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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:42 am

vaalen wrote:Ah, this is getting even better with the integration of the PON screenshots and interface.

This is so far my favorite AAR of all time, and I continue to check every day.


for which ... thank you

and this leads to today's installment, a small gambit in the emerging Great Game

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Playing chess in Tehran?

Sun Feb 19, 2017 11:45 am

1850: The Persian Gambit

The early years of the Qajar dynasty had seen a brief revival of Persia's fortunes. She had defeated the final attempt by the Ottomans to dominate all the region, preserving Persia's independence. However, even they had not been able to prevent Russian gains in the Caucasus and by the 1830s that region was finally lost.

As ever, this resolved nothing. The Russians feared attack and also dreamed of extending their gains. The Shah dreamed of revenge and feared further defeat. The British, especially with their new Queen, wished to stop the Russians and seize dominance for themselves. The Ottomans also had fears and ambitions.

This made Tehran almost as lively a place as Constantinople. Everybody had sent spies, merchants and adventurers. More orthodox diplomats felt it was best to ignore the reality that in many cases the same person had been employed by more than one state.

Image
(The main gate of Tehran, 1850)

Well if their employers were sometimes confused so were their spies. Maron embodied all the contradictions of the region. Apparently born in Alexandria of a Maronite Christian father and a Greek Orthodox mother he had enough contradictions in his own ancestry to allow him to serve any power.

As a child he had been delighted when his mother claimed her family was descended from refugees who had fled Atlantis. As an adult he had been surprised to realise she was serious. As to his father. Well if your ancestral home is next door to the road taken by every army to have invaded the Middle East in the last 5,000 years, your gene pool is going to be … mixed?

Maybe in response, by his own terms he was loyal … at least as long as his employer paid him.

News was passed to London that the Russians had made a move. First they demanded control over the posts and then, generously, offered to protect the Shah from his enemies. Since the only military threat was from the large Russian army in Armenia, this was seen by the British as a promise too many.

Image

Image

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Hence Maron.

Well it had not been hard. A word here, an accident there, even something as direct (this offended his sense of propriety in such matters) as a bribe to one official and the Shah regained a sense that his new suitor from the north was a threat after all.

Image

If this had been a game of chess then it was a slow game. Not even a pawn had been moved … but for those who could see, it was clear a hand had almost touched the board. A pawn was now facing in a slightly different direction as if someone was going to move it and then drew back.

Of course by the finer rules of that game such a thing is not done. But then the clashes of great powers are rarely conducted just by the rules?

By these terms, Maron had served his distant Empress well – even if she was unaware of his existence on this earth. His local employers noted his relative honesty and approved of his elegant brutality … success was also welcomed. He was added to the files, a man to use, a man we might trust in the future.

But the British were not the only ones making files. In nearby Tiblisi another file, in a different alphabet, was created. It too bore a version of his name. This time he was recorded as an enemy, a threat, one to deal with later … if such a chance came along.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Sun Feb 19, 2017 6:13 pm

Good narrative and AAR. Thanks.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Tue Feb 21, 2017 7:05 pm

Baris wrote:Good narrative and AAR. Thanks.


thank you - have long wanted to mess around with the character and event dynamics in the AGE games and this allows me to indulge myself

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Tiblisi 1850

Tue Feb 21, 2017 7:08 pm

Tiblisi, May 1850

By early 1850, Tiblisi was the effective capital of the Russian Caucasus. However, such a fine title should not blind us to the realities. In reality it was a military camp with a largely rural population and a single Orthodox cathedral.

Image

In a way that defined the problem. The bulk of the population owed no loyalty to Russian Orthodoxy and accepted Tsarist rule under sufferance. To make this worse, all looked back to recent periods of independence (or to more distant forms of Imperial rule when they could live as they wished), some on grounds of ethnicity and religion looked to the Ottomans, others, on grounds of ethnicity and religion, looked south towards Tehran.

There were days when Mikhail Nikolaevich [1], felt his job was impossible.

“Come, Mikhail Vorontsov, the military position is not that bad?”

“If you want me to defend the region, then no. But to attack is impossible. The Turks have an army that is the same size as ours to the east and the Persians have a strong army to the south. If they ever combined, well we would be forced to fall back northwards”.

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“Well I think we can assume that St Petersburg believes you will attack … and possibly quite soon. Look …”

Image

As his companion read the document, Mikhail Nikolaevich muttered under his breath 'and I will deal with the Persians'.

“Well reinforcements are welcome but come, be realistic, they will take another 60 days. We could have lost the region in that time”

“My friend, try having my problems. The Tsar has dreams. We will bring civilisation and we will win the hearts of the locals. Word has reached the Winter Palace that here they drink tea … well we Russians will teach them to grow tea … ,

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and all you can complain about is where to house fresh troops when I have to find the money to build you a new barracks”.

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“And I have to be grateful, as if two new cavalry divisions will allow me to conquer a continent? Anyway, my friend, I also have ears. I have heard, we will not just be sent new divisions but your nephew Tsesarevich Aleksandr Nikolaevich is on the way [2]. The Tsar wishes that his heir sees the birth of the Russia we are building. And how better than on the Tsar's new train?”

Then there were days when Mikhail Nikolaevich really wished he was somewhere else. He had heard that the Governor of Omsk only spent one day a month on his official duties. Maybe Siberia really was the future?

[1] Yep, real person

[2] He didn't but I want him in the region for my own purposes, but he did visit a lot of Russia in the late 1830s as part of his preparations for the throne.

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A Man on a Mission

Sun Feb 26, 2017 7:55 pm

A Man on a Mission

The person currently known as Boris Stepanovic rode towards the rear of the Russian column heading for Tehran.

Image

Russian policy demanded friendly relations with the Persians – or more precisely that the Persians should allow Russian merchants into the country on favourable terms. How better to back up a purely commercial and diplomatic choice than with a display of military might? The Tsar was sure his brother monarch would appreciate the implication.

As they left Tiblisi, the mountains received their first snows of the winter. So Boris was cold, and very clear as to the minor nature of his role. Here simply to add extra numbers – he was aware his regimental commander would have eagerly volunteered him for such a simple mission.

A man with time to think sometimes concentrates on the ills done to him in the past.

Boris believed that he had been ill-treated by almost everyone. When they arrived in this world his was the simplest mission. Establish his cover as a Ukrainian nobleman fallen on hard times.

When he arrrived in Vienna he carried out various simple acts first for the Russians and then the Austrians. Enough to ease their alliances against Napoleon and, critically, to act as a go-between to avoid any serious clashes when Austrian troops invaded Russia in 1812. He did this well enough to be respected, so when Paul Jakovlevich arrived he was able to bring him into the Russian diplomatic mission. From then his rise to high rank was assured.

And Boris?

Left in Vienna, his role over.

Those two sisters were still meant to protect their operations. The last time he had seen one of them was in late 1813. Something he did not wish to repeat. Those cold eyes, the way they measured up people as threats or prey, their casual approach to shifting bodies. No, he had no desire to meet them again.

In a way Olga had been bad enough. Gabriella's youngest grand-daughter seemed to have something of their indifference to the lives of others. But she was just a child, born in Siberia … he shuddered – and not from the cold – no, it could not be.

But Gabriella, there was another. Not only had she treated him as a fool she had been so arrogant as to sabotage their mission. To Boris, it was clear, Russia should have reformed, it should become like Prussia, if the Decembrists had suceeded then history would have been different --- and better, - as it had been designed.

And she had sabotaged this opportunity, simply for 'love'.

Well … he would show them all wrong. He would impress in Tehran and then … well maybe, he, the idiot of the group, would show them all and would rescue the experiment.

So far he had done well. When the real Boris had arrived in Vienna he had become his friend. It had been easy to take his body … though there were times when he wished his previous host had been, well more intellectual. Well, no problem, many armies liked their young officers to be enthustiastic rather than intelligent.

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A Man with two Masters

Thu Mar 02, 2017 7:17 pm

A Man with two Masters – December 1850

Maron was bored. And like most intelligent people when he was bored his mind wandered.

Still better to be stuck in this small fishing village than dead in Tehran. The first near 'accident' had been plausible – tiles fell off badly maintained roofs all the time. The second less so, poison does not get into wine unless someone places it there.

All the evidence was the Russians were determined to assert their dominance in Persia. And that he was seen as a barrier.

So when his British employers had suggested travelling north to spy on Russian actions to the east of the Caspian Sea he had readilly agreed. Not that it was hard to work out. No one builds a network of forts, new roads and expands a harbour for no reason.

Image

If the Russians wanted to invade Persia they would do so from the Caucasus. So the target must be Khiva. An easy mission. Boring, and relatively safe.

Hence time to think.

What was the saying from their history classes? 'A house divided cannot stand against itself'? Something like that – he really should have paid more attention. So here he sat beside a muddy fishing wharf, a man divided and not at all sure what to do.

When they had arrived, Europe was in turmoil. But it was not clear what they had to do. All they had been told was it involved Russia, but was Russia to become great or collapse? The evidence from the few times the Decembrist revolt had succeeded was mixed – usually their well meant attempt failed due to a revolt by the aristocracy.

At the moment, they had no idea how to intervene – or to what end - so their orders were simply to observe and do what seemed to be necessary. So he had ended up in the pay of the British.

And now they wanted him to cross the Caspian and forment a revolt. The Tsar's new train line was causing deep concerns in Whitehall. So should be ingratiate himself with his new masters or let the Tsar have his train?

Image

Watch … or serve? And once he choose - well he would be committed. Watch or serve? Here there was no-one to advise him.

Looking out at the cold rain and the mud, he came to a decision. Anything was better than staying here.

Also, so far, the British had not tried to kill him ... for the moment that was enough to earn some loyalty.

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An Angry Queen

Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:41 pm

An Angry Queen

In recent years, the Privy Council had ceased to be a place for genteel discussions of matters of state. The new Queen had ideas … and strong views. To the more traditional of her advisers this was not often welcome.

For the moment, her anger was on Lord Raglan. As so often, others in the room relaxed, if she had found her victim for the day then maybe they were safe?

'So … My Lord … why does the Tsar want to build such a rail network?'

'Ummhh, well … so he can travel from St Petersburg to Moscow?''

Image

'Fool, you … you complete dolt. Not that one … this, and this and now we hear it has reached here'

Image

Queen Victoria forced herself to appear calm. Turning to a younger man in the uniform of the Engineers she asked

'You ..., you look like a man with real knowledge. Tell me how long would it take the Russians to march an army from St Petersburg to the Caucasus?'

Major James Estcourt looked up from his papers .. surprised to be singled out.

'Your Majesty … I would guess 8, maybe 9 months. And they may have to halt for winter if they included heavy artillery and supply wagons. So it could easily take more than a year'.

'And if they had a railway from St Petersburg to Tiblisi?'

'Weeks … a matter of a few weeks … Your Majesty'.

Victoria turned back to Raglan.

'Now do you understand … this is no longer the age of Napoleon. I want this rail line destroyed'

She turned to a man, the only civilian in the room, dressed in sombre clothes who sat at the back of the room.

'See to it, use this agent you seem to have such a trust in'.

Sitting back in her chair, she seemed more at ease.

'Now is there anything other than Russia for us to discuss?'

Lord Raglan was perhaps too keen to push the conversation to safer ground.

'Well your majesty … there is the question of the new uniform buttons for the Corps of Engineers. I believe the designs were sent to you a week ago'.

At this Victoria lost what little remained of her patience. She slammed shut the file in front of her and stood up.

'Tell me … my Lord … why does the Tsar spend his money on trains and ammunition plants? Why are the Russians raising reserve battalions? Why are they trying to consolidate their position in the northern Pacific?

Image

Please' … and at this her voice lowered menacingly … 'tell me how your new buttons will make any difference? … My entire Empire is at risk … and you worry about buttons. Are you really nothing but a seamstress?'

At this she swept out. Only the civilian seemed to feel that real progress had been made.

As they filed out, the senior military officers were complaining about the level of interference in matters 'unsuitable for women'. As she walked back to her rooms, Victoria reminded herself that she had killed more people than Raglan [1]. But despite this, she remained cautious about sacking him, murder is one thing, directing a war might just be something different


[1] Possibly true, before the Crimean War he had never commanded troops in the field despite his close links to Wellington.

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A lack of clarity

Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:03 am

Why?

So often a simple question that produced no simple answer. Frustrated and weary she pushed back her hair and let her chair relax.

There must be a reason for this particular experiment and why it was so important to persist?

The files were clear, other experiments had failed for similar reasons and the usual response was to end them. After all the purpose of their experiments was to see if the mistakes of her ancestors could be avoided. The belief was there was a point in the Nineteenth Century when a different future could have been guaranteed … or, at least, become more likely.

They had engineered different outcomes to the liberal revolts in 1848, different outcomes in terms of the emergence of Germany and Italy, even attempts to either build up or suppress the emergence of Socialism. Generally they had learnt not to worry about Russia -- it was too unpredictable.

So why this one, why Russia, why so early, why not just either end it or let it run unhindered? Whatever happened could not be any worse than what had happened in her … the real … timeline. The artificial light in the room and the heavy shutters over the window were adequate reminders of the damage they had causedto the planet despite their technological mastery.

Maybe she might be more effective if she could stop thinking of other issues. The effectiveness of their experiments was often debated and sometimes the ethical issues were raised. Each world was a copy of their own, populated with real people who were her ancestors. And then something was changed. If it then failed it was usually just frozen at that point.

So then what happened to the people given new lives?

She shook her head and turned back to the files. Somewhere in here was a simple answer to a simple question. She could worry about the ethics later.

But nagging at her mind was a larger question. If a future evolved in a different way who would be allowed to enjoy it … her own people or the individuals who had lived their lives there?

And something still worried her … what had he meant by the half heard phrase: “what we really need”?

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Love and Revolt

Sat Mar 18, 2017 1:59 pm

Another New Year

The start of 1851 brought more bad news for Mikhail Nikolaevich . It was true, the Tsarevich was to be sent to the Caucasus as part of his training for the throne.

Mikhail quite liked his nephew [1], its just he preferred him to learn his future trade in St Petersburg. Here, statecraft was perhaps not the refined and elegant process it appeared at a safe distance. It was true that the Shah was coming to see the benefits of a Russian alliance. Blaming the British for the revolt that briefly threatened his capital had been easy … for all the Mikhail knew (or cared to ask), it might even have been true.

Image

It was certainly probably better if St Petersburg believed it was true … . That way there was no unfortunate questions for a provincial governor who might have overstepped his authority. It was, after all, the sort of thing the British would have done – if they could.

It was easy to present the revolt in Persia as a British plot. Telling half-truths to a distant ruler was always easier when it could be supported by a different truth.

There was no doubt the British had sponsored the recent revolt in Daghestan. The strange focus on the new railway and rumours of a British spy were all the evidence needed.

Image

So it was easy also to report to St Petersburg, and to Tehran, that there was no doubt they had sponsored the revolt in Persia.

Image

Well, the Tsarevich might yet have his uses, perhaps he could be sent to cement the Persian alliance?

Mikhail sighed. He was already late for Lusine Ardzruni's ball and he, above all, knew the importance of making the old Armenian aristocracy value their new Russian friends. Who knows, maybe one day the governor of this region could work one day a month. It was strange how this idea came to him so often these days. It almost made Siberia seem less a place of exile and more a place of rest and repose.

Stretching his shoulders he shoved the military reports to one side. After all the report of one massacre is much the same as another. He'd think how to present this as a major triumph tomorrow … no on Thursday – he was going to take tomorrow off.

Image

Calling for his cloak he left his office, time to play the benign governor who cared for those he ruled … smiling to himself he could not deny that he cared for Lusine Ardzruni … and not just as a potentially valuable link to Armenian society.

[1] the real relationship was something like nephew twice removed but I am going to simplify the Romanovic family tree ...

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Morning in Gibraltar

Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:57 am

Morning in Gibraltar

Image
(View of Gibraltar in the early 1850s)

6am

The Governor's Residency

Staring out at the early spring rain, Victoria reflected that she had been warned. Well not about the cold and damp of poorly heated rooms but of the discomfort of travelling across the Bay of Biscay in winter.

She had insisted, claiming that if she was to rule she had to see more of the Empire. The usual fools had backed down, probably glad she would be absent for a few weeks. Being absent is what she had wanted. Here she could meet people without the inconvenience of meticulous record keepers logging every encounter.

Turning to the only official present in the room, a man dressed to evade close attention, she asked:

'Mr Fleming, is he here?'

Seeing him nod, she demanded her 'visitor' be brought before her at 11 that evening. Darkness, rain and some changes of clothing should do much to hide him from any prying eyes.

Turning back to her files, it was clear that Russia had won the opening round. Persia had chosen her protector, and it was not the British Empire. Well, this game was not decided yet.

Image

A converted coal shed

Maron had not slept well. Even for a man used to discomfort, a night in what must have been a hastily cleared coal shed was not restful. Still it was well hidden and a for a man in his profession that was important.

So here he was, to meet the Empress of India (and all her other titles). So much earlier than they had hoped when he had been sent to this world.

After all, hearing rumours were one thing, but the only way to resolve them was to meet someone.

And then he could decide what to do next.
Last edited by loki100 on Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Evening in Gibraltar

Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:59 am

will fill in later, the edit function on the new forum software is a nightmare ... grumble

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:56 pm

I am sorry that the edit function is such a problem. Perhaps someone could fix it?

I really do not want this great AAR to be delayed for this reason.

Very nice use of PON graphics to help tell the story.

Thanks again for doing this!

Vaalen

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Tue Mar 21, 2017 4:25 pm

ah, no I was just having a grumble :) . I clicked from the ToC to the 'morning' post and edited one small typo and then found it had generated the revisiion as a response to the original not as an update - hence the blank post.

Victoria's evening chat is about 90% complete, just trying to think about if it goes better into 1 or 2 posts and quite how to end it.

In game, I've got to mid-1852, very impressed with processing speed, really like the new colonial dynamics. Overall, so far,oddly find Russia easier to cope with than Sardinia-Piedmont, with some care you really cannot run out of key items and state cash seems to be the real blockage to too fast a build up.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Wed Mar 22, 2017 1:50 pm

Good to hear that the problem is not that severe.

This AAR has actually got me interested in playing Russia again, especially with the improvements of the latest patch.

Since you are now in 1852, the Crimean War event should fire within the next two years. Given how Victoria feels about the Russians, I am very interested in seeing how that will play out, within the story line of this fascinating AAR.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:11 pm

I'm enjoying it, the new changes make the game quite different and the colonial dynamics seem to be slowed down as the options are much more differentiated.

Wierdly its much less micro-management than with a smaller power so the turns are quicker to set up.

I'm wondering when the Crimean chain is going to begin, should be the moment when the game shifts gear to open up options.

re Vicky, worth remembering that its not yet clear what she (and the others) wanted from Russia. In their plan the Decembrists should have won, so one can presume they wanted to force a degree of modernisation much earlier. So yes, its the Great Game, but one played perhaps to a different rule book than in our history :innocent: . So she has an obsession and a close focus but to what end? Also she wants to know if her sister is still alive and what really happened in Siberia.

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An evening in Gibraltar

Thu Mar 23, 2017 9:34 am

Evening in Gibraltar

11pm

Maron was finally to meet the most powerful woman in the world. Hopefully the conversation would be more comfortable than his journey to her rooms.

Quickly taken to wash and change, then dressed first in a military uniform and then as a servant. Hustled along ill-lit paths. Clearly someone wanted no record of his arrival or (he reminded himself) his departure.

Finally he was admitted to a poorly lit room. Sat to his left, in the limited light, was a man he knew to be his direct employer. Mr Fleming of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence [1]. To his right, sat in the shadows, was the woman who was his real employer.

Maron opted to stand silently and let them speak first.

Even as Fleming cleared his throat to speak, Victoria cut across him.

'Mr Fleming, please leave us … now … go, I will call for you later'

Silence returned as he gathered his papers and left the room. Once the door had closed, Victoria stood up and approached him.

'So, it is you … well Har... no we must keep in character mustn't we?'

Maron smiled back.

'Yes, we must' as he looked into the cold eyes that he had last seen 70 years ago [2]. 'I must say that supreme power seems to suit you'

Victoria walked into the light and started to fiddle with a paperweight on the desk.

'So they have sent you … do they realise?'

'No, they sent two of us and think we are both loyal, so we are here to observe and report back. Then they will decide what happens to this timeline.

I don't know where the other is, we used different routes'

Victoria nodded, 'so our leader still thinks the situation can be saved? I presume the others suspect nothing of his real purpose?'

''No, of course not. My instructions were to make contact with the original group and then see what we can do. I suspected you from the start' … looking up at Victoria's surprised face, he added 'well you have left a trail of corpses. Gabriella we know and will deal with when we can. Your sister has disappeared and the other was last seen in Vienna but we believe has moved back to Russia'.

Victoria eyed Maron – 'my sister … could she still live?'

'Yes, you know what happens if we need to shift into a child rather than an adult. But must our conversation be so formal … especially now you have arranged for us to be alone?'

Victoria stepped forward again.

'It is so hard in this world to truly relax … yes hold me … remind me of what I have been missing'

If there had been any observer, they would have seen a surprising sight. The most powerful woman in the world embracing an insignificant spy of Eastern Mediterranean heritage. Of course, if such an observer had been detected, they would not have lived to report their tale.


[1] Very much the real predecessor of the current MI 6 etc (which was formally set up during the Great War).
[2] The initial group had arrived in our timeline in 1780

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Summer Time in Tiblisi

Mon Mar 27, 2017 9:31 pm

Summer time in Tiblisi

Mikhail Nikolaevich was angry. A man of surprisingly easy temper for his rank and post, it took some effort to reduce him to shouting at his subordinates.

"Svinoi are you laughing at me?"

The young officer resolutely stared over Mikhail's shoulder while his escort looked at their well polished boots.

However, he persisted in trying to pass his files over.

If Mikhail was to be honest, he did perhaps look ridiculous. Here he was wearing one of Lusine Ardzruni's dressing gowns and his most formal hat. Her ladyship had earlier expressed a liking for the feathers and who was he to disappoint … after all improving relations with the local aristocracy was part of his orders from the Tsar himself.

With this, he calmed himself.

“So what is so important that you have to disturb me on my first day off in months” - again, for he was a honest man, he knew this was an exaggeration, after all his evening visits to Lusine were well enough known to his staff for them to find him here when it mattered.

“Governor, we have a problem. Reports have reached us from the small garrison at Kizil is under threat”.

Mikhail's temper started to fray again. Did this young fool think he knew the name of every small town and fort in the region?

Noting the growing impatience, the young officer hastily added

“The fort was being built to guard the Persian border on the east of the Caspian Sea.

Image

But now is threatened”

“So send reinforcements”

“We have but they will arrive far too late to help”

Image

“Ah”, at this Mikhail understood what was going on. “So when will we officially know of these events”

Realising the conversation had finally moved onto safer ground the young officer relaxed slightly.

“Several days, maybe a week”

“Then send a dispatch to St Petersburg, mention in a small paragraph on page 5 that we have concerns about … well something … I mean I am sure we are concerned about something. That way if the worst happens we can show we were … concerned … yes, we had concerns. I will sign the report in the morning.

Dismissed”.

At that Mikhail turned and left the room. Once he was safely out of hearing, the group relaxed. As they left, one was heard to mutter 'his feathers ...” at this the others warned him to be silent. They had a hard night ahead fabricating official documents and reports.

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August in the Desert

Wed Mar 29, 2017 12:55 pm

August in the desert

Poruchik Sokolov felt his military career was not progressing as he had dreamed. Surely by now a competent, well connected – and, in his own estimation, handsome – officer should be part of a major command, perhaps serving on the staff of one of Russia's senior generals. He briefly gazed west towards where he imagined the Caucasus to be – over there where real armies were assembling.

Instead he was leading a small group of men across the scrub, dust and sand of the desert. A days march behind him was the fort. If such a title was deserved of a building made of baked mud as neither stone nor wood had been made available.

His commander, Shtabs-Kapitan [1] Grekov was a drunkard with a real dedication to his vocation. The garrison lacked supplies to build the fort, uniforms, weapons and ammunition, however, Grekov had arranged a regular vodka supply. Every week a small boat arrived from Baku to deliver replacement stocks.

So here he was out on patrol. Leading the 'most able' men in the command – in reality the more accomplished criminals among the group of conscripts sent to this backwater [2]. Grekov had not been clear why they had to march into the desert, citing vague rumours of 'threats'.

Looking up he realised it was late morning. Halting the small column he climbed a nearby rise to spot a location where they could rest in the worst of the days heat.

As he reached the crest he noticed a sudden movement below him. Immediately he drew his pistol only to quickly realise this was no threat. A young boy darted behind a rock as his herd of goats scattered. Relieved, Sokolov turned to go back down.

The bullet that killed him struck him in the head. In minutes his small column was overwhelmed.

Later that evening the raiders struck at the unprepared fort.

Image

Several days later the young goat herd went to look for items of value. In the end all he took was cap to shade his eyes from the sun. He was sure this could be traded for something valuable when he returned to his village.

News of the defeat spread quickly as the weekly vodka boat returned to Baku. Within 5 days Voiskovoi Starshin [3] Hornutoov's advance guard had reached the destroyed fort.

By the time dispatches had reached St Petersburg the events had been transformed. Sokolov was now seen as the brightest talent in the army, voluntarily serving in such a region to learn his trade. Grekov, apparently, had overcome his many faults to lead his men bravely on their final day. Equally the number of attackers was no longer 500 but at least 5,000.

Out of such things do Empires make myths [4].

And take revenge.

[1] the two ranks are roughly those of Lieutenant and Captain
[2] In this era 'recruitment' was involuntary for the rank and file and was for 20 years (plus a period in the reserve). Individuals served as an alternative to imprisonment, were nominated by their landlord (in areas where serfdom applied) or by quota (in other districts). The latter method handed considerable power to nominated groups of 'elders' and was often abused for both bribery and to settle local disputes.
[3] A rank specific to Cossack formations, roughly that of a Brigadier in a western army
[4] Not just in the Tsarist era. Soviet cinema started to make what became called 'Easterns' in the late 1920s and continued till the fall of the USSR. The common theme was an isolated Red Army detachment fighting in Central Asia and being overwhelmed. The films deliberately used plot lines from Hollywood westerns and from the 1930s sometimes used western actors (cast as the foreign communist prepared to die for the USSR). Some of these had fallen foul of McCarthyism and worked in both the Soviet Union and E Germany.

Of the films, a typical example is the White Sun of the Desert was probably the most popular film ever made in the USSR.
Last edited by loki100 on Fri Mar 31, 2017 8:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Fri Mar 31, 2017 3:14 pm

Fascinating. Never new about 'Easterns'. And thanks for the good read.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Fri Mar 31, 2017 6:09 pm

Pocus wrote:Fascinating. Never new about 'Easterns'. And thanks for the good read.


thank you. I have an odd fascination with Italian (and French) neo-realism in films and a (not often) acknowledged strand is that they drew a lot from pre-WW2 Soviet cinema for their style. Since neither the Soviets (nor the E Germans who also had a huge film industry) really bothered with exporting to the west - and apart from a few films there was no enthusiasm in the west to buy and dub the films they remain unknown.

Most are predictable (and rubbish), but as ever highly stylised approaches (both to films and books) every now and then produced some real gems.

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Victory and Revenge

Fri Mar 31, 2017 6:12 pm

Victory and Revenge

Hornutoov's scouts reached the destroyed fort by 6 August but news, via the vodka boat, had already reached Tiblisi.

The first report from Tibilisi to St Petersburg that even mentioned the region had been full of strangely prescient concerns about the quality of the defences – both human and physical – and suggestions for their improvement. That the Khan of Khiva was determined to stop the Russian build up in the region was clear to all, so Russia had to be ready.

By the time that the bulk of Hornutoov's cossacks were in the region, the Russian state had already decided both what had happened and what should be done. Tempers ran high and opinion was inflamed. The Patriach was discussing making Grekov into a saint as he had been told the Captain had fallen protecting the garrison's prized possession – a small makeshift church. Sokolov was apparently already due to be promoted to high rank to reflect the service he would have offered.

Even the usually calm Mikhail Nikolaevich was demanding action. Not least, having played a small role in the myth making he was now desperate for it to end. The latest story of how the ghost of Grekov had saved some fishermen from a huge sturgeon at the mouth of the Volga being too much, even for him.

Demanding action was one thing. Delivering it was another. The Cossacks were left chasing a small band of horsemen across a vast region. To their frustration the enemy could slip across the Khivan border while they were forbidden to follow.

Still after three weeks the enemy was slowly being surrounded. The local population was mostly neutral, and after the rebels resorted to looting, a steady flow of information was passed to the Russians.

Finally able to strike back, Hornutoov split his command into three columns. Two rode ahead to cut off any likely retreat route and the main body, with the artillery, finally brought the enemy to battle.

If you could call it a battle. Disorganised and tired the rebels were in no position to fight in any case. A devastating cannonade ended what was left of their resistance.

Image

His only problem was he did not have enough corpses. The Tsar had been told his brave garrison had been overwhelmed by 5,000 men, the Tsar would have to be told the deaths of his brave men had been fully revenged. Hornutoov did the only thing he could think of. Ordering one of his columns to leave all their uniforms, they struck into Khivan territory. After two weeks they returned with evidence that the garrison was now avenged.

They also set in train a major crisis that was to explode when Russia was already under pressure.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Wed Apr 05, 2017 1:59 am

I really like how this is developing. There is a very nice pace to it, and the use of battle report screenshots as part of the narrative is sheer genius.

The rage in Moscow over the burning by rebels of a minor fort reminds me of how annoyed I get when my forts and missions are destroyed by rebels, and how determined I am to hunt them down and get rid of them. Very immersive game.

I also want to thank you for the description of Easterns, which I had never heard of. I am going to try to watch the movie you provided a link to.

Speaking of Easterns, I wonder if you have ever read the Trilogy by the Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewich. These are novels of the struggles of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth in the seventeenth century, during which Poland fought some desperate wars, lost the Ukraine to a massive Cossack revolt, was conquered by Sweden, liberated itself from Sweden, and then had to face the Ottoman empire in battle. Long novels, but great stories, with detailed descriptions of many battles, describing the actual forces and tactics used, and told in a very exciting way. Deep, great characters, who often develop during the novels.

The first novel starts out in the " Wild East" of Poland, which is now the Ukraine. Cossacks, Tartars, violent peasants, Magnates with large private armies, ... quite a mix.

If you are interested, I recommend starting with the first book in the Trilogy, entitled With Fire and Sword. It is relatively easy to find a free English version on the internet, as the copyright has long expired.

Thanks again for doing this AAR.

Regards,

Vaalen

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Wed Apr 05, 2017 12:38 pm

vaalen wrote:I really like how this is developing. There is a very nice pace to it, and the use of battle report screenshots as part of the narrative is sheer genius.

The rage in Moscow over the burning by rebels of a minor fort reminds me of how annoyed I get when my forts and missions are destroyed by rebels, and how determined I am to hunt them down and get rid of them. Very immersive game.

I also want to thank you for the description of Easterns, which I had never heard of. I am going to try to watch the movie you provided a link to.

Speaking of Easterns, I wonder if you have ever read the Trilogy by the Polish writer Henryk Sienkiewich. These are novels of the struggles of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth in the seventeenth century, during which Poland fought some desperate wars, lost the Ukraine to a massive Cossack revolt, was conquered by Sweden, liberated itself from Sweden, and then had to face the Ottoman empire in battle. Long novels, but great stories, with detailed descriptions of many battles, describing the actual forces and tactics used, and told in a very exciting way. Deep, great characters, who often develop during the novels.

The first novel starts out in the " Wild East" of Poland, which is now the Ukraine. Cossacks, Tartars, violent peasants, Magnates with large private armies, ... quite a mix.

If you are interested, I recommend starting with the first book in the Trilogy, entitled With Fire and Sword. It is relatively easy to find a free English version on the internet, as the copyright has long expired.

Thanks again for doing this AAR.

Regards,

Vaalen


One of the delights (ahem) of all the AGEOD games is the modelling of asymetric warfare. I too hate it when light cavalry or rebels start wrecking my supply lines etc. I remember a RoP PBEM with Narwhal where I think we both put more effort into using Hussars and Cossacks for raiding than we did into the main armies.

Soviet cinema was very stylised (both in form and content) but the better directors either used genres where the rules were less clear (Tarkovsky and science fiction is one eg) or simply used the forced structure as the basis for creative film making. Which is a way of saying there are some gems amongst the mountains of dross.

The books sound superb. I'll see if I can track them down. Its one of the many reasons why Seventeenth Century history can be so interesting - so much that we now tend to see as fixed was fluid.

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A family argument

Wed Apr 05, 2017 12:41 pm

Moscow, September 1851

'Grandmother, what is wrong?'

'Dear child, what can you mean … I am fine … just tired'

'No it is more than that, ever since the Austrian delegation visited Moscow you have been withdrawn'

Image

'Oh Katja'

At this she turned to face me.

'For one evening I spoke my first language with that charming Antonio Pestalozza [1]. Ah to speak not just Italian but dialetto. For an evening I was 19 again and had not even met Paul. Can you understand, it is almost too late for me to go home and I cannot face the alternative'.

'Grandmother, you are 70 … you cannot travel to Northern Italy at …'

'My age? … my dear I am still healthier than many women 30 years younger than me. If I want to go to see my first home, I will'.

She turned and walked to the table where she started to fiddle with her mirror. If there was something that annoyed me about my grandmother, it was this damn mirror.

In an attempt to force her to pay attention I grabbed at the mirror. In our accidental tussle it fell to the floor.

'Katja, enough … I make no demands on you, but leave me now'.

However, I was now not prepared to leave, the mirror seemed not just to reflect the room but to create its own light.

'Grandmother, just what is that … that thing?'

'Oh you do not want to know, believe me'

Here she paused as if reflecting on her words. It seemed that she was about to say more when we both heard a sound at the door.

Moving at a speed that surprised, she pulled open the door and Olga crashed to the ground.

Gabriella spoke quietly.

'Ah you … yes I feared you would want to know'

But the spell was broken, whatever might have been said was lost.

Angry at my sister I turned on her

'Why must you always spy on me, you want my clothes, and you are jealous that Grandmother wants to talk to me'

Olga slowly stood. Already almost as tall as me, she too was angry.

'Grandmother, oh yes, you might be her favourite but there is much she will not tell you'.

With this Olga left.

Even as I prepared myself to speak to Grandmother, she interrupted.

'Katja .. what of Boris? Have you had any news?'

Wishing to end the conversation on good terms I responded rather than ask my own questions.

'Oh he is the nearly man of the Russian army. He almost took part in the Daghestan campaign, he was almost sent to support the campaign east of the Caspian … oh and he almost met the Shah of Persia. Apparently, he was due to attend one of the many state banquets but was called away on military matters – according to his letter they almost caught a British spy.

So there you, I am engaged to a man who never quite is in the right place at the right time.'

As I left, I turned my head and added

'Now it seems as if you too want to abandon me'.

[1] The Austrians installed him as Mayor of Milan after the 1849 revolt. Quite a complex figure in the history of the Risorgimento as at times he appeared to want Milan to stay in the Austrian Empire (this was actually a common goal in the business community as Austria was a richer market than central and southern Italy), but, after he stepped down in 1856, he may also have co-operated with Cavour. He was part of the Lombardy delegation at the 1861 discussions about the new constitution.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Wed Apr 05, 2017 2:48 pm

If you are interested, I recommend starting with the first book in the Trilogy, entitled With Fire and Sword. It is relatively easy to find a free English version on the internet, as the copyright has long expired.

Thanks again for doing this AAR.

Regards,

Vaalen[/quote]

One of the delights (ahem) of all the AGEOD games is the modelling of asymetric warfare. I too hate it when light cavalry or rebels start wrecking my supply lines etc. I remember a RoP PBEM with Narwhal where I think we both put more effort into using Hussars and Cossacks for raiding than we did into the main armies.

Soviet cinema was very stylised (both in form and content) but the better directors either used genres where the rules were less clear (Tarkovsky and science fiction is one eg) or simply used the forced structure as the basis for creative film making. Which is a way of saying there are some gems amongst the mountains of dross.

The books sound superb. I'll see if I can track them down. Its one of the many reasons why Seventeenth Century history can be so interesting - so much that we now tend to see as fixed was fluid.[/quote]

IF you google the words " With Fire and Sword Sienkiewicz,", you will see a number of links for free downloads of the translated book, in a number of formats.

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Diplomacy and Revolution

Sun Apr 09, 2017 6:40 pm

Diplomacy

By late 1851 the underlying tensions between the British and the Russians were starting to dominate their interpretation of any event.

A steady stream of uprisings in the Levant and southern Iraq were blamed on Russian influence trying to undermine the fast improving Anglo-Turkish alliance. Equally mounting tensions, and border clashes, with Khiva were readily blamed on the British.

It was true that agents and diplomats of both powers were busy trying to advance their own cause and undermine the other. As ever when one engages spies, they tend to lie, and to claim success for the simple shifts of fate. Thus both sides were being re-assured as to the successes of their own schemes and the perfidy of their opponents.

However, the event that made war inevitable was an accident – or more accurately not the result of Russian influence. It was true that India did feature in the discussions in St Petersburg, but not as a goal, not yet. First Russian would need to subdue the Khanates of Central Asia.

Preparations were in hand as forts and small settlements were established in a long arc from the Caspian Sea to the Tien Shan mountains.

Image

Equally, Russian settlement of Siberia continued apace. As the central regions came more and more under control, the temptation was to take land further to the east. The scope to seize more of the Pacific Coast from China was often discussed – especially now that China was embroiled in civil strife.

In addition, one reason for Russia's growing alliance with the Shah of Persia was the possibility that one day a Russian fleet could be based in his ports. If this came to pass, then it might be possible to strangle British trade with India.

But despite the lurid claims in the British press, and the gloating comments in the Russian newspapers, the revolt in Peshawar was an accident. Well more accurately, it was the inevitable outcome of British policy. Treating India purely as a region to exploit and suppressing local commerce was slowly creating a situation where all segments of the population had grievances.

But if Russia had no part in provoking the Peshawar events, it learnt an interesting lesson. British rule was fragile, what might happen if an effort was made to subvert their control?

Image

Regardless, Peshawar was to be the catalyst. Britain started to encourage the Sultan to stand up to Russian encroachment. In both capitals many urged caution, there was no inevitable need for conflict between two states that had no common borders. But slowly, their voices were drowned out.

Equally Peshawar also confirmed both powers in their view that the other could be undermined. As the rules started to solidify, the Great Game began. If not open war then a covert struggle as both tried to limit the gains of the other.

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Springtime in Moscow

Tue Apr 11, 2017 3:25 pm

Moscow, 1 May 1852

Gabriella had never really liked spring in Moscow. It came too late in the year, and the rains, slush and mud as the snow melted were too much to endure. Still by May the trees were in blossom, the roads were dry and she felt renewed.

And restless. She knew she needed to address the problem of ageing. The option of reverting to childhood had never appealed and the stress of taking an adult body was even worse. That meant travelling to one of the locations where they had stored equipment on arrival. She suspected one location was near Jerusalem, there must be another somewhere in the Americas. But the easiest to reach was in Italy – and she could pretend to her family that she simply wanted to go home.

While she could just disappear, she wanted to be able to return to Russia. Despite the awful weather, this was now her home ... and in her more private moments she even accepted the weather had its charms. That rain was an inconvenience rather than a mortal threat was an improvement over her real homeland.

So this meant some sort of family row. In fact, one that would start as soon as she opened the door in front of her.

....

Walking into the over-heated room (when she thought about it, this was another thing she hated about Russia), she was surprised to only find her daughter in law.

They had never been friendly and Gabriella's influence over her grandchildren had been a regular source of irritation. Something that Pyotr had simply refused to deal with, leaving the issue as one of the many sources of tension within the family.

'Ilya, how are you?'

'No worse than when we spoke this morning. Perhaps we can dispense with the small talk? ... Tell me, what do you want?'

Taken aback by the abrupt tone, Gabriella decided to answer in a similar style.

'Well, one part is to go home before I die – but I doubt that would cause you any concerns? I also think it would be good for Ekaterina to see something of Europe before she settles down. Boris will be in the Caucasus for the next few years so she cannot marry till he returns, now is a good chance for her to see something of the world'

'You always wanted to steal my daughter from me, now you threaten her life'

'Steal … threaten … come Ilya, let us not use intemperate language. I offer her the chance to see Vienna, Milan and maybe Rome. Where is the harm … or threat .. in that?'

At this, Ilya spread out the morning newspaper.

'You would take her to a region that could so easily be a battle ground'

Image

'Oh nonsense, Ilya, this Napoleon is but a shadow of his uncle. We will not see a return to the wars that scarred Europe in my youth'.

'You are incorrigible … go, take my oldest daughter from me. I still have my darling Olga and the two boys.

...

But if you go, then you will never return to this house again'.

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A summer journey

Thu Apr 13, 2017 9:11 pm

Waiting for a train – June 1852


By mid-1852 Moscow already had four railway stations. Two were to the north west of the old centre serving St Petersburg and the new line running west to Smolensk (and already being built onwards towards Minsk and Warsaw). Land had even been set aside on the eastern edge of the square for a new station, if ever a line was constructed running to the east. A third lay on the southern edge of the city, serving the line now connected to the Caucasus.

The newest sat in an arc of the Moskva river, to the west of the city and served by the old Krimski Bridge, built on land where the buildings had been destroyed during the Napoleonic occupation and never rebuilt.

Image

Image

Image
[1]

At this time the Kiyevskaya was little but some wooden huts that provided a degree of shelter from cold or heat, a makeshift platform scarcely raised from the muddy ground and the barest of infrastructure. In truth the line did not yet even reach Kiev [2] adding to the air of trickery. This was not so much a modern station as the vague promise such a thing could exist.

In mid-1852 using the train for private travel was still rare and very much for the rich. The St Petersburg line seemed to cater just to state officials, mostly being sent to Moscow to ensure the latest directives were implemented before they fled back north. To many, Moscow was old … and backward, the future and heart of Russia now lay on the banks of the Neva. Trips were undertaken reluctantly and officials went back as soon as they could. They had little doubt that their well meant directives would be ignored as Moscow slumbered in its dotage.

The rail line to the Caucasus was so obviously built for military reasons that almost no one else used it. So clear was its purpose that fresh barracks had been built near the station to ease troop redeployments.

That left the two lines running west. Both now had a steady trickle of passengers and both were new enough to attract sightseers, the idle and the interested. Watching travellers was already a game many in Moscow played. And in watching, one could invent stories about them, who they were, why they travelled.

Here for example is clearly a wealthy family, they have servants, the employees at the station are ensuring their comfort. But perhaps we can see that not all are happy at the planned journey?

An elderly lady, clearly the matriarch. But she stands aloof and although elderly is not dressed as one would expect of a Russian widow. She catches the eye in her European fashions, more confusing if one looks at her quickly we gain the impression she is not as old as she appeared .. and then the illusion goes as she leans on her stick. And yet, she seems obsessed with a corner of the new station, where a crater stood for many years. An observer might imagine it was the remains of a house she had once lived in?

There, there are two sisters, both dressed to travel, but it seems they are angry with each other. Sometimes harsh words are exchanged, at others they try to stand as far apart as they can within the confines of the family group.

And behind the eldest stands a well dressed man. In his 50s, clearly the father, clearly ready for a long trip. And to his side stands a slightly younger woman. Not dressed for travel – so this family is to be split up? And with her two young boys, maybe 7 or 8, fashionably dressed in sailor's uniforms.

The observer might make assumptions. The boys and their mother are to stay in Moscow, the father and the daughters travel to Kiev … and then to where? And the grandmother, she too seems dressed for a journey.

The fanciful might see the family as representing Europe. Clearly there have been recent tensions, but look all is well as the family is still together. The fanciful would be wrong. The family is on the verge of breakdown at a time when Europe stands on the brink of war.

[1] I am building some isolated (for now) rail lines in particularly valuable provinces to improve production.

[2] I'm taking some liberties of phasing here, all these lines are being built as I try to create a workable network but most won't be ready till late 1853 or early 1854.

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Re: Heading for a clear bright sun

Mon Apr 17, 2017 3:32 am

It's taken a while for me to take the bait, but I've finally read everything you've posted so far. It's intriguing, I'm looking forward to more.

Nice touch, an update or two ago, talking about the rejuvenation equipment somewhere in North America (was one of your earlier agents Ponce de Leon?) and near Jerusalem - these experiments appear to have been going on for a very, very long time. :)

First time since 2015 that I've posted in any forum. We'll see if I can make it stick.

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