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Posted: Apr 3 2011, 06:51 AM
Member No.: 1
Joined: 17-October 09
General Russian Background
In 1855 at the close of the Crimean war Russia gained a new Tsar. Alexander the second was a new form of monarch, well educated he had toured the country in his younger days. He also had a very strong liberal intent and in 1861 finally had the chance to make the alterations to Russia he wished to see.
He abolished serfdom, and in one swoop freed the peasants of Russia from the land. They would become free citizens with the right to own land and busineses, they would even have the right to buy their land from their previous liege lords. It was stunning, it was progressive, it was also sadly somewhat flawed. The reform landed right in the no mans land between the factions who thought it did too much for the freed serfs, and the others who saw it as a halfway house, having freed the serfs but left them in an untenable position. Indeed the Redemption payments to pay for the land they received in some cases required the peasant Mir’s to sell their entire crop of grain, which in turn meant they could not support themselves. Worst still domestic Serfs were granted freedom but could claim no land. There were widespread peasant uprisings all of which were efficiently if not bloodlessly put down. Many of the Serfs were forced to move into the burgeoning Cities and towns, and for the first time in Russia’s history an urban proletariat came into being.
Alexander however had not extended his abolition to Poland and this combined with a region already inflamed by the writings of Bakunin and Marx, and also a series of demonstrations against forced conscription into the Russian army quickly led to an uprising. The rising was led by such notables as Brzoska and Dombrowski but was unfortunately ill prepared and very soon had to resort to Guerilla warfare, by the end of the January uprising the Revolution had won no major victories due to the ill trained nature of the Peasantry that made up their forces and their lack of military equipment. Their Guerilla warfare was a success, but did not win the war, and finally the Revolution was crushed. Brzoska was killed and Dombrowski escaped to France. Some 80,000 people were exiled to Siberia in the aftermath of the uprising, a sign of “leniency” on behalf of the Tsar.
The movement of the Serfs away from the land to the new cities however had a massive effect on the Russian Economy and industrial capability. The pace of growth accelerated, and accelerated, practically overnight Russia went from an old fashioned and somewhat backward state to an economic and Industrial powerhouse. The requirement for the Factories and other industries for workers continued to increase and more and more former serfs were drawn into the cities in search of money.
Then on the 4th of April 1866 disaster occurred. As the Tsar was walking in the Summer garden with his son Alexander , now heir apparent after the death of his older brother the previous year of meningitis, a revolutionary Dimitri Karakazov fired a shot and struck the Tsar in the chest. The guards returned fire but succeeded only in striking his supposed accomplice, who it later transpired was merely a bystander Osip Kommisarov. Karakazov evaded capture and fled into the city where he had for the past few days been distributing pamphlets in an attempt to persuade the people to revolt. The tsar meanwhile was carried away from the Summer garden, but having been examined by his physician it became obvious that the bullet had penetrated his chest and caused irrepairable damage to his heart. Some twenty minutes after being shot he finally expired, and the crown passed to Alexander, now Alexander the third.
Alexander had only just started to become used to the idea of being heir apparent, now he found himself tsar. Worse still Karakazov’s assassination of the Tsar seemed to have borne fruit for him as a large uprising in the people of St Petersburg was taking place. Shocked by the loss of his father, and determined that such would not be his fate Alexander ordered that the uprising be put down as swiftly and efficiently as possible. The stage was set for the first atrocity of Alexanders reign.
Alexander had a strong personality and a tendency towards direct action rather than careful consideration, and this almost certainly was a time for careful consideration. The Karakasovniks were in control of a large part of the city by this point and were seemingly readying themselves to march on the palace. However to achieve this they had to pass through a number of relatively constrained roads, and it was these roads that Alexander determined to smash the revolutionaries down in. Overriding the orders of his military commanders he instructed that barricades were to be placed over the ends of the roads down which the Karakazovniks would flow. These would be manned by members of the army but he also provided a deadly surprise. A surprise which the revolutionaries met at 3:37 on the next afternoon. Having held off the confused military attacks of the day before Karakazov determined that the time was right to strike and led his revolutionaries to seize the palace. He was at the head of one such Revolutionary column when he found his way barred by a hastily constructed barricade manned by some twenty or so soldiers. The soldiers ordered him to surrender or they would fire, but at the head of a column of at least a thousand revolutionaries Karakazov merely returned the favour, and when they refused roused his men to storm the barricade.
The commander held his fire until the large group of revolutionaries was almost at the barricade and then opened fire with the four grapeshot loaded cannons hidden behind thin planks in the construction. The action claimed the lives of some 2000 revolutionaries as the same situation played out over the city, although many thousands more were injured. The Snow was painted with bloody flowers all over the city, and the clash became known as The Battle of the Winter Roses. The Karakazovniks were utterly defeated, and Alexander had stamped his authority on Russia in blood.
In the months after the assassination of his father however it became obvious that Alexander had been terribly affected by it. Having determined that the liberal changes his father had made had done nothing to stem the peasants anger against the Tsar, he set about dismantling some of the more liberal alterations. This was greeted by a wave of uprisings in the Countryside by scattered Narodnik forces. Being relatively unarmed peasants they were easily put down by trained soldiers, however Alexander viewed them with disproportionate alarm. Stating his aim to finally stamp out what he referred to as the Conspiracy of the peasants, he recruited several thousand Cossacks to form a secret police force tasked with hunting down and dealing with revolutionaries.
Worse still since the January uprising Prussia had been making friendly overtures towards Russia, presumably as a prelude to their long expected war with France. Unlike his father Alexander had little use for the Prussians much preferring the French, however he chose to use his fathers previous cordial connections with them. The one thing that Alexander wanted most of all from them was information on the Darkwall Formulae, but having signed the Darkwall treaty with Britain in 1865 Prussia was not in a position where it could reveal them without breaking the treaty and suffering a potentially catastrophic loss of face. Russia now had the industrial capability to make use of the formulae, and although he only vaguely understood the facts regarding Eden, Alexander could not help but wonder if it might not provide him with an opening to finally seize India from the British and win the Great Game once and for all. The previous attempt in the Crimea had been a costly and terrible mistake, however with Russia’s newly burgeoning industrial capability any war fought now would be a different situation entirely. He once again pressed the Prussians for their knowledge and when rebuffed he ordered his spies to consider the capturing of the formulae to be their highest concern.
In the meantime the Tsarist Secret Police had been very busy. Riding the length and Breadth of the country the Cossack patrols had become notorious for descending on villages seemingly at random to wipe out “nests of Revolution”, taking all the valuables in seizure and leaving no one alive. In a purely local sense it was an effective tactic as no narodnik uprisings took place in the regions they had passed through, However the news of the atrocities was widely reported despite attempts at censorship, and the situation was fast getting worse.
Finally it became obvious to Alexander that the ungrateful peasantry of Russia was not ready for the freedoms granted it by his father’s liberal ideals. He did the only sensible thing he could see, he rescinded the abolition of Serfdom. There was an immediate and violent response to this from the former serf’s, for whom having seen the various freedoms gained under Alexander’s father slowly melt away, this was the last straw. Huge peasant uprisings took place as Mir’s resisted the reclaimation of their land, and in some cases attempted to take back the money they had given their landlords as Redemption payments. The countryside was in uproar and the tsar hired more and more Cossacks to bolster the TSP but this only served to solidify the resistance and drive the scattered Narodnik Groups together for defence.
The effect of this proclaimation was not limited solely to the Countryside. The Industrial growth had been partially driven by the newly free serfs moving to the cities and seeking work in industry. With this workforce once again tied to the land, but with demand still rising at an unprecedented rate the situation became desperate. First working hours were extended, then extended again, holidays were abolished, being able to report sick was first made more difficult and then declared illegal. Finally strikes began to occur, but the TSP were employed to drive the workers back to their machinery. The Press at first attempted to report the deteriorating situation but very soon censorship was brought in and the news ceased. By this time however it was already too late.
Alexanders espionage had finally borne fruit and his spies had stolen not only the formulae but also the plans for the equipment needed to pierce the darkwall. The greatest minds in Russia were gathered to solve the formulae painstakingly by hand. The work took the best part of a year of constant toil but by the end the Tsar had in his hand all he needed to win the greatest victory Russia had ever known.
Although by no means a clever man Alexander was both direct and tactical. The Tsars of Russia had long wished to take India from the British, and his belief that Eden might prove useful to this aim had been proved correct. He now had the location of three weakspots on Earth: St Petersburg, Moscow, and One in India near Delhi. A Plan was forme. Two armies would be inserted into Eden with 8 years of supplies, and also the required labour and equipment to build a railroad clear across Eden to the Weakspot in India. Then once the weakening occurred again the two armies would be in position to strike while reinforcements could be brought up by train. The seemingly futile quest for a warm water port would no longer be needed.
This would need a great number labourers and a huge amount of equipment however. Industrial production would therefore need to be increased however with the serfs tied back to the land there was no longer a limitless supply of workers. The crackdowns on industrial workers worsened and soon people were expected to work 16 hours a day. Until now there had been no true urban proletariat for the Socialists to work with, the Narodnik uprisings had failed due to their lack of equipment and the terrain they had to fight on which obviously favoured the better trained and equipped soldiers. In the towns and cities, not only would the terrain advantage be nullified but it would be possible for them to seize arsenals, redressing the equipment advantage. The Country was a powder keg waiting for a spark.
The Spark came from the return of Dombrowski, bringing with him other former communards from the fall of the Paris commune to the Prussians. Louise Michel, and himself had escaped the fall of the barricades and sensing the increasing pressure on his homeland had travelled there to aid a possible uprising, using what they had learned on the barricades of Paris. They travelled first to Poland, but found little support amongst those who remembered the fate of the January uprising. However he did hear of a number of other Anarchists and Socialists operating in the Ukraine. He travelled there and met up with Bakunin’s protégé Necheyev. Necheyev was a very driven man utterly devoted to the concept of seizing the methods of production no matter what the cost.
The Uprising began and Alexander now concentrating on his plan to take India underestimated the success the Revolutionaries would have using the tactics Dombrowski had first used in the January uprising and then perfected in the Communards defence of Paris. The terrain was perfect for his preferred methods of fighting, with small winding roads totally unlike the wide boulevards that had defeated his tactics in Paris, and the Russian Army was pushed rapidly back out of the Ukraine.
Meanwhile Necheyev was pushing strongly for a strike at the heart of the Russian power. The other revolutionaries preferred a slower advance seizing locations and making sure they were operating before continuing. Dombrowski had learned from grim experience what happened if power was seized with little idea of how to administer them, and few plans of what to do once they were taken, however Necheyev was both popular and persuasive. Despite the probable losses Dombrowski was forced to accept a plan to assault Moscow. Necheyev accepted that the losses would most likely be major, but by seizing Moscow they would prove the weakness of the Army. His firebrand recklessness received a boost when news of a mass breakout by the Poles deported to Siberia reached them. Numbering now only 25000 a large proportion of the Poles were eager to join the revolutionaries and wreak vengeance on their erstwhile captors. The revolutionaries formed into brigades and using Alexander’s new railroads against him. Soon they were flooding into Moscow.
Alexander meanwhile was attempting to fight off both the revolutionaries while still ensuring that the Grand design he had for Eden could go ahead. The weakening was perilously close and his decision to pull his armies back to protect the Weakspots had unfortunately encouraged the Revolutionaries. Already huge warehouses were loaded with the railroad track that would be needed to reach the weakspot in India, some 5000 miles of it in fact. The majority of this was stored in Moscow with the remainder in St Petersburg, giving them enough to build a railroad to Moscow. Both weakspots meanwhile were well supplied with equipment and other provisions, and both were well defended. The weakening however coincided with Necheyev’s “peoples assault on Moscow”. The revolutionaries methods of warfare were not something the Russian Army was trained to deal with and worse many of the Poles who had been conscripted into the army now deserted and joined the rebels.
Alexander was forced to confront the fact that he faced a revolutionary force that was unlike any he had faced before. However his mind was completely absorbed with the possibility of his great victory. In his mind getting the troops to Eden was the only major difficulty, the 8 years they would spend building a railroad and surviving in potentially a very hostile environment did not feature in his thinking. Worried that his troops and labourers would be harmed by the revolutionaries, which would postpone the attempt on Eden until the next weakening he ordered the troops withdrawn to guard the weakspots. The majority of his Grand Eden army were withdrawn further to St Petersburg with the majority of the labourers being left in Moscow, defended by the Army and kept in line by the Tsarist Secret police. This last was to prove a grave mistake.
The leaders of the Revolutionaries were by now finding it very difficult to work together. Dombrowski and Michel veterans of Paris were held in high esteem by all but Necheyev was fast becoming a hinderance rather than a help. His motto of “The Ends justify the Means” had been connected to a number of foolhardy and in some cases unnecessary skirmishes. In one such incident he ordered several hundred unarmed peasants to assault a well defended barricade to act as a human shield for rifle men to pick off the Loyalists behind it who were defending an arsenal. Dombrowski was furious having asked Necheyev only to keep the barricade engaged while he flanked the position. In taking the arsenal Necheyev responded he had not only reduced the enemies ability to fight, but prevented them from removing the weapons before the revolutionaries could seize it. With 200 dead, and a further 150 wounded the human shield had suffered terrible casualties but weapons were now available for these remaining. Cracks were beginning to form at the very top of the revolution.
Meanwhile Alexander had completed the manouevering of his troops withdrawing them to St Petersburg. The labourers he left under the guard of the T.S.P and 2 Brigades of the Russian army believing that this would be sufficient to defend the weak spot. Once the weakening had passed the troops in Moscow could be recalled and would be enough to crush the rebellion. Alexander was far to used to dealing with Narodnik uprisings, the uprising of the Urban Proletariat was very much a different matter. The Russian army so used to riding down badly armed peasants was unprepared for a strong and ordered defence, and the situation only degenerated once the Poles from Siberia began to join the rebellion. Worse the Cossacks of the TSP took to amusing themselves with the people of the labour camp, staging fights between some of the men, and stealing away women. It was the spark for an explosion of violence as the labourers already brutalised in their time in the camp rose up.
The Cossacks fought strongly but most of the strength of the TSP was in fear and they had driven the labourers beyond their fear. The labourers were not skilled but they were numerous and very soon the Cossacks were being hanged from the girders of the warehouses. The labourers then went on to strike the Brigades guarding the weak spot. Struck from both sides the brigades had no chance and fell before the Rebels. The Rebellion had seized the Moscow weak spot.
Here once again there was a difference of opinion between the leaders of the Rebellion. Necheyev argued that the rebellion should contest with the Tsar at all levels and in all battlefields. The others argued that the war was to free the people and the people were here. Necheyev insisted and the others, sensing the possibility of being free of the firebrand and his nihilistic policies, suggested that he should ask for volunteers and lead them to Eden. He did just that, speaking to the masses he asked them to join him and many of the Poles and the labourers joined up. Other people joined as well and soon Necheyev was the head of an army of fanatics who wanted nothing more than to crush the forces of the Tsar. The weakening approached and the scientists were forced to work the machinery.
The weakening occurred and in Moscow and St Petersburg the machinery was brought to life and the weak spots were pierced to Eden. In Moscow the labourers began feverishly moving the supplies through to the other world. In St Petersburg the troops began to rush through.
In Eden however they found that the contraction effect had placed the two forces almost within sight of each other, both found themselves in a mountainous region, however the Rebels were placed on a relatively easily defended plateau while the Tsarist forces were on the slopes of a mountain open and visible.
The two camps were at first not aware of each other. However after a scant day or so they became aware and a fight began. With the Tsarist forces in such an open position they took a terrible beating as their position was shelled by the rebel forces. The fight raged for the full length of the weakening, with more and more troops and supplies arriving all the time. Eventually Necheyev had enough troops to assault the Tsarist position, the action was furious and the Tsarists after the shelling were not able to resist and where driven down the mountains into the lowlands beyond. Luckily their commander Count Loris-Melikov had expected to be pushed from the high grounds and had begun moving supplies to a secondary position. However the majority of their equipment and more importantly the weak spot their only link back to Earth had fallen to the Rebels.
Necheyev meanwhile prepared to wage war in the new world. He set up a settlement on the plateau and began sending troops to harass the Tsarist settlement. However even he understood that if the rebel presence was to last out the 8 years before reinforcements they would have to forgo striking at their sworn enemies.
All Rules and Backgrounds (unless stated otherwise) Copyright Richard Crookes 2009-2011
All rights retained.
With thanks to Simon Bowers for Russian background aid.