness of a surprise aero attack in devastating enemy ships, something which strategists elsewhere – notably in the Novamund – would take note of. As the shocked Greek government clamoured for help from any and all sides of the war, soldiers of the Ordusu – the Ottoman Army – crossed from Thessaly into the territory of free Greece...

    [1] See Part #109 in Volume III.

    [2] The key difference to OTL is that the Russian conquest of the Crimea (and therefore gaining a Black Sea coastline) was considerably delayed in TTL, so unlike OTL the Russians could not aid the Greeks except in the most indirect way, whereas the Italians could sail a fleet to Lepanto and beat the Balkan Party Ottomans.

    [3] See Part #168 in Volume IV.

    [4] In the aftermath of the Pandoric War, the Hapsburgs were forced to allow higher levels of representative government for the Four Folks (Austrogermans, Hungarians, Austrovlachs and Austroslavs) than the weak assemblies formerly permitted under the Rudolfine system. The generic term ‘Volksdiet’ is an exonym, as the Hapsburgs themselves would describe each one by a unique name in the local language, and if any generic inclusive term was used it would be in Martial Latin, not German.

    [5] There is a bit of orientalist bias from this writer in this regard, for reasons we will glimpse shortly.
  • Thande

    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.
  • Thande

    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.
  • Thande

    Part #284: How the West was Won

    “In Fredericksburg, negotiations for the formation of the new Imperial government enter their third week. The latest drama: Mr Rowland threatens to pull his TPV party out of President Miller’s proposed coalition, over a leaked document suggesting that, in the 1990s when she was Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, Mrs White of the Agri-Argent party privately supported a controversial bill by the Milwark Confederal Parliament to cease flying the original form of the Jack and George on military monuments over historical links to slavery. The talks continue, while Liberal and Pioneer counterparts watch like a hawk for the moment when the President might concede to His Imperial Majesty that, though his party finished first in the election, he cannot sustain a governing majority...”

    – Transcription of a C-WNB News Motoscope broadcast,
    recorded in Waccamaw Strand, Kingdom of Carolina, 24/03/2020​


    From: “America and the World” by David Browne (1978)—

    The Empire of North America’s first year in the war, though reassuringly free from disaster, had not been the cavalcade of quick victories that President Fouracre had hoped for.[1] It is important to recognise the context that America’s military planning in the First Interbellum had focused on the Russians in the Pacific Northwest as now being the nation’s primary foe, so the failure to achieve a quick win was seen as an unpleasant surprise after all that planning. Scratch the surface to dig a little deeper, however, and – as Continental Parliamentary select committees and Imperial Commissions eventually discovered after launching inquiries – the failures of this process became clear.

    The first American government to highlight the Russians as the chief threat was, naturally, Lewis Faulkner’s ministry. Faulkner came to power as the ENA had ejected the dying UPSA from North America, occupied Carolina and subdued Mexico and Guatemala. Ties to the mother country had been lost with the Third Glorious Revolution, and Faulkner pursued a policy of drawing down commitments to colonial ventures like Guinea and Bengal, leaving them to stand on their own two feet. Like many American politicians at the time, Faulkner regarded the ENA as a natural fortress, guarded on two sides by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, with the frozen Arctic to her north and quiescent Mexico to her south. She should therefore be easy to present as an impregnable fortress in which her people could live the higher quality of life that Faulkner’s controversial ‘Social Americanism’ policies would strive for, feeling safe and secure from outside attack. The only fly in the ointment to this vision was the fact that the Russians remained in the Northwest, and had even made slight gains at the peace treaties, though hardly sufficient to justify the blood that had been spilt in the process. The old Superior Republic had also been divided and occupied, meaning that America and Russia now shared a much longer border than before.

    Not only could the Russians threaten Drakesland, Panimaha, perhaps even Michigan – so long as they dominated the Northwest, they were also in the ascendancy of influencing California. The unstable three-way equilibrium of influence between Russia, America and the UPSA had been disrupted by the latter’s demise. While the Russians were rather less successful in reality at trying to suborn the canny Californians than the Americans feared, it was nonetheless an insult to the still-significant number of American politicians who still enjoyed the unrealistic dream of bringing California into the Empire as a Confederation.

    Therefore, beginning with the Faulkner ministry, the Imperial military began planning for a future war with Russia in the Northwest. Some attribute the (partial) failure of this process primarily to the idea that Faulkner had ordered them to make bricks without straw, that he had called on the Imperial Army and Navy to defeat the last frontier whilst simultaneously cutting their budgets. There is a grain of truth to this, although the picture of Faulkner as someone who short-sightedly cut the military is an image largely borne of post hoc propaganda by his political enemies, particularly Tom Gedney and his supporters. For one thing, what budgetary reductions were made fell (if anything) more on the Navy than the Army, leading to the former selling many older ships to other countries – yet when the war came, the Navy enjoyed more initial victories than the Army. We must dig deeper to find the more fundamental reasons behind the early difficulties of the Empire in the war.

    One thing that had become very clear in the Pandoric War was that, even more than in the Great American War, railways were crucial to the logistics of modern warfare. Unlike the famed but largely ineffective steerable attacks of the Great American War, aero warfare had advanced sufficiently by the Pandoric War that later steerables and true aerocraft could now effectively bomb enemy railway lines, depots and even trains themselves. This meant that possessing multiple redundant railway routes on a network was a key advantage; many American military theorists drew on mathematicians and solution engines from Harvard, Yale, William and Mary and other universities to use graph theory to optimise their proposed networks.[2] Though many projects suffered from shifting priorities as the presidency passed from Faulkner to Dawlish, Gedney and Tayloe in turn (Tayloe in particular tending to focus more on defence to the south and for his native Cygnia) this was not true of the building of the railway network in the Pacific Northwest. The project was codenamed Rexoc, as a contraction of Rex Occidentalis (‘ruler of the west’ or ‘to rule the west’); it is a striking reminder that, at this time, using a Latin name did not carry the negative connotations of Societism.

    Though – like everything – the Rexoc project suffered from funding cuts and loss of workers due to the Panic of 1917, by that point the railway network was almost completed anyway. Why, then, its (relative) failure when war rolled around? To answer this question, we must remind ourselves that generals are always ready to fight the last war. Initially, Faulkner – his mind, as always, on the future quality of life of a hypothetical secure America – wanted the Rexoc network to be built as an extension of the existing civilian railway network. After all, this had been used in the Pandoric War against Carolina. His generals and military advisors, however, warned him off this idea. Unlike the Carolinians, who had deliberately used a different railway gauge even when they had been part of the Empire, the Russians (by coincidence) used a gauge that was close enough to America’s that Russian trains could be used on American railways. A famous (to a select few) demonstration took place in 1902, when Major Jared Reynolds ‘acquired’ a Russian locomotive destined for sale to Siam, and demonstrated it on an American railway track west of Chichago to a sceptical Faulkner and his ministers. The train indeed worked well enough – showing that, if the Russians were able to launch a quick attack and capture the termini of a Rexoc connected to the rest of the Imperial railway network, there could theoretically be nindzhyas pouring out into the streets of Saint-Lewis or Chichago a few hours or days later.

    Faulkner was reluctantly convinced, and the Rexoc network was deliberately built to a narrower gauge to deny such a hypothetical Russian takeover. This also meant it did not directly interlink with the rest of the Imperial railway network, with changeover stations being built in Drakesland. Though these were not the first gauge changeover stations ever built, they were more advanced than any elsewhere – reportedly due to the little-publicised use of experienced Meridian Refugiado engineers. The trains would use containers based on the well-established Standard Crate, with cranes capable of transferring them quickly from a wide-gauge civilian train to a narrow-gauge military train on a parallel set of tracks.[3]

    So far, so good; and war-game tests in the 1910s showed that the nascent network indeed performed well under the simulated pressure of a war. So why the problems? The answer is that the people behind designing the new network had been working around 1902-1904, their minds full of how the Pandoric War had been fought, especially the Pacific Northwest front. It had largely been miserable trench warfare, particularly on the isle of Noochaland, in which being able to field and supply large infantry armies had been the deciding factor – with the Russians able to maintain links from the sea that were better than the then-limited American land links. This same attitude played a big role in how the Imperial Pacific Fleet was reorganised to focus on cutting said links, but as this reform was much more successful, it has been less analysed post facto.

    Regardless, this meant that the Rexoc network was perfectly well designed to send men, infantry equipment, food, and artillery and shells from the rest of the ENA to the Pacific Northwest front. Unfortunately, the world had changed, and those were no longer the only things needed to win a war. The Russians had also been busy developing their new holdings, equipping cities with modern fortifications, land mines, their own protgun (or armart) divisions, and aerobases with steerables and aerocraft. They even had death-luft shells as a last resort, although (following what happened to Belgium) Russian commanders in the theatre elected never to use them.

    Of course, the Americans also had all those things, indeed had many more of them in North America than the Russians could possibly ever hope to bring into Alyeska via the sea route. However, the narrow-gauge Rexoc military trains proved inadequate to transport many of those items. The result was that, while the Empire was able to field the large infantry armies that Faulkner had envisaged, she was frequently fighting at a technological disadvantage against the outnumbered Russians. Over the first year of the war, the bright boys (and a few girls, by 1922) in logistics came up with clever workaround ideas, such as protguns and aerocraft engineered to be disassembled for transport and reassembled at their destination. The key mover in this idea was the Scandinavian engineer Ingvar Eriksson, who had initially found himself employed by the Imperial Army designing base equipment (such as barracks) that could be quickly assembled, but swiftly moved on to greater things. These ideas would eventually make the difference, but for much of 1922 and early 1923, the Americans found themselves (in the words of diarist Sergeant Martyn Ball) ‘feeling like primitive tribesmen chucking spears at Roman chariots’.

    It is striking to contrast the situation farther south, around the Russian port of Shemeretvsk on the Californian border, which was accessible from the Imperial civilian railway network with its wider gauge. General George Chandler Welch rapidly rolled up the hinterland with his Fifth Army by November 1922, though the port itself fought on – resupplied from Noochaland and farther afield – until General Polyakov finally surrendered in January 1923. In the north, by contrast, General Taft had managed to push the Russians after their half of the Superior Republic and take the coal town of Krasnyy [Redcliff/Medicine Hat], but was still embattled around fortified Tretyakovsk [Calgary]. Though the Americans were able to launch aero attacks on cities such as Baranovsk and Shevembsk [Vancouver and Kelowna] from bases in Drakesland, ironically the limitations of the Rexoc network meant they were unable to bring up aerocraft to attack the more crucial inland front line.

    In a dark echo of the political Passeridic management and interference that had become notorious during the Great American War, the Fouracre ministry dismissed Taft in favour of the victorious Welch, who was regarded as a ‘war-winner’ with ‘fire in his belly’ by his partisans at court. However, as said partisans would insist for years afterwards, Welch could not make bricks without straw. Though he did manage to subdue Tretyavosk (which had been weakened by repeated but costly infantry attacks from Taft’s trenches and the ravages of winter) he then was unable to progress further. Partly this was due to said winter grinding both armies to a halt, but there were also other factors that continued to affect the situation even when the climate began to improve. In particular, Welch loudly and publicly demanded protguns; though the Russians lacked many armarts, the small number they possessed were disproportionately effective on this battlefield. Welch was later rightly criticised for not asking for counter-protgun weapons such as the Firefirst or springbomb launcher, which could have been transported more effectively on the Rexoc network, but this was an area that had been relatively neglected by American military research in the First Interbellum. Regardless, the majority of criticism directed at Welch and his supporters was not so accurately grounded, viewing him simply as a figure who had won before and now was not winning, so it must be his fault. American newspapers became particularly vitriolic in this period, not facing the degree of censorship and requirement to be ‘patriotic’ that the more existential threat of the Pandoric War had led to from the government.

    Welch successfully taking Tretyakovsk in February 1923 (breaking a bitter winter siege) likely played a role in Tsar Paul’s quixotic decision to declare himself supreme commander of the armed forces soon afterwards, though Russian reversals elsewhere also contributed. By June 1923, Welch had made two unsuccessful attempts at taking the city of Naletsk [Edmonton], founded as a fur trading post and still with a strong economy based on that. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword; Welch found himself dismissed in turn, replaced with General Sir Rodney Dawson, known as ‘Iron Rod’.

    The argument between Welch and Dawson supporters would divide military theorists for decades, and shows no sign of cooling any time soon. To Welch’s partisans, Dawson simply cruised to victory off the patient logistical developments Welch had presided over, while to Dawson’s supporters, the charismatic knight of the realm from Comanche, Washington Province, Ohio[4] had swept aside Welch’s dithering in favour of inspiring new leadership and a can-do attitude. There is certainly an argument to be made that, while Welch was able at inviegling himself at court through intermediaries, Dawson was good at appealing to the press and the wider public. Dawson was able to publicise a set of minor but flashy set-piece victories, which many analysts argue did wonders for America’s troubled recruitment strategy. Volunteering had stalled after an initial surge, as reports of the miserable trench fighting leaked out, but now young men were signing up again all across the Empire. Contrary to popular imagery, they did not spread the plague as they travelled to the front line, as it did not even arrive in California until October 1923.[5]

    On the other hand, Welch’s men argue that Dawson was only successful because Eriksson and company were able to work out the kinks in their protgun and aerocraft logistics – in part due to pressure and support from Welch himself – by this point. The summer-autumn offensive of 1923 finally broke the back of the Russian forces in Russian America, as it was then known. The balance was tipped and Shevembsk and Baranovsk finally fell, the latter in particular hammered by coastal bombardment to support the Army. While Welch might fancy himself a player at court, it would be Admiral Chamberlain Miller whose name successfully founded a political dynasty (thanks to his opportunistic nephew, Jerome ‘Jerry’ Miller). Having successfully foiled a Russian strike marine attack on his fleet in base in August 1922, Miller led the Imperial Pacific Fleet against the Russians in a series of clashes that helped the papers fill up with victories when the Army was disappointing them. Many argue that Miller’s defeat of the Russian Admirals Yelizarov and Kolomenkin was the most crucial factor to Dawson’s victories, as it finally began to sap the otherwise successful Russian army of supplies.

    Following the decisive naval Battle of Cape Denham in April 1923,[6] Miller had effectively reduced the Russian fleet in the area to scattered raiders and ironsharks. Reinforcements were not likely any time soon, as the Russians were reluctant to shift forces from Gavaji lest they lose it once again (the Mauré, now French allies, would go on to make a brief raid on the isles in July). Though Yapontsi workers were welding new lineships as fast as those with the whip hand could make them, for now, America ruled the waves. This also meant that Prince Yelgalychev’s armies were living on borrowed time.

    The last of New Siberia was lost in September 1923, but by that point it was already a footnote. The losses of Baranovsk and Shevembsk meant most of the population centres of ‘Russian America’ were now in American hands. In contrast to the lengthy and bitter fighting on Noochaland in the Pandoric War, the Americans largely ignored the island until October, at which point a swift bombardment supported by strike marines resulted in the rapid surrender of the starving Russian forces controlling the northern half. The biggest Russian victory in North America of the Pandoric War had thus been undone overnight.

    This success was, not entirely accurately, attributed by Miller to the first combat use of a hiveship, HIMS Cygnia. Originally planned as one of the Confederation-class super-lionhearts, a project scaled down by budget cuts after the Panic of 1917, Cygnia had instead been converted into an experimental flat-topped ship that functioned as a mobile aeroport for dromes. Though this was not the first time aerocraft of any kind had been operated at sea – specialised ships as bases for observation and occasionally attack steerables had been used in the Pandoric War – the effectiveness of Cygnia’s dromes againts the Russians led to a rapid upsurge of interest. Though the powers of the Old World remained sceptical for a while, the Societists in South America had also been working on hiveships in parallel, and their spies began taking notes...

    While Dawson and Miller reaped praise from the public and politicians, cooler heads wondered how long the Russians could fight on. Yengalychev had now been pushed back to Frederikyurisk, isolated and stripped of support, yet – inevitably – the Tsar insisted he fight on via Lectel messages.[7] Yengalychev knew what had happened to Privalov in Pendzhab, and was less than inclined to have his men die just for the sake of the emperor’s pride. Despite his aristocratic background, he also owed more loyalty to the RLPC than to Petrograd. In the short term, Yengalychev continued to fight a lukewarm, defensive war while sending out feelers to Dawson and looking for an excuse, as Privalov had, to surrender. He got one in December, when the first reports of the plague spreading from California into Drakesland (and the occupied parts of New Muscovy) began leaking out. Publicly declaring he would not see civilians die for having resources devoted to a now-hopeless war instead of their own medical care, he surrendered his forces in January 1924. Yengalychev’s words would appear, in a highly edited form, repeated in Societist propaganda aimed at Russians for decades later. This doubtless helped continue his reputation as a foul traitor, which Paul was keen to emphasise in the short term; unlike the case with Privalov and the Pendzhab, Paul was more successful at getting the public on his side, at least the public west of the Urals.

    As 1924 dawned, then, it seemed as though America had triumphed. The war had been longer and more bloody than the planners under Faulkner and his successors had hoped, but Fouracre could boast that Russian America was now occupied, the last colonial power had been ejected from North America, and Americans now lived in the security that Faulkner had dreamed of. America would fight on, of course, to gain advantage at any peace treaty and to ensure distant Cygnia was defended, but the key victory had been won. Of course, it soon became apparent that Yengalychev’s ‘excuse’ was a very real threat, and much of the ENA’s attention would be directed inwards as the plague spread across her cities, a threat that no amount of military planning could defend against. But the plague would not be the last threat America would face during the Black Twenties, and Fouracre’s moment of triumph would prove short-lived...

    [1] See Part #279.

    [2] The foundations of graph theory or network theory were made only shortly after the POD of this timeline, with Leonhard Euler’s analysis of the ‘Seven Bridges of Königsberg’ problem in 1736.

    [3] Although described as military trains here, there was some limited civilian traffic on the Rexoc trains as well. In Part #277, when Yevgenia Powell talks about the railway gauge changing between New Muscovy and the ENA, she is referring to this.

    [4] OTL Paducah, KY.

    [5] As addressed in Part #281.

    [6] OTL Cape Scott, Vancouver Island.

    [7] OTL Prince George, BC. Note that in OTL the town was founded as a fur-trading fort by the Hudson’s Bay Company under the name Fort Frederick George (named after King Henry IX’s older brother) but was later abandoned and fell into the hands of RLPC. The Russians translated the name into Frederik Yuri rather than applying a new one.
  • Thande

    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.
  • Thande

    Part 285: A Greater Foe

    “Protests have resumed in farming towns across the region following a court ruling that the majority of the responsibility for the egg fever[1] outbreak two years ago rests with farmers and not with distributors. The ‘Magnolia Stamp’ Farmers’ League have repeated their position that the decision to use feeding and washing techniques that require the eggs to be chilled for transport are consistent with the Milwark II Common Agreement for One Continental Agricultural Policy or ‘Emm-Cow-Cap’ signed in 2013. Distributors, including the powerful Pop-Mart company of Sir V. Emmaus Bradleigh, contend that requirements for continuous refrigeration of eggs place the burden of safety unfairly upon them and are not sustained under their own trading agreements. It seems likely that the Magnolia League will be challenging the decision through appeal to the Assizes...”

    – Transcription of a C-WNB News Motoscope broadcast,
    recorded in Waccamaw Strand, Kingdom of Carolina, 26/03/2020​


    From: “The Black Twenties” by Errol Mitchell (1973)—

    Epidemiologists and historians argue about the precise dating of the spread of the Third Plague Pandemic across the world. One common way to do so is to look at local newspaper archives, seeing how war news is gradually challenged, initially by small stories of local outbreaks, before being overwhelmed as the front page is taken over by the invisible enemy. However, this method naturally suffers from some drawbacks. As in the Pandoric War before it, there was often heavy government censorship of the news media, with stories of disease outbreaks being suppressed or minimised for a while due to fear it would undermine the war effort. Such censorship tended to suddenly reach breaking point overnight, as the plague outbreak in the newspaper’s home city reached the critical point where it could not longer be ignored. Due to this factor, looking at newspapers often gives one the false impression that a city went from nothing to a devastating outbreak over the course of days.

    Papers from neutral countries are somewhat more reliable, but taking them at face value alongside others suggests that the plague was transmitting much faster in some places than others, which is also misleading. This is particularly problematic given that the plague actually was transmitting more effectively along some routes, which played an important role in how the pandemic changed the course of the war and the history of the world.

    Though plague had probably been simmering beneath the surface for years in isolated Yunnan Province, it was the Treaty of Guiling negotiated by the French between China and Siam in 1919 that allowed the plague to begin spreading along reconnected trade routes. Only small, seemingly inconsequential local outbreaks were reported up until the end of 1922, at which point a threshold appears to have been reached. The Chinese New Year celebrations of early 1923 then spread the plague across China as many people made long journeys to visit their families, and China was hit by a widespread epidemic in the first half of the year. Control measures were implemented, principally quarantine and a new system of internal passports. These were generally more effective in the southern provinces than the north, which was still somewhat reliant on Beiqing-era administrators who were barely aware of modern medicine. The Chinese Government also struggled to crack down on snake oil salesmen selling alleged ‘miracle cures’ based on traditional Chinese medicine, although we should not leap to sneer at this, as later the Western world would have plenty of its own unhelpful trends of this type.

    From China, the plague spread initially to Siam along the new trade routes and Corea along older ones, followed by the Philippine Republic and the Societist-controlled East Indies. The outbreak in Zon7Urb1 (formerly Batavia) is particularly difficult to date, as the Societist authorities were as careful to control the spread of information as the plague itself, and even their own private records were subject to frantic editing by the Biblioteka Mundial in later years. Nonetheless, most experts believe the outbreak was relatively early in the pandemic, perhaps as early as April 1923. This played a major role in the wider Societist response to the plague, which seemed to outsiders so well-planned and –organised that many conspiracies have sprung up (then and now) that they actually started it themselves. The more mundane reality is simply that much of Alfarus’ attention was on the conquest and cultural annihilation of the East Indies, and so the plague outbreak was taken seriously in the corridors of power early on. Societist scientists, including the vast chemical industry inherited from the old UPSA, were studying the plague almost as early as their counterparts in China, Corea and Siam.

    As previously discussed, this pandemic was different to the two earlier plague pandemics. The nature of how the plague spread, and its incubation period, had meant it was almost impossible for plague to cross a vast ocean like the Atlantic or Pacific. It was only the advent of steamships (and, to a much lesser extent, some aerocraft) that allowed the plague to leap from the Old World to the New for the first time. Not crossing the Atlantic first, perhaps surprisingly, but the Pacific, entering California in October. The Societists enjoyed a certain advantage that the Pacific gap between China (or even the East Indies) and South America is much larger, making it still effectively impossible (even with steamships) for plague to spread from one to the other. When plague did enter South America, it would be via trade ships from California and Mexico, not directly from Asia.

    Popular perception still paints South America as almost unscathed by the plague, which is an interesting example of how even diehard Diversitarians sometimes take Societist propaganda at face value. In reality, though South America certainly got off much more lightly than North America (for example), there were certainly several major outbreaks. The only one of these which is well-known is that of the city formerly known as Lima, which probably began around January 1924. This was too large for the Societists to officially deny, but instead fed into their propaganda about how their brilliant grasp of Human Science had led to them developing countermeasures at short notice. In reality, as said above, they had already been working on the East Indies outbreak months earlier.

    There is no denying the fact that Societist scientists, in this era of relative freedom (Alfarus did not try to police their thoughts so long as they got results) did indeed make several breakthroughs that saved millions of lives and drastically transformed world perceptions of their movement. The key figure in this push was Alfarus’ wife, Maria Vaska, née Maria Vasquez.[2] She is often referred to in the Anglophone world as ‘Madame Alfarus’ or ‘Amiga Alfara’ but the Societists, like their Meridian predecessors, did not have the wife take the husband’s surname. Prior to the pandemic, she was best known because Julius Quinonus (nephew of Rafolus Quinonus[3]) had sought both to curry favour with Alfarus, and turn public opinion unless the last holdout Garderistas,[4] by starting a Marian personality cult identifying Vaska with the Virgin Mary. His goal was, building on some vague comments by Sanchez and his disciples, to create the idea that all human cultures shared the concept of a ‘mother goddess’ or personification of motherhood, which Catholicism had historically blended with Mary. If such an idea existed, then clearly the holdout Garderistas were being Anti-Human by arguing that motherhood should be eliminated. Quinonus’ plan broadly worked, though many historians consider it to be more a symptom than a cause of how Societist views of women, the family and religion were evolving under Alfarus. In the short run, however, one unintended outcome of the movement was to elevate Vaska at a time when her opinions suddenly became highly relevant.

    Vaska was the younger sister of Alejandrus Vaskus (né Alejandro Vasquez) who, prior to the Revolution, had run Rosario Chemicals, one of the smaller companies that had piggybacked off the dominance of PAWC. Some biographers argue that Vaska actually married Alfarus originally to try to save her brother and his company, which had been imprisoned and shut down (respectively) by Monterroso’s purges. However, this seems unlikely, given that most historians (admittedly talking about a very hazy period) believe Alfarus was not a prominent figure in the Societists at the time Vaska married him, so could not have been relied on as a protector unless she saw a potential in him. Societist sources on this are, naturally, less than useless, but by patching together scraps of more reliable information, the majority opinion among historians is that Alfarus and Vaska had a genuinely loving marriage.

    It is certainly true, however, that the continuation of the old Meridian chemical industry under new management, with many of the surviving Sanción Roja-era corporate monopolists able to retain more modest positions of power as a compromise, was likely in part due to Vaska’s influence. It is easy to imagine a scenario where the Societists had decided to turn on the unpopular corporations to appeal to the people, as Monterroso already had. Instead, they benefited from an almost direct continuity of the industrial power of the former companies, which were now directed to produce for the ‘Good of the Classes’ rather than profit. During the First Interbellum, they focused principally on chemicals to help agriculture, notably the infamous pesticide Tremuriatix. One area in which the Societists initially fell behind was fertilisers, relying on their near-global monopoly on guano to both fertilise their own fields and raise profits selling to others. This changed when the Refugiado chemist in the Philippines and then California, Enrique Prieto, developed the process that bears his name.[5] For the first time, illuftates [nitrates] could be produced industrially, and from around 1915 guano became obsolete as a resource. The annoyed Societist chemists quickly worked to duplicate the process themselves and produce artificial illuftate fertilisers – and explosives, initially ostensibly said to be for mining purposes.

    Herbicides were also developed. The first and most important of these was Antauxin, developed in the very same Rosario factory in which Vaska’s brother still worked in a reduced capacity.[6] Antauxin could kill off broad-leaved weed plants while leaving crop plants untouched, and dramatically increased agricultural production in South America almost overnight. As with Tremuriatix, the Societists had an export policy of shipping the chemical only to countries which they felt could be manipulated with the prize, and which probably lacked the ability to analyse and duplicate it for themselves. The actual pricing of the chemicals was deliberately low, at least at first, but they nonetheless continued to make a profit for the Combine’s balance of trade in an era otherwise dominated by Alfarus’ policy of udarkismo or autarky.

    Antauxin was not the only herbicide deployed in South America itself, though, with more broad-spectrum herbicides being used (together with more traditional burning techniques) to clear areas of rainforest for farming. The same practice would also be transferred to Africa as Karlus Barkalus’ black-flag empire grew. In hindsight it is easy for us to look back on this in horror, and many naturalists will bemoan the loss of biodiversity, as well as point to its contribution towards Torrid Expansion.[7] In the short term, however, these policies allowed the Societists to live up to their promises of Equality of Necessity; every poor urban dweller could be given a small self-sufficient farm to operate if he chose to take up the offer. The same policy would be particularly popular in Africa, although it did not kick into high gear there until the age of the Second Interbellum and the Electric Circus. Alfarus’ urban planners also plotted out new ‘Human Cities’ in the cleared areas, built according to the dreams of architects who drew questionable parallels between the earliest Sumerian cities and their own block-grid designs. Markus Lupus and his faction successfully advocated that these new cities should be populated not only by an encouraged increased birth rate among the current people of the Zones of South America, but by immigration from the East Indies and Africa. The latter remained controversial to many Societists, whose commitment to the universal brotherhood of mankind tended to slip a bit on being actually confronted with the idea of living next door to people with a different skin colour. Nonetheless, for all his faults, Alfarus does appear to have been a true believer in this regard, and silenced such critics.

    When the plague broke out, the Combine was therefore in a strong position to mount a scientific response like unto the world had never seen. It was Maria Vaska who pushed her husband to take the problem seriously from the start. The Societist effort was mirrored in China and elsewhere, but though China’s scientific and industrial base had improved dramatically over the last century, the Chinese response was fundamentally hampered by the fact that the plague had already overwhelmed many cities with thousands of cases and deaths before her government realised what was happening. For this reason, Siam probably had the best response of any country in Asia, calling in scientists from overseas to work with her own on studying the plague. It is important for us to recognise that what we now consider to be obvious facts about the plague – that its active agent is an animalcule, spread primarily by flea bites from fleas living on rats – were entirely unknown in 1920.[8] Historical epidemiologists still believed that the mediaeval Black Death had been spread by contaminated food, and did not know its disease agent. While much had been invested in studying other killer diseases such as influenza and cholera, the plague had seemed to belong to the pages of history books and had attracted little notice. European and much Novamundine medicine was caught unprepared to deal with this threat. The first breakthroughs in study of the plague came simultaneously by the multinational team in Ayutthaya and, secretly, in Zon7Urb1 among the Societists. The former group named the plague animalcule Garcia pestis after the Refugiado scientist who first identified it. It is uncertain what term the Societists used.

    Around the world, the plague spread in an unprecedented pattern. Historically, pandemics had typically begun in China with its vast and urbanised population, then spread westward to Russia along the Silk Road, then into Europe – both over land through Eastern Europe and, often, via sea thanks to the Black Sea and Mediterranean trade. Disease had also spread through sea traffic around Asia and to Africa, but historically this route had usually been slower.[9] The Black Twenties were different. Russia had withdrawn from territories around Manchuria as part of her successful bid to buy Chinese neutrality in the war. This, together with Tartary being consumed by an uprising which the overstretched Russians failed to put down for a long time, meant that the overland route was effectively cut. Remarkably, it seems plague appeared in California before it did in the Old World east of the Indian lands.

    Outbreaks spread from Siam and the Societist East Indies westwards, initially to Calcutta and Dacca in Bengal, which reported their first outbreaks in July 1923, probably exacerbated by the aftermath of the monsoon season. Plague spread more slowly into the Indian interior, with its transport links still weaker than those around the coastline. Around this time the French had finally rebuilt their fleet enough to have another try at the Russians in Ceylon (who were reeling from Van De Velde and the Belgians debating whether to obey orders from the captive Charles Theodore III to stand down). However, at this point the plague swept across French Bisnaga; the Russians and Belgians did manage to contain an outbreak in Ceylon itself, and Ceylon would mostly be spared the effects of the pandemic. As plague battered both the Guntoor Authority and the Concan Confederacy, October 1923 saw French ships from Bisnaga spread it into Persian and Kalati ports. This outbreak played a role in the Shah-Advocate’s decision to seek peace with the Russians. Some epidemiologists believe the first Russians to be infected by the plague were actually troops sent by General Yakushkin to occupy Bandar Abbas – though others state that the outbreak in Fyodorsk in Yapon began well before the Russian authorities admitted it did.

    The plague then spread westward still into the Ottoman Empire. Once again, overland transmission was initially a relatively slow process, and Anatolia had still barely heard of the plague by the time ships brought it to Venice (as well as North Africa). Just as had happened centuries before, the great Italian trade port was the gateway to Europe, and plague began to spread in earnest throughout the early months of 1924. Meanwhile in the ENA, spread from California was largely limited to Drakesland, with the Imperial government mostly managing to control the outbreak by cutting transport links with Westernesse and Michigan to prevent it spreading eastwards. In the ENA it would be the second wave that would be more damaging, spread from Europe westward across the Atlantic, but that still lay in the future as of mid-1924. Mexico and Guatemala would be pummelled by both waves.

    What were the primary government responses to the plague? Initially, with little understanding of how transmission worked, governments mostly focused on quarantine, with mixed success. Many practices that had thought to be consigned to the pages of history were revived, including nailing up ‘plague houses’ and refusing to allow their inhabitants to leave until a period of time had passed. There is a wearying inevitability to studying newspapers of the time, with the papers of one country mocking its neighbour for panic and barbaric practices, only to find itself doing the same a month later as the plague spread further.

    However, things had also changed a lot since the last big outbreaks of plague in Europe in the seventeenth century.[10] Modern understanding of sanitation, driven largely by the fight against cholera, was also deployed against plague, with varying results (those who believed the plague was also transmitted through contaminated water were obviously controlling the wrong thing). Caustic lime-wash was used to disinfect houses and streets, and some countries even deployed death-luft weapons (usually muriatine luft) as a disinfectant procedure, with families returning to houses after the luft had dissipated.[11] Some unpleasant regimes, such as Portugal, faced rumours that they had not evacuated the houses first (claiming that the inhabitants had simply not listened to the evacuation warning) as an excuse to get rid of undesirables. All these techniques were somewhat effective, but ignored the fact that people could still be carrying the disease and the fleas needed to spread it – as the knowledge of this vector was still only just being uncovered.

    In their celebrated response to the pandemic, the Societists made several major chemical breakthroughs (or exploited existing ones). New disinfectants, though a mundane development and one replicated in several other countries, may actually have made more difference than all the flashier and better-remembered members of the ‘Arsenal Of Health Against The Deadly Enemy Of Mankind’ as VoxHumana propaganda put it. Nonetheless, far more iconic was Tremuriatix, the pesticide that had originally been aimed at agricultural pests (and had been sold to Carolinians to combat the boll weevil infestation). Tremuriatix killed fleas as easily as it killed boll weevils, and when the Siam-based and Societist teams both ascertained that fleas were the primary vector of the plague, on Vasca’s urging Alfarus ordered increased production of the pesticide in all available factories. Billowing clouds of the stuff were deployed by Celatores in the streets with spray-guns, by repurposed crop-sprayer dromes overflying cities, and by many other methods. This was long before the negative repercussions of such mass use of Tremuriatix became known, of course, but it is reasonable to argue that the positives outweighed the negatives in such a dire situation.[12] Although, as said above, it is incorrect to take Societist propaganda at face value and act as though South America was barely affected by the pandemic, it does seem valid to suggest that Tremuriatix prevented the continent from suffering the kind of death tolls seen in North America or Eurasia.

    Though the Societists appear to have prioritised South America first (another point of criticism for some observers) they then began exporting Tremuriatix first to the East Indies to help deal with the major outbreak there, and then later to Africa when the plague eventually reached it. Some analysts believe the use of Tremuriatix in Africa actually saved more lives by quite unintentionally also killing off malarial mosquitoes, almost entirely wiping out the disease in many Societist-controlled regions (and inadvertently making the Guinean and former-Meridian cash cow of quinine production nigh obsolete!)

    There was much debate in the corridors of power over whether Tremuriatix should be exported outside the ‘Liberated Zones’, as it already had been to a small extent. Alfarus and Vaska were aware that, altruism aside, such a policy could be coup for Societism’s image, but production was also limited and the plague was only barely being held under control within the Combine. Vaska’s solution was for the Combine to issue a decree that Tremuriatix and other anti-plague products would be exported, but only to countries (‘the illegitimate regimes claiming to govern...’) which remained neutral in the ongoing war, or else stood down now and made peace. This ultimatum was good Sanchezist doctrine and, correctly gambling that most of the nations at war would react with outrage and reject the offer, the Societists did not have to choose between treating their own people or export. In practice, as production ramped up, Alfarus allowed a little unofficial ‘smuggling’ of Tremuriatix and other products to the countries at war, with the logic that it would let their peoples see that the chemicals worked and their rulers were denying them access to them.

    The ENA retaliated in this regard with its own chemical weapon against the plague, which debuted in November 1924, when the plague had already ravaged the west of the country. The American chemical was the result of research by agricultural scientists from the University of Plumbum, Dakota Province, Michigan.[13] Farmers across the region had been confused by cattle dying in routine operations such as de-horning, bleeding in a manner evocative of haemophilia. A team led by Dr Henry Beck identified the cause of the problem, in 1920, as the cattle being fed on silage containing sweet clover, which contained an anti-coagulant chemical. The team named the chemical Dakotine after their home province.[14] There was some initial interest in the use of Dakotine as an anti-coagulant drug to treat conditions which thickened the blood, or to prevent clotting in certain operations which would hamper them. However, the Birley Company of Whitehaven, Albany Province, New York[15] employed Beck and some synthetic chemists (including one Meridian Refugiado expert) to work on a synthetic equivalent to Dakotine (which was expensive to extract) which might be even better. They achieved this around October 1923, even as the plague entered California. The chemical they produced, dubbed Birline after the company, was more potent than Dakotine. There was some debate about whether it was too strong to use for medical purposes, but a happenstance incident with a rat breaking into stores showed that Birline could be a very effective rat poison.[16] Fortuitously for Sir Harold Birley and company, he had a patent on such a chemical just as researchers were concluding that the plague was spread by rats as a secondary vector, bringing fleas into contact with humans. The master of this then-relatively small chemical company was about to make himself a very rich man.

    Birline would make a huge difference for the ENA, especially in the second wave when it arrived from Europe. Nonetheless, the ENA would lag behind the Societists for two reasons: firstly, Birline could kill rats but could not stop fleas jumping directly from person to person in crowded urban areas; secondly, the Fouracre ministry was less concerned with using the breakthrough as a diplomatic tool to influence other countries. Indeed, America initially banning Birline exports to prioritise her own people would poison (no pun intended) relations with her allies, such as France. The Americans also saw Birline versus Tremuriatix as something of a culture war, and spread false claims that Tremuriatix was ineffective or caused side effects (while Tremuriatix came with downsides, none of these had anything to do with the ones the Americans were claiming). This policy of patriotic chest-beating went down well in most of the country, but in occupied Carolina, the people – still, as yet, largely unaffected by the plague – were less than happy to find their boll weevil-killing Tremuriatix suddenly banned.

    Later in the pandemic, of course, the question of vaccines would arise. The Societists would be the first to develop a vaccine, with export again being subject to Vaska’s demand that countries make peace before they receive it. A very similar vaccine (both produced by heating cultures of G. pestis to high temperatures) would be developed in Ayutthaya a few months later.[17] Vaccination against the plague made a difference in some parts of the world while the pandemic was still raging, but these early vaccines, though they saved millions of lives, were of qualified effectiveness (in particular being ineffective against pulmonary plague) and came with significant side effects. Much of the more economically developed world benefited more from the use of pesticides and disinfectants, at least in the short term – vaccination would, however, be used to prevent a resurgence of the plague later in the decade. Vaccination did make a major short-term difference, however, in China, Bengal and other regions with densely-populated cities. The Black Twenties led to an era of urban renewal, not only in Asia but elsewhere, with crammed slums replaced with larger houses with modern sanitation.

    Yet, of course, it is difficult to argue with the point that as far as world history is concerned, the most important chemical breakthrough of the Black Twenties was not Tremuriatix or Birline or even the plague vaccines. It was a breakthrough that had nothing to do with the plague at all, but it was a breakthrough that would rocket the Societists to an even more exalted and feared position. The Alkahest was coming...

    [1] Salmonella (in OTL named after a researcher long after the POD of this timeline).

    [2] This reflects the Societists converting –ez to –us and then switching to the feminine ending, although this is not actually very grammatically sound.

    [3] A Societist revolutionary leader who played a key role in acquiring Peru for the Combine, as described in Part #260 in Volume VII.

    [4] In this context this means the few remaining Societist grandees who still believed that children being raised communally should be the default, universal option, not a way to punish their parents for deviationism as Alfarus’ compromise had it. Naturally most of these people had already been purged, so this is referring to figures sufficiently influential enough that Alfarus had elected to merely sideline them.

    [5] See Part #269 in Volume VII.

    [6] Antauxin is a contraction of ‘antagonist to auxin’, meaning a chemical that emulates auxin (plant growth hormones) in a way that stops growth altogether. The term auxin was coined well after the POD of this timeline but is an obvious coinage (from the Greek word for growth). Antauxin, in its original form, is the same chemical known in OTL as 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid or 2,4-D for short. This was not discovered until the Second World War in OTL, so its earlier discovery reflects the advanced state of the former Meridian chemical industry. In OTL it also went on to revolutionise agriculture.

    [7] Global warming or climate change, given this name in TTL as its earliest discoverers thought mainly in terms of the tropical or ‘torrid’ regions of the world expanding into the temperate ones.

    [8] This was also true in OTL before the Third Plague Pandemic hit Hong Kong in the 1890s.

    [9] This is debatable, but the author is trying to make a point.

    [10] This is an oversimplification, as – just like OTL – there were plague outbreaks from the Second Plague Pandemic (the aftermath of the Black Death) as late as the 1700s and 1800s, including some in Europe. The last outbreak in Western Europe was the Great Plague of Marseilles in 1720, which killed a hundred thousand people.

    [11] Both of these techniques were used to combat the Hong Kong plague in OTL (recall that muriatine luft is the TTL name for chlorine gas).

    [12] This is referring primarily to the fact that Tremuriatix (DDT) builds up along the food chain and can kill off entire ecosystems. There have also been claims it can cause cancer, but these have never been satisfactorily determined one way or the other.

    [13] OTL Dubuque, IA. The TTL city is rather larger due to being a provincial capital.

    [14] This is known in OTL as dicoumarol. The process of discovery is similar to how it went in OTL, except that OTL had a bigger gap between identifying sweet clover as the cause, identifying the chemical and using it as the basis for future drugs. In OTL this did not take place until the 1930s and 40s, again reflecting the more advanced state of chemistry in TTL compared to OTL.

    [15] OTL Fredonia, NY – also much larger in TTL due to when certain canals were built and the fact that Iroquois/Haudenosaunee territory could not be built on for longer.

    [16] Birline is known in OTL as Warfarin. Its discovery was a little different in OTL – it was first used in 1948 as a rat poison, and its medical uses were only pursued when an army inductee attempted suicide using rat poison, was brought back from the bring with Vitamin K as the antidote, and it was discovered Warfarin was actually better than Dicoumarol as a medical anti-coagulant.

    [17] These are similar to the inactivated bacterial plague vaccine developed by Waldemar Haffkine in Bombay/Mumbai in 1896, of which over 25 million doses were administered in India. Superior vaccines based on attenuated bacteria or proteins alone have been developed in the years since.
  • Thande

    From: “Years of Infamy: The Black Twenties” by Maurice Yewdall and Ernest Young (1988)—

    As the plague spread across the world, several mass movements of people played a role in spreading it further. In the age of the steamship and even, increasingly, the sun-oil engine, this was no longer the age in which such diseases would burn across a continent over a period of several years or decades, hollowing out cities as it went. An infected human could cross the world in half the time it took them to either die or recover from the disease they carried, and rats and fleas were often brought with them.

    Western historiography has tended to focus, naturally, on those movements of people which impacted most directly on Western countries, though in the grand scheme of things, these were often rather small compared to some of the vast and devastating migrations in Asia. Western countries, like the Societists, were also more likely from early on to have access to the chemical pesticides used to help control the spread of plague. However, partly due to the sense of urgency caused by the war, they often failed to enforce quarantine and entry control procedures consistently – which China and Siam achieved more successfully, due to both well-organised bureaucracies and neutrality in the global conflict.

    The initial wave of the plague was kicked off primarily by the internal migration of Chinese (and, less so, Siamese) people for the Lunar New Year celebrations of 1923; this created a critical threshold of plague carriers (humans as well as rats and fleas) which allowed foreign trade to then spread the disease to the rest of Asia, and beyond, primarily by sea. One region to be hit with the plague relatively early was the East Indies, which played a role in the Societist response as they became aware of its import before many powers. Thanks to those Societists, the East Indies (or Nusantara) at this time was already a place marred by conflict and cultural genocide before the plague arrived to make matters worse. The result of this was that the Siamese-controlled parts of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula had been overrun by refugees, mostly Javanese Muslims, fleeing Societist domination.

    This had been a significant headache for the Siamese before the war and plague broke out, and had probably played a role in King Sanphet and the Front Palace’s decision to engage with French mediation and sign the Treaty of Guiling with China in 1919 – Siam had enough problems on her plate without adding tensions with Hanjing. Public feeling against the refugees was sparking tensions, not only in Siam’s far-flung possessions but in her capital of Ayutthaya as well. The remnants of the Red Sash Brigades of the 1900s, previously quelled, threatened to be the kindling that could be reignited by the spark of racial and sectarian rioting. This was then worsened by the economic impact of the Panic of 1917, when angry Siamese were looking for anyone to blame. A solution had to be found, and it was clear that the Societists would not be ejected from Java anytime soon so the refugees could return.

    Some of the refugees were resettled in Siam’s ally the Philippine Republic, usually specifically on the southern island of Mindanao, which both had a large (and restless) Muslim population of its own, and had been suffering a Societist insurgency. The Javanese refugees, though not entirely without their own problems, were at least a reliable anti-Societist bloc for the Philippine government (heavily influenced by Meridian Refugiados) to use to keep Mindanao quiescent. The most high-profile refugee of all, of course, was the former Sultan of Sulu, Alimud-Din V. He had undergone a dizzying reversal of fortune since the turn of the twentieth century, taking advantage of the power vacuum from the Meridian collapse to build a fairly impressive Sulu empire, only for it then to all collapse under him thanks to both the Batavian Societists and unrelated insurgencies. Even his ancient capital island of Buansa had fallen to the Societists. As Sulu had formerly ruled large parts of Mindanao and the deposed Sultan was a popular figure among the local Moro people, Alimud-Din was kept under effective house arrest in Manila by the suspicious Philippine Republic government, a card to play for another day.

    Other Javanese refugees were also sent to parts of India, in particular the Guntoor Authority in which Siam had some trading interests. However, the programme which is of most interest to us in this context is what became known as the ‘One-Way Hajj’, in which the Siamese government offered free travel for refugee Muslim pilgrims to Araby, but was mysteriously quiet on what would happen to them after they visited Mecca. Despite many of the refugees regarding this with reasonable suspicion from the start, the move was nonetheless a cold-blooded masterstroke; after experiencing the suppression of their religion under the Societists and discrimination against it by many Siamese, many other refugees seized on the opportunity to complete their pilgrimage to the holy city. On chartered Siamese steamships, starting around 1918, the refugees entered Araby through the ports of Aden (in Scandinavian-backed Yemen), Muscat and Salalah (in Persian-backed Oman) and Mukalla (in the Ottoman province of Hadhramaut). Such an influx of almost penniless refugee pilgrims was not regarded as a universal positive by those governments, and led to particular tensions between Constantinople and Ayutthaya – relations which had already been cold due to the Ottomans taking a dim view of the Siamese considering Aceh to be an integral part of their royal domain. This was worsened when the war broke out, and both Oman and Yemen became involved on the Cannae side, bottlenecking those entry points for refugees and leading to more focus on Mukalla as an entry point. By the 1930s, Javanese (and other Nusantara peoples to a lesser extent) had become a significant minority group in southern Araby; some of the refugees never even made it to Mecca once they arrived.

    The Siamese had, at least partially, successfully transferred their headache to the three countries ruling Araby. They in turn began looking for somewhere else to offload them on – Punt and the other Somali lands, conquered from Abyssinia by Omani forces from Zanguebar but of little interest to anyone as a possession, was a popular choice, as was Scandinavian Madagascar. However, such a large transfer of people, begun before the plague broke out but continuing as it spread, had devastating consequences for much of the Indian Ocean rim. It is unlikely an influx of Javanese refugees would ever have been viewed positively by the peoples of the regions they found themselves in, but when they became associated with the idea of being plague carriers, things turned to violence and bloodshed. The plague itself still killed far more people than intentional human violence, but the latter did nothing to stop the former as its proponents often claimed. The most bitter, paradoxical irony of all was that all of this helped fuel Societist propaganda about the pointlessness of violence between the ‘nationalistically blinded’, held up in comparison to the relatively quiescent (at gunpoint) Societist-ruled Java itself, where the plague was being dealt with in an organised manner. Of course, the fact that the refugee crisis had itself been caused by Societist actions was not mentioned at any point.

    The One-Way Hajj was probably the single biggest migration responsible for spreading plague across the world, though there were many others – those in India remain the subject of current research due to lack of many reliable eyewitness accounts. There were also movements of people in the African interior, where our only surviving sources are often the rather biased Societists. Yet Europe was not immune to such devastating spreader events, either, and it is these which are often more familiar to our self-centred historical accounts. The best-known of these is, of course, the Filleadh Abhaile Dubh or ‘Black Homecoming’ of Ireland.[18]

    For over a century, ever since obtaining significant self-rule in the aftermath of the USE rebellion, Ireland had adopted a policy which amounted to staying very quiet and hoping the world forgot it was there. The reign of terror of Blandford in Great Britain, and the ensuing Inglorious Revolution, had almost, but not quite, broken this policy, and it continued thereafter. It was not until the Third Glorious Revolution at the turn of the twentieth century that Ireland was placed anew in a quandary – whether to recognise King Frederick III or Emperor George IV as her monarch. It was not until 1918 that the Treaty of Wexford resolved the ‘Irish Question’ by elevating the Duke of Dublin to King James III of the House of Wesley.[19] For the first time since Rory O’Connor in 1186, almost three-quarters of a millennium earlier, Ireland had a wholly native monarchy and government; yet, paradoxically, she was now more subject than ever to the whims of foreign powers.[20] The Treaty of Wexford had tied her into a bewilderingly complex and nigh self-contradictory web of alliances, which would break down instantly if France and the ENA ever broke ranks in foreign policy, much less went to war with each other. However, for the present, that prospect was not on the cards, as those two Great Powers signed the Treaty of Bermuda two years later and fought as allies (or at least cobelligerents) in the ensuing war.

    The Irish people were singularly unenthusiastic about the prospect of going to war thanks to something that had happened three thousand miles away in Khiva and involved no Irishmen or Irish interests. But both France and America were united in applying pressure and, as with Scotland, France had been instrumental in bailing out the shaky Irish economy after the Panic of 1917. England, which did retain sufficient power to at least say no to France, had joined the war willingly, in part due to concern over the increasing threat of a Russian-ruled Belgium in a world of aero bombers and death-luft. This argument was also used by the Irish government, led by Prime Minister Niall Keogh of the Paírtí Óir, to justify Irish involvement in the war – Ireland was (barely) in range of aero attack from Belgium. This was mocked by former New Radical Alliance leader and Prime Minister Brian Mulcahy, whose government had lost power over the Panic, with rhetoric such as ‘I am sure Mrs Murphy of Ballygeary is grateful at our boys dying so her washing line is safe from the Russkie bombs’. This was in reference to a claim in the Royal Courant (of Dublin) newspaper that the hypothetical range of Belgian bombers only barely crossed the coastline of Ireland, touching the village of Ballygeary in County Wexford. The alleged Mrs Murphy became an aphorism in Irish politics (even spreading to Scotland and England) to describe a politician taking a position that appealed only to a tiny demographic, its importance exaggerated in their head, while alienating others. Of course, this does not accurately describe the original situation, where Keogh was acting under Franco-American pressure from outside, and Mulcahy eventually admitted in his memoirs that he would have been forced to do the same in Keogh’s position. Ironically, his frequent jests also ensured that Ballygeary, formerly a tiny but loyal NRA bastion, swung noticeably to the Óir Party in subsequent elections. Evidently, at least some of its inhabitants took the idea of a Russo-Belgian bombing raid as a serious threat not to be made light of, even if it never materialised.

    Keogh found himself in a difficult position when Belgium was finally subdued in September 1923. His excuse for Ireland sending ships and soldiers to fight, already tenuous, was now gone. From now on, he would have to explain why sending those troops to fight on the front line in Germany and Poland served Irish interests. Notably, the French government was already discussing this matter at the time, and Madame Rouvier was arguing that less-reliable forces such as the Irish should be used to hold down Belgium as occupation troops, freeing up more French and German soldiers to fight in the east. At present, however, her suggestions fell on deaf ears, as Cazeneuve was still wedded to the idea of the national occupation zones over Belgium to avoid Russian propaganda accusations that France or Germany alone might try to seize parts of her territory. Making a single Belgian occupation authority, occupied by a mix of troops from second-rank Cannae Mondiale powers, felt like a step too far to Cazeneuve at present. Most analysts consider this a misstep on Cazeneuve’s part, as Keogh might well have been able to sell the idea of using Irish troops only for occupation duty to Parliament and his voters. Historian Mark Hunter famously joked that this could all have been avoided if Keogh had thought to make use of that great Irish invention, the quister, rather than relying on misleading and anodyne Lectelgrams to and from the Irish ambassador in Paris. However, this is sometimes repeated in all seriousness by people who do not realise (as Hunter well knew) that there were no reliable cross-Channel quist calls at this time.

    The hammer fell at the end of November 1923, when – as the Russians attacked Anatolia – Farmers’ Reform Alliance leader Seamus O’Houlihan threatened to withdraw support from Keogh’s government unless it began seeking an exit from the war. The Farmers’ Reform Alliance were a new agrarian populist party; O’Houlihan, a far more adept politician formerly leading the old Farmers’ Party, had managed to absorb a large chunk of the Anti-Semitic Party when it fragmented after its brief breakthrough following the Panic of 1917. One common pole between the pro-free trade farmers and the conspiracising Anti-Semites had been an anti-war position, blaming the conflict on major financiers with varying degrees of euphemism attached to descriptions like ‘international’ or ‘cosmopolitan’.

    The FRA’s pro-peace position now gained support from voters outside their usual rural constituency; the NRA also attempted to take advantage of this, but given Mulcahy’s perceived supine position towards the French during the Panic, Irish voters did not trust them to practice what they preached. Keogh was caught between a rock and a hard place, and the Géarchéim na Nollag or ‘Christmas Crisis’ dragged on well beyond the Christmas season. In the end, unable to either defy the French or sustain his majority in the House of Commons, Keogh tendered his resignation to King James. Though the NRA sensed a potential opportunity, in the end the premiership passed to another Oír Party MP, Edgar Molyneux, who would be Ireland’s first Protestant prime minister since the 1870s. It is a measure of the crisis at the time that this was barely remarked upon.

    Ironically, given the ancient French origins of his surname, it would be Molyneux who took the decision to stand up to France and refuse to participate further in the war. At this time (January 1924) Nesterov had just attacked Kalisz, and the Germans were appealing for further assistance from all members of the alliance. When the French pressured Ireland to make a contribution, Molyneux issued an ultimatum, saying that Ireland would continue to economically support the war and would refrain from trading with the Vitebsk Pact nations, but would no longer send her boys to die on a foreign field. The wording of the memorandum hints to many analysts that Molyneux (and presumably O’Houlihan) would have been satisfied with Madame Rouvier’s proposal of using Irish soldiers only as occupation troops, so it was a missed opportunity.

    However, the consequences would not only be a cooling of relations between Paris and Dublin. Powerful though France was, she could scarcely enforce her will right now by sending a gunboat to bombard Dublin Castle, and she could take no subtler move to punish Ireland without calling unwanted attention to Molyneux’s move. Cazeneuve therefore chose not to publicly denounce the Irish move, but to act as though it had not happened, and to brush off questions from Parlementaires about what was happening. It took several weeks for it to leak out that Irish troops and ships were heading home, beginning around February 1924, even as the Russians launched their St Stanislaus Offensive in Poland. The controversy briefly threatened Cazeneuve’s position and was a target of Russian propaganda, making France look weak, but it was soon overshadowed by a greater threat.

    It transpired that the ships that had brought the Irish troops home were largely not Irish-flagged themselves, but were Italian-owned and had just brought fresh Italian troops to Belgium from the Mediterranean. They brought the plague with them, though its entry into Belgian ports did not become clear for a few more weeks. When the Irish boys were brought home, they had spent a few days on ships still carrying plague fleas and rats, this coming before widespread disinfectant efforts, as the scale of the problem was still not recognised.

    The result was the Black Homecoming. No sooner had families welcomed their boys home that both began dying. The threat was not grasped until the veterans had already spread out across the island via railway to return to their home towns and villages. It was probably the single most complete spreader event in the entire pandemic, overwhelming hospitals practically overnight, and was the single biggest killer in Ireland since the potato famine of a century before.[21] One harrowing statistic is that ten times as many Irish soldiers and sailors died from the plague after returning home than died in military service overseas – and, of course, they brought many of their friends and families to the grave with them. Many fled from cities, some unwittingly carrying it with them, and the plague first entered England and Scotland through Glasgow, Liverpool and Bristol, leading to a wave of renewed anti-Irish prejudice, though soon the plague would also enter from Belgium through Kent.

    It was during this initial, apocalyptic outbreak of the plague in Ireland that Nuala Muldoon wrote her masterpiece, Dennis’ Letters. Muldoon is often presented in popular biographic sketches as a housewife of County Cork with no previous dramatic experience, which is untrue (she was an enthusiastic member of a local theatre group and a voracious reader) but her artistic achievement is nonetheless impressive. Partially based on a true story involving one of her friends, Dennis’ Letters is a play about the young newlywed Mrs Siobhán O’Leary reading the letters she receives from her soldier husband Dennis, telling her stories about all the exotic fields of war he has been sent to. Throughout the play, these go from the semi-plausible (being on a ship at the Battle of the Scheldt, fighting in Belgium and Poland) to the far-fetched (visiting Nueva Irlanda, fighting in Africa, Ceylon and India) to the outright impossible (being sent on secret missions to Constantinople, Russian Yapon or Gavaji, and borrowing from battles fought in the Pandoric War or earlier conflicts).

    Mrs O’Leary suspects nothing wrong, and when Prime Minister Molyneux brings the boys home, she is ready to greet her husband in delight – then reads of the plague in the newspaper and realises he has been in many plague-ridden places it talks about. She locks herself in the house and refuses to come out when he returns home, locking herself in. He has to come clean and explain he deserted on the outbreak of war has spent the last two years working as a dock worker in Dublin under an assumed name. He drew from cheap bloody novels and stories he heard in the pub to create adventures to send to her. As he has never been abroad, he has not been exposed to the plague. The play ends in tragedy, with Mrs O’Leary knocking over a candlestick and setting the house on fire, unable to escape; Dennis, finally attempting an act of heroism for real, breaks in through the window, only to lose his own life in the process. Literary analysts continue to debate whether the candlestick incident (conveniently ‘off-camera’) is intended as an accident, or a despairing Mrs O’Leary deliberately committing suicide on discovering that her idolised husband’s life is a lie.

    Given the quarantine restrictions of the plague, Dennis’ Letters was not performed until 1928, but became an icon of Irish drama around the world when it was. This is important to remember, because many popular historical accounts will tie the play directly to the events that then perpetuated elsewhere, yet it can scarcely have influenced attitudes before it was performed. However, it is easy to understand how the parallels jump out.

    Ireland’s move to bring her soldiers home in the face of French opposition, followed by disaster, had a profound effect on France’s other subordinate allies. Some, such as Scotland, were convinced by the argument that bringing their soldiers home would cause more harm than good, and stayed in the fight by default. Others, notably Spain and especially the Portuguese Republic, took the interpretation that if Ireland had only acted faster, she would have avoided tragedy and kept her soldiers alive. Public pressure now began building in the Iberian peninsula against further involvement in the war, though few would have guessed how it would end...

    [18] Although the Irish Gaelic language is extinct for everyday use in TTL, it frequently remains used as a language of record in contexts such as naming historical events – helped by a Diversitarian push in many countries to discourage the use of Latin and promote more native-specific ‘archaic’ languages for such purposes. England similarly uses Old English / Anglo-Saxon for the same purpose, but not as consistently or as enthusiastically as Ireland uses Irish Gaelic.

    [19] See Part #255 in Volume VII.

    [20] Rory O’Connor (or Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair in the form of Irish Gaelic spoken at the time) is often cited as the last High King of Ireland before the Norman invasion. However, this is an extremely arbitrary choice of comparison on the part of the authors, as the old High Kings did not rule a unitary Irish state as King James now does, and there were claimant High Kings from rebellions after this date.

    [21] Recall that TTL’s potato famine (in 1822) was far milder than the later OTL one, but still killed many and this is still a heavy comparison to make.
  • Thande

    Part #286: Frozen Nightmare

    “Criticism continues to mount as Sir Robert Derby, First Commissary of the Imperial Diamondball Federation, insists that plans to reform the rules of the Imperial League to ban soakballs remain on track.[1] This comes despite the joint ultimatum by the Philadelphia Quakers, Chichago Cardinals, Boston Riflemen and Mount-Royal Grenadiers that four of the Big Seven will leave the league before complying with the new rules. All eyes are now on the owners of the New York Knicks, Washington Pipers and New Norfolk Raiders, who for now remain silent. Rumours continue fly concerning alleged money-laundering by California businesses, purportedly an attempt to force the League into compliance with the anti-soakball rules instituted ten years ago for the Adamantine League to pave the way for joint games and the corresponding advertising revenue…”

    – Transcription of a C-WNB News Motoscope broadcast,
    recorded in Waccamaw Strand, Kingdom of Carolina, 29/03/2020​


    From: “A History of Europe, 1896-1960” by Susan Dempsey (1985)—

    The time between April 1924 and November 1925 is frequently referred to as the Two Years of Hell in most of Europe, despite being closer to eighteen months. Nonetheless, it is quite understandable how much larger this period looms in the cultural imagination; journals at the time record that many people felt like the very passage of time itself had slowed to a crawl. This was not synonymous with the presence of the plague in Europe, though it did contain the peak of the first wave; plague had already entered Italy, Catalonia and wartorn, Ottoman-occupied Greece, and the Black Homecoming in Ireland had shocked the continent by showing what impact the out-of-control epidemic could have.

    Rather, the Years of Hell refer specifically to the time in which the battle front of the war in Poland and Germany ground almost to a halt, both the Russian and allied armies hollowed out by the devastating plague, yet neither side willing to commit to a ceasefire. Even if Tsar Paul might have considered such an option under other circumstances, the fact that Prince Yengalychev had cited the plague as an excuse to surrender to the Americans in Russian America, and had since been blasted as a traitor by Paul’s propaganda, now made it politically impossible to consider. Furthermore, from Paul’s perspective, Marshal Fanlivenov and General Nesterov were on the verge of a breakthrough, having crossed the Oder and being on course for a penetration of the High Saxon heartland. It took long and painful months before this impression was dented in the eyes of Paul and much of the Imperial Soviet – in part driven by the death of Anatoly Nesterov himself from plague in July 1924. As had been observed centuries before, the plague was no respecter of persons – though the common soldiers in their muddy trenches had a lot more opportunity to catch it than their generals.

    And it would be those trenches that would become emblematic of the Years of Hell in Europe, just as much as the yellow quarantine flags flying over cities and the squads of fumigators in rubber suits using death-luft reserves to purge their evacuated slums of rats and fleas.[2] The long front stretching through Germany, Poland and to the borders of Lithuania, from Karaliaučius to Walcz through Fürstenwalde to Rawicz, became practically immobilised for more than a year. It was proposed by generals on both sides that a retreat should be made to fall back to a shorter and stronger defensive line, considering their plague-ridden armies struggled to maintain the line. This was rejected by the leadership of both sides. Paul and the Soviet were, again, stubbornly unwilling to abandon Nesterov’s bridgehead across the Oder. While the Germans considered pulling out of Danzig and Karaliaučius, Chancellor Ruddel and Marshal Prittwitz flatly rejected a proposal to fall back to Silesia, or even to abandon it in favour of a defensive line on the Sudeten Mountains.

    Having fought hard to secure the territory they presently had, neither side was willing to surrender any – not least because many politicians expected a peace negotiation sooner or later and wanted to hold more cards to bargain with in trades. Yet none of them were willing to risk the perception of weakness by being the first to pull the trigger and open talks. Under other circumstances, the process might have begun from the sheer momentum of lukewarm allies pulling out of the conflict to focus on dealing with the plague. However, the Black Homecoming in Ireland successfully scared other such countries into maintaining the war. There was also a specific tendency to wish to keep troops overseas, due to fears they would similarly bring the plague back with them (even when the plague was already spreading among civilians, this remained a fear). It was not only smaller countries that would be subject to this fear; much of the history of the twentieth century was inadvertently driven by the fact that President Fouracre and his cabinet began desperately searching for excuses to stop his soldiers coming home, and began looking for new worlds to conquer…

    But to return to Europe. With both sides wishing to look strong before they risked opening talks, both sought a symbolic victory – fruitlessly, and at the cost of thousands of lives that mixed into the broader death toll (both military and civilian) of the plague. Trench systems ran on the long, static, overextended front from the Baltic Sea to the Sudeten Mountains.[3] Protguns and aerocraft had not ceased to exist, though they were vulnerable to their skilled drivers, pilots and mechanics falling victim to the plague. This caused a disproportionate reduction in capabilities, as it took much longer to train replacements for these specialised roles than it did to recruit line infantry. The result was two archetypal forms of conflict during the Years of Hell, both ultimately futile.

    The first, generally more favoured by the allies and in the earlier part of the period, was to use what protgun and drome strength remained to punch through the enemy lines and outflank them, then try to follow up with infantry strength. This inevitably failed as the plague ripped through both the skilled and unskilled soldiers (and their logistical support), weakening them and favouring the static defenders in their strongpoints, who at least did not have to worry about movement and mobile supply. The second option, more favoured by the Russians (who had already burned up much of their dromes on Nesterov’s last offensive to take the Oder bridgehead) and in the later part of the period, was to focus on mass infantry wave attacks (supported by artillery bombardment) and hope to overwhelm the enemy trenches by sheer numbers. Ultimately, the hopeful doctrines of Fanlivenov’s strategists shattered on conflict with reality, and no amount of bombardment could sufficiently weaken the sick Germans and their allies to stop them from being able to mow down the waves of Russian conscripts with cingular gun fire.

    The situation was not helped by the fact that both sides also tended to focus on the Oder bridgehead as the target for their symbolic victory. Paul still envisaged the possibility of taking Berlin, while Ruddel wanted to push the Russians back over the Oder before opening talks. The result was a particularly dense (and plague-ridden) military concentration around the bulge of the bridgehead. Three German offensives were launched throughout the period (Unternehmen Wotan, Unternehmen Siegfried and Unternehmen Johann Georg) and all failed to achieve anything beyond slaughtering thousands of young men.[4] It is a measure of the remarkable ability for Bundeskaiser Anton to always make the wrong decision during the war that he applied his unpopular father’s name to the third operation, just around the time when his own former anti-war stance could have resonated with the sick and fatigued people. It is believed that the deluded Anton thought that a victory with Johann Georg’s name attached to it would encourage his son Maurice, then on the verge of succumbing to the plague, and for the people to support him – rather than the more obvious option of appending Maurice’s own name to the operation. In the end, the final operation that did succeed in ejecting the Russians at the end of the period would bear the name of the former Chancellor Ziege, with a grieving Anton having washed his hands of participation in the war at exactly the wrong moment.

    The Russians also attempted to push westward to Berlin, but fewer details of their plans survive due to later events. Notably, Fanlivenov’s newly-promoted subordinate General Boris Lobabov-Rostovsky, rejected the focus on Berlin in favour of an attack to take Danzig and break the fragile German salient stretching to Karaliaučius. Though he was not spared many troops, Lobanov-Rostovsky came close to a breakthrough in August 1924 before he, too, succumbed to the plague and the leadership of his weakened army collapsed. This is merely the best-known example of a story that was told and retold many sullen, enervating times on the Polish Front. As for the Polish people themselves, they suffered perhaps more than any other civilians in the Black Twenties, with the double punch of war and plague. It was a bitter irony, given that Poland had been one of the few places to be spared the Black Death of six centuries perior.[5]

    As the months dragged on and the deaths from both war and disease mounted up, it became increasingly clear that neither side would get the quick victory that would provide them with a face-saving excuse to seek peace. Criticism of the leadership of both sides mounted, but was naturally suppressed – brutally in Russia and, to a lesser extent, Germany, while France and Italy were subject to media blackouts. Only in England and Scandinavia, safely removed from the bitter Polish Front, was some muted public criticism in the written word permitted. Neutral Danubia, with its Grey Societist-led government, was one place where an anti-war position in the media was not only permitted, but positively encouraged. Danubian papers typically emphasised the fact that Danubia was able to devote all her resources to the public health crisis, which – combined with largely sealed borders save for essential imports – ensured that her death tolls would be proportionately smaller. In the early days of close cooperation with the Combine (which then still saw the Danubians as part of the same movement) there was cautious sharing of some of the chemical breakthroughs. While even then the Combine held on to the Tremuriatix recipe, some earlier prototype chemicals were shared, allowing Danubia to fumigate her cities far more effectively than the distracted Germans or Russians, or even the French or Italians.

    The Danubian papers also frequently implied a refugee crisis, with hordes of not only Poles, but also Germans, French, Italians and others pouring over the border to seek the peace and health of the Hapsburg monarchy. Analysis of these sources shows a fascinating example of how one can draw entirely different conclusions from the same information; some observers will see a convergence of attitude between the local Societists and others, while others will see them as entirely distinct and merely sharing a track in the same direction. Both Societists and others wanted to celebrate what refusing to join the war had done for Danubia, but whereas Societists tended to portray the refugees positively, others sharing the former sentiment wanted to turn them aside. While frequently portrayed as Societist supremacism, much of the public attitudes of Danubia in this period were more borne of traditional Hapbsurg AEIOU – Austriae est imperare orbi universo or ‘Austria will rule the world’.

    It is this distinction, relatively subtle in some eyes, which confuses many attempts to understand Danubia in this period and its relations with the Combine. While Danubia did not open its borders to all refugees, several high-profile anti-war figures from France and Italy did emigrate to Vienna and its thriving cafés and salons, schools of thought largely free from both restrictions on free speech and the deadly plague. Among these were the French writer Julien Massard and the Italian artist Bruno Castellenghi. Both are remembered for their roles in cultural works critical of the war in this period.

    Massard collaborated with the Danubian playwright Istvan Rauch on the epic Troja und Zeit (“Troy and Time”), a new depiction of the Trojan War as described in Homer’s Iliad. Contrary to popular belief, this was not the first iconoclastic take on the legend. In the nineteenth century, historians’ consensus had been that Troy was entirely legendary, so it had been a shock in 1878 when a joint Belgian-Ottoman expedition had successfully identified the site of Hisarlik, on the southern bank of the Dardanelles, with the ancient city.[6] With Troy now no longer an imagining of Homer but a real city of bricks and mortar, writers and playwrights had already begun considering the question of depicting the war with all the banalities of reality, rather than the glories of the Greek epic. However, Rauch and Massard were the first to hit the public zeitgeist in their depiction. Their portrayal of the Siege of Troy – which, after all, Homer describes as going on for over a decade – makes deliberate and knowing comparisons to the then-ongoing Polish Front. The figure of The Writer appears as a metatextual character in the play (sometimes, though not necessarily, identified with Homer himself) who monologues after each scene to describe what he is writing down. Invariably, there is a harsh and jarring distinction between the bitter realism of the actual scenes and what The Writer records as fantasies of glory and honour. The message was that the cycle would continue, and that one day people might look back on this war as a time of glory – and seek to pursue war themselves thanks to this false memory.

    Castellenghi is best known for his illustrations in the satirical magazine Dei Wult.[7] First and foremost of these is Erwartungen und Realität – “Expectation and Reality”. With similar themes to Troja und Zeit, this is a double political cartoon contrasting what people may have envisaged of the war at the top – a thought bubble containing a gentlemanly sword duel between the national personifications of Germany and Russia – with the brutal reality at the bottom. This shows two thuggish, muddy and wounded figures, each with one broken arm, wrestling ineffectually at the bottom of a trench surrounded by spike-wire. In the background, a woman and child drown in a black pool to imply the civilian deaths from the plague, yet neither man turns aside to help her.

    These and other artistic efforts were suppressed in France, Italy and elsewhere, not only during the war but frequently afterwards as well. Collectively they are known as the Grey Dawn movement, in contrast to the Morne movement which grew up in France (q.v.). Thanks to paranoia and suppression during the Second Black Scare, men such as Massard and Castellenghi are frequently portrayed as Societists, which is strictly untrue at the time they achieved their greatest works. Istvan Rauch was a heterodox Societist (as evidenced by his choice to combine German and Hungarian names, rather than using Martial Latin or Novalatina). Castellenghi described himself as ‘a disciple of Sanchez, but a bad one’ in later life, but Massard always denied any sympathy with Societism of any school. In 1954 he would comment that “If one may no longer say that slaughter without meaning is a bad thing for fear of being accused of raising the black flag, we might as well all hurl ourselves in the sea now and leave this world for the animals” (reflecting his actual, Stewardism-based political beliefs).

    In 1970, the critic and historian René Regaud observed that the powerful message of Troja und Zeit, circulating illegally in Spanish translation, was much more influential in encouraging the Societist message in Iberia than clumsy Combine-produced efforts like The Madhouse. For this, he faced criticism in his own France for implying a Frenchman had instigated the following events, but – reflecting the fanaticism now dominant in the Combine after the Silent Revolution – he was made the target of a death squad. Paradoxically turned him into a popular martyr among the same French people who had just been criticising him.

    So much for the Polish Front, which inflicted so many pointless deaths among the young men of both armies, while preventing their countries from devoting their full attention to the killer plague in their cities. Yet, though the Polish Front was the best-known of the ‘Frozen Fronts’ in the west, it was not the only one – nor even, perhaps, the most influential for the post-war world...

    [1] A soakball, in the game of diamondball, is a ball that ‘soaks’ the player, meaning a ball thrown directly at a player running between bases in order to put him out. In OTL this was permitted in the ‘Massachusetts Game’ rules of proto-baseball, but banned by the ‘Knickerbocker Rules’ or ‘New York Game’ which became the dominant one. In TTL it has been retained, but has become increasingly violent and problematic – as balls became weightier and more damaging as materials and aerodynamics shifted.

    [2] The origins of the yellow quarantine flag considerably predate the International Code of Signals for which it now signifies the letter Q (and, confusingly, today means clear of disease). It is uncertain exactly how far back it goes, with some even tying it to the use of yellow in the Middle Ages to mean those who should be shunned (whether the diseased, heretics or Jews) but it was certainly used as early as the eighteenth century. The yellow flag is technically a square jack, hence the British term ‘yellow jack’ as an alternative term for yellow fever (though the latter owes its name to yellowed skin being a symptom).

    [3] As always, when writers in TTL sound like they are evoking the Western Front of OTL’s First World War, one needs to take this with a pinch of salt. TTL has simply never had a conflict as compressed, dense and static as the Western Front, and even observers who had experienced the war being described here would be horrified with the level of misery, slaughter and lack of movement of OTL’s Western Front. So they are using superlatives here without a basis for comparison; this period of war is much more comparable to the Eastern Front of the First World War, and the implied ‘continuous’ trench systems have big holes in them by the standards OTL historians would use.

    [4] Unternehman means ‘Operation’ in German. In TTL, of course, Wagner and his operas did not exist, but there was a similar (if less intense) growth of interest in Germanic myth as a subject for new novels, plays and operas during the Kulturkrieg period in TTL. One major difference is that, as opposed to Wagner incorporating many elements from Norse myth, the messaging during TTL’s period was explicitly German-supremacist and anti-Norse, due to the attempt to Germanise Jutland being a major focus of the Kulturkrieg. So it is the differences rather than the similarities of the two traditions that are emphasised.

    [5] As is commonly the case in OTL, this is a misleading description – the Black Death certainly made it to Poland, it was just a much milder outbreak compared with most of Europe.

    [6] This rediscovery was made around the same time in OTL.

    [7] The title is meant to humorously imply a typographical error, with a double meaning – is it a mangled rendering of Die Welt, mocking a serious newspaper at the time, or a grammatically warped version of Deus Vult, reflecting edgy criticism of the Catholic Church?
    Flags of Europe 1922
  • Thande

    Someone upthread suggested more media updates, so here are the flags of Europe as of 1922.

    Let me know if you want me to continue this with other continents!


    edit: just realised I accidentally missed Spain off the end so have added it.
    Last edited:
  • Thande

    From: “The Black Twenties” by Errol Mitchell (1973)—

    The Sankt-Evgeny Offensive had been launched by General Belosselsky from Trebizond in November 1923. Though fought through difficult mountain terrain, the Russians prevailed over the Ottomans under Kemal Fevzi Pasha. This was a measure of both Belosselsky’s superior generalship, but also (and more importantly) Kemal Fevzi’s defensive Army of Anatolia suffering from forces having been transferred for the invasion of Greece. The fortress town of Karahissar fell before the new year. Kemal Fevzi defended his actions by blaming defeats on supposed betrayal and espionage by the local Armenians, abbetting (if not launching – a Heritage Point of Controversy today) pogroms against them.[8]

    The situation had shifted by the early months of 1924. The Ottomans took Nafplion in February and Greek state resistance ceased soon afterwards, though Kleinkriegers would be a different matter. This success allowed Constantinople to shift more forces to other fronts. Though the tactically brilliant Ahmet Ismail Pasha would lobby hard for more troops to press the advantage in East Muntenia, he was lacking in friends at court compared to Kemal Fevzi. Ahmet Ismail would have to content himself with merely flinging the Russians and Romanians back against the Carpathians, forcing the surrender of one army and the evacuation of another, leaving much of its equipment behind. When the front froze like others, Ahmet Ismail would hold a front roughly between Buzau and Constantsa, with the Danube Delta and the rest of Dobruja being hotly contested even through the plague years. While it is interesting to speculate how much further he could have reached if he had had more support from Constantinople, that is not the world we live in.

    Instead, the additional forces were mostly shifted eastwards. Mehveş Sultan and Ferid Ibrahim Pasha were concerned about Belosselsky pushing westwards, possibly with naval support for coastal bombardment (though the Black Sea was still contested) and taking Ordu and Samsun along the Black Sea coastal lowlands, ultimately trying to threaten Constantinople itself. In one sense this was a valid fear, in that this was the kind of rhetoric General Belosselsky was hearing from his Tsar in Lectel messages. On the other hand, it was clear to Belosselsky that such a narrow and precarious front would greatly advantage the Ottoman defenders, a problem that was multiplied as the reinforcements began to trickle in.

    Meanwhile, it was equally clear that the Ottoman position to the south was growing more unstable. Many of the Ottoman forces, unused to this mountainous theatre of war and lacking cold weather equipment, died of hypothermia in the winter months of 1923-24 even before the plague arrived. At the same time, Armenians responded to the pogroms against them by organising Kleinkrieger irregulars to defend their towns and villages against the Turks, weakening Kemal Fevzi’s armies still further as he was forced to add escorts to scouts and messengers to protect them. The Russians were sending out feelers to leaders among the Armenian Kleinkriegers about cooperation. While such collaboration could be framed in terms of Christian solidarity and historic Russian protection of Christians in the region, Belosselsky and his diplomat cousin were not above more pragmatiste moves as well. Many among the Kurdish people of the region had grown somewhat resentful of the centralising and harmonising policies of the Ottomans following the Time of Troubles and Abdul Hadi’s reforms, which had abolished some of their historic autonomous governance. These feelings had been encouraged for years by the Persians, who had historic ties to the Kurds through their ruling Zand dynasty.[9] The Belosselskies worked with General Yakushkin, who was now Marshal and titular governor of ‘occupied’ Persia, though with too few troops to actually enforce his will, to pressure the Persians to in turn pressure the Kurds to rebel against the Turks. The Russians promised that the Kurdish lands would either become an independent state or a Persian province, depending on whom they were talking to at the time.

    Jafar Karim Khan Zand, the Shah-Advocate, went along with this in part because it was an easy concession – some good might actually come of it for Persia – and secondly because he was about to announce his famous referendum on the continuation of the monarchy, meaning any successor would not be bound to his policy anyway. The Kurdish revolt was more lukewarm than the Russians had hoped, with many Kurds regarding the Russians with misgivings and the Persians as now no more than a Russian cipher. However, it did make enough of a difference to further pressure the Ottoman troops in the region. With the Choruk Valley now largely under Russian control, Belosselsky’s plan was to hit hard south in an attack through the Tortum Valley on the rebelling Armenian- and Kurdish-populated city of Erzurum. Rather than risking his forces on an ever-longer and more precarious salient to the north while leaving the interior under Ottoman control, he wanted to secure his position.

    The Erzurum attack went ahead in April 1924, much to the annoyance of Tsar Paul, who had been expecting a westward push (though never strictly ordering one) and whose Dalekodeon speeches to his people had referenced the fact. It was only the attack’s success that saved Belosselsky’s skin, with Kemal Fevzi once again falling back, hurt as much by the revolts within as from the Russians without. Paul could not publicly condemn his general for a victory at a time when Russia was seeing reversals elsewhere. Instead, he appointed his son Tsarevich Mikhail a Marshal and sent him down to Trebizond. His intention was that the young Mikhail would look over Belosselsky’s shoulder and prevent the ‘unreliable’ general from deviating from the ultimate goal of Constantinople.

    However, the result would be rather different. Valentin Belosselsky, Sergei’s suave diplomat cousin, took the young prince under his arm and Mikhail was soon a believer in the Belosselskies’ strategy. Indeed, it was about to be more successful than even they had hoped.

    By this point, the plague had already been raging in Persia and parts of the Levant for months, having infected the Mediterranean coastal cities of Asia Minor on its way to Italy and struck Constantinople. But this cold, mountainous battlefield of Anatolia had remained relatively unaffected, lacking many transport links to the outside world. Given the strange pattern with which the plague eventually reached it, some epidemiologists attribute its final entry to the Ottomans sending troops from the Greek campaign as reinforcements to Kemal Fevzi, passing through plague-ridden cities on the way. If this is correct, paradoxically the reinforcements weakened the army far more than they strengthened it. Of course, many Russians at the time instead attributed what occurred to an act of God in recognition of their defence of the Christian Armenians against the Turks – though, for various reasons, this idea would not stay around for very long.

    Paul and the Soviet, after much hemming and hawing, had decided to authorise the use of death-luft against the Ottomans. The use of the ‘Scientific Weapon’ had been suspended following the Belgian incident, with Russia’s rhetoric distancing her position from the Belgians’ last desperate revenge attack. There was also a fear that using death-luft against any Cannae state would lead to retaliation in kind from all of them, and Russian troops were generally less well equipped with countermeasures against luft attacks than most (though not all) of the Cannae armies. However, the Ottoman position was orthogonal to that between the Cannae and the Russians (or the Vitebsk Pact), and Héloïse Mercier’s attempts to muddy the waters had largely gone quiet since the Ottomans started killing Armenians. Therefore, the Soviet judged, the Cannae would not escalate matters if the Russians started being creative with the Ratisbon Conventions purely and specifically in their conflict with the Ottomans.

    In the end, however, Belosselsky did not need to use the death-luft in combat at all (perhaps barring one, disputed, incident near Mamakhatun [Tercan]. Instead, the luft was used in one of the best-organised fumigation efforts of the period, helping protect the Russian soldiers, their irregular Armenian and Kurdish allies, and their supporters as they pushed deeper into plague-infested territory. Instrumental in this effort was Belosselsky’s capable Quartermaster-General, Igor Vorobyov, and groundbreaking army physician Dr Grigory Vershinin. Between them, they would later quite literally write the book on epidemic management in armies.

    Not only did Erzurum fall, but the Russians – to Belosselsky’s surprise – were able to push westward along the Karasu valley almost without resistance to take Erzincan as well in June 1924. The city, now plague-ridden, was almost deserted as many of its inhabitants had fled to neighbouring villages (often tragically bringing the infection with them). Kemal Fevzi’s army had practically disintegrated, and the man himself lay dying with the plague in Harput [Elazig] even as frantic Lectelgrams from Ferid Ibrahim Pasha reached him.

    Tsar Paul was less than impressed by Belosselsky once again ignoring his calls for a westward push, and grew concerned that Tsarevich Mikhail’s messages grew ever more adoring in tone about the general he was supposed to be enforcing his father’s will on. As for Belosselsky himself, he had secured effective Russian control over a sizeable slice of Anatolia, and liberated many Armenians (only for them to then often suffer worse from the plague than they had under the Ottoman pogroms – there was only so much death-luft fumigant to go around, after all). He could have rested on his laurels, but he knew he had made an enemy of the Tsar by daring to achieve the wrong victories. He did have the support of the Tsarevich, but that might not matter for many years. And the Ottomans were still weak and in disarray, unable to come up with a way to concentrate a new army without it falling victim to the now-endemic plague. They could still defend Constantinople and the west, with smaller armies standing on the defensive around Sivas and Kayseri, and Ferid Ibrahim began bringing back the aerocraft armada that had helped defeat Greece, using them as defenders against a Russian westward advancement. It was the east of Anatolia that remained in chaos, and that represented an opportunity.

    Belosselsky therefore acted as much as from a desire to shore up his personal position as to achieve glory for mother Russia. He was also influenced by reports from Vorobyov that Erzincan’s railway station and several trains had fallen into Russian hands almost intact; Kemal Fevzi’s army had lost cohesion before it could act to sabotage it. With help from Armenian Kleinkriegers to defend the railways, and new locomotives and carriages of the right rail gauge being constructed and shipped in from Tsaritsyn, the army was able to exploit the Ottomans’ own rail connections to push further into the chaotic southeast of Anatolia. It was the same nightmare scenario that many countries’ militaries, notably the Americans in Drakesland, had feared.

    Over the next three months, the Russians were able to reach Malatya, then continue to use the railways to finally take Belosselsky’s ultimate target. Based on his discussions with Tsarevich Mikhail, his cousin Valentin had worked out that the best way to outflank the Tsar’s rhetoric was to steal its clothing, giving Paul a way out to pretend that this had been his plan all along. Therefore, though Belosselsky’s real target was the strategic city of Adana, he presented his attack as a ‘Sankt-Pavel Offensive’ aimed at taking the nearby historic city of Tarsus, the birthplace of St Paul. Not only did this evoke the Tsar’s own name, but it fit neatly into his rhetoric about a Christian crusade against barbarism. The real goal, of course, was to reach the Mediterranean, plant a Russian foothold in the Cilician region, and cut the Ottoman Empire in half.

    Belosselsky’s plan was audacious and risky. It relied on the assumption that the Ottomans would remain in disarray in the region long enough for a foreign army to plough through and penetrate to Cilicia for the first time since 1608.[10] A second assumption was that the army’s anti-plague measures would continue to protect it as the plague spread ever further. In the event, the first assumption was true enough for the plan to work, but the second was more questionable; though the army itself could be protected, its supply situation became ever more vulnerable.

    On October 10th, Ottoman forces in the region rallied under Malik Bey, and the first major battle in weeks was fought south of the city of Marash. The Russians achieved victory, but at the cost of more losses than they had seen since Kemal Fevzi’s death. With the defeat of Malik Bey’s force, which retreated southwards towards Antep [Gaziantep], the path south and west was laid open once more. Adana fell on November 3rd, and by November 6th, the Russians were standing in Tarsus and looking out on the waters of the Mediterranean.

    Belosselsky had his victory, being easily the most successful Russian general in history against the hated ancestral foe of the Ottoman Empire. He had done what no-one had achieved in four centuries since the time of the Timurids and the Mamelukes – he had contested control of eastern Anatolia with the Turks. He had pulled off his audacious goal of cutting the empire in half with his salient and preventing either part from reinforcing the other by rail. At the time, his main worry was that that salient would prove too fragile and be outflanked from either side by new Ottoman forces.

    Yet that worry was unfounded, as the plague continued to ravage the Ottomans too deeply for such actions to be considered. Nor, however, could the Russians conquer further still. Finally the plague epidemic had become too intense even for Vorobyov and Vershinin’s policies to entirely protect the army from it. Soldiers’ barracks and tents could be fumigated, but not every single supply waggon when one was relying on local villages to keep the army fed and supplied. Some fleas and rats would be missed.

    The Russian force remained coherent enough to fend off irregular attacks by Ottoman Kleinkriegers and the degraded armies that Ferid Ibrahim periodically sent against them. The seemingly-fragile salient survived, yet another frozen front like the ones in Poland, Wallachia and Finland.[11] New railway construction slowly and painstakingly took place, trying to link the army more reliably back to Russia’s own network, but the workers – often imported Yapontsi serfs or impressed Tartar prisoners of war – suffered as much as anyone from the epidemic.

    Belosselsky could still have repaired his relations with the Tsar; though this was no longer step one in some hypothetical big push for Constantinople, it still represented an historic victory. He could have, were it not for the fact that one flea bit the wrong person. Not one of those nameless Yapontsi plucked from his wood and bamboo hut in Fyodorsk to die for a foreign emperor on the other side of the world, but a man the Tsar actually cared about: his son. After the Tsarevich’s death from the plague (his younger brother Fyodor became the new heir), Belosselsky was lucky to find himself merely exiled to be governor of a freezing prison camp on the northern Yapontsi isle of Edzo [Hokkaido]. Anyone would have been forgiven for thinking he had disappeared from the pages of history altogether, but one would be wrong.

    The world’s reaction to the Sankt-Pavel Offensive was striking. It became all the more noteworthy as other fronts, such as that in Poland, ground to a halt as the mass graves piled up more from plague deaths than combat ones. All eyes were on Belosselsky’s army’s methods of plague control, for civilian as well as military purposes. Many, too, were interested in the fate of the Ottomans after the attack on Greece, whether they were motivated by reasons of Christian solidarity or a broader sense of justice. Though few shed tears for the Ottomans’ losses, some worried that Russia once again seemed on a path to world-changing victory.

    Yet the reaction from one quarter would be particularly significant. Up until this time, the Societist Combine had not seen the Russians as a notable threat. Indeed, the Russians had even informally helped the Combine in its early years, if only to tweak the Americans’ and French’s noses.[12] To the Societists, the Russians were just another of the ‘nationalistically blinded usurper-gangster states illegitimately claiming authority over the humans of Zones number...’ albeit a very powerful one. It was Belosselsky’s Anatolian campaign which changed this.

    Archaeology had been a field which saw rising interest from people in Europe and the Novamund (and beyond, to a lesser extent) throughout the nineteenth century. History had become more of a practical subject, with many interested in their own origins. The Societists, who had already been inspired in part by the reconstruction of extinct languages and what they said about human history, were no less influenced by this. The late Long Peace-era Societists were scarcely unique in becoming fascinated by the history of the ancient Middle East, the first recorded literate civilisations such as the Sumerians, Akkadians, Elamites and Hittites; that had been a craze across much of western society, especially the middle classes from which the Societists of that time mostly drew their ranks.[13] Much of Sanchez’s theories, later expanded by others, focused on how (in their view) humans had transitioned from the First Society, the Tribe, to the Second Society, the City, to the Third Society, the Nation. Reconstructing the history of this crucial region (and, later, ensuring it was suitably manipulated to remain consistent with Societist orthodoxy) was of the utmost interest to the Societists, and remained so as they seized power and expanded under Alfarus.

    Archaeologists in neutral nations without censorship (such as Danubia, now influenced by its own Societists) reported in horror that many crucial sites and ancient cities were being damaged by the war. Conflict was taking place not only in places that had seen war a mere millennium before, such as Manzikert,[14] but in cities that were as much as six thousand years old, such as Malatya and, indeed, Tarsus itself. Naturally, Paul’s propaganda was all about demolishing mosques and rebuilding old cathedrals, possibly now with electric vac-lights and giant mosaics of himself included (if we are to believe some contemporary satirists). Around this time, not coincidentally, VoxHumana’s own propaganda ceased describing the war in even-handedly contemptuous terms and began specifically singling out the Russians as ‘vandals of human history’ and the personification of every barbarian tribe that had ever burned libraries and destroyed civilisations.

    In the short term, not much would come of this, but time would tell. Perhaps it is no exaggeration to say that the particular enmity between Russians and Societists, which persists to this day, was triggered by General Belosselsky’s desire to briefly take advantage of a plague-weakened foe and win some plaudits at court...

    [8] A brief recap of events described in Part #284.

    [9] The Zand tribe were part of the Lak or Laki group. Whether this strictly represents Kurdish or Lur extraction is a contentious question, but ties certainly existed, and some Kurdish populations in places as distant as Balochistan are attributed to be descended from those who followed the OTL Zand founder Karim Khan. Of course, in OTL these ties ceased to be relevant after the Zand dynasty was defeated by the Qajars, but this didn’t happen in TTL.

    [10] A slightly misleading choice of date, derived from the fact that 1608 was when Cilicia came under direct Ottoman control rather than being part of a vassal state. Note that in OTL the region was invaded by Muhammad Ali of Egypt in 1832, which obviously didn’t happen in TTL.

    [11] We’ve already seen that it’s slightly disingenuous to group Wallachia with the others here, as there was more back-and-forth in Dobruja throughout the plague years, and the same is true of Finland, as we’ll see.

    [12] See Part #257 in Volume VII.

    [13] As mentioned before, TTL saw more interest in the ancient history of the Fertile Crescent civilisations and less in that of Egypt compared to OTL, mostly because it took much longer to get hieroglyphs interpreted without the Rosetta Stone.

    [14] A mere 853 years in fact. In 1915, in the First World War in OTL, there was similarly a battle fought in this storied site between the Russians and Ottomans.
  • Thande

    Part #287: Culture Vultures

    “There has been a minor diplomatic incident in the Guinean city of Dakar, where – as part of an agreement by the Government of France to provide investment in new factories there – the Ambassador, His Excellency M. Teissier, was received at a reception by the Prime Minister of Guinea, the Right Honourable Mr Kwaku Mensa. Unfortunately, two incidents undermined the occasion; firstly the French anthem was poorly played by the official band, and secondly the bilingual French commentary was provided in the Nouvelle-Orléanais dialect rather than Parisian French. There has been no official comment from M. Teissier or His Most Christian Majesty’s Government, but there are reports that many ordinary French people on the country’s Motext network are castigating the so-called ‘insult’ from the Guineans. We now go over to Professor Richard Salisbury, an expert on the region, for comment. Richard?”

    “Thank you Miss Jaxon. Well, over the past few hours, Prime Minister Mensa has commented briefly on the incident, apologising for any offence caused and explaining simply that his people had little history of contact with the French. But in fact, as the opposition leader in the Grand Palaver, the Right Honourable Mr Dauda Nazaki, said in an interview this evening in a critique of the Prime Minister’s statement, part of the logic behind the selection of Dakar for the reception was that it had been a French colony between 1677 and 1758.”

    “That’s fascinating!”

    “Yes, it was taken by American and English, or British I should say, forces during the Third War of Supremacy. Those days of French rule lie long in the past, and one would be forgiven for thinking there had never been contact between France and the Guinean lands of western Africa; you know, it is an interesting ‘what if’ of history if Dakar had been returned to France at the peace treaty, and perhaps French, rather than English, would have become the primary outsiders’ lingua franca of the region...”

    – Transcription of a C-WNB News Motoscope broadcast,
    recorded in Waccamaw Strand, Kingdom of Carolina, 12/04/2020​


    From: “A History of Modern France” by Bertrand Woode (1998)—

    Ever since the Jacobin Revolution and the years of rule by Lisieux’s brutally utilitarian regime, Paris had lost its crown of Europe’s cultural capital to Vienna. Certainly, there had been a measured recovery since the days when France’s capital was nothing more than a dreary mass of straight roads and blocky warehouses designed to crumble within decades; the city had been reimagined and reimagined anew by generations of architects after the Restoration. Yet many of the old cultural channels were gone and would never return, or at least not in the same guise. The old salons of the pre-revolutionary days had vanished, and the Cytherean movement in France would be needed to plot new paths for women to regain and expand their old political influence.[1] The same would be true of the salons as a venue for new artists, whether they be musicians, painters or a host of other media, to be discovered by society. Indeed, in its old form, ‘society’ no longer existed. Nor did the stately homes and palaces of the aristocracy which had so often played host to such artists as a means of patronage.

    Naturally, it is easy to bemoan this loss of heritage and forget that it was this very same elevated, ivory-tower Parisian culture that had thrived while the people starved and helped precipitate the Revolution in its original, idealistic form in the days of Le Diamant. Many Frenchmen and –women of humbler station, even if they had soured on the Republic, would not shed a tear that the painted and powdered aristocracy of the ancien régime would never regain its former privileged isolation from the old Third Estate.

    Yet it also meant that France’s cultural ‘industries’ had been set back to square one. Though France would continue to rise back to geopolitical prominence throughout the nineteenth century, the cultural shadow she cast lagged behind military power and political influence. In a large part, this was due to competition. Vienna had seized the crown of cultural capital of Europe in the aftermath of the Jacobin Wars and had held on tightly to it ever since. Paradoxically, this was all the more strengthened throughout the wasted years of Francis II’s rule, in which there was a sense that the clock could be wound back to the heady days of the ancien régime just by shutting one’s eyes and wishing hard enough. Though greatly damaging in the short term to the prospects of the Hapsburg monarchy, this period was a boon for Vienna’s cultural output, with music, painting, architecture and fashion being powered by the rich fuel of nostalgia.

    Culturally, this continued even after the Popular Wars, when the Hapsburg monarchy took a new modernising tack and Danubia was created. As new generations grew up, a new word was coined, Schattensehnsucht: ‘longing for a shadow’ or, less literally, describing those who were nostalgic for an idealised image of a time they had never actually experienced themselves. This proved surprisingly persistent as a cornerstone of Viennese culture, also inspiring Rome in Italy to adopt a similar approach to ancient Roman fashion and art. Some historians even trace a direct line from nineteenth-century Viennese idealisation of the past to the Archie youth movement of the 1930s, though this remains controversial.

    Regardless, Vienna had a driving principle behind the music, painting, sculpture, literature and other output of the artists who flocked there, while Paris was still looking to find a new identity, its roots cut off at the ankles by the sharp discontinuity of Lisieux. In particular, there was a big divide in the Parisian arts scene of the mid-century in whether to idealise or criticise industrialism and technology, reflecting the broader political divide between the pro-industry Diamantines and the more critical, Neo-Physiocratic Eden Movement of Jules Clément that influenced the Verts.[2] In other times, this conflict might itself have fuelled a cultural flowering, but Paris’ artistic scene was still sufficiently shaky and few in number that it was more a hindrance towards re-establishing a presence on the European stage.

    But recovery proper had began by the second half of the nineteenth century, by which time the growth of the Sensualist movement in art had plotted a French-focused impact on European culture for the first time in years, in contrast to the Valladolid School Hyperrealism that had previously been prominent.[3] As France continued to grow in geopolitical power following the Pandoric War and the Panic of 1917, more heads began once more turning towards Paris to see what the next cultural trends would be, just as they had two centuries before. And it would be in Paris that the defining artistic movement of the Black Twenties would be born, known internationally as Morne – the French word for dreary or bleak.

    Popular renditions of this period tend to portray Morne as being dominant in the 1920s and then pushed out by the more colourful and hopeful counter-movements of the 1930s. The reality is quite different, for the logical reason that patrons and consumers were more amenable to art dwelling on the pain and suffering of the Black Twenties once they were actually over, rather than in the middle of them. In reality, the 1920s saw a lot of frivolous and upbeat cultural output in a desperate attempt to keep the people’s spirits up; these media are today little remembered except in the ENA, which had some of the more memorable plays and musicals. Ironically, at the time these were often sold only as printed scripts and sheet music to perform at home, as actually performing them in public would be against public health regulations at the time.

    In this regard, Morne is frequently compared to the Danse macabre, a cultural movement in France centuries earlier that had been influenced by both the Black Death (the last big plague pandemic before the Black Twenties) and the Hundred Years’ War. The Danse macabre motifs had focused on the inevitability of death and how it was no respecter of persons, with frescoes depicting living people meeting their ancestors as cadavers who warn them of what is to come, and carnivals in which actors would dress up as corpses or skeletons and ‘dance with Death’. Much like the Morne period (but on a grander scale), the Danse macabre did not flower during the period of disaster that inspired it, but in the years afterwards, mostly the 1400s.

    While almost everyone today will recognise the ‘look’ of Morne art (which has gone through periodic revivals, most recently in the 1990s), it remains contentious exactly where that look comes from. Gagnaire (1971) is one of many analysts to suggest that the oldest Morne art used contrasts of white and brown, or light brown and dark brown, and therefore stemmed from an imitation of how letters and drawings looked after they had been heated in an oven in an attempt to kill disease animalcules before passing into quarantine. There is some evidence for this claim, but the vast majority of Morne art uses contrasts of black and white, not brown, and if the browned quarantine documents were the original inspiration, that look was soon abandoned. Others have claimed that Morne art always began as monochrome black and white, and there were other sources of inspiration such as the dazzle camouflage on contemporary ships. Still others make the more prosaic claim that there was no direct real-life inspiration, and monochrome Morne was simply a sign-of-the-times reaction against the rich colours of Sensualism and other preceding artistic movements.

    Regardless of this argument, which will most probably never be solved, Morne came to define the look and feel of the Black Twenties in later period pieces (even though, as said above, much of it was not produced until the 1930s). Like the danse macabre, Morne often dwelt on the suffering of those hit by both plague and war at the same time, musing on the inevitability of death – though the more subversive pieces drew deliberate contrast with the better life available in countries at peace, such as Danubia and China. Incidentally, Chinese Qinghua blue and white ceramic art is one of the more dubious suggestions for what inspired Morne’s monochrome style. Unlike many preceding monochrome art forms, however, Morne tended to emphasise the use of heavy blocks of black rather than just outlines. This rendered it unsuitable for mass depiction using standard woodcuts and printing presses of the time, which were not capable of simultaneously reproducing both thick areas of solid black while still preserving the subtle pointillism of other parts of an image. Whether deliberate or no (again, analysts argue) this had the effect of Morne standing out from the more mass-produced public art of the period. Originals were highly sought-after by collectors, something fairly unusual at the time for ink drawings rather than paintings.

    Morne was not solely a visual medium, with Morne music, drama and architecture also being produced. The running theme is one of gloom and despair, but also sharp contrasts to reflect the harsh black and white of the visual form. Morne music has not had the staying power of Morne visual art, with its experimental, discordant chords (influenced by the gamelan music of Javanese exiles according to some) not appealing to all but the most avant-garde. Conversely, Morne architecture is probably the part of the movement that has had the longest lasting impact, with neo-Morne buildings still popular today. This is probably because the black and white contrast in that context is less immediately evocative of the despair that the original movement dwelt on, and many unfamiliar with the history of the movement consider Morne buildings to be merely striking rather than cheerless.

    As is always the case in popular descriptions of cultural eras, Morne was never as defining or as dominant as modern films set in the 1920s would have us believe. Nonetheless, it had a large long-term impact. Not only did it create a visual and artistic style that would leave long shadows in memory of the grief and horror of the Black Twenties (particularly upon European culture), but it cemented into the minds of all that after years of playing catch-up, the culture of Paris was back...

    Morne is also somewhat unusual, and perhaps symptomatic of the more collectivist and less individualistic esprit du temps[4] of the 1920s, in which nations pulled together to resist the punishing threats from within and without. Less than most artistic movements, Morne is less defined by its individual artists and more by its general climate. While it is possible to reel off a list of iconic Paris-based Morne artists, such as the painter Ollier, the playwright Caillaud and the sequent artists Montcharmont and Bouvard, these are considered less defining than listing the Sensualist artists of a generation before. This lack of a Central Character [Great Man] approach the genre is partly driven by the brutal reality that so many of the artists produced relatively little before succumbing to the plague or, more prosaically, fleeing Paris for the countryside. It was not the individual talent that mattered, but the collective genius of the shared vision of the Morne artists in their Paris clique, which remained like a greater organism with a Ship of Theseus continuity, even as it shed some ‘cells’ and others joined it.[5]

    Of course, this does not stop collectors talking up the works of individuals, and indeed having achieved only a small amount before succumbing to a tragically young death has always been seen as something of a bonus for artists whom collectors choose to place on a pedestal. However, this approach has never been too successful with Morne art, not least because its iconic style is often difficult to associate with a particular artist. Furthermore, many of them bought into the collectivist idea at the time, and deliberately did not sign their work, or signed it with a symbol denoting a collective effort. One exception to this is the case of sequent artists; Morne sequents are typically long enough that a particular style can be recognised, and so it is the work of men like Montcharmont and Bouvard that becomes particularly sought after. It was via the need to produce sequents in larger numbers that printing technology eventually adapted to be able to reproduce the Morne style en masse; this, as much as fading memories of the Black Twenties, contributed to the decline of the genre after the 1930s.[6]

    Though Morne was the defining artistic movement in Paris in this period, it was not the only cultural influence France had on Europe and the wider world – for better or for worse. Religious and spiritual responses to the challenge of the Black Twenties were abundant, just as they had been for the Black Death of centuries prior. Both existing orthodox and heterodox movements saw growth in the period (the Old Believers in Russia are one example, despite attempts at persecution from above). There were also splinters from the existing churches; for example, the New Reformed Wesleyans in England and later America, better known by their nickname ‘Straight Shooters’, who adopted a number of unusual beliefs from their leader Pastor Frederick Granville. Among these was a belief that singing the same hymn twice in a month (or repeating any part of it at all in an encore) was an affront to the Almighty. Some speculate this began as something as simple as Granville, in his youth, being annoyed that a large chunk of the existing Wesleyan hymnal was never used in his church due to the pastor and congregation’s enthusiasm for a few old favourites repeated over and over. If its origins were as prosaic as that, though, it became an article of faith for the Straight Shooters. Many of their other unusual ideas also focus on music, such as only using musical instruments explicitly mentioned in the Bible (of which there are fortuitously many, but some disagreements over translation) and playing at extremely loud volume in reference to Psalm 150:5 (“Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him with the clash of cymbals”). This made the Straight Shooters popular as a youth revival movement, especially in the ENA, but less than popular with their neighbours, especially as their services often took place as midnight. More intriguingly, the Straight Shooters also devoted much scholarship into attempting to reconstruct the lost Israelite tunes mentioned in the Psalms that the words were originally set to; though most archaeologists consider the results to be nothing more than wishful thinking, the Straight Shooters’ scholars discovered several innovative cryptographic techniques in the process.[7]

    There are many other examples that could be discussed around the world (with China in particular home to some especially intriguing movements) but let us return to France and the infamous Massilians. Sociologists still disagree on the exact origins of the movement and which component was most significant. For many years, it was assumed that the primary source of inspiration was a group of Moronite refugees who had been exiled from Tierra del Fuego after the Societists took over and imposed their laws. While the influence of these Moronites (who had eventually made their way to France, probably with the returning IEF) was doubtless important, the assumption that it was the key influence has been more recently criticised by scholars. Guibal (1984), in particular, accuses earlier scholarship of over-emphasising the Moronites simply because of their ‘colourful’, ‘exotic’ and ‘outrageous’ nature. He also notes that relatively few sources survive on the Moronites’ way of life in Tierra del Fuego in the years prior to the Pandoric War and Societist Revolution, and invokes evidence suggesting that the group in question were actually considered heterodox deviant outcasts from the community there as a whole – hence why they were able to escape earlier. Guibal’s assertion is controversial, because it is accounts by the Moronites’ spiritual leader Adam Barmoroni that have formed the basis for modern reconstructions of what all Moronites were supposed to have believed before the Societist takeover. There remains independent evidence for some sociological points, such as them practising simultaneous polygamy and polyandry in which each man took three wives and each wife had three husbands, but many of Barmoroni’s claims about their theology have now come under greater scrutiny.

    Regardless, the Moronite exiles in Marseilles were not the only potential source of influence. Gnativist people, often of Métis descent, had left the former Superior Republic after its occupation and division by the ENA and Russians after the Pandoric War. Some of these, led by a French-speaking Huron engineer named Jacques Hochelay,[8] also settled in the South of France and were objects of fascination by the locals. Finally, often excluded from analyses because of their seeming banality, are the French themselves; the Neo-Physiocratic Eden Movement, though no longer as influential upon politics as it once had been, continued to have its supporters among the people. Indeed, near its beginning the movement was often described as a ‘Neo-Edenite’ one by outsiders.

    Whatever the relative portions that made up the cocktail of influences, the group later known as the Massilians first came to prominence immediately before the Black Twenties, around 1921, but became much more significant when war and plague came. The Massilians advocated a back-to-nature idea that looked down on modern technology, and claimed humans had grown more sickly as a result of modern agriculture and industry. Evoking the idea of an earthly paradise, they tried to live as latter-day hunter-gatherers – which some argue signifies a rejection of Societism’s orderly notion of a succession of civilisation from hunter-gatherer to tribe to city to nation to Final Society, perhaps indicative of influence from the Moronites or more straightforward Meridian Refugiados. Regardless, what saw the most fascination from the locals, and what has defined them ever since, was their practice of nudism. It was rather fortunate, of course, that their movement had grown up in Provence around the city of Marseilles; such commitment to principle would have been rather bolder in Helsingfors!

    The Massilians, named after the old Latin name of the city, were viewed as a curiosity for a while, with occasional condemnations from public authority (both sacred and secular). It was the coming of the plague in 1923 which changed matters. The Massilians began preaching that their ‘natural’ lifestyle would protect them from the plague, in particular exposing their bodies to sunlight, and began more boldly campaigning in the streets, rather than sticking to the beaches and their own communes. This led to a riot in November (by which point the Massilians were having to be a little more principled about eschewing clothing, even in Marseilles) and the Parlement-Provincial of Provence got involved, expelling the group from its territory. A few went west to Languedoc, but more went east to the Ligurian hinterland of Genoa in Italy, where they were generally tolerated and still exist as a curiosity to this day...

    [1] See Part #125 in Volume III.

    [2] See Part #166 in Volume IV.

    [3] See Part #221 in Volume V.

    [4] This term is used here with the meaning of ‘zeitgeist’, although in OTL French (in the singular) it more usually conveys simply ‘punctual’.

    [5] The appeal to a biological, cell-based metaphor is another sign of the times and influence from recent scientific work, as discussed in Part #273 of Volume VII in the context of its influence on early Diversitarianism. The Ship of Theseus is a famous invocation of the paradox that can one replace every part of an entity and still have it be considered the same entity?

    [6] To someone from OTL, Morne sequents would probably superficially evoke the look of some Japanese manga in their use of sharp black and white contrast and hard angles, though the actual style is very different.

    [7] For example, Psalms 57, 58, 59 and 75 are speculated to have been set to a tune titled ‘Do Not Destroy’, though scholars disagree on whether that is actually the significance of the phrase.

    [8] This is probably an alias, as ‘Jacques’ was an old French term for the Huron or Wyandot people with the implication of ‘peasant’, and Hochelay is an old Huron town or group from centuries earlier which the French might have recognised.
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    Volume V now on sale announcement!
  • Thande

    Pleased to announce that Look to the West V: The Revenge To Dream Again is finally on sale!

    Yes I know there's an error with the ENA flag on the cover, that was my fault for miscommunication. Now I know I've made it as a proper author. If anyone asks, the Great Racers were secret Patriot voters.
  • Thande

    From: “A History of Film” by David Grayson (1988)—

    Today it’s a reasonably commonly-held belief, even among first-year film students, that Societist filmmaking has always been as it is today; heavily censored and ring-fenced by ideology, yet usually not too explicit in that ideology, short on character development and long on complex action scenes and rather sappy, often shoehorned-in love stories. When students first begin to learn, they overcome this initial misconception, but replace it with a different kind of wrong – which, is to say, they progress in their education. The typical assumption early in a film student’s studies is that, rather, Societist filmmaking changed dramatically since the beginning, but that it falls neatly into three main eras. Indeed, one will see this claimed repeated even in supposedly reputable textbooks which fall victim to sacrificing accuracy on the altar of a simple narrative. These three supposed eras, none of which any actual Societist amigo or amiga would recognise(!) are usually called, firstly, the Experimental or Alfaran Period. This stretches from the invention of film to the death of Alfarus and the Konkursum ad Kultura, which had a severe effect on the arts in the Combine in general.

    Some older people in the free world will remember the Societist films of the second alleged era, the Moralizdiko Period, which resulted from the purges of the Konkursum ad Kultura. These were stereotypically very dull and worthy, resembling the French, Russian and American films of a generation before,[9] heavy on droning on about doctrinaire Societism, often pausing a scene for a tangential diatribe about the Nationalistically Blinded Enemy Without (and, paranoidly hinted, Within). Conventional thinkers usually associate these dreary pieces of the filmmaker’s art with the idea that all the talented and experimental Societist filmmakers of the first era had all been purged or fled into exile, leaving the dull-headed but ideologically pure footsoldiers in their wake. According to this analysis, the Moralizdiko Period reached its peak (or trough) in the 1950s.

    From the 1960s onwards, even as the Combine itself shifted from expansion to stagnation and decline, the third era came to life, the Ledus or Visdosus Period. This is the one we are still living in today, and the form of Societist film (from the Combine, that is) which is readily recognisable. In reaction against the forgettable, ideology-heavy wastes of xyloid of the Moralizdiko Period, the Ledus era featured a new generation of filmmakers. Less experimental than their purged grandfathers’ generation, they were nonetheless here to have fun and entertain the masses, not prove their loyalty to a paranoid undercover member of the Okuli. Restrained from being too daring with how they depicted their ‘perfect human’ characters, the Ledan filmmakers instead turned to epic scenery, impressive special effects using new technology, grand action scenes. Natural disasters were (and are) particularly common as settings for Societist action films, being a potential trigger for exciting scenes of violence that could not be attributed to portraying conflict between humans. Rather than stopping a scene for a dull verbal diatribe about ideology, the Ledans stop them in order to have an incongruous but enlivening song and dance number with complex choreography – particularly popular in love stories. Though often feeling rather shallow, modern Societist films remain popular enough in the free world that even Novgorod has given up trying to ban them.

    So much for the standard narrative of Societist filmmaking; our first year film student completes his exams and moves on to second year, wondering what else there is to learn on this topic – surely he now knows it all? How naïve he is! Like all narratives of this type, the three eras notion is at best a crass oversimplification, and at worst an outright lie. Let us peel back another layer and draw nearer to the reality.

    Real art does not fall into neat temporal categories so easily. It is, of course, true that the Konkursum ad Kultura had a drastic effect on all Combine Societist art, and then was followed by a backlash against its restrictive and paranoid doctrinaire values. But there were plenty of dull Societist propaganda films of the 1910s and 1920s that, other than being monochrome and silent, would fit easily into the Moralizdiko period. Indeed, accounts by outsiders from the free world who were familiar with the films of ‘the new Meridian regime’ (as they naïvely thought of it) often describe them in these terms, and equate their ideological rambling as comparable to the worthy political biopics of America or France and Russia’s religious morality tales. As always, the danger for any student of art is to think of the best-remembered and most-celebrated pieces of an age first, and mistakenly assume they are representative of the whole. Often the very reason why they are remembered and celebrated (now – not necessarily at the time) is precisely because they did not fit the contemporary pattern, and excited and distracted audiences at the time with their controversy.

    There are many examples of the three-eras model not holding up to scrutiny; perhaps the most celebrated is that of Navis Estela, which began as a film series before also moving on to motoscopy. Originally created during the 1950s, in an age which was supposedly that of the restrictive Moralizdiko, Navis Estela cheerfully circumvented all censorship by setting itself in the future, when Earth had been united by the Societists, and star-ships were now exploring the universe and encountering other races of beings. The films sparked an ideological debate over whether it was morally acceptable or not to depict exciting scenes of conflict between the united humans and these hypothetical ultratellurians, especially when (due to limitations in makeup at the time) they were clearly played by human actors with prosthetics. Ultimately, Navis Estela helped bring down the overweening censorship of the Moralizdiko period by breaking the consensus among the ruling class (many of whom enjoyed the films as well). Of course, it was far from the only piece of art in the period to lead to the backlash against the Konkursum ad Kultura.

    However, let’s instead focus on that first supposed era, the era of film when Alfarus ruled with an iron grip in the 1910s and 1920s. Students learning about this era (or the simplified version emphasising a few classics over the crowd!) are often surprised to learn that early Societist filmmaking was associated with experimentalism, in contrast to how conventional the ‘filmed plays’ of most nations (other than California) were at the time.[10] However, a moment’s thought should explain why this was the case. All other art forms had existed for years, often hundreds or thousands of years, before the Final Revolution. Societism was fundamentally based on the Tower of Babel philosophy that all humans had once shared a single culture, and that all modern expressions of culture represented degraded forms that had metallaxised [mutated] from that original perfect state. The Final Society, it was argued, should try to reconstruct the original culture – just as linguistics had reconstructed lost languages – by the comparative method, finding links between disparate cultures and emphasising these. For example, Sanchez himself had noted the parallel that the Chinese had a table of noble ranks which he equated with that of Europe.[11]

    In the early Combine, therefore, there was an appointed class of scholars (who eventually became associated with the Biblioteka Mundial) concerned with trying to use these comparative methods to piece together what the Universal Human Culture should look like. Initially, this was frequently treated as a far-off, long-term project, much like the idea that Novalatina should in turn be replaced with Old Eurasian [i.e. Proto-Indo-European] when it had been sufficiently reconstructed. However, the push for cultural unification became more and more significant throughout the period of Alfarus’ rule, in part because its advocates had a tendency to get promoted and survive purges. Markus Lupus (MaKe Lopez) was a particularly strong advocate in Alfarus’ inner circle. Some areas, such as Human Music and Human Cuisine, still remained rather underdeveloped at the time of Alfarus’ death, suspected to be because Alfarus himself (and his wife) were fond of both the music and the cuisine the former UPSA had already had. Other areas, like Human Literature, Human Drama and Human Painting, saw much more work in the period, perhaps because Alfarus was less interested in those.

    We can already see the divergence from the disinterested, academic pursuit to recapture some hypothetical unified human identity which Sanchez himself, and perhaps even Caraíbas and Jaimes, had envisioned. Under Alfarus, the quest for the Human Way was invariably, and inevitably, influenced by the personal beliefs of the scholars and their patrons, affected by power plays and currents of fashion. The most obvious and self-evident way in this took place was that when the scholars did publish final models for the Human Way on a particular subject, it often bore a suspicious resemblance in its core to the way the old Meridians had lived. Influences from other cultures were incorporated, and highlighted as supposedly preserving other traces of the ancestral Human Way, but always in a visibly tokenistic manner layered over the Meridian core. These smaller influences were usually drawn primarily from China (due to Lupus’ influence and China playing a big part in Sanchez’s ‘revelation’ of universality) and secondarily from the regions which the Societists currently ruled, such as central Africa and the East Indies. The situation was also confused by how the Societists of Alfarus’ period tended to promote comparisons to the Roman Empire (despite the latter’s history of war and violence) in connexion with the Novalatina language, something that would persist until a backlash against it under the Konkursum ad Kultura.

    Other than Italy and Spain, the rest of Europe, by contrast, was usually dismissed as a ‘mere peninsula with delusions of grandeur’ and representing little of worth in connection with the alleged lost Universal Human Culture. This was clearly influenced by contemporary foreign policy, resentment of the French both ancestral and caused by the conflict with the IEF, dismissal of the ENA and therefore the British Isles that had spawned it, and a desire to appeal to peoples colonised by Europeans elsewhere in the world to turn to Societism. It may even have been an expression of ferdinandismo, Novamundine supremacism and contempt for the Old World. All in all, this brief rundown shows just how little the Societists’ censorship diktats had to do with any kind of truly disinterested appeal to reconstructing some Universal Human identity.

    The point, for the film student, is that film was a brand new art form, developed (in a usable form) a few years after the Final Revolution and, perhaps, fundamentally associated with it (another non-local invention of the time, the quister, also became associated with Societist novelty). There was no decades- or centuries-old tradition of filmmaking in countries around the world to study and try, in theory, to plot back a unified ‘correct Human Filmmaking’ method from using the comparative method. This meant Societist filmmakers were essentially tasked with creating what Human Filmmaking should be, and as nobody could say what that was, this gave them an incongruous freedom to create. Hence the reputation of this period for experimentalism, even though (as said above) the majority of films made by Societists in this period were as dreary and worthy as those made in other parts of the world.

    Nonetheless, that reputation exists for a reason. The early Societist film studios were mostly dotted around the former Buenos Aires Province, many based in the former eponymous city, Zon1Urb1, itself. However, as time went on, many began ambitiously filming on location, not only in other parts of South America, but in Africa, the East Indies, and other places under Societist sway or influence. These films were often far more interesting and exotic than the rather parochial ones of many countries (though Californian filmmakers often managed to have various parts of their diverse state double for any region of the world!) Even dry educational Societist films became sought after in film-odeons around the world for their depictions of exotic locations. Appealing to, say, an Italian audience, precisely because they saw the people of Java as so different from them and therefore interesting, was the sort of ideological contradiction that would have tied the later Combine in knots – but Alfarus and his men merely saw this as an opportunity to spread influence abroad. Some of these films were not just documentaries, but grandiloquent propaganda showing new lands and peoples gained for the Threefold Eye – compared, by some contemporary Societists as well as outsiders, to the old Roman Triumph. The difference was that the leaders who had, ahem, ‘subdued the revolt against Humanity in this Zone via a police action’ were not celebrated in the same way Roman generals had been – well, at least not officially or openly.

    Reflecting the somewhat looser strictures of the period, these films typically did not shy away from openly depicting scenes of conflict between Celatores and locals, though these were often theatrically staged and censored in terms of violence just as they would have been in the nations. Possibly the most famous Societist film of that age, however, broke all the rules, both of filmmaking as seen elsewhere at the time, and of Societist censorship. Bonum Celator, “The Good Celator” – in earlier bootleg English versions, mistranslated as “The Happy Cavalier” – is the masterpiece of director Vinzendius Skopus (né Vincente Escobar). Ambitiously filmed in locations all over the Combine, from 1921 to 1923 and finally released in 1924, it was also the most expensive film ever made at the time. In many ways it is the ultimate progenitor of the ‘Societist Epic’ genre that influenced the Societist films we see today – which are louder, more ambitious and more superficially impressive, yet lack the depth and the heart of their founder.

    The acting and filmmaking mastery at work in Bonum Celator sees it remain popular today, despite its apparent disadvantages; it is monochrome, lacks sound (a dubbed soundie version was made later, but received poorly) and suffers from the other limitations of the day. Nonetheless, Skopus’ directing and the performance by the lead actor, Karlus Viridus (né Carlos Verdura) elevates the film above the often wooden, starchy norms we associate with the usual film acting of this period. Viridus plays the adult Enrikus Zervus, depicted in flashback scenes by the child actor Ansharius Mardinus.[12] As many a critic has noted, Bonum Celator’s setting makes no logical sense from a chronological point of view; it depicts Enrikus fighting in the contemporary Societist conquests of Africa and the East Indies, yet implies the Combine has already existed for many years in the flashback scenes with his youthful self twenty years earlier. It remains debated whether this represents a deliberate artistic decision by Skopus to produce a hauntingly vague and timeless setting, the result of him complying with censorship orders in a piecemeal and disconnected manner, or simply the limitations of having to film the flashback scenes in the contemporary Combine.

    The film opens with Enrikus fighting in Africa, then flashes back to his youth as a young boy living in an Equality of Necessity-provided basic home. He and his brother Pedrus live together with their mother, who is still grieving their deceased father but is heavily implied to be planning to remarry (another decision by the censors). The rebellious Enrikus and the more goody-two-shoes Pedrus do not get on, often getting into fights and being told off by their schoolmaster. The young Enrikus is shown committing seemingly harmless pranks in a masterfully-storyboarded montage, then going home happily to see his mother. Then the film backs up and shows us the outcomes of each prank, not just the beginning – the stone he threw to knock off a policeman’s helmet actually struck the man’s head and blinded him in one eye; he does not merely tease a cat but tortures it to death; a teacher is left permanently scarred by the glue trap Enrikus left to glue him to his chair.[13] The message, told with remarkable subtlety compared to most Societist or indeed non-Societist films of the period, is that rebellion against authority may seem harmless at first but rapidly turns to violence that ruins lives. And, indeed, when Enrikus’ mother comes home, she finds he has fought Pedrus in her absence and inflicted a possibly fatal blow on his brother, reduced to a comatose state. In floods of tears, his mother calls in the authorities.

    In further flashbacks interspersed with the adult narrative, a Judikador’s court calls Enrikus an inherently damaged, violence-prone boy. He offers him a choice – exile to a distant penal island for life, or to join the Celatores, use his violent tendencies for the benefit of Humanity, and ultimately forfeit his life in the distant future. Enrikus chooses the latter, and now we know how he got here. The Africa arc of the film ends with the now repentant Enrikus losing a friend to Darfuri spears. Grieving, but telling himself he does not deserve friendship, Enrikus is posted to the other side of the world, to Java. The second arc features more scenes of action, and Enrikus and his men end up saving an attractive young Javanese princess, Anisa (played by ethnic Chinese, Peruvian-born actress Lucera Ramira). Initially rebellious, she falls in love with him as they have more adventures through the jungle, trying to seek the secured city of Batavia (Zon7Urb1).

    Enrikus loses more of his men to Javanese attackers and they are trapped, managing to let Anisa escape and telling her to run. Instead of running alone, she gets help from a fresh group of Celatores led by a civilian official (heavily implied to have used death-luft on the Javanese). This sequence, which on paper could not have taken more than a few hours, is treated as a longer period in order to allow Anisa to have more dialogue with the official. He tells her of the Societist way, which Enrikus had only touched on, and she is both converted by his words and impressed by him personally.

    Enrikus and his remaining men are saved. He is shocked to learn that the official is none other than his brother Pedrus, having recovered from the coma and entered this path thanks to the ‘meritocratic’ tests. This results in an agonising decision – he hears that Pedrus has convinced Anisa of the way of Sanchez, she is clearly half in love with him as well in a love triangle, and as a Celator, Enrikus is not permitted to have a family. He monologues to himself that Anisa would be cursed to bear his child regardless, tainted by the violent streak within him. Rather than force her to make a decision, he slips away and goes into the jungle to go out fighting against the Javanese, leaving Pedrus to marry Anisa in his absence. The film ends with the teary-eyed Anisa reading his final note to her and then collapsing into Pedrus’ arms, while Pedrus looks hauntingly off into the distant jungle. We get a final glimpse of a pair of eyes peering out from the trees, and a narration (via the interstitial subtitles) tells us that no-one knows if Enrikus lives or dies, but so long as the enemies of Humanity live, there will always be more like him, those who sacrifice their own lives and futures so that war can one day end.

    Bonum Celator brilliantly captures the Alfarus-era exposition of Societism and irons out the apparent contradictions. It appeals to an audience on multiple levels, and despite its tragic depiction of Enrikus’ fate, reportedly resulted in a large increase in recruitment to the Celatores. Many Societist officials felt it was too daring and controversial, especially in its ‘glorifying’ depictions of battles, and tried to ban it; but this was an uphill battle, because Alfarus himself loved it. And indeed, Bonum Celator became not only one of the most popular films in film-odeons in Societist territory, but around the world. Most critics outside of the most paranoid believe it did not do a particularly good job of convincing foreign audiences of the alleged justice of the Societist way –but it did, at least, convince them that Societists could make good films...

    [9] See Part #267 in Volume VII.

    [10] This is a bit of a simplification, as there was plenty of experimental filmmaking elsewhere as well, such as England’s phanty-films (animation) described in the aforementioned Part #267.

    [11] See Part #121 in Volume III. Note that the Societists’ methods here are not completely half-baked – in OTL linguists and archaeologists have tried to reconstruct the cultures of ancient peoples without written records, looking at common words in descendant languages of the Indo-European family, or symbolic representations in Chinese characters, for example. However, the Societists take it a wee bit far...

    [12] Note the lack of a Spanish original name here, as Ansharius Mardinus was born after the shift to Novalatina names. In Spanish his name would be Oscar Martinez. For similar reasons (see next sentence) no Spanish original name is given for Enrikus Zervus, but it would be Enrique Cierva.

    [13] The civil police in the Combine are technically still Celatores, but few people call them by that name because they are so obviously distinct from the “we are certainly not an army” militarised Celator force.
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  • Thande

    Part #288: Hate and Rockets

    “Tensions continue to mount in the Indian Ocean region as Ceylonese – I’m sorry, Kandyan – forces have tested another medium-range missile, which has reportedly crashed into the ocean about twenty miles south of the Bisnagi-controlled island of Sagar. We go over to our expert on the region, retired Colonel Franklin Hemming. Colonel?”

    “Thank you, Miss Jaxon. Well, yes, your viewers could be forgiven for thinking your station had started showing repeats of the news” (VO: nervous laughter) “or that they’d accidentally slapped in a cart from where they caught last month’s news after magging the big film. But joking aside, I can assure you this is happening now. The Kandyan military continues to rattle its sabre, in the form of its expanded missile arsenal, undermining the current negotiations in Baroda between Bisnaga and Kandy over resolving their disputed fishing rights.”

    “I see. What do you think the – the Kandyans seek to accomplish with this? It seems as though they want the talks to fail.”

    “That’s a difficult question to answer, Miss Jaxon. Kandyan politics are notoriously opaque and analysts disagree on how unified their response is. It could well be that Nayak Sampanthan is negotiating in good faith, but has less control over his army than we might imagine. We should not forget that it has been less thant twenty-five years since the Kandyan army – allegedly, that is – removed a Nayak from office against his will in a quiet coup.”

    “Do you think that is a real possibility, Colonel?”

    “Well, perhaps so. Certainly, there have been protests from all quarters at this missile falling so close to an island which is a holy place of pilgrimage to Hindus, a faith which the Nayak shares himself...but the Kandyan army leadership is dominated by Buddhists, who might be less careful dropping their weapons around such a site...”

    – Transcription of a C-WNB News Motoscope broadcast,
    recorded in Waccamaw Strand, Kingdom of Carolina, 16/04/2020​


    (Dr David Wostyn’s note)

    While those idiot rosbifs indulge in drinking themselves to death, I think this is an opportune moment to reintroduce a book we have found very useful in our previous expeditions, rather than one which we have encountered since our arrival here...


    From “12 Inventions that Changed the World” by Jennifer Hodgeson and Peter Willis (1990):

    We are cheating by including the rocket in this work, yet not strictly counting it towards our number of 12. Everyone, even a child – especially a child – is aware of the great impact that rocketry has had upon our world in the twentieth century. Yet rocket technology does not belong solely to its own field, but developed from, and in parallel with, two other inventions we have discussed: gunpowder and the aerodrome. We could even make the argument that rockets, as we know them, would have been impossible without the invention of the ypologist as well, or of modern chemistry. Rocketry therefore represents the fusion of many fields of invention and research, the whole greater than the sum of its parts but without seeking to replace them.

    Despite this, rocketry is also an ancient science. The first recorded rockets were invented by the Song Dynasty of China in the thirteenth century, building on the Chinese invention of gunpowder and an interest in fireworks for display purposes. Yet it did not take long for the potential of rockets in war to become obvious, and the Song Chinese deployed incendiary rockets as a kind of fire-arrow launcher in their wars with the Mongols, as well as developing a variant for naval warfare. The Mongols, as was their wont, adopted this weapon that had been used against them, and their conquests subsequently spread early rockets to India, the Arab world, and Europe. Though somewhat useful as incendiary devices to set besieged cities alight, these early rockets were mostly seen more as entertainments and toys, with military technological advancement more focusing on conventional gunpowder-driven firearms and artillery.

    Rockets would not be able to punch on the same level as conventional firearms until breakthroughs made in the Kingdom of Mysore (today part of modern Bisnaga) in the eighteenth century. The Mysoreans improved the rocket technology by using iron tube cases for the gunpowder propellent; this focused the thrust more effectively and lent the rockets much greater range (over a mile). A few Mysorean rockets were equipped with explosive warheads, but these were usually too unpredictable to be useful except as terror weapons; more commonly, rockets would be fitted with blades or solid iron tips to inflict harm more directly on their targets. Seasoned troops, inured to their mates being mown down by the clockwork death of enemy musketry or cannonballs, would panic and run at the terror inflicted by a Mysorean cushoon rocket-platoon; missiles would scream down around them, sometimes arcing unpredictably in circles, with all the arbitary death-dealing of a plague. The English troops who faced the Mysoreans during the Jacobin Wars were deeply impressed, and resolved to adopt this war technology themselves and take it back to Europe.[1]

    European developments of the Mysorean rockets rapidly spread across Europe, being used extensively by Lisieux’s French Latin Republic as well as its enemies. Following the Jacobin Wars, interest continued in the further improvement of rockets for military purposes. Rocket trajectories and explosive warheads remained erratic for many years, though they continued to function effectively as terror weapons and incendiaries. Their use in naval warfare helped bring an end to the era of wooden ships, whereas armourclads proved more resistant to them.

    However, rockets could potentially destroy even an armourclad if, by chance, their erratic flight happened to place them where a spark could fall through a crack into the enemy magazine and detonate it. This, as well as their use for bombardment, meant rockets were frequently used on warships throughout the nineteenth century. Most infamously, in 1851 the rockets of the American armourclad HIMS Lord Hamilton were hijacked by Howden terrorists in order to inflict the Manhattan Massacre on New York City.[2]

    Rockets therefore remained deployed on ships. However, their hazardous nature meant that they were often stationed in pods or sections of a ship carefully separated from the rest (especially the magazine). This logic would continue into the twentieth century, being used on the French Conquérant super-lionheart for example. In Russia and some other countries, rather than risk placing rockets on lineships at all, specialised dentist escort ships would be equipped with rockets almost exclusively[3] to separate the dangerous weapons from the valuable lineships they guarded.

    On land, one particular area of interest for rocket technology was as a counterdrome, or more precisely, counter-steerable weapon.[4] Steerables had been used to great effect by both sides of the Great American War, which in hindsight would be seen as their heyday. Up to this point, counterdrome weapons had primarily taken the form of light, long-barrelled rifled cannon like the Italian Vespa.[5] These were effective enough at short range – the original Vespa was first designed for Alpine fighting where spy steerables could be ambushed while crossing the mountains – but rapidly fell victim to the limitations of ballistics for longer confrontations. The first effective counterdrome rockets appeared after the Great American War, using incendiary warheads to ignite aquaform-filled steerable gasbags; the development of inert coronium steerables led to the use of fragmentation warheads instead to burst them.[6] Ironically, however, rockets proved even more effective as a weapon for steerables to shoot back; though their ignition could prove hazardous, carrying a small number of rockets was much more feasible than a cannon. There were even occasional air duels between steerables wielding rockets in the early part of the Pandoric War, though these rarely led to kills thanks to their inaccuracy, and would soon be obsoleted by aerodromes.

    Throughout this period, the focus of research and development of rockets had been on refining the basic formula that already worked. Better ways of containing and directing the gunpowder propellent, improving on the Mysoreans’ old breakthrough; new propellent formulae, in parallel with the development of xylofortex and other new explosives; better warheads, detonators and timers. The invention of solution engines for artillery also led to their use for the more complex mathematics of rocket trajectories; unlike the unchanging mass of a cannonball or shell, a rocket posed the additional complication that its mass decreased over time as its propellent was used up.

    These improvements certainly made rockets an ever more effective weapon, but they were fundamentally restrictive. Rockets made in this manner could never be anything more than a short-range weapon, which in turn meant that they never fully supplanted conventional artillery in ground warfare. They always retained a reputation of being something in parallel with conventional military forces rather than part of them, an uncomfortable cuckoo in the nest. But as the Black Twenties dawned, this was about to change forever.

    There are many inventions which provide much fodder for Heritage Points of Controversy, as several inventors in different nations seem to have come close to a breakthrough around the same time. Perhaps this is just a coincidence, driven by the need that other developments need to have happened before the breakthrough becomes possible, so attempts at that breakthrough then naturally seem to cluster. Yet we feel that the more poetic interpretation – of an Idea whose Time has Come – is also valid. There is more to invention than mere metal and pseulac and mathematics. Ingenuity is not wholly rational, and oft fortune may favour the bold.

    In this case, the Idea the world was waiting for was the realisation that rockets need not be powered solely by solid fuel such as gunpowder. The basic definition of a rocket is that it is a missile or vehicle powered by a combustion reaction between a fuel and an integral elluftiser, rather than using the elluftium in the air like a surge engine.[7] Up until now, rockets had used solid fuels which incorporated this elluftiser; for example, in black gunpowder this came in the form of nitre (a.k.a. saltpetre), today scientifically known as illuftate of kalium. There were certain disadvantages associated with this setup, notably that solid-fuel rockets could not be throttled up or down once started, which in term limited the ability to use them as guided weapons. (Despite this, guided solid rocket weapons have since been developed). They were also usually less efficient than the technology that was about to appear: liquid-fuel rocket engines.

    This breakthrough was not as simple as it may sound on first hearing. Liquid-fuel engines are remarkably more complex than solid ones, requiring extensive tanks, pipework and pumps to funnel the liquids into the reaction chamber; usually they must mix a fuel and an elluftiser; both of these may be liquefied lufts, requiring cryogenic storage headaches as well. The pressure of the liquids must also be carefully controlled, as this can easily lead to oscillation, liquids ‘sloshing’ due to changing speed, or even an explosion. Solid rockets already had a reputation for being hazardous to work with, but research into liquid-fuel rockets would therefore see this danger increased considerably further. Therefore, it is, perhaps, small surprise that the only people willing to work on the idea in the 1910s and 1920s all seem to have been eccentric geniuses working alone.

    This is, of course, a bit of an exaggeration – no lone researcher could produce rockets of the scale that eventually appeared – but is a more-or-less accurate description in the early years. Our story will naturally focus on Umberto Pazzaglia, the man whom most historiographies attribute ‘the invention of the rocket’ to. Pazzaglia was one of the heirs to a mobile manufacturing fortune, but left his older brother to run the company while focusing on his own inventive interests. After several minor contributions to aerodynamic theory at the new Technical University of Asti, Pazzaglia decided he wanted to get away from academia in order to conduct a long-term research project. Not naturally secretive, Pazzaglia was nonetheless fed up by the climate of industrial espionage he had grown up with in his father’s company, and wished to avoid inquisitive spies. In 1916 he therefore set up an extensive workshop in Sicily, a choice partly driven by his admiration for Archimedes and partly by pragmatic concerns. The Sicilian Republic was a government in which state power often rubbed shoulders with organised crime, but this did mean that anything was for sale – including privacy. Few would ask questions if gentlemen with notepads and cameras unaccountably washed up on the beach missing their heads, while Pazzaglia merrily continued his work.

    As hinted above, Pazzaglia was not the only individual researching liquid-fuelled rockets at this time. He was not even the only one to seek out a testing ground at the back of beyond away from prying eyes. A remarkable similar parallel story can be seen among a number of nations at the time. America’s Edith Harrison did her experiments west of Caloosa in Carolina’s East Florida province, French-born Pérousien Benoît Campeau worked in the Arrière-pays of his adopted homeland, and Russia’s Pyotr Kolenkovsky’s rocket tests in the Yapontsi city of Ozersk infamously resulted in part of it burning down in 1923.[8] Pazzaglia was merely sufficiently fortunate to make certain breakthroughs first. His first prototype rocket, named Mercurio-3 (1 and 2 had exploded) successfully flew in September 1920. By this point, the Panic of 1917 had bitten deep on Pazzaglia’s brother’s company and he needed additional funding, turning to wealthy friends for patronage. It was by this manner that Pazzaglia’s experiments became known to Salvo Orsini, cousin of the politician Antonio Orsini.

    When the better-known Orsini became Prime Minister of Italy in 1922, his cousin’s stories led him to approve a request for a little government funding. Pazzaglia had by now moved on to his Venere series of rockets; the name Mercurio had originally been chosen merely as a reference to the swift-footed messenger of the gods, but one of Pazzaglia’s increasing number of collaborators at his facility suggested working on through the planets. Like many of the liquid rocket pioneers, Pazzaglia saw the rockets not only as a potential weapon of war, or for more mundane purposes such as sending mail between continents, but a way to escape the Earth’s gravity altogether and travel into space as the scientific romantics had long written of. Such a day seemed to lie well in the future, but the planetary naming scheme was a wry reference to it. As early as March 1923, Pazzaglia’s rocket flight Venere-4 would, according to a majority of the definitions agreed by ASN member states, become the first manmade object to cross the boundary of outer space. As those definitions, of course, also lay well in the future, this was not recognised as a particular milestone or celebrated at the time (though often incorrectly portrayed as such in biopics).[9]

    While Italian military observers would come to see Pazzaglia’s work in 1923, it would not be until the Two Years of Hell began in April 1924 that serious attention was devoted. The plague had undermined both Russian and allied armies in Poland, resulting in a near-static front that offensives from neither side could break. It was natural for both to turn to new weapons in an attempt to break the stalemate, and Pazzaglia’s rockets were suddenly more than a curiosity. With the improved performance of ypologetic calculations, military theorists realised, they could function to effectively put Russian military bases far behind the lines ‘in artillery range’. It was also uncomfortably observed that the same would be true of civilian targets such as cities; perhaps it is a blessing in disguise that the Shiraz Massacre had resulted in a retreat from considering such an attack before it became possible. What was valid for aerodrome bombing was also valid for this strange new world of rocket warfare.

    Anibale Fioravanzo, commanding general of Italian forces in Germany and Poland, was initially sceptical of Pazzaglia’s weapons. After reluctantly leaving the front and uncomfortably travelling in a sterilised Standard Crate to make an observation himself, he was converted – but also produced warnings. Fioravanzo feared that Orsini would want a quick victory, ordering Pazzaglia’s limited number of Venere rockets equipped with warheads and immediately launched against the Russians. Fioravanzo had already seen too many innovative weapons and tactics squandered due to a desire for a quick breakthrough, after which the enemy had adapted. He therefore proposed an audacious gamble that would require Italy to hold her nerve; to stand on the defensive while Pazzaglia worked on a new rocket designed for military purposes, and producing it en masse, until the capabilities existed to strike a blow heavy enough that it would break the Russian lines permanently. In the meantime, absolute secrecy would have to be maintained.

    Orsini was predictably sceptical, and Fioravanzo had to threaten to resign before he got his way. Controversially, his ‘absolute secrecy’ extended to not informing Italy’s allies, and much bad blood would occur in hindsight with France and especially Germany, who wasted men on fruitless attacks, unaware of the Italian plan or why the Italians refused to participate in those attacks. Even then, inevitably some hints and rumours leaked out of Sicily, and there is some evidence the Russians, Americans and Societists became aware of Pazzaglia’s project, though not perhaps its extent or import. The Societists in particular appear to have already been working on liquid rockets of their own (further confusing the question of who got there first). But perhaps it was Pazzaglia’s successes, as he tested the new and appropriately-named Marte (Mars) war rocket, that convinced the Societists their own researches were worth pursuing further...

    [1] As previously described. This is very similar to the order of events in OTL; in OTL the British developed the Congreve rocket from the Mysorean weapon. These were used in both against the French in the Battle of Leipzig and, more famously, to bombard Baltimore’s Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 (inspiring the ‘rockets’ red glare’ in the American national anthem).

    [2] See Part #192 in Volume IV. The phrasing here clearly indicates where the authors’ sympathies lie, given the ambiguity over what David Johnson’s men actually intended.

    [3] Confusingly worded – they mean that the Russians mounted rockets on them instead of guns (mostly). Dentists still have other weapons such as dive bombs and steelteeth (depth charges and torpedoes) as their primary mission is to counter ironsharks (attack submarines).

    [4] Because of the cumbersome term ‘counter-steerable’, almost every historian in TTL refers to anti-air weapons in this era anachronistically by the modern term ‘counterdrome’. These authors at least have the decency to note the anachronism before reverting to that term.

    [5] See Interlude #18 in Volume IV. The success of the Italian weapon means ‘Vespa’ would likely have become the generic term used for all counter-steerable weapons at the time. Antonio Rizzi, the man who developed the Vespa, did actually also try using rockets to shoot down steerables (not noted here for simplicity of narrative) but without as much success.

    [6] Recall that aquaform and coronium are the terms in TTL for hydrogen and helium, respectively.

    [7] Surge engine is the term used in TTL for jet engine. Recall that elluftium means oxygen.

    [8] Caloosa is OTL Fort Lauderdale, FL; the Arrière-pays is the Pérousien term for what we would call the Australian outback; Ozersk is the Russian appellation for a Japanese city known in OTL as Nagahama (the one in Shiga Prefecture on the shores of Lake Biwa).

    [9] Opinions on the arbitrarily defined boundary of outer space have also varied in OTL, with the two most common definitions now being the Kármán Line of 100 kilometres or 62 miles above Earth’s mean sea level, and the United States’ definition of 50 miles or 80 kilometres above it. (Their later adoption means some US pilots flying high-flight experimental planes were later retroactively recognised as technically astronauts). Both definitions are derived from Theodore von Kármán’s original attempt at calculating the point at which a vehicle would need to travel faster than orbital velocity to gain sufficient aerodynamic lift to support itself. However, in reality this varies on the atmospheric conditions, meaning there is no strictly correct definition. In TTL, it is something of a point of pride that every major nation defines space slightly differently (in part so they can disagree over claiming various ‘firsts’), with the most common definitions being France’s at 25 French leagues (97.5 OTL kilometres or 58.5 miles), America’s at 55 miles, Russia’s at 100 versts (106.7 OTL kilometres or 64 miles) and Italy’s at 50 miglia or Neapolitan miles (57.4 OTL miles or 91.8 kilometres). Italy being ranked among the others is a point of globally recognised pride due to their space pioneering heritage rather than a measure of modern relevance. The Societists, of course, also have their own system...
  • Thande

    (Recording by Sgt Bob Mumby (BM) and Sgt Dominic Ellis (DE):

    DE: Has he gone, Bob?

    BM (pause): Looks like it, Dom.

    DE: Thank (static) for that, I thought he’d never bog off and go back to his coffee. Well, now we can actually get back to something interesting.

    BM: I thought he was scanning stuff about rockets? Rockets are interesting.

    DE: Well...

    BM: And isn’t this another of those dusty old exam paper guides you found? That doesn’t sound more int-

    DE: Look, just let me have this one, alright?

    BM: Fine. But next time, your round.


    From: “Compiled Examination Papers (2004-2014), Imperial College of New Jersey; Volume 12A, American Political History: Student Commentary”, published 2015 by CNJ Press—

    There’s a question every student of a certain age learned to dread, and it’s showing worrying signs of making a comeback: “What were the causes of the fall of the Fouracre Ministry?”

    This one was full of pitfalls when your pa and ma’s generation were doing their exams, and it’s not gotten any better with time. Firstly, there’s so many possible things you could talk about. It’s a bit of a trick question to begin with, because a lot of students will think they have to list everything. That’s not a very good way to pass, because time and word limit constraints means that those students are going to end up not having enough capacity to describe any of the causes in sufficient detail. Broad but shallow, one might say, when the real meat of historical analysis should be narrow but deep. So a better approach is maybe to very briefly and concisely mention the wide range of possible causes, but then to pick one or two to focus on.

    Of course, the great thing about learning history in a free country is that you know there’s no right or wrong answer here. That doesn’t mean you can get away with lazy mistakes, as we’ll come to in a moment, but it does mean you’re not trying to read the examiner’s mind and pick the ‘right’ one. An examiner will look to the arguments you use to justify your choice as a major factor in the fall of the Fouracre Ministry before deciding how to judge your work. If you happen to pick a cause that was in their mind, but don’t back it up with arguments, it won’t win the marks. Of course, this applies to all topics, but the sheer number of possible causes you can discuss here makes it a nicely clear-cut example.

    Let’s start with a a common major pitfall. Again if your ma or pa sat an exam on this topic, they’d probably have been able to get a good grade for saying that President Fouracre was undermined by the infiltrating Societist cadres, and the Combine’s long-plotted schemes to strike. Not only is academia more cool-headed these days and less sympathetic to a Black Scare approach, but there is a more important factor. Thirty years ago, though it’d be a bit of a stereotypical argument, you could at least have argued that it might be a relevant factor. But now, with the exposure of certain documents, all but the most fervent conspiracy theorists agree that to blame Fouracre’s fall on the Societists is to confuse cause with effect. (And you’re not studying inversion theory here, thank your stars!)

    Of course, it is true that the Societists were infiltrating cadres as cryptic reserves into all nations at this point, but that did not mean that they had any intention of activating a particular group of them. Rather, they were both following their ideological drive to spread Sanchez’s damnable message across the world, and also hedging their bets. According to their Doctrine of the Last Throw, they would not be able to guess where opportunities to intervene in the cause of the Eye would arise, so the solution was to prepare the ground everywhere ahead of time. Alfarus was a ruthless pragmatist who would use any means to advance his own power and that of the Combine; he would support one cadre’s revolutionary activities with an intervention, while triggering another to action as a mere distraction and leave its stalwarts out to dry when they were crushed by a nation. There was little in the way of favouritism here, with the notable exception that what seemed like the entire generation of Combine Societists viewed California with rose-tinted spectacles, and seemed firmly convinced it was always just about to join them of its own free will. Of course, the Californian government, trying desperately to keep its independence as the Empire pushed the Russians out of North America, probably helped play up that image in return for Combine aid.

    The key point that we learned from those documents, though, was confirmation that the Societists’ damnable interventions in the last phase of the Black Twenties were mostly not long-planned. While Alfarus had always intended to use the Doctrine of the Last Throw when the conflict started to wind down, he deliberately did not select targets beyond a few modest ones – notably French Guiana, which had been a thorn in the side of the Combine since its foundation. Alfarus and his allies had resisted internal pressure to take the French toehold after the IEF withdrawal, fearing it would undermine the informal settlement with the French. Yet since then, besides being an irritating blank corner of the Combine’s otherwise total dominance of the South American continent, French Guiana had formed a natural spot for dissidents to flee to when Alfarus tried to purge them. Anti-Alfarus Societists had then often gone on to France, where some of them were now travelling to Danubia and influencing its own Vienna School in a direction Alfarus did not like. Eliminating French Guiana seemed like a good option for preventing the further propagation of such ‘deviationism’ by ensuring any dissidents had less chance of escaping the Combine’s ‘justice’. Further, it was becoming increasingly clear that France would indeed be too weakened by war and plague to protest if the Combine acted so as soon as the Franco-Russian conflict ended one way or another. Exhausted French public opinion would not allow it, once more supposedly exposing the ‘crisis of democracy’ Sanchez had written of during the Great American War.

    French Guiana was not the only place Alfarus and his advisors considered a likely late-stage target at this point; one reason why the later feints were so successful is that they had originally been intended as serious attacks. Indeed, many even among the most senior Societists fighting in the feints were under the impression they were part of a full-force intervention until it was too late. But this is to get ahead of ourselves. The point is that the documents have revealed that there was no grand Societist scheme to destabilise the ENA at the time the Fouracre Ministry fell in September 1924. Or, at least, no grander than there was an opportunistic, low-level Societist scheme to destabilise every nation at that time, ‘throwing cadres at a globe and seeing which ones stuck’ as the wit Leslie Irving put it. Arguments that Societist cryptography had broken American codes also fall down on the basis that the Societists had achieved the same for many nations, and had not targeted the Empire in particular at the time.

    So, unless you’re already the world’s best crafter of arguments, you’re not likely to get very far in an exam arguing that Fouracre fell thanks to the Societists. You might, maybe, get some marks for bringing it up and dismissing it – but try to use fewer words than we have! A better use of time and word count is to consider those causes that are possible, so let’s look at a few of these.

    A significant cause, though one often neglected by students, is that Fouracre led a divided party and government. Though he was a capable leader and one whose intelligence bordered on brilliance, Fouracre was seen as cold, numbers-focused, and lacking the personal warmth or character that politicians use to build alliances. This was not so much of an issue at this point in terms of public image, as this was still a time when the public saw and heard their politicians rather seldom – subtitled newsreels at the film-odeon, the occasional scratchy broadcast heard in a public club or the house of the few wealthy enough to own their own Photel sets, perhaps the more politically engaged buying recorded speeches on groovedisc or tape. Indeed, Fouracre’s focus on numbers had impressed the public in his response to the Panic of 1917, convincing them he knew what he was talking about, and did the same in his announcements about controlling the plague outbreaks a few years later.

    Yet cold competence cut little ice when he was trying to please multiple warring factions within the Liberal Party, never mind their fractious coalition partner, the Mentians. There were a number of seemingly paradoxical factors which influenced Fouracre’s fall from grace. In the 1918 general election, the Liberals had come close to a majority alone. Fouracre had considered governing as a minority, but had elected to approach the Mentians for support, worried his faction-ridden party’s tendency towards disunion would result in the seemingly strong minority government being easily defeated thanks to rebellious backbenchers. Getting the Mentians on side had, indeed, temporarily dissuaded the Liberal factions from throwing their weight around, as the government would likely keep enough votes to pass laws no matter what they did – but, as it became clear, they were only keeping their powder dry.

    These factions included the old-guard ‘Thicket’ group, so nicknamed due to being led by the ageing Michael Briars. Briars was bitter about having repeatedly missed the chance to hold the highest office he had coveted,[10] and sceptical of Fouracre’s adoption of Hareby Economics as a solution to the Panic of 1917.[11] Though few saw Briars as a feasible President anymore (perhaps including himself), from his position sulking on the backbenches he continued to command considerable parliamentary influence as a potential kingmakre.

    Another key Liberal faction were the ‘Overripes’ (originally ‘Overripe Aubergines’ before being cut down) in reference to the fact that normally purple aubergines can turn yellow if left to ripen for too long.[12] This reflected the fact that yellow or golden was the usual party colour of the Liberals, whereas the Mentians often used Populist tyrine purple (which had previously been used by Virginia’s Magnolia Democrats decades earlier). Calling this party faction Overripe was therefore an accusation that they were truly Mentians in heart who had ended up in the Liberals in error, or as a self-interested means of gaining power. The Overripes tended to be the defenders of Faulkner’s Social Americanism (against Fouracre’s colder New America Policy) and sometimes formed a bridge to the Mentian coalition partners (though the Mentians were also sometimes suspicious of them as potential competition). The Overripes’ de facto leader was the Michiganite Anthony Washborough, MCP for Littlefort and Postmaster-General.[13] Though sharing many views with the Mentians, he had a personal dislike of the party due to a past fighting their local chapter in Milwark in bitter partisan election battles that had sometimes descended into street fights. This did not help him make common cause with the Mentian leader, Magnus Bloom, who had been on the opposite sides of similar battles in his home city of Brooklyn.[14]

    Fouracre, or rather his ally and chief whip Gerald ‘Jerry’ Alderney, managed to hold these fractious groups together for five years through economic crisis, war and plague – a remarkable achievement in itself. Therefore, one viable way of approaching an essay question like this is to argue that the wonder is not that the Fouracre Ministry fell, but that it lasted as long as it did. This does beg the question of what had changed, and this brings us into our next key factor.

    Theorists such as Richard Brookes and (in a slightly different way) Paula Reid have argued that the historical American political landscape represents a tendency towards factionalism and anarchy, periodically and temporarily suppressed by a perceived need to respond to external threats. Their theories, especially Reid’s, connect the 1820s-1840s, with their long debates over slavery and Reform and their isolation of the Carolina Whigs, with the idea that such division is a natural consequence of America lacking such a coherent external threat. By contrast, the presence of Meridian-backed Carolina as a thorn in America’s side meant that the wheels of government turned rapidly in the late 19th century, and disagreements between Liberals and Supremacists (though often fiery and bitter) never manifested as grandstanding obstructionism. There was a sense that promoting paralysis in the halls of power, as had so often been seen in the earlier period with the Whigs opposing everything, would not endear a party to the voting public. Not with a very visible external threat breathing down America’s neck, ever seeking to get ahead – always a rival, even in the less hostile days of the Seventies Thaw.

    If one accepts this framework, then it is possible to construct an argument based on how the circumstances of Fouracre’s government had changed. The disparate factions had remained united in the face of the threats of economic crisis, then the outbreak of war and then the plague, as none of them wanted to see the Supremacists return to power. The Supremacists were then led by Roderick Marley, a skilled speech-giver but one thought by many to be a mere cipher for his wife, the influential and strong-minded Lilian Marley (née Page). Lilian was a friend of the great Patriot Cytherean reformer LG Manders, her own aristocratic Virginian family from a traditionally Patriot background. In the same way that Magnus Bloom represented a Mentian reaction against former leader Ernest Newman (who had led the party into a now-unpopular coalition with Jack Tayloe), the Marleys showed a Supremacist Party turning against the macho imagery of Tayloe in favour of seeking out new electoral frontiers.

    Yet the Supremacists remained steadfastly opposed to both Social Americanism and the New America Policy, the Marleys’ beautifully orchestrated rhetoric laying the blame for the Panic, the war and the plague all at the door of how these policies had left the American people ‘soft and mollycoddled’. Their answer to such crises involved heavy cuts to public spending and effectively leaving the poorest to fend for themselves ‘as God and Lord Washington intended, so they could pull themselves up through their own efforts’. Such a vision was sufficiently repellent to the Mentians and all Liberal factions that, for a time at least, the idea of the Supremacists taking power was too worrying to risk a factional ploy that might bring down the government.

    But in 1924, two things had changed. Firstly, the year dawned with the Russians having been ejected from North America altogether, something which most – perhaps including Fouracre himself, judging by his diaries – had regarded as an impossible dream. Secondly, at first it seemed that the ENA was managing to contain the plague outbreaks, at least in the heartland. Ruthless and pragmatic action had seen the east-west railway links severed, with time-consuming and quarantine or disinfection-requiring changeovers needed before proceeding from west to east. Chichago and St Lewis had both seen significant outbreaks in early 1924, but these had been contained (sometimes via the brutal policy of forcing the poor from slums and then burning them down, but at least – much to some Supremacists’ criticism – the poor were financially compensated afterwards). It is easy to forget now, but in 1924 many newspapers in Europe presented the ENA and Combine as handling the plague equally well, with the quashed outbreaks in Chichago and St Lewis being compared to that in the former Lima. Of course, there had been a far worse epidemic in Drakesland, but so too there had been one in the Societist East Indies.

    These two factors, both seemingly positive, paradoxically resulted in the withdrawal of the sense of urgency and peril that had helped keep the government together. The factions became more fractious, and Fouracre and Alderney (who himself was growing ill, though not of the plague) were unable to keep them in check. There was also a perceptible sense of ‘now what?’ With the Russians removed from North America, to the man in the street it seemed there was little to stop America bringing her soldiers home and exiting the war, having obtained everything she wanted. And indeed, this would be a happier world if such a choice had been made, despite its immediate disadvantages. But at the time, understandably, all Fouracre could think of was the Black Homecoming in Ireland. Any suggestions about allowing America’s ‘plague-ridden’ troops to return home were shouted down in Cabinet. Rumours of hushed-up desertions or mutinies, usually exaggerated (America’s troops in the west were loyal, if bored) swept the country. The Supremacists and the internal Liberal factions seized on these.

    The American dilemma was also very visible to the French government, which was greatly afraid that America would, indeed, choose to exit the war. By August 1924, Europe was already five months into the so-called ‘Two Years of Hell’ of miserable, disease-ridden gridlock on the Polish-German front. The French regarded the balance as precarious, and that if Russia concluded a definitive peace with America (therefore allowing her to reclaim Prince Yengalychev’s POW army and strip defences from her east) it might be sufficient to tip the balance in Petrograd’s favour. France therefore began frantic diplomacy to try to keep America in the war, making all sorts of extravagant promises. The precise details of this are confused by the fact that the infamous ‘Changarnier Lectelgram’ was, as the name implies, sent not by Foreign Ministress Héloïse Mercier, but by her predecessor, Philippe Changarnier. Changarnier was still sulking over essentially being sacked by Prime Minister Cazeneuve a year earlier, demoted to a deputy role in the foreign ministry as Mme Mercier and her Diamantine supporters had been brought in as part of a national triumvirate. Only peripherally involved with the main stream of diplomatic exchange between the Tuilleries and Laurel House,[15] Changarnier attempted to play his own game, reaching out unilaterally with proposals Mercier and Cazeneuve had not signed up to. He also lacked the highest-level access to the one-time-pad encryption system the two foreign ministries were using, unbreakable even by Societist cryptography, and relied on a cipher that was breakable by those with far less resources than the Combine.[16]

    The result was that the New York Register broke the news, on August 3rd 1924, that France was supposedly offering the ENA land concessions in return for continued American support in the war. Indeed, the ‘Changarnier Lectelgram’ the Register printed even suggested that France would transfer vast swathes of territory from Pérousie to Cygnia. Naturally, this outraged Pérousien public opinion (having won Autogovernance only a decade earlier,[17] now seemingly dismissed and overruled by Paris) and poisoned relations between the Metropole and Pérousie anew, setting the stage for a new confrontation in the 1930s. The tragic irony is, though Cazeneuve was not believed at the time, most historians now agree that Changarnier really had invented the idea out of his own head, and it had never been suggested in any of the actual correspondence between the Tuilleries and America.

    American public opinion also generally took a dim view of the idea that Laurel House was supposedly ‘selling American warriors as mercenaries for a mess of pottage’ as Roderick Marley put it. While the French dealt with Changarnier by removing him from his position and exiling him as ambassador to Autiaraux, Fouracre was paralysed over whether to back or sack his Foreign Secretary, New Englander Gus Gilmore. Alderney’s illness had now left him bed-bound, and without his chief whip, Fouracre was lacking the needed political instincts. Fouracre eventually defended Gilmore, but after a period of hesitation that both made him look indecisive, and played to the public perception of him as a cold calculator who judged the numbers of backing his ally rather than seeing it as a matter of honour.

    Many historians have argued that it’s misleading to attribute Fouracre’s fall primarily to the Changarnier Lectelgram, noting that there is little evidence that Marley’s rhetoric actually cut through with the public. However, others point to the idea that it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, or rather one of two. Before going on to the other, let’s remind ourselves of another couple of slow-burning political factors: the southern Questions and the Cooke controversy.

    There is no need to go into the details of the Carolina Question here as it has been rehashed so many times elsewhere, but what to do with Carolina had been a divisive question since the victory of the Pandoric War. Instead, let’s remind ourselves of two additional questions, which – with Tayloe’s mixed solution of Panimaha to the question of western representation – were now more to the forefront. Historically, there had been little love lost between Old Virginia and Westernesse (the latter once having been treated as a distant colony of the former) but now the two Confederations were united in concern over a racially-motivated question. Nouvelle-Orléans had been quixotically added to Westernesse as an exclave after the Pandoric War in order to ensure American control of the mouth of the Mississippi, rather than working through an intermediary like the Kingdom of New Ireland. However, the demographic nature of Nouvelle-Orléans, combined with Westernesse having a tradition of liberal suffrage even before Faulkner’s reforms, meant that the region was now electing representatives to both the Confederal Assembly and Continental Parliament who were mostly black, Catholic, and francophone – a trinity more or less guaranteed to alarm Westernesse public opinion in one or more ways.

    Old Virginia, which had been ‘given’ the former North Province and Hispaniola Province of Carolina after the Reform of the 1850s, had been putting up a similar plaintive complaint for decades, especially since the franchise had been liberalised. North Province had been split into Charlotte and Raleigh Provinces, and the latter colonised by black people fleeing oppression in Carolina and elsewhere, until it was eventually renamed Africa Nova in recognition of its black majority population. White Old Virginians had often interpreted these ‘gifts’ of black-dominated lands as being a punishment for Henry Frederick’s actions during the Great American War, something which many Supremacists at the time had almost openly confirmed in their rhetoric. Decades later, however, with the political landscape having changed and many white Old Virginians now voting Supremacist, movement finally seemed possible. Indeed, the argument by some (mostly One Carolina Movement Patriots) that Carolina should be restored with its pre-1849 borders received more support from Old Virginians just because it would result in these lands (and their black voters) being returned.

    Of course, these matters might not seem particularly urgent in the midst of economic crisis, war and plague, but in fact these had only exacerbated the climate of racial suspicion, with Neo-Jacobin populists playing on the idea that poor whites were starving because money was going to blacks (and, among the politically powerful black middle classes of Nouvelle-Orléans, sometimes vice versa). Fouracre had always refused to be dragged into any of this; one of the better points of his cold and utilitarian view of life was that he treated men the same regardless of their skin colour, seeming barely to notice it. (Speculative romantic writer William Slade joked that in this respect, Fouracre could be compared to the worrying tendency of many Jacobin apologists at the time to posit counterfactual histories based on ‘what if Jean de Lisieux wasn’t a Racialist so I don’t have to pretend I don’t like him?’)

    Another seemingly less than urgent question, but one which had nonetheless been boiling beneath the surface for years, was the question over Modified American Percentage Representation (MAPR), then often simply called ‘the Cooke system’ after its devisor, Adrian Cooke. There had been talk of introducing this for Imperial elections before the death of Lewis Faulkner in 1908, but it had lain dormant during the years of Supremacist rule under Tayloe.[18] While historically it had been mainly idealists and small parties who had pushed for the new voting system, things were starting to change. The system had been used for years for Confederal elections in New England, and in 1920 was also implemented in Cygnia – with the approval of former President Jack Tayloe, who had strenuously opposed it while in power. The Cygnia reform had revealed that, while it had been assumed for years that the Supremacists almost totally dominated the Confederation (doubtless helped by Tayloe rising to the presidency) in fact, all the rhetoric about ‘there are no Liberals in New Virginia’ turned out to be false. It was simply that the first-past-the-post bloc vote system used in the ENA had obscured the significant minority of Liberal voters, too widely spread across multiple constituencies to win any seats. This hinted to the Liberal and Supremacist party leaderships that MAPR might let them compete in areas they had lost ground in, such as Liberals in Westernesse since Faulkner’s death or Supremacists in New England (for Continental elections) or parts of Pennsylvania. The debate over electoral reform had been exacerbated by the fact that Parliament had already, and controversially, voted to extend its current term and delay the next election due to to the plague outbreak.

    All these are causes that contributed to the instability and fractiousness of the Fouracre government. Then came the hammer blow of the Changarnier Lectelgram. Perhaps he could still have survived, but the final death stroke was the second wave of the plague. Americans had long been aware that, even if they prevented the plague from travelling westward from the Pacific (as had mostly been achieved) it could enter from Europe via the Atlantic. An extensive system of quarantine had been introduced to prevent this, with a high degree of success – a few small outbreaks in Mount-Royal, Boston and New York City had already been contained. But three factors now overpowered this shield: complacency, Carolina and Mexico. Corruption spread as insidiously as the plague itself, with unscrupulous businesses bribing quarantine customs guards to skip the wait – most successfully in Carolina and Mexico, but to some degree in the ENA proper as well. A few isolated outbreaks suddenly linked up and reached a critical threshold at the end of August 1924.

    Embattled on all sides, Fouracre was dead in the water. A greater politician – and, some might say, a lesser man – might paradoxically have parlayed these challenges into a way to staying on, arguing only he could fix the situation. But Fouracre was fundamentally fatigued, having aged considerably from the strain of the office in time of crisis, and was unwilling to fight on. He tendered his resignation to Emperor Augustus, who called on the Liberal parliamentary caucus to elect a new leader who could command the confidence of Parliament. (Prior to the plague and the war, there had been talk of opening up the Liberal leadership selection process to a wider party electorate, as the Supremacists had pioneered, but the current situation quashed that reform for the present). Unsurprisingly, Anthony Washborough of the Overripe faction put himself forward, though few thought he could unite the party and work with the Mentians (despite their common goals) and he seemed too young to gain respect on the world stage. All eyes turned towards Briars and the Thicket, wondering if Briars would try to stand himself once again or endorse a chosen candidate.

    Instead, to the surprise of almost everyone, Briars threw his support behind the Foreign Secretary, Augustus ‘Gus’ Gilmore. Gilmore had already seemed damaged by the Changarnier Lectelgram and Fouracre’s dithering over whether to support him. Briars’ act was seen as both a pragmatic way to defeat Washborough by uniting other factions against him, and also an implicit endorsement of the supposed foreign policy of continuing the war in return for French concessions elsewhere. To decidedly mixed feelings from Paris, it was this line which Gilmore took when the encrypted conversations resumed...and it would change not only America, but the world, forever.

    [10] To recap Briars’ career, he first became de facto leader of the Liberal Party in 1894; became Foreign Secretary in the coalition war government under the Supremacist President Stuart Jamison 1896-1900; was passed over in favour of Lewis Faulkner to become President in 1900 despite having been seen as party leader; lost to the younger Michael C. Dawlish in the 1908 leadership election; was finally elected party leader again in 1909, but then failed to defeat President Tayloe’s Supremacists at the 1914 general election and was replaced with Fouracre as party leader. As someone who has had as many as four sniffs of the power of the Presidency, only to have it yanked away each time and now being past his prime, Briars’ bitterness is understandable. One matter not discussed here is that the public likely blame him in part for the loss of the motherland during the Pandoric War, as it was a foreign-policy failure, and this is a millstone he’s never shed. However, within the parliamentary party he remains influential.

    [11] See Part #270 in Volume VII; the theories of Gordon Hareby are comparable to those of John Maynard Keynes in OTL, i.e. Fouracre spent his way out of the recession, much to the more conservative Briars’ alarm.

    [12] Unlike OTL, America in TTL calls them aubergines (like the UK in OTL) rather than eggplants; this is nothing to do with the two countries sharing a royal link for longer, but is simply because the purple variety were introduced and grown there earlier. The name eggplant dates from when the most commonly grown variety were a small, round, white type that indeed look rather like hen’s eggs (the modern Welsh name planhigyn ŵy has a similar meaning).

    [13] Littlefort is OTL Waukegan, IL. Note that the demonym for the Confederation of Michigan in TTL – which shares almost no territory with the OTL state of Michigan other than its Upper Peninsula, as it is a name given to the western shore of Lake Michigan – is ‘Michiganite’ rather than the OTL ‘Michigander’. Also note that Washborough’s cabinet position of Postmaster-General also incorporates control over the ENA’s state-owned Optel towers (now largely superseded), Lectel lines and Photel stations, and regulation of the privately-owned ones.

    [14] Unlike OTL, New York City has not yet politically expanded to take in surrounding areas such as Brooklyn, though this is being advocated by some people as of the 1920s.

    [15] A metonym for America’s Foreign Office, anachronistically applied here as Laurel House in Fredericksburg wasn’t built until the 1930s and they occupied a different building at this point.

    [16] A one-time pad or OTP is just about the only readily available form of encryption that is entirely unbreakable by any degree of computing power or crib. First suggested in the 1880s in OTL but fully developed for the First World War, a classic one-time pad is a truly random sequence of numbers (or letters that can be converted to numbers). The sender and the receiver must both have a copy of the pad, and it must be ensured that no other copy can fall into enemy hands (meaning typically unique pairs of pads must be used for every agent or even every individual message). The sender takes their plaintext message as a sequence of letters (or numbers representing letters), adds each OTP number to each plaintext number in turn, then sends the gibberish message. The receiver must then subtract the same list of numbers from each in turn to recover the plaintext. Historically a major issue with one-time pads is the difficulty of generating truly random numbers with no patterns that can be detected, which took a great deal of effort, as well as the need to physically distribute them. The 1930s saw the development of electro-mechanical cipher machines (most famously the German Enigma) in the hope that they would effectively generate a new key with each use and allow encryption of bigger volumes of military traffic, but as is now well known, these were not truly random and could be broken by computer analysis. Earlier and more purely mechanical forms of similar cipher machines are being used by the ENA military (and others) and, as noted earlier in this section, these have secretly been broken by the Societists with new solution engines.

    [17] See Part #275 in Volume VII.

    [18] See Part #258 in Volume VII.
  • Thande

    Part #289: Spain and Suffering

    “There is a sense of relief tonight in Corte, where – on the second retrial – the black and white juries have finally reached agreement and sentencing can proceed. We go over to our legal correspondent, Randall Peters.”

    “Thank you, Miss Jaxon. Yes, if you’ve been following this trial at all as it’s dragged on over the months, you’ll know how contentious it’s been. Zhang Lixiao, also known as Lee Chang, a Chinese student at the University, was found dead in June of last year, having been attacked in a back alley with a knife. Since that time, both the black and white police forces have faced criticism from all sides as leads seemed to peter out and the Chinese Embassy got involved. Questions mounted over both the ethnicity of the killer and whether the killing was racially motivated or purely financial. As you said, there’s a sense of relief and a pregnant pause on the streets of Corte tonight, with none of the riots and unrest we saw following the two earlier trials. Even as we speak, the sentencing of the guilty party, fellow student Ferdie Foster, is taking place behind closed doors...”

    – Transcription of a C-WNB News Motoscope broadcast,
    recorded in Waccamaw Strand, Kingdom of Carolina, 20/04/2020​


    From: “A Short History of Modern Europe” by Anders Liljekvist (1980, authorised English translation 1986)—

    Before the third millennium ever dawned, Spain was already a country that had been ruled over by Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Visigoths and Moors.[1] A history turbulent enough to begin with, but the Spanish identity would fundamentally be forged in the struggle to eject those Moors (in the form of various Muslim dynasties collectively known simply as moros) and reclaim the land for Christianity. Or, more precisely, Catholicism; while other parts of Europe would go on to embrace Protestantism and reform, for Spain the unreformed Catholic faith would always be ineluctably associated with the struggle to defeat the Moors, the Reconquista or Reconquest. From that struggle would be born a nation of great cultural achievement and globe-bestriding influence, but also one which too frequently would embrace dark superstition and paranoia.

    Though our image of Spain after the Reconquista will always be coloured by propaganda created by her jealous and fearful enemies, there is a kernel of truth to our picture of the Inquisition acting as the world’s first state secret police, policing the very thoughts of the people.[2] The remaining Muslims and Jews in Spain were forced to convert to Catholicism, but then these converts – referred to as moriscos and marranos respectively – were viewed with suspicion and often later persecuted or deported anyway. Spain had discovered a truth which would be rediscovered again and again by totalitarian regimes throughout history; if one abolishes freedom of thought, that means one can never trust anyone ever again, because one will never know if they truly believe what they say or are going along with it out of fear until they can stab one in the back. It is an attitude which makes one fearful of suffering any defeat, lest such secret traitors, browbeat into submission only by the perceived strength of the state, be emboldened by it and rise up once more. The result, too often throughout history, has been regimes that feel unable to command strategic retreats to win battles later, that are scared of their own people and begin to doubt that any of them feel true loyalty at all. The supposed strength of an iron fist ruling by fear ultimately leads to a horrible, hollow weakness within.

    But in the immediate aftermath of the Reconquista, Spain was certainly strong. The last Muslim kingdom, Granada, fell in 1492 – the same year that Columbus discovered the Novamund. Spain, the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon now united, had been wound up like a spring by her drive to reclaim her lands from the Moors. Now she saw new worlds to conquer, and all the fervent fury of the Reconquista would be unleashed upon the peoples of the Novamund, from the Aztecs to the Maya to the Tahuantinsuya. Europe, too, would see the growing power of Spain, the nation that dared partition the world with her neighbour Portugal with the Pope’s blessing. Portugal herself, and her half of the world, would become united with Spain in 1580. Charles V ruled an empire in Italy and the Low Countries and became Holy Roman Emperor, and for a time it seemed like something akin to the Roman Empire in truth would be forged by the Spanish Hapsburgs.

    That was not to be, but Spain, her coffers swelled by plunder from the Novamund brought in convoys of treasure ships, was still the leading power of Europe – and perhaps even the world. There was a time when she even contemplated the conquest of Ming China from her base in the Philippines. The two continents of the Novamund were dominated by her, or so it seemed, as few rivals had settled the northern lands of North America yet.[3] The Spanish language, the language of Cervantes and Lope de Vega, spread across the world. It is a measure of the strength of that language and culture that, as the one whose regions over which the Societists would later hold the most sway, it has still survived their attempts to delete it from existence.

    Though Spain’s golden age lasted a century, from the perspective of history it shrinks to an eyeblink – as the historian Ichabod Wendell has put it, a night’s celebratory bender followed by centuries of hangover. Things began to go wrong as Spain lost the Dutch Republic in the Eighty Years’ War, was defeated in her attempt to conquer England in 1588, and was severely weakened by the Thirty Years’ War and decades of misrule under increasingly inbred Hapsburg kings. Paradoxically, that very wealth of the Novamund served to ultimately harm her economy. The successes abroad of smaller Protestant powers would only throw more fuel on the fire of a paranoid culture fearful of the enemy within. The Dutch, and later the English, even challenged the Spanish in the Novamund. To add insult to injury, Portugal was lost in 1640. Spain remained a cultural powerhouse, the nation of Velázquez and El Greco, of Victoria and Morales, but began to lose grip on her political and military dominance. The once-undefeatable tercio formation became outclassed on land, the hefty galleons at sea vulnerable to smaller English and Dutch ships.

    Spain could have reformed and modernised to keep up with her neighbours, but this would prove to be very contentious in the centuries to come. A moment’s thought will reveal the reasons for this: Spain had demonstrably won a huge empire and military glory, being ‘gifted’ two entire continents, after a policy of fanatical Catholicism and crusade against the Moors. Cause and effect were frequently invoked, that God had smiled on such a policy, and deviation from it (as the Enlightenment dawned) seemed unlikely, in the eyes of many, to improve the situation. The centuries of Reconquista had also produced a hereditary class of nobility, the hidalgos, who lived off past glories, idolised a chivalric age that had never existed, and were contemptuous of work and workers. Some historians have even controversially compared the hidalgos to the samuray or Yapon, a similarly parasitic and worthless group of hereditary military nobles who, in that case, weakened their land so much that it was left as easy prey for the Russians.[4] Despite being famously mocked by Cervantes with his unforgettable character of Don Quixote, the hidalgos would continue to ensure that Spain’s court was little more than a patronage machine to enrich themselves at the expense of the people.

    In this debate it mattered little that the economic hit taken from the expulsion of the moriscos had helped spark a rebellion – the Revolt of the Comuneros – as early as 1520. This would be the first revolt in Spain of Catholic subjects against their rulers, violence of Christian against Christian with the struggle against the Moors no longer hanging over them as a drive to unity. But it would be far from the last. Historians debate whether the Comuneros represent an early case of a truly modern popular revolution or a more traditional mediaeval peasants’ revolt against tax policies, but they had set a precedent.

    Circumstances in the seventeenth century were certainly not kind to Spain, with plague and famine abounding and muscular France under Louis XIV getting the better of the country in several wars. Yet beyond this, misrule played a big role in the country’s decline. The last Hapsburg king, Charles (or Carlos) II was so inbred that his line terminate – but decades after everyone had expected. Not for the last time, Spain was effectively frozen for years as Europe waited impatiently for its king to die so they could have a succession war. The War of the Spanish Succession is only the European front of the First War of Supremacy, a war which reached far beyond Spain and was ultimately the beginning of Spain’s hold on the Novamund declining. In the end a solution was reached which pleased nobody, with a French Bourbon on the Spanish throne but not leading to a unification with France as Louis XIV had hoped. Spain and her empire would go on to become little more than a bargaining chip in the future Wars of Supremacy. Meanwhile, her new Bourbon kings and their chief ministers attempted haplessly to introduce Enlightenment reforms, while facing opposition from both the nobility and the ‘priest-ridden’ (as they were often dismissed) people.[5] Spain continued to be seen as backwards by the rest of Europe; the last trial for being suspected ‘secret Jews’ or Muslims took place as late as 1727. Her complicated racial categories, expressed most comprehensively by the Casta system in the Novamund, doubtless played a role in inspiring the Jacobins and other totalitarians seeking to categorise men in neat pigeonholes.

    The biggest blow to Spain, and the one which finally knocked the props out from under her connections to past glories, came with the Second Platinean War and the independence of the United Provinces of South America. For the first time in history, the link between speaking Spanish and being Spanish had been broken.[6] A powerful new Spanish-speaking nation, which at one point looked as though it might unite the whole of the Spanish Novamund under its (seemingly) radical new republican government, had replaced the legacy of the conquistadores. This, more than anything, served to trigger a period of national reflection and concern, but too soon this would be interrupted by the Jacobin Wars. Spain suffered a fatal moment of weakness in 1801 with the death of King Philip VI and his possibly-maddened disinheriting of his eldest son Charles on his deathbed in favour of his younger son Philip. Civil war between the Carlistas and Felipistas took place simultaneously with an invasion by the French Latin Republic, and the outcome was predictable.

    Surprisingly in contrast with their conduct elsewhere (but reflecting Lisieux’s pragmatism) the French did not impose a Jacobin racial republic on Spain, but allowed Philip VII to keep his throne as a puppet – while Charles, the claimant Charles IV, fled into exile in Spain’s remaining colonies in the Novamund with his other brothers. There they would set up the exilic Empire of New Spain. The UPSA, led by President-General Castelli, sensed weakness and attempted to topple and absorb New Spain. But he blundered into war with the ENA and ended up only losing Peru to New Spain, giving the latter a new temporary lease of strength and credibility.

    Back in Europe, it would be the struggle between French occupiers and enraged Spaniards that would prove the dark inspiration for the young Pablo Sanchez’s theories. The end of the Jacobin Wars saw Spain divided as she had not been since 1492, with an Aragon ruled by Charles of Naples and Sicily as (a different) Charles IV while Castile was ruled by the Portuguese puppet Afonso XII. Navarre was also carved out, initially as a Russian puppet state, while Galicia was lost directly to Portugal.

    This period of foreign rule would only lead to further decline, with the Philippine War between Portuguese-backed Castile and New Spain ending in the latter’s victory. During the Popular Wars, as Portugal became weakened by the Brazilian War, New Spain struck in alliance with her former enemy, the UPSA. A Meridian false-flag distraction at the Third Battle of Cape Finisterre in 1830 allowed the New Spanish to land troops, topple Afonso XII and reclaim the throne following the First Spanish Revolution. Aragon was also reduced to only Catalonia under the rule of the Neapolitan kings, and some Navarrese territory was reclaimed. All of this left Pablo Sanchez disillusioned and he would ultimately make his fatal journey to the UPSA as a result, a state which also benefited from New Spain transferring the Philippines in return for the aid during the war.

    The triumphant return of Charles IV was heralded by some as a final end to the decline, but it was not to be. Only seven years later, Charles would die and be replaced by his son as Ferdinand VII. Ferdinand, who had been born to an Aztec mother and grown up in the Novamund, was vigorous and effective but fatally contemptuous of Spain and Europe in general, lending his name to the term ferdinandismo, dismissal of the Old World in favour of the New. He relegated Spain to being merely another kingdom of the Empire of New Spain (dubbed ‘Old Spain’) and frequently left it to a regency while he returned to the Novamund.

    Spain’s fairytale ending of the king returning in glory had turned to the sour aftertaste of reality, with the country once again ruled by a corrupt system of patronage and under the rule of ancient, nepotistic generals and vapid fops. In 1848 the Second Spanish Revolution broke out, its aims always vague and comprised of multiple, mutually incompatible rebel groups, yet united by a distaste for Emperor Ferdinand and his local lackeys. Though Ferdinand did respond to the Revolution, he was then distracted by the troubles in California ‘nearer to home’ (in his eyes) and launched the Campaña de Represión in a fruitless attempt to quell them.

    Having declared a vague ‘Free Spanish State’, the Spanish revolutionaries lost their more radical members dissatisfied with this, who mostly went to help their Portuguese compatriots fighting the paranoid and centralising rule of King John VI. Portugal had been weakened by the Popular Wars and then the Pânico de ’46, with John’s repression having done nothing but winnow out moderates until he was facing the most fanatical of the rebels, enhanced further by this influx of Spanish radicals. One paradox of Spain and Portugal is that they were one of the few corners of Europe where Jacobinism, though opposed, had never been imposed on them by the French, which lent the ideology something of an exotic flavour for the young and impressionable. This would ultimately lead to the overthrow of King John, the flight into Brazilian exile of his son Pedro V, and the establishment of a Portuguese Latin Republic on radical Neo-Jacobin lines.[7] This would be overthrown in turn in 1867 by a less ideological but no less brutal military dictatorship, the Portuguese Republic, which would then rule the country until the Black Twenties. In exile as a mere Meridian puppet, Pedro V would pass away in 1889 and be replaced by his son João VII, who – like Ferdinand VII of New Spain – had never seen the Old World as he grew up. Unlike Ferdinand, however, he idolised it as a place of decadent civilisation and frequently travelled there before his accession to the throne (despite the Republic sometimes sending assassins after him). France in particular he admired, and even attempted to introduce some of her innovations in Brazil, to little success.

    Meanwhile, speaking of Ferdinand VII, he not only lost control of ‘Old’ Spain, but also lost California to the new Adamantine Republic. He found his Empire bound up in the new Concordat alliance structure and tied to the unpopular cause of slavery (a cause he had fought against himself with regards to the Maya). The entry of the UPSA into the Great American War left the Empire high and dry, no longer truly part of an alliance with either the ENA nor the UPSA, yet subject to influence by both. Ferdinand died a bitter man in 1868 and was succeeded by his son Charles (Carlos) V. Charles lacked his father’s vigour and could only stand helplessly by as the ENA and UPSA reached a temporary rapproachment and ultimately shared influence over New Spain, its people frequently exploited by their unscrupulous corporations. New Spanish mercenaries were also often recruited to help tie down restive populations in places where regular American or Meridian soldiers were less willing to go, such as Carolina and Venezuela. When these mercenaries sometimes returned home, having earned more from American or Meridian private security firms than they could at home with the weak economy, Charles became fearful that they might seek to overthrow him, and cracked down.

    To return to the Old World. The Free Spanish State, later the First Spanish Republic, remained incoherent, but the example of the Jacobin horrors of Portugal discredited her remaining extreme cobrists. The moderate figure Estebán de Vega rose to the top. In 1856 the Golpe Tranquilo or ‘Quiet Coup’ led to de Vega’s supporters arresting and imprisoning many of their opponents. Under French influence, a new constitution was then written which allowed Prince Charles Leo, Duke of Anjou and second son of King Charles X of France, to become elected President. This farce lasted five years before ‘President’ Charles became King Charles V of Spain.[8] This remarkably confused matters, as it meant that both Old and New Spain were being ruled by a Bourbon Charles V.

    The French Charles V deliberately married a sterile lady as his queen as part of a long-term French foreign policy plan to have the kingdom become politically united with France on his death – the same goal that Louis XIV had dreamed of a century earlier. But if the Tuilleries had based their policy on past French kings, they would have done better to heed the warning of Henri IV – that Spain is ‘a country where small armies are defeated, and large armies starve’. As so many past conquerors had learned, from Vandals to Visigoths to Moors, Spain was a country whose mountainous geography and hot, dry climate made it a nightmare to rule. Not for nothing had contemptuous Frenchmen said that ‘Africa begins at the Pyrenees’ or ‘the Pyrenees are the frontier of civilisation’.[9] But that same alleged ‘backwardness’ of the Spanish people was itself evidence of the inability of their governments to impose changes upon them against their will.

    King Charles did attempt to pass reforms, but with little more success than the last time France had installed a Bourbon king on Spain’s throne; history repeated itself. Partly this was simple resentment of foreign rule (and the hapless Republic had shown that there seemed little alternative to embrace as a hope). The 1850s did see a new period of cultural flowering with the Valladolid School hyperrealistic artistic movement which blossomed further in the 1870s. Spain’s economic situation also improved as part of the French bloc, which led to a climate of apathy rather than fervent opposition. Attempts to introduce French-style constitutional government saw pushback from the hidalgo classes without obtaining the critical support from the people that might have been able to overrule it.

    Just like her prototype in the Old World, New Spain was a land that continued to produce many great works of cultural achievement throughout years of decline, such as the Peruvian composer Alberto Peñaloza and the Guatemalan writer Julio Cardenal. Yet that decline in terms of military, political and economic power continued. New Spain had refused to recognise the regime ruling Old Spain until 1890, which by a curious coincidence was when the UPSA needed Hermandad nations to do so as part of a trade treaty. This, more than anything, illustrated just how much under the thumb of foreign powers the Empire was. President Castelli had wanted to conquer the Empire and add it to the UPSA, but why was that even necessary when the UPSA could influence it indirectly – and let their companies treat New Spanish labour worse than Meridian workers to make products more cheaply? After all, they could not vote for the Cortes Nacionales.

    Chaos was unleashed in 1890 when Charles V was hit by an assassin’s bullet, possibly fired by a disgruntled former mercenary; though he initially survived, the wound weakened him fatally and he died a year later. He was succeeded by his son as Charles VI, who would then be faced with an impossible choice with the outbreak of the Pandoric War in 1896. New Spain had become less and less relevant, her four component kingdoms (Mexico, Guatemala, New Granada and Peru) all acting increasingly independently under their separate kings. Peru, and later New Granada, had grown closest to the UPSA and become deeply integrated into the Hermandad. Mexico and Guatemala, meanwhile, had tried to chart a third way by playing the ENA and UPSA off against one another, and it was here where Charles retained most power. He attempted to preserve neutrality as long as possible, but this turned into dithering, and he eventually felt he was forced to join the UPSA or split the Empire, as Peru and New Granada were pulled into the war by Meridian influence.

    This proved disastrous, as Peru and New Granada would ultimately be lost to the Societists anyway, while the ENA took on Mexico, ultimately gaining Arizpe and creating the separate breakaway kingdom of New Ireland. In the First Interbellum, the remains of New Spain – now reduced to only Mexico and Guatemala – would be reduced to a mere American puppet. Fredericksburg’s influence would be obvious in cases such as the building of the Nicaragua Canal against the will of locals, and all the time, Societist propaganda was spreading...

    Now rewind the cart to the 1880s and return to Europe. That other Charles V had become disquieted at his failures in Old Spain, and in the latter part of the nineteenth century he mostly focused on a more passive attempt to fight injustices, rather than seeking to sweep them away with grant reforms. Unfortunately, most of these injustices involved the exploitation of Spanish workers by French corporations, who – like their American and Meridian counterparts did to New Spain – could manufacture their goods with greater profit margins if their outsourced their work to a convenient neighbouring country with lower wages and less workers’ rights. This naturally also upset French trade unionists and led to the ‘backwards Spaniard’ becoming a new figure of popular hatred in France (the flames fanned by the extremist Noir party, despite its claims of Latin racial solidarity). Spaniards were caricatured in the French satirical press as being mere automatons (a figure easily recognisable from the popular Automaton Fiction Craze of a few decades earlier) who mechanically did their work, mechanically were ‘refuelled’ by corrupt priests, mechanically beat their wives and attacked animals. This negative portrayal of the Spanish was not only made by liberal anti-clericalists in France, but by those who considered themselves Catholic – showing how widespread the discontent had grown.

    Poisoned relations between France and Spain faded somewhat during the Pandoric War; Spain, similar to the other French allies, was portrayed as the girl Hispanica clinging to her mother Gallica’s skirts as she charted a peaceful course through the storms of war. Spain’s economy boomed further off the ‘Vulture Economy’ created by the Marseilles Protocol, selling to both the Northern Powers and the Diametric Alliance.[10] Yet the war ended with a new period of decline; the Queen had died of the Peace Flu and the elderly Charles V had been weakened, yet he gloomily clung on for another twenty years. Spain entered what is known as the ‘Grey Period’, in which culture became backward-looking and ‘worthy’ in tone; while this is reflected in a number of nations during the First Interbellum, it seems particularly extreme in Spain, where more imaginative and modern productions of Spanish plays or symphonies often took place in France rather than Spain herself.

    Throughout this period, the French Government waited impatiently for Charles V to die. Grand plans were drawn up by the Governments of Leclerc, Mercier (m) and Rouillard, things choreographed down to the last detail. On the death of Charles, his nephew King Charles XI of France would proclaim his claim to the throne, the Tuilleries would gauge the world reaction lest anyone start a war over this (again), and then Charles would tour the country of Spain winning the hearts and minds of the people. Indeed, there is some evidence that a prototype of this plan was used in 1908 when Charles (then still the Dauphin) and Héloïse Mercier toured Pérousie to win the hearts and minds of her fractious people, with some success. Yet Charles V still clung on, until he finally slipped off this mortal coil at the worst possible moment: August 1922, shortly after war with Russia had broken out. France was in no position to invoke her previous grand plans: the ‘August Crisis’, as it was known, paralysed her government.

    The result was an obvious weak compromise. There could be none of the planned grand tour of Charles XI around Spain, explaining to its people that political union with France was the way forward, that they would now have the chance to vote for parlementaires in the Grand-Parlement (albeit only those suitably educated would have the right to vote for now, ahem). All the French could do would be to appoint a lieutenant to govern the country until the war was over – a war, it rapidly became clear, which would not be the only crisis to afflict the world during the Black Twenties. In other words, after decades of careful planning, the French found themselves right back in the situation where they and so many others had been before: imposing foreign rule on Spain as a half-hearted afterthought, in a way almost guaranteed to enrage its people.

    Despite this, the French crown and government were not blind to this possibility. With some misgivings, at the suggestion of Cazeneuve King Charles appointed the Duc d’Orléans as Regent in Madrid. This was the seventh time in French history that the dukedom of Orléans had been created or recreated, and the third time it had been done so as a royal house. The previous dukedom had been rendered extinct during the ravages of the Revolution, and until the 1880s there had been resistance to re-establishing it – perhaps simply because the problematic city of Nouvelle-Orléans and its rebel Grand Duke had been a popular topic of conversation.[11] However, the dukedom was established once more in 1882 for another younger brother of King Louis XVIII (as well as Charles V of Spain), Prince Henri Philippe. It was his own son, Philippe Louis, who held the dukedom in 1922. The Duc was mercurial, energetic and strong-minded. He was praised for his sense of charity and humanity, using his wealth for the good of the people, but would usually prefer to manifest this by personally going and beating up slave raiders with his friends rather than paying for a soup kitchen. He was not afraid to go against anyone in disagreements, not even the King, and was rumoured to fight illegal underground duels (duelling had been illegal in France since 1626, and though the ban had often been flouted, the practice had become unusual by the twentieth century). In many ways, he was born a few years too late, being better suited for the nineteenth century era of adventurers like Liam Wesley.

    Though the Duc did not seem an obvious choice for an administrator, Cazeneuve’s logic was that no-one could accuse him of being a mere colourless puppet ruler of the King. Privately dubious himself about the plan, the Duc agreed and went to Madrid in September 1922. With all his trademark vigour, he mounted on the trips around the country that had been planned, yet often deviating from them. He shocked and appalled some, and delighted others, in Spain with his businesslike, hands-on manner. He would frequently go into a factory and ask workers about how various machines worked, then give them the rest of the day off and threaten the owners with fines for their unscrupulous behaviour. He was also enthusiastic for Spanish history and literature, and would personally drive his own steam-mobile to search for particular views immortalised by their artists. Though the Duc was far from perfect – his mercurial personality meant that he could dismiss a complaint one moment or move heaven and earth to fix it the next – Cazeneuve’s plan seemed well grounded. The Spaniards could not accuse the French of having sent them a mere stand-in.

    The Duc had no use for the hidalgo classes, openly slapping aside their proffered family trees and coats of arms and telling them to get a job. He put himself in the path of the assassin’s bullet more than once by doing so. In one memorable (but probably apocryphal) incident, the Duc supposedly visited a failed assassin in prison and told the hidalgo that he was commuting his sentence from death to exile to the Canary Islands. When asked why, he told the annoyed gentleman that “I understand you pulled the trigger yourself – it would seem a shame to end your life so soon after you did the first work you’ve ever done in it”.

    While the Duc had won the hearts of many Spanish people, we should not pretend he was universally popular, or that it was only the hidalgos who disliked him. At the end of the was still a foreign ruler and an expression of an unequal alliance with France. The Duc was also a conservative Roman Catholic by French standards, which was popular with many Spanish peasants, but less so with the urban liberals he needed to win over as well. The Duc had always been notoriously suspicious of Jansenists, blaming the UPSA’s Jansenism as the first step on a slippery slope towards inspiring Jacobin republicanism, and this hurt his relations with the Spanish urban bourgeoisie which had grown under Charles V.

    There was also the rather obvious factor that the Duc was only meant to be a temporary governor, meaning that it would scarcely benefit French interests for him to become more popular than King Charles XI, who had formally claimed the throne as Charles VI (confusing matters further with New Spain) and called for a full political union. The Duc himself was always clear and open that he intended to step down ‘once the crisis is over’ and he regarded his cousin as the rightful King, publicly approving of the Franco-Spanish union. Privately, he was more sceptical of the latter the more he interacted with Spain and the Spanish people, but he remained loyal. In 1924 America’s Imperial Intelligence Corps contacted their French counterpart, the Bureau Auxiliaire des Statistiques or just ‘Auxiliaire’ for short, with supposed information that the Duc was planning to seize the Spanish throne and then try to claim New Spain as well.[12] King Charles was always dismissive of such an idea, but it did spark some paranoia within the French government. It does appear there was no truth to it, and is likely an example of the IIC being distracted by false trails laid by Societist cadres in New Spain concerning other underground movements (real and fictional) in order to obscure their own activities.

    In Spain herself, opposition to the Duc and French rule manifested in a number of ways. Just as when the First Republic had overthrown Ferdinand VII, the opposition was incoherent rather than united. There were those who wanted a new Republic, divided into Portuguese-inspired extremists and Adamantine moderates (despite the ‘failure’ of the UPSA), those who wanted a new homegrown constitutional monarchy (with whom as king?) and others. A few wanted the monarchs of New Spain to return again. Most peculiar of all were those who claimed that King Charles V had actually had a son, despite the Queen’s sterility, and who was living in hiding in the mountains under an assumed name. Exactly why this would be, and why the son of a French puppet king would be preferable to direct French rule, is unclear, and illustrates that discontented people were seizing on everything. Finally, quietly hiding beneath the tumult of all the others (which they deliberately promoted as more visible) there were, of course, the cadres of the Societists.

    The Duc faced a number of challenges as the war intensified. The war was initially less than popular – after all, the main selling point for French-influenced rule had been Spain being able to pursue protected neutrality during the Pandoric War. However, the Duc mostly managed to sell the war as a defensive fight against Russia, and painted a picture of the famous ‘Tsar’s Armart Legions’ sweeping through Germany, then France and then Spain. He argued it was better for Spaniards to fight with their comrades far away than wait for the Russians to cross the Pyrenees, implying that it was the Spanish boys who would make the difference and tip the balance so the French, Germans and Italians could win. If far-fetched, the propaganda seems to have worked, and Spaniards indeed volunteered.

    However, discontent rose when the ‘Armart Legions’ did not materialise, and Spanish soldiers often found themselves sent to do jobs that the Italians or Portuguese were unwilling to. In particular, after the defeat of Belgium there was a push to hand off the occupation to Spaniards. Though Cazeneuve was against this, fearing it would lead to disagreements if they did not stick to the occupation zones agreed, events would force his hands. Without technically having an assigned occupation zone, Spanish troops found themselves replacing Germans, then French, then Italians in their own zones as those soldiers were withdrawn for the front line in Poland. It was not exactly the glorious, desperate battle for defence that the Duc had claimed it would be. Furthermore, it was very easy for propagandists to mock. It felt almost like a parody of Spain’s glory days under King Philip II, four centuries earlier, in which her brave soldiers had fought the rebellious Dutch in the Low Countries. Now, they were reduced to mere watchmen holding down the Belgiums. Liberal satirists painted a picture of France patronising Spain with this duty, like indulgently listening to the old stories of a dementia-stricken relative in an asylum. They began calling for, at last, Spain to seek new glories rather than perpetually dwelling on old ones.

    Then, of course, came the plague.[13] Once again, the Duc through himself into a challenge with his usual vigour, leading Spain through the crisis as she faced a deadly and unseen foe. The Spanish response under the Duc, partly because of his wise appointment of capable administrators, is considered by historians to be one of the better national responses to the plague.

    However, neighbouring Portugal was another matter. The Republic, a reluctant part of France’s alliance, had grown more and more paranoid as the exiled Brazilian King João VII was allowed to reside in France after the Societist conquest of his homeland. The Republicans would not accept the idea that the genial, vapid exile cared only for his own self-indulgence (and there were plenty of French aristocrats willing to indulge him as a curiosity) and had no intention of ever attempting to reclaim the Portuguese throne. In their defence, his second son Sebastião (the first, Pedro, had died fighting the Societists) might well be a different matter. Portuguese royalists and other opponents of the government were alleged to be secretly intriguing with either João or Sebastião. But the Republic could not openly send assassins after them due to the French alliance. This split the paranoid, militaristic government, and ensured any response to the plague would be undermined. The government became notorious for allegedly using death-luft to fumigate villages from plague fleas – which was a common practice elsewhere – but not always telling the people to evacuate first, or planting undesirables there and claiming they blundered into the luft cloud. Meanwhile, the Republican and military elites – now second or third generation, and as corrupt and nepotistic as the aristocrats they had overthrown in 1851 – were flouting the regulations, unwilling to concede there was a natural phenomenon not subject to their whims.

    The results of all this was that Portugal was overcome by the plague outbreak, and the Duc sealed the border with Spain, hurting the economy, in order to prevent it spreading further. Naturally, the sealed border was a useful propaganda tool for the Societist cadres. Despair among the Portuguese people also meant that they were turning to someone, anyone, who might save them.

    All things considered, Spain seemed relatively stable. There was upset and discontent when Spanish soldiers were asked to do certain things, but the Duc always made a good and sincere show of arguing with his cousin the King of France (and the Dictateur, the Duc de Berry) about it, standing up for Spanish interests. It seemed that there might be hope for the country after all. But, just as in the days of King Philip II, the system was only as good as one man...

    [1] ‘Spain’ here is used indiscriminately to refer to the whole Iberian Peninsula, as is common in histories of this period; Portugal is not distinguished until later.

    [2] This book makes a number of claims about Spain being the first to do various unpleasant things which are actually somewhat debatable – see also the mention of social stratification.

    [3] The Spanish worldview actually usually describes the Americas/the Novamund as a single continent, simply ‘America’, which this author appears to have missed.

    [4] The author’s view is obviously coloured by the events of TTL, although he is more willing to give the Japanese the benefit of the doubt than many of his colleagues, alluding to past greatness and giving a societal cause for Japan’s weakness rather than dismissing it as always backwards (as many incorrectly do).

    [5] This is somewhat simplified, as the Enlightenment tendencies of several of the Bourbon Spanish monarchs were not as strong as implied here.

    [6] This is comparable to the same for English with the USA, of course.

    [7] Note that this author switches awkwardly from John to Pedro (not João or Peter) here because around the time of the Brazilian exile, Portuguese kings’ names started no longer being anglicised.

    [8] The regnal numbers are confusing, because Ferdinand VII’s son Charles is also counted as Charles V as he is also claiming the crown of Spain, and we earlier heard about the important 16th century figure known as Charles V, who was actually Charles I of Spain.

    [9] This is one of those quotes where nobody agrees who first said it (Napoleon is a common claim) so it is probably older than people think.

    [10] These are post facto historians’ terms for the alliances of the Pandoric War, which really were more just ad hoc collections of cobelligerents.

    [11] As mentioned in Part #125 in Volume III, though that House of Orléans went extinct in the male line, a female scion, Henrietta Eugénie, survived and married Francis II of Austria. The reason given for not re-establishing the dukedom is probably a tad credulous, but reflects the increased importance placed on New World matters that tends to be a natural bias of historians in TTL.

    [12] The deliberately innocuous name of France’s intelligence service is similar to its OTL counterpart, the ‘Second Bureau of the General Staff’ or just Deuxième.

    [13] The order of events is a bit off here.